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A Rational Argument for Legalizing Prostitution

This piece originally appeared on the now-defunct news and opinion website LezGetReal.

The answer to eliminating the negative activities we commonly link to Prostitution is legalization and regulation. When transformed into a legal industry, problems such as sex slavery, human trafficking, related assaults, and pimp abuse will decline sharply. These harmful occurrences associated with Prostitution are products of the industry being entirely within the realm of organized crime and black market influences, not inherent to the work itself. To solve the problems associated with Prostitution, we must legalize Prostitution.

Human trafficking, sex slavery, and abuse are horrific things. Because of this reality, the question keeps being posed: “How do we stop Prostitution?” The question is invalid. Even asking this falsely assumes prostitution is immutably linked to human trafficking and sex slavery. The question misses the point entirely. What we really should be asking is how do we stop human trafficking and sex slavery? The answer is blindingly simple: legalize prostitution.

When you create legitimate, above board business in a market rife with underground drawbacks, the risk-benefit ratio of the consumer puts the less-than-above board businesses out of business. All purchasing decisions are made on a function of: “I want this thing, but it will cost this much of my resources and present these risks. Is it worth it?” The options are weighed and a buying decision is made. With no legal options, the person looking to pay for sex has only black market choices. The black market conducts its business the way it does because it can. As a legal industry, prostitution will benefit from health care, legal protections, worker unions, and a change in the control dynamic. An entire new sector of tax revenue will emerge in an estimated 14.6 billion dollar1 industry. Suddenly, sex workers will benefit from more than adequate health care, protection from abusive bosses and customers, and gain the ability to be selective of clientele. The flood of money away from the black market and into a regulated environment will defund operations that cater to human trafficking, forced, and underage business. If a safe and legal alternative is provided, the appeal of the black market drops away and its business withers.

Workers in a black market industry, like prostitution, benefit from no health care or legal protections. One can imagine that health care is something crucial to workers in the sex industry. Legalizing and regulating prostitution will, as with any other industry, bring it into the light of modern health & safety regulations including: regular check ups, regular disease screening, and vaccination. Making this a legit industry would benefit the workers immeasurably.

Prohibition always fails. Look at marijuana prohibition, alcohol prohibition, and even internet piracy. Sandvine recently released an extensive study2 showing how bit torrent traffic plummets in an area when Netflix makes their streaming service available in that area. How many people die from running moonshine now? The vast majority of people will almost always patronize a venue which provides safe and legal products and services for which there is a demand when that safe and legal option exists. This is why prohibition will always fail. Alcohol prohibition had no success in curbing alcohol consumption. Marijuana use is at its highest. Internet piracy thrives where content is not available to purchase legally.When you have demand, attempting to make a market illegal will not curb that market, but simply drive it underground. Provide a legal means of obtaining a service or good and the consumer will take that less risky route. Make prostitution legal and sex slavery will quickly evaporate.