In the Land of the Free, it is against the law to get paid to have sex—outside of Nevada—unless that sex is filmed, distributed on DVD, and taxed. One of the least talked about systems of oppression in the US is that of persecuting prostitution. Now, a recent study published in The Review of Economic Studies has revealed that prohibition of sex work is not only oppressive but actually has dire consequences in regards to rape and STDs.
When referencing prostitution, we are talking about the mutually beneficial exchange of sexual favors for money by two or more consenting partners; not forced human trafficking.
The study, titled: Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health examined a period of time in Rhode Island in which the state accidentally decriminalized prostitution.
In an incredibly ironic move, Rhode Island lawmakers sought in 2003 to strengthen its laws on prostitution. When the law was rewritten, however, its careful wording accidentally left out the language to explicitly forbid indoor prostitution. This created a loophole which essentially legalized indoor prostitution.
Because changes in government come as such a gruelingly slow pace, this newly created loophole—effectively the function of a bureaucratic typo—stayed on the books for a whopping six years after they noticed it.
Since it was now technically legal to operate indoor brothels, the trade exploded in Rhode Island, creating a larger market and driving down prices. While this expansion of the market would be easy to predict given the legislation, the other factors were not.
What the authors of the study found was the decriminalization of prostitution sent sexual violence rates plummetting.
According to the study, the decriminalization of prostitution reduces sexual violence rates by 30%.
What’s more, not only does it decrease the rates of rape but it also saves the taxpayers dearly.
Rape has high direct costs to society. McCollister et al. (2010) using contingent valuation techniques estimate that the cost per rape offense is $240,776 in 2008 dollars. This estimate includes both tangible cost such as criminal justice costs and intangible costs such as pain and suffering. Therefore, decriminalization has the potential to result in large savings in terms of rape offenses.
Decriminalization also has a dramatic effect on the rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Because prostitutes aren’t forced to conduct their trade in back alleys and on the street, facilities provide a far safer environment by providing condoms and testing their workers.
The result of decriminalization cut the spread of Gonorrhea nearly in half.
Gonorrhea rates among women in Rhode Island fell 40 percent between 2003-2009 and 25 percent among men.
The study found that such a dramatic reduction in the rates of STDs positively affected those outside of the sex market as well.
The results suggest that decriminalization could have potentially large social benefits for the population at large—not just sex market participants. Almost 19 million new cases of STDs occur in the U.S. each year, and the annual direct medical costs of treating STIs (including HIV) is estimated at 11–17 US billion in 2003 dollars (Chesson, 2006). For the female gonorrhoea estimates we calculate that approximately 5–50% of the decline in gonorrhoea could be from female sex workers. The rest is likely from non-sex workers. While we cannot do the same calculation for rape offences, we believe some proportion of the decrease in rape offences is coming from non-sex workers. Sex workers are more likely to report rape after decriminalization, so the fact that we are finding overall decreases suggests that non-sex workers are likely part of this decrease.
Sadly, because the state is more interested in bolstering arrest records, filling prisons, and prosecuting victimless crimes, all these incredible benefits came to a grinding halt in 2009 when the government finally got around to correcting their typo. Shameful, indeed.
It’s called the “oldest profession in the world” for a reason. Sex is a basic human need. One need only observe the explosive population growth of humans in the last 10,000 years to see that desire to mate is inherent in each and everyone one of us.
When one takes this into consideration, the notion of outlawing consensual sex is seen for what it is, sheer insanity.
Just like the war on drugs creates crime by pushing the unending demand for illicit substances into the black market, the war on the sex trade creates crime in the same manner.
Because the demand for sex is pushed into dark alleys and late night street corners, a woman working in the sex trade becomes far more vulnerable than if they were legally allowed to operate out of brick and mortar setups. This danger of working on the street drives the need for protection from pimps who are often more abusive than any customer would be.
Despite the tens of thousands of arrests each year, the market has found a way to provide the service of sex using safer solutions. In spite of the laws, sellers of sex have found ways to safely conduct business by setting up “massage” parlors, using phone books, and, of course, the internet.
Besides being an immoral gang of thieves, the state is also relentless. They have deep pockets of extorted tax dollars of which to dig in to enforce their distorted will on the people.
Despite prostitution arrests dropping from 2001 to 2010, the cost of arresting people for sex remains staggeringly high. Individual cities continue to spend up to $23 million a year stopping people from having voluntary sex.
Meanwhile, involuntary sex goes uninvestigated at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits are sitting in police departments across the country — collecting dust, as cops petition the government to allow them to have sex with prostitutes so they can then bust them.