I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman. – Henri Leclerc
No matter what Western religions claim, sex is no different from any other human activity once the possibility of creating human life is removed by birth control. I strongly suspect that realization is the real driving force behind most of the current American anti-abortion, anti-birth control rhetoric: moralists (perhaps unconsciously) realize that without the threat of lifelong consequences, people will stop seeing sex as a magical sacrament which is “dangerous” without official sanctification. Without belief in the mystical significance of sex, prostitution is just another personal service like massage, hairdressing or wet-nursing. And once one recognizes that, one has to question the necessity for special laws which only apply to sex work.
Take “pimps”, for instance. If all the stereotypes and drama are stripped away, “pimp” is just a pejorative term for a prostitute’s agent; there is no innate moral difference between such a person and an agent representing a writer, actress, football player, etc. It’s true that some such relationships are exploitative, but the same can be said of any other agent/performer or employer/employee relationship: it’s the exploitation which is bad, not the relationship itself. In my column “Thought Experiment” I wrote,
…as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions…the abusive, controlling pimp of legend is so rare we can consider him an anomaly. In fact, the fraction of prostitutes who have such an abusive pimp – roughly 1.5% – is so similar to the percentage of women who report that their husbands/boyfriends are either “extremely violent” (1.2%) or “extremely controlling” (2.3%) that it’s pointless to consider them a different phenomenon, especially when one considers that any non-client male found in the company of a whore will inevitably be labeled a “pimp” by cops or prohibitionists. The notion that hookers only have relationships with a certain kind of man, who is labeled a “pimp” by outsiders, derives from the Victorian fallacy (alas, still alive today) that we are somehow innately “different” from other women, and therefore our men are different as well.
The rest of that column presents an analogy between whores and barbers which may help you to see through to the truth of the matter. It’s very important that people do understand, because claims of “exploitation” are used to demonize anyone who has anything to do with a prostitute, including clients, drivers, boyfriends, secretaries, landlords, dependent adult family members and even other prostitutes working together for safety; a new law in New York even targets taxi drivers who “knowingly” carry hookers in their cabs. The penalties for these “offenses” are usually greater than those for simple prostitution; the latter is generally a misdemeanor while “pandering” and “avails” charges are often felonies, and if the prosecutor decides to label such relationships “human trafficking” they can result in asset seizure, decades-long sentences and consignment to “sex offender” registries. But since feminists think it’s just grand for a woman to have employees, agents or even a dependent husband if she’s a politician or corporate executive, why does it suddenly become intrinsically “exploitative” if she’s a sex worker?
Sex worker rights advocates, human rights organizations and health experts all support the decriminalization model; this means that there should be no special laws which apply only to hookers but not anyone else. Brothels, for example, are subject to the same workplace safety and other applicable laws as govern any other business, and if an employee of such a place feels she’s been treated unfairly she can make a complaint just as any other employee of any other business could. There is no need for any special “anti-pimp” law, because the existing laws work just fine when the trade isn’t forced into the shadows; in Colombia (which doesn’t have full decriminalization but is much closer than the U.S.), for example, a whore who is cheated out of her fee can summon a cop just as a restaurant owner could…as Secret Service Agent Arthur Huntington discovered to his chagrin.
More than 40 [street sign] poles have been bent, buckled or broken in the past 18 months in one area of south Auckland, New Zealand…“Prostitutes use these street sign poles as dancing poles,” said [a member of the city council. The claim appears in a pamphlet]…detailing frustrations of residents and businesses struggling to cope with [streetwalkers and calling]…on parliament…to give Auckland Council powers to ban sex workers from certain areas…other…incidents [include]…a transvestite [ramming] a supermarket trolley into a woman’s car before lying across the bonnet, and a school-bus full of children observing a transvestite changing her dress…
While I can certainly sympathize with the residents who have to put up with these antics, I feel compelled to ask: aren’t vandalism and indecent exposure already illegal for everyone? Why does there need to be a special law banning all prostitutes from the area? If the police can’t enforce the existing laws against this kind of aggressive and disruptive behavior, how will even more laws help? The answer, of course, is that they won’t; belligerent transvestites and abusive pimps are just the excuses used by prudes to restrict the majority of sex workers who are guilty of nothing other than being sexual.