Is Prostitution Neccessarily Bad?


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Well, it is Valentine's Day, so what better time then for a posting on prostitution...

In response to a question about the pricing of services over history, the author explains that:


Pricing was raised in terms of history and fluctuations.

A 2008 study revealed not only that London had more than 921 brothels, but that the average price for “full-service” sex was just over $90. Off the city’s tourist beat, sex can be had for well under half that price, sometimes as little as $25.

However, that may correlate to the statements by sex workers themselves about how much safer and secure they are at a brothel.

This brings up a plethora of questions about public morality laws which apparently have the opposite effect when brothels are raided by the local gendarmes.

Consequently, legislative goals have continued to shift since we last discussed this: instead of trying to stamp out prostitution, they’re increasingly focused on safety.

The modern case against legalizing prostitution is essentially (a) legalization would make it more difficult for police to identify and stop pimps and traffickers, and (b) it’s such an inherently violent and degrading profession that ethically it can’t be condoned. In one survey of prostitutes in nine countries, 60 to 90 percent said they’d been physically assaulted on the job. My assistant Una works at a charity that assists prostitutes, and in her experience the Pretty Woman stories are rare: “The vast majority of them are addicted to drugs, and almost none have any hope they'll escape this life.”

However, even though "No one claims prostitution is the career one dreams of as a child. "

....But police action makes an already hard life even harder: British and American police still target prostitutes much more often than their clients, without any measurable deterrent effect. Raids on brothels (where 85 percent of workers say they feel safe) push more prostitutes on the streets, where they are more vulnerable to their clients, drugs, and disease. U.S. police and prosecutors regularly use possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution, making prostitutes less likely to carry them. And it’s not like the cops are getting women off the street and driving them to job-training classes — sex workers make up a third of all female inmates in U.S. prisons, and a criminal record makes finding alternate work even tougher.

The author then takes us for a virtual around the world tour on different jurisdictions attempts to run a quasi-legal profession of prostitutes.

Countries that choose to legalize generally enforce health and safety regulations (including STD testing); they often provide unemployment, disability, and pension benefits for prostitutes, as well as channels through which prostitutes can report violence, enforce contractual rights of payment, and transition out of the industry if they wish. Sixty percent of sex workers in the Netherlands and New Zealand said they felt safer refusing clients after legalization. In Nevada, where it’s permitted only in licensed brothels in the sleepier counties (so not Vegas or Reno), there are intercoms, panic buttons, and constant monitoring of safety and cleanliness.

The Netherlands provides work permits only to EU citizens, forcing immigrants to work illegally and rely heavily on pimps.

Germany doesn’t mandate condom use, and neither country requires STD testing. It’s frequently argued that legalization promotes human trafficking, but it's very tricky getting solid numbers on a highly illicit activity. The trafficking rate in the Netherlands increased after legalization, but the definition was widely expanded at the same time, making comparison difficult.

A controversial solution that’s rapidly gaining traction is the Swedish model, under which selling sex is legal but buying it isn’t. Already in effect in Norway and Iceland and recently approved by Canada, Northern Ireland, and the European parliament, its advocates argue it discourages prostitution and thus minimizes trafficking while sparing prostitutes shame and legal trouble. Critics counter that it’s no substitute for decriminalization, saying it denies women their autonomy and makes prostitution more dangerous by making it more furtive. Yearly Swedish arrest totals have varied wildly — the apparent number of prostitutes may have gone down, but many have likely moved online.

Technology is changing the model for delivering this service.

In the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands — anyplace with decent broadband, basically — prostitutes are leaving even legalized brothels for the online marketplace, where websites list services, connect clients with workers, and provide ratings for both. While this is undoubtedly less safe than the better-run brothels, it does allow prostitutes to work independently without pimps. Escorts report far higher self-esteem and job satisfaction than street prostitutes and brothel workers — on the whole, it seems to be a very different job. Internet-based prostitution will undoubtedly be difficult for governments to keep track of, but it may mean the work can occur more on the workers’ own terms.

The author comes down on the side of protecting the sex worker. He concludes that:

We need to protect the women involved to the extent we can and not just drive them underground. If that means decriminalization plus inspections, licensing, and other bureaucratic accoutrements, spare me the moralizing — that's what we should do.

In terms of the economic cost per service "hour"/event," the author concludes:

A decent way to gauge prostitution pricing over time is to focus on a single city. In 1911 the Vice Commission of Chicago published a survey of local prostitution. There’s no breakdown of price per service, but from the text we learn women were often grouped in “houses” with a standard price, with 50-cent houses at the low end and ranging up to $5 houses. Streetwalkers’ rates ranged from around 50 cents to a dollar, plus the price of a room if needed.

An excellent choice of city, since it has provided us with six (6) years of the ultimate political prostitute of our history.

A survey of Chicago streetwalkers from 2005 to 2007 found on average they worked 13 hours a week, performing a total of ten sex acts and making $340: $34 per trick, or $26 an hour. The overall weighted average costs for manual stimulation, oral sex, straight vaginal sex, and anal sex were $27, $37, $80, and $94 respectively. In terms of labor value, a dollar in 1911 was the equivalent of somewhere between $75 and $110 in 2007, meaning the real numbers didn’t move much over the intervening century.

"So never mind price indexes based on the cost of a Big Mac and other such foolishness. There’s reason to think the bedrock economic constant is what it costs an impatient male to get laid.

— Cecil Adams"



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Not being a participant or historian in prostitution, I submit this:

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There is a line, whether it is in reference to a lady of massage or pleasure, a child, or a stranger. Don't cross that line. I have seen several depictions of older men or women having a companion (housekeeper or whatever euphemism is used) but to me that seems, reasonably if not perfectly, normal. Trump *bonds* with younger women and I suppose that type of relationship is built into our species. He provides protection and delux-ary and she provides . . . all that is good.


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On 6/8/2016 at 9:27 PM, Charles Kessler III said:

Is prostitution really that different from a massage?  A masseuse and a prostitute both get paid to give a client pleasure.  Is the prostitute really that different in that she gives sexual pleasure?

Yes, prostitution is very different from a massage, unless you're frequenting a Happy Endings type of spa.  LOL 

Perhaps your point is that prostitution involves a value exchange and, as such, is the equivalent to any other type of value exchange?

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On 6/13/2016 at 11:35 AM, dldelancey said:

Yes, prostitution is very different from a massage, unless you're frequenting a Happy Endings type of spa.  LOL 

Perhaps your point is that prostitution involves a value exchange and, as such, is the equivalent to any other type of value exchange?

Yes, that's a good way of putting it.  When I go to a massage parlor, I exchange money for a certain type of pleasure, a massage.  If I were to visit a prostitute, I exchange money for a different type of pleasure, sex.  So, there are two different types of pleasure that are being exchanged, yet one is legal and the other is not.  Are these two types of pleasure really different in an objective way?

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