Thursday, March 13, 2008

Question of the week

No one you meet is going to argue that what Spitzer did was right in any way. He cheated on his (now heroic) wife Silda Wall Spitzer, he broke the law, and he acted like a total hypocrite while doing it (as attorney general he managed to go after a "sophisticated prostitution ring," hopefully not the same one he patronized).

But there is one good thing to come out of Spitzer's admonishments, and yeah, the media is having a field day with it. What the fuck is up with prostitution?

Earlier this week I argued that this scandal opens the door to the discussion of prostitution, and perhaps even paves the way for an intelligent conversation about the possibility of legalization. My roommate Ashley had a lot to say about that, and her points did not fall on deaf ears. But Emily Bazelon over at Slate has other ideas.

There are two sides to the story: Ashley was right in a lot of ways, there is evidence to show that legalizing prostitution only exascerbates the problem. It fails to protect women who are "victims" in the sex industry, helps pimps, drives the cost of non-government regulated prostitutes down (and thus the demand for them up), and may increase the rates of illegal human trafficking. According to the US government:

The United States government takes a firm stance against proposals to
legalize prostitution because prostitution directly contributes to the
modern-day slave trade and is inherently demeaning.
But, as Bazelon argues, if that were the case, states like Nevada would be overrun with illegal human trafficking rings and the demand for prostitutes would steadily decrease. But that just isn't true.

So maybe the answer lies in places like Sweden, one of those awesome Scandanavian countries that's lax on everything. They've made it legal for women to sell sex, but illegal for men to buy it. This completely strokes my feminist ego-- turn the tables, make Spitzer the criminal, not Kristen. And it seems to work. According to Slate:

In the capital city of Stockholm the number of women in street prostitution has
been reduced by two thirds, and the number of johns has been reduced by 80%."
Trafficking is reportedly down to 200 to 400 girls and women a year, compared
with 15,000 to 17,000 in nearby Finland.
But the problem remains that sociologists and government officials alike really don't know much about how the sex industry functions. Rates, relationships between pimps and callgirls, and the amount of violence that actually occurs are all statistics that have yet to be hammered out. Without information like this, how is it even possible to make any informed decisions about prostitution, whether it be to legalize it or to keep it illegal?

It's clear that prostitution was made illegal based on strict moral and ethical codes (stemming from religion, most likely) that are maybe old-fashioned in our oversexed society. And without information about how the sex industry operates, it's nearly impossible to either support or deny this law.

Perhaps instead of focusing on Spitzer and his transgressions, the media and their scientific counterparts should look into gathering statistics and facts that would help back up their arguments. Perhaps what the government needs is a branch that doesn't hold women accountable for being victimized in the sex industry, and doesn't criminalize them as such, but instead works with them to gather reputable information that could help probe deeper into the phenomenon. If Big Brother spent half as much time trying to understand why and how the industry works as they do running sting operations on poor prostitutes in Hell's Kitchen, then maybe the media, as well as the public, wouldn't be so confused and frazzled over the whole issue.



Marshall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marshall said...

Are women safer with prostitution illegal? Because we can't fix everything we should fix nothing? Tell Ashley I will throw down anywhere, any time.

ashley nicole said...

Marhsall -- I'm game but I'm pro-decriminalization not for it being completely illegal...mainly b/c what pisses me off the most is entrapment