Montpelier, VT — In the Land of the Free, it is against the law to pay or get paid to have sex—outside of Nevada—unless that sex is filmed, distributed online, and taxed. One of the least talked about systems of oppression in the US is that of persecuting prostitution. The brutal irony of legalizing abortion under the guise of “it’s my body, my choice” while keeping prostitution illegal, illustrates just how backward a society we live in. Sure, you can end a potential life inside you, but try to make money selling your body and we will kidnap and cage you.
Now, lawmakers in Vermont are seeking to change that.
It is important to note that 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.
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.
A bill introduced last month by Rep. Selene Colburn in the Vermont House is seeking to shift this paradigm of violence and oppression by decriminalizing prostitution.
“Is there a reason that we need to criminalize adult consensual sex between people on any terms?” she asked.
No, there is not.
While keeping laws on the books to prevent sex trafficking, the state would stop arresting prostitutes which, in turn, would allow actual victims of sex trafficking to seek police for help without fear of arrest or extortion.
“Right now sex workers really feel that they cannot access police protection,” said Colburn, a Progressive from Burlington. “There are tons of statistics about the violence, the high levels of violence, and sex assault that people who engage in sex work experience.”
Advocates for sex workers support the bill, correctly stating that it will bring sex work above ground, and help prevent sex workers from being assaulted, exploited and trafficked and keep them from facing punishment for breaking the law, according to ABC News.
“A lot of people doing sex work are trading sex out of circumstances: they’re homeless, they’re experiencing disabilities, they’re trans and they’re experiencing discrimination in the workplace,” said Nina Luo, an organizer with Decrim NY, a group working to decriminalize the sex trades in New York City and the state.
Similar proposals are happening in Washington, D.C., Maine, and Massachusetts and they cannot happen soon enough as keeping it illegal is proving to have dire consequences.
As TFTP previously reported, 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.
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 plummeting.
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.