On the Morality of: Prostitution

Today’s installment of “On the Morality Of” concerns the topic of prostitution, and whether it should be legal. Would a perfect society permit this practice, or would it be banned under the law?

As I’ve said before, universal utilitarianism was intended to promote the happiness of all human beings, and no person can decide what makes you happy with more knowledge or authority than you yourself. Consistent with this conclusion, any society that follows UU should place the highest value on freedom, autonomy and self-direction. Unless a practice harms someone against their will, there can be no justification for banning it. In particular, we shouldn’t ban something because someone else has decided that no one could possibly find happiness in doing it. No person has a right to make that decision on behalf of all of humanity.

For that reason, it seems – at least at first glance – that rational, consenting adults should be able to engage in any kind of economic transaction they see fit, including the exchange of sex for money. If entered into freely, I see no reason why such an exchange should be degrading to either party.

If the objection is that it’s wrong to pay a person for sexual gratification because it treats them as an object to serve our needs, I answer that many other kinds of economic transactions do the same thing. We pay others to cook for us, to clean for us, to oversee our health, to give us vicarious thrills and excitement, and no one seems to find anything at all unsavory or disturbing about any of these. Sex is a basic human drive the same as all the others. Why should sex be the only one it’s forbidden to sell?

However, these neat, simple theoretical arguments always encounter the complications of the real world. In the real world, it’s true, we find prostitution almost invariably associated with a range of social ills – drug abuse, kidnapping, STDs, physical abuse, and many more. Unquestionably, these are evils that we should prevent. The issues are twofold: first, whether banning prostitution will prevent the problems that accompany it, and if so, whether these practical reasons outweigh the considerations of economic and personal liberty that argue for permitting it.

First consider the issue of whether to ban prostitution entirely. The problem is that, self-evidently, there’s a strong demand for this service, and that demand can’t be done away with by fiat simply by passing a law. Like it or not, the exchange of sex for material gifts (even if done through a more indirect route) has been a part of human society since the beginning. Not for nothing is prostitution called “the oldest profession”. Outlawing prostitution doesn’t stop it from happening; it just drives the practice underground, and when this happens, there’s reason to believe that abuse will become more prevalent.

If prostitution is illegal, prostitutes who are cheated or suffer abuse at the hands of pimps or customers can’t bring their complaints to the police, and there’s little incentive for them to submit to testing for drugs or disease. Similarly, the lack of oversight makes possible the kidnapping and sexual slavery of women. In fact, there’s a strong case that many of the social ills surrounding prostitution arise not despite but because of its illegality. If this is true, it would do more good to bring it into the light, where it can be overseen and regulated.

And yet, again, real-world concerns complicate simple abstract arguments. One of these concerns is that, even in areas that have experimented with legalizing prostitution, the problems haven’t gone away. Horrifying articles like this expose from the Guardian show that, even in Nevada where prostitution is legal, many of the women who work in brothels suffer in conditions of abuse and near-slavery. If legalized prostitution is the means to do away with the exploitation of women, we must answer the question of why legalizing it hasn’t improved the situation in Nevada. I can suggest one potential answer.

I doubt that most people who are prostitutes turn to that career out of enthusiastic choice. Far more often, it’s a last resort for the desperate. By this argument, most of the people – most of the women, I should say – who turn to prostitution would not be doing so if they had other options. Banning the practice would not solve this underlying problem. But here’s the important point: permitting it doesn’t solve that problem either.

People who are in dire straits, people who are desperate, are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. This is just as true for legal professions as it is for illegal ones. As long as women turn to prostitution out of desperation, these problems will likely persist. But in a society with a strong social safety net, where the necessities of life were guaranteed to all citizens, no one would be forced to turn to prostitution. Anyone who chose to engage in it would do so out of legitimate desire, not desperation.

This step, I think, would truly eliminate most of the social ills that come with prostitution. These ills are not an intrinsic part of the career, but rather a reflection of the fact that many women who choose prostitution lack alternatives and are vulnerable to those who would mistreat and take advantage of them. In a world where it was a career of choice, these problems would be greatly reduced if not eliminated.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Mrnaglfar

    If this is true, it would do more good to bring it into the light, where it can be overseen and regulated.

    Reading through that link about the horriable conditions at the brothels leads me to believe they are, in fact, not being regulated (at least not in any practial sense). It sounds like they legalized the practice of pimping and mistreating women without actually regulating it.

    For instance:
    The brothel prostitutes often live in prison-like conditions, locked in or forbidden to leave.

    That doesn’t sound like any regulation of any other industry I’ve heard about. Do that in any production plant, the workers would strike, the government would have their back and the public would be in an outrage.

    “I saw a grated iron door in one brothel,” says Farley. “The women’s food was shoved through the door’s steel bars between the kitchen and the brothel area. One pimp starved a woman he considered too fat. She made a friend outside the brothel who would throw food over the fence for her.”

    Even prison regulations are better than that. These women might as well commit a crime and get arrested if that’s what’s passing for regulations. At least in jail they aren’t forced to have sex with anyone (hypothectically).

    Then there is the fact that legal prostitutes seem to lose the rights ordinary citizens enjoy…if a woman is known to work as a prostitute, she may be refused health insurance, face discrimination in housing or future employment, or endure accusations of unfit motherhood.

    And those are human rights violations, not the markings of well-regulated industry.

    The women are expected to live in the brothels and to work 12- to 14-hour shifts…You are not allowed to have your own car

    Any other examples of these ‘regulations’ in other industries?

    Sheriffs in some counties of Nevada also enforce practices that are illegal. In one city, for example, prostitutes are not allowed to leave the brothel after 5pm, are not permitted in bars, and, if entering a restaurant, must use a back door and be accompanied by a man.

    What kind of pathetic facade is this?

    He whipped a revolver out of his waistband, aimed it at my head and said: ‘You don’t know nothing about Nevada prostitution, lady. You don’t even know whether I will kill you in the next five minutes.’

    Of course, I’m sure this is common practice among other business leaders right?

    “When prostitution is considered a legal job instead of a human rights violation,” says Farley, “why should the state offer services for escape?”

    Again, this isn’t the fault of prostitution – it’s the fault of the state for legalizing, what is effectively, an unregulated prison for women. I don’t see how this is even close to what people mean by regulated industry.

    The solution, Farley believes, is to educate people about the realities of legalised abuse of women. “Once the people of Nevada learn of [prostitutes'] suffering and emotional distress, and their lack of human rights, they, like me, will be persuaded that legal prostitution is an institution that just can’t be fixed up or made a little better. It has to be abolished.”

    And what kind of reasoning is that? If these working conditions were applied to any other industry regulation, would you call for that industry to be shut down and outlawed and that it just has no chance of getting better, or would you actually regulate the industry better?

    This is a remarkable failure of the state, law enforcement, and people in general. Not a failure of prostitution as an idea.

  • Mrnaglfar

    one thing I missed:

    Her survey of 131 young men at the University of Nevada found the majority viewed prostitution as normal, assumed that it was not possible to rape a prostitute,

    Another underlying factor is the social stigma attached to prostitutes, as being somehow undeserving of human rights.

    So in short, what the article is talking about is the legitimizing of an unregulated industry centered around people who aren’t view as actual people. I think I can see where the problems are mainly arising form here, and they aren’t just “it’s a bad thing, prostitution”

  • Steve Bowen

    There is a strong correlation of arguments between the legalisation of drugs and the legalisation of prostitution. A regulated, taxed drugs industry would eliminate the criminal element, guarantee quality control of product and raise revenue to support the health issues that inevitably arise from drug abuse (this latter point may be more relavent in the UK where medical state funding exists). Similarly a correctly regulated legal sex industry, taxed and made subject to the same rules as any other business would protect prostitutes rights, eliminate the “need” for a criminal element, raise health standards and tax dollars. Others have pointed out the Nevada example doesn’t really resemble this kind of legalisation. It seems clear that “moral” attitudes still allow even legal prostitutes to be abused and neglected.

    Ebon: I’m not sure about the social safety net argument. The UK still has a fairly robust welfare state system and it doesn’t stop prostitution. It is probably not realistic to expect any economy to have a safety net set high enough to realise most people’s lifestyle aspirations. indeed I would expect many prostitutes to be claiming benefits as well as avoiding tax on their illegal earnings. I think the answer does lie in legalisation and getting society to “grow-up” and accept prostitution for what it is, a supply trying to satisfy a natural demand.

    I’m sure it’s true that the majority of women go into prostitution either out of desperation or simply material desire, the image of the “happy hooker” is probably a male fantasy for the most part. However that doen’t mean that they shouldn’t have the same respect as any other person selling their labour.

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Legalizing prostitution would not eliminate problems associated with trafficking for sex. For example, no sane person would advocate the legalization of sex with minors, but under a legalized prostitution scheme, there would still be perverts with a desire to have sex with children and there will be shady characters who will supply that demand.

    I could see legalizing prostitution to a limited degree. I don’t see anything wrong with happy ending massages which are very low risk activities. But for anything beyond that, purveyors and potential customers would BOTH need to be tested on a regular basis and would need to obtain a license.

    I will add more on this tonight as I am at work right now.

  • Damien

    Legalizing prostitution would not eliminate problems associated with trafficking for sex. For example, no sane person would advocate the legalization of sex with minors, but under a legalized prostitution scheme, there would still be perverts with a desire to have sex with children and there will be shady characters who will supply that demand.

    Tommykey, I’m not sure what you’re referring to here. Nobody else mentioned child abuse. Why are you bringing it up?

    On another note: why is everything coming up in BOLD LETTERS?

  • Mrnaglfar

    I think my orginial post might have missed an ending bold command. Can that be fixed?

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    I think this might stop the bold.

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    I think the only problem with this viewpoint is that sex IS in fact different from other services. Rape is not just “theft of services” it is a violation of person’s humanity. Prostitution, whether it is legal or illegal, feeds into the idea that it’s just a service to be bought.

  • http://proteancomics.comicgenesis.com Proteus454

    Yes, I’m with Mr Naglfar. Nevada doesn’t sound “regulated” at all, not in sense that the sweeping term “legalization” would imply.

    If you’re looking for a far better implementation of same, have a look at Australia. Annoyingly, a half-hour of digging through web page archives has left me unable to find the relevant study/article (and sadly I must away to work), but the reality on the ground appears far, far better. Heck, prostitutes can tell their FAMILIES what they do.

  • JustAnOutsider

    Ok, let me see if I have this straight. A reporter uncovers systemic exploitation of women in Nevada’s legal prostitution industry; her solution is to declare the women to be criminals?!? There’s a lot of associated corruption that goes along with prostituion. Legalisation won’t make it magically go away; but at least it’s a start. The real lesson of the article is that we need to start treating prostitutes as people and stop turning a blind eye to the exploitation.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Antigone,

    I think the only problem with this viewpoint is that sex IS in fact different from other services. Rape is not just “theft of services” it is a violation of person’s humanity.

    I agree that rape is a terrible offense, but I disagree that sex is fundamentally different from other services, provided of course the woman, or man, is willing to sell it. Even if sex can be a very personal and intimate act, if a woman (or man) wishes to have sex for whatever reason they choose, be it money or love, that’s up to them to decide. I would think there’s still room for outlawing rape and looking down on it as socially deplorable while legalizing prostitution.

  • drdra

    Except for Judge Teresa Carr Deni, I don’t think you’ll find many arguing for equating rape with “theft of services”. However, forcibly requiring someone to perform any service isn’t generally called “theft of services” either-its goes under other terms such as slavery. In order to make the case that sex is different it would be necessary to compare forced sex to other instances of forced labor and show that its worse.

    And I’m not sure that it is. We allow women to act as surrogate mothers. But we would be horrified if a woman was kidnapped, forcibly implanted with a fetus, and then imprisoned by her captors until the child was born.

    It doesn’t seem clear to me that how bad something is if its forced on you is a measure of its acceptability of a choice you can make.

  • Moses

    Why don’t we just ban prostitution altogether?! It’s better to protect womens’ rights than to satisfy a couple of desperate men’s sexual appetites – it’s called self-discipline and moderation. As for women turning to prostitution as a last resort, I would blame the local churches. If these local churches weren’t so secluded from the rest of society, women would have a place to turn to for financial help. I believe if they were to obey the Bible in dealing with the poor, single mothers, etc, we wouldn’t have this sort problem. I guess the same could go with the homeless.

  • Petrucio

    I doubt that most people who are prostitutes turn to that career out of enthusiastic choice. Far more often, it’s a last resort for the desperate.

    I think it depends on the place you are. In most of the strip clubs here (I’ll call it that – there’s no distinction between strip clubs and brothels here – they are one and the same), the vast majority of the women are happy with their profession and make more than twice the money I make.

    I even had a girlfriend, smart and wealthy, who told me she once wanted to be an escort (IMO same deal, just different name and richer clients). I think she probably didn’t do it just because it was illegal. In this case, there would be NOTHING, no argument whatsoever, about drugs, violence, or any other crap, that should have stopped her from doing that.

    Trying to force people from doing normal things they naturally want to do, will only create violence and other problems as a side effect, while just barelly achieving the desired main effect.

    Almost everyone one agrees that banning alcohol was a bad idea. And yet this should make it clear that banning drugs and/or prostitution and/or [insert natural activity here] is innefective at best, very harmfull at worst. In my opinion, Alcohol is MUCH worse than drugs or prostitution, because it frequently harms other people and not just the drinker. And yet we all know that banning it was a mistake, and a big one at that.

  • JustAnOutsider

    “Why don’t we just ban prostitution altogether?! It’s better to protect womens’ rights than to satisfy a couple of desperate men’s sexual appetites”

    Mainly because banning is a proven failure in regards to protecting women’s rights. You can’t solve social problems by passing laws against them. Prostitution is currently a fact of life. The question is whether or not it’s underground where women have no protection against exploitation. Making women who resort to prostitution criminals only makes it easier to exploit them.

    Moral and legal are two different concepts. Most would consider adultery immoral, but few in the US would want it made illegal. It’s possible to believe prostitution wrong on moral or ethical grounds while still recognizing that keeping it illegal only makes the problem worse.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Moses,

    Why don’t we just ban prostitution altogether?! It’s better to protect womens’ rights than to satisfy a couple of desperate men’s sexual appetites – it’s called self-discipline and moderation.

    It is a right of women to choose who they have sex with and why. Likewise, banning it will not stop the practice, it just turns the women into criminals. How exactly is that helpful?

    I believe if they were to obey the Bible in dealing with the poor, single mothers, etc, we wouldn’t have this sort problem. I guess the same could go with the homeless.

    Or, we could actually think about the underlying problems and solve it without having to impose fantasy on other people’s lives. But I’m not going to argue with you if you want to do that yourself; you’re more than welcome to take single mothers into your house and help take care of them and their children. Same with homeless people too; I think it would be a great moral thing for you to do. It’s not just the responsibility of the church to do these things; as a christian it should be your duty to do those things, regardless of whether the church is or not. In the bible, jesus does advocate not being materialistic and helping the poor, so I’m sure you have some extra cash and gadgets floating around that would do much more good with those women and their children.

  • Moses

    JustAnOutsider,
    Keeping it legal hasn’t solved any issues either – in the case of Nevada, it seems just as bad or worse. But you’re right, passing laws against social issues don’t resolve them. Never thought about that one.

    Mrnaglfar,
    Why do you harbor so much bitterness towards the church? You say that you don’t want to “argue” with me over the issue of imposing “fantasy.” Great! I don’t want to “argue” either, and I would never choose that word to describe my purpose here. But in the Bible’s opinion, it is the church’s responsibility and that is also my belief. Since the church is made of people however, when I refer to the church, I mean the people of the church and my local church does plenty of these things. But the church SHOULD do these things and if it is failing to do so, its leadership needs to be look at scripture again.

    Lastly, please don’t assume that Christians including myself don’t help the poor and the needy. I do my part, far more than the average American and so do many of my believing brothers and sisters. We take action for what we believe in, including taking time off to help others. Like I mentioned before, you never hear about the good things Christians do, only the bad things because that’s all that makes it on the news. So don’t assume that all Christians don’t follow what they are taught. We have strong moral obligations/convictions too, just like any other compassionate person out there of any belief. The majority of us are not selfish religious nut jobs as the media likes to portray us as.

    God bless!

  • OMGF

    Moses,

    Keeping it legal hasn’t solved any issues either – in the case of Nevada, it seems just as bad or worse. But you’re right, passing laws against social issues don’t resolve them. Never thought about that one.

    It might help if you read the OP and the comments previous to yours.

    I believe if they were to obey the Bible in dealing with the poor, single mothers, etc, we wouldn’t have this sort problem. I guess the same could go with the homeless.

    Yes, if we followed the Bible, we could simply stone all the adulteresses and that would take care of the problem, no?

  • Moses

    OMGF,
    I did read it and understood it. But he just put it so simply and I was just thanking him for that.

    And no, we wouldn’t stone them. That is from the old covenant – the new one is demonstrated by Jesus in the Gospels when they try to stone the adulteress and he stops them by saying “he who is of no sin cast the first stone” – which no one did.

    I understand that most of the people here came to the realization that religions were man-made and that they were tricked. My question is, if you’re beliefs are correct, why not try to open my eyes too? If I’m stuck in this misunderstanding of man-made fantasies, why not try to help a brother out instead of putting me down and criticizing my beliefs and making me more zealous for my religion? I would love to join the bandwagon of freedom riders here. But because of that (please respect my beliefs), I am still a Christian because Jesus’ example exceeds everyone’s here.

    God bless!

  • Mrnaglfar

    Moses,

    Why do you harbor so much bitterness towards the church? You say that you don’t want to “argue” with me over the issue of imposing “fantasy.”

    I harbor bitterness towards religion because they try and make people follow their rules, regardless of what evidence says and are threats towards the human spirit (not just yours, all of them; more specifically, religion can generalized to “thinking with faith”). I do want to argue about imposing that view on everyone, as you suggested to be a reasonable idea. What I don’t want to argue against is you helping people who need help; if that was unclear, I hope that clarifies the issue.

    Since the church is made of people however, when I refer to the church, I mean the people of the church and my local church does plenty of these things

    I’m not saying churches do nothing to help the matter, and like you said, the church is made up of people. I’m saying that the very doctrine your religion is based on doesn’t just tell you to ‘kind of take care of the poor’ (when it’s being quoted for that purpose), but to do so to the point that requires you to make very real sacrifices; ones that might inconvience you. I’m sure the church has been using all the tax free money it takes in to best help the cause and there just isn’t enough to get all these troubled women back on their feet. Of course, you mention that:

    But the church SHOULD do these things and if it is failing to do so, its leadership needs to be look at scripture again.

    The scriptures and church leaders have had many hundreds of years to try and fix the problem, older religions have had even more time; They have commanded the morals of people and rules and countless resources. How have those solutions been going? Perhaps, and this is just a crazy idea, the answer to the problem isn’t found in the bible (where treating women like equals and people instead of like property was considered a ‘radical new idea’). Maybe, just maybe, that isn’t the source of the answer when it comes to a matter of human rights.

    Lastly, please don’t assume that Christians including myself don’t help the poor and the needy. I do my part, far more than the average American and so do many of my believing brothers and sisters.

    I’ll give you a pat on the back and say “good for you and yours” if you are helping the single mothers and prostitutes and homeless, but I never said you didn’t. I said the teaching of your religion tells you to do so to the point of self-sacrifice (again, depending on which part of it we’re reading and who’s reading it and why). Jesus said to sell everything and give to the poor; even if you believe that’s only symbolic, surely you and your church can give a whole lot more to these people who’s need exceed yours and be happy about doing it, even if it is an inconvince. I think it would be fantastic if you took in a single mother and gave her and her family a place to live, and helped finically support them until they were able to get more stability in their life, and keep at it until they did, no matter how long it took. Might be something Christ would do.

    Like I mentioned before, you never hear about the good things Christians do, only the bad things because that’s all that makes it on the news. So don’t assume that all Christians don’t follow what they are taught. We have strong moral obligations/convictions too, just like any other compassionate person out there of any belief. The majority of us are not selfish religious nut jobs as the media likes to portray us as.

    I don’t believe all religious people are morally bad people, I never said they were either. Again, I’m saying they’re being inconsistent with what their religion preaches (and one last time, to be PC, it depends on who is teaching it, where they teach from, and why). I’m not saying you’re selfish, but when you say “all these problems can be fixed if people stuck to the bible’s teaching” that does a few things to my common sense meter (in case you don’t understand why, replace bible with Qu’ran and picture some bearded man beating his wife saying it).
    For starters, it begins by assuming the bible is the answer, which rules out all other religions as having things to offer. Now I think all religion is nuts, so if we’re down to only one that’s a great start already.
    Second, as I mentioned above, the bible and christians have had hundreds of years to sort this problem out and are the majority in the US, so why are these problems still around and not showing signs of improvement? Maybe the moralistic approach of “the bible is right” just isn’t going to cut it.
    But what really got me is that I can tell you didn’t even bother to read the issues posted or discuss them before jumping into a plateform of “It should be ban”. I appreciate that you want to look out for human rights and protect them, but that involves discussion and raising points over asserting “if only everyone followed the bible’s teachings… “.

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    I understand that most of the people here came to the realization that religions were man-made and that they were tricked. My question is, if you’re beliefs are correct, why not try to open my eyes too? If I’m stuck in this misunderstanding of man-made fantasies, why not try to help a brother out instead of putting me down and criticizing my beliefs and making me more zealous for my religion?

    Perhaps because it has been done many many times on this site before, but what always ends up happening is that a believer will come on and start commenting on one post, making the same tired arguements that have been responded to on Ebon Musings, Daylight Atheism, and the comments on Daylight Atheism. For example:

    And no, we wouldn’t stone them. That is from the old covenant – the new one is demonstrated by Jesus in the Gospels when they try to stone the adulteress and he stops them by saying “he who is of no sin cast the first stone” – which no one did.

    This seems to be a common complaint by theists here, yet when responded to, it seems to be ignored or the theist never returns, and his comment was only in passing. Become a part of the community and perhaps we will care more to spend time to give you our arguments. If you are only going to leave a comment or two, why we should we be responsible for educating you? If you truly want to know, then educate yourself about what could be our arguments against your claim that we should ignore the old testament in favor of the new. (Hint: there are 2 reasons in my view, the first is the argument that we can somehow ignore half the bible; the second being that the new testament does teach perfect moral truths itslef, as opposed to the old.)

    Also, this site really isn’t aimed at converting. Ebon Musings is more in line with that. I see this site as more of a community of people who have mostly de-converted, or have never believed at all; not for deconverting in itself.

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    (That was in response to Moses.)

  • Mrnaglfar

    In response to what you posted as I was posting (I’ve been in the mood for discussion lately ;) )

    if you’re beliefs are correct, why not try to open my eyes too?

    Our understanding that there is no god may be the correct one, but that does not automatically make people good and right on other things. These issues involve debate; and testing out new ideas, and finding good examples which get built upon in better ways. I can try and give you all the good reasons that say there is no evidence for god, but when it comes to prostitution and how to solve social problems, that requires lots of different ideas and debate over their valid points.

    why not try to help a brother out instead of putting me down and criticizing my beliefs and making me more zealous for my religion?

    Why would critizing of beliefs make you more zealous? I honestly don’t get that.

    But because of that (please respect my beliefs), I am still a Christian because Jesus’ example exceeds everyone’s here.

    Respect is not something that is asked for, it is something that is earned. You, as a person, can earn my respect for yourself. Your religion and it’s ideas have yet to do that.
    As I mentioned before, it’s not an appeal to who have the nicest moral figure; that much is irrevelant. If you believe christ set a good example, then you can be more consistent in following it I’m sure. If you believe what the bible has to say about Jesus, you understand not being materialistic, dedicating your life to helping those who really need help, even if it involves self-sacrifice in a big way. I’m sure you’re opposed to the church as an institution, as jesus said the relationship between man and god should be a private thing. There should be no need for the church, and those who call themselves followers of christ should be leading by example, not by appeals to authority. Do you think Jesus would veto social health care for children?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Why don’t we just ban prostitution altogether?! It’s better to protect womens’ rights than to satisfy a couple of desperate men’s sexual appetites…

    Moses, your comment completely fails to engage the arguments I gave in my post for why this simplistic idea is unlikely to succeed. Please read the original post before responding to it in the future.

  • Alex Weaver

    Why don’t we just ban prostitution altogether?!

    We have.

    It didn’t work.

  • Moses

    Doug,
    The tireless arguments these theists are portraying is how the Bible was meant to be interpreted. It seems like when they respond to the atheists’ view, they seem to be ignored too. How can someone who has studied theology and knows how to interpret it based on historical background have less credibility in what the Bible meant in certain passages than the average atheist’s interpretation of a certain passage in the Bible?

    Yes, you’re correct in saying that this site is not aimed for converting. But if you truly believed that theists like myself are brainwashed, why not try to help me out instead of criticizing my beliefs? Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity as I am voluntarily coming to a forum like this?

    As for ignoring half the Bible (Old Testament), we don’t do that and it is not the purpose of the Old Testament. We still keep it and study it to learn about our origins just like how we study Ancient Greece to learn about Western Civilization.

    Lastly, thank you for the information on Ebon Musings. I will gladly take a look. As a Christian, I too believe that to understand the world better, we must always look from different point of views before we make a claim on our beliefs or we would still be stuck in the Dark Ages.

    God bless.

  • http://mindstalk.net Damien

    That brothel conditions in Nevada are pretty bad isn’t news to me; I’ve seen similar reports before. But the article itself mentions that there are other places with legal prostitutions and brothels; you’d want to look at those before making any judgements about the effects of legalization.

    Wikipedia

    Actually the US seems to be at the extremely puritanical end (surprise!) with many if not most First World countries, and others, having more legal prostitution. Usually with some restrictions, from banning brothels, advertising, or a third party profiting (targetting pimping) to the confused case of Sweden, where it is legal to sell sex but not to buy it.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Moses,

    But if you truly believed that theists like myself are brainwashed, why not try to help me out instead of criticizing my beliefs? Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity as I am voluntarily coming to a forum like this?

    Critizing your beliefs is helping you.

    I too believe that to understand the world better, we must always look from different point of views before we make a claim on our beliefs or we would still be stuck in the Dark Ages.

    Good to know we’ve moved on. I’m glad those beliefs of the dark ages have so moved on, especially all that good done by faith. Yup.

  • jack

    Moses,

    But if you truly believed that theists like myself are brainwashed, why not try to help me out instead of criticizing my beliefs? Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity as I am voluntarily coming to a forum like this?

    From what little I can tell from your comments, you seem like a good and decent human being who cares about other people. I doubt that anyone here means to attack you personally.

    Respect for your beliefs is something altogether different. I know this is difficult for most theists to accept or understand. Most of my religious friends and family members have deep emotional attachment to their religious beliefs. They feel that their beliefs deserve respect because they are so deeply held and heartfelt. They consider faith (belief in the absence of evidence, or even in the face of contradictory evidence) to be a good thing, a laudable attribute or even a skill to be honed through great effort and practice. Many consider any criticism or challenge to their religious beliefs to be a personal attack.

    Atheists tend to have a different attitude about beliefs, both our own and those of other people. For us, faith is not a good thing. It leads to error and gets people into trouble. We try to withold belief as much as possible. When confronted with questions we cannot answer, we prefer “I don’t know” to a fabricated pseudoanswer that has no support in empirical evidence. What we do believe, we believe tentatively, and in accord with our best reasoning and the best available evidence.

    Others have already pointed you to EbonMusings.org, the parent site of this blog. I’ll add my voice to theirs and urge you to read the essays there. You will find there answers to almost any question you would want to ask an atheist about atheism, religion, belief in God, morality and the naturalistic world view. Enjoy!

  • OMGF

    Moses,

    And no, we wouldn’t stone them. That is from the old covenant – the new one is demonstrated by Jesus in the Gospels when they try to stone the adulteress and he stops them by saying “he who is of no sin cast the first stone” – which no one did.

    No one did because it never happened. That story was made up, way after the fact. It was added to the Bible many years later. It never came from Jesus, even if Jesus did exist. What we find in the Bible instead is a lot of mysogyny. Also, Jesus preached that one should follow the OT. He was an observant Jew and certainly followed it. He never tells anyone not to follow the OT rules and observances. So, where do you get your ideas from? (More on that later.)

    My question is, if you’re beliefs are correct, why not try to open my eyes too?

    How do you propose we do that? By agreeing with you? Hardly. Our arguments show how little your faith has to offer, especially in the way of answers that make sense. You would do well to actually try to answer some of the questions that we commonly ask.

    But because of that (please respect my beliefs), I am still a Christian because Jesus’ example exceeds everyone’s here.

    There’s no evidence that Jesus actually existed, so it’s rather presumptuous of you to assume that Jesus exceeds all of us here. Even if he did, I’m not so sure that you can argue that case. Jesus certainly never had any words against slavery, he had mysogynistic leanings, he preached hate towards one’s family, etc.

    Also, I see no reason to “respect” your beliefs. I may show you the respect that I think you are due for being a fellow human being and a decent sounding one at that, but not your beliefs. The teachings of your religion are hateful and I will not respect them. Period.

    The tireless arguments these theists are portraying is how the Bible was meant to be interpreted. It seems like when they respond to the atheists’ view, they seem to be ignored too. How can someone who has studied theology and knows how to interpret it based on historical background have less credibility in what the Bible meant in certain passages than the average atheist’s interpretation of a certain passage in the Bible?

    Wow, where to start here. You are making a rather grand assumption that the theists are not only Biblical scholars, but are making accurate interpretations about the Bible. Not only can you not make the claim that they are, you can’t even make the claim that you are. How do you know that your interpretations are correct. Hint: you don’t know. Even Biblical scholars come to very different conclusions about what the scriptures mean.

    Also, what historical background is that? I find that most of the Xians (and you are probably included in this based on your comments so far) don’t use a historical background, but approach the scriptures with a distinct 21st century feel. You project the cultural morality of our century back onto the mythical figure of Jesus and then try to fit the scriptures around what you know to be right or wrong. For instance, your assertion that the scriptures inform the church to help unwed mothers is simply not Biblically based. Unwed mothers were considered adulteresses and would have been shunned for marriage outside of wedlock.

    But if you truly believed that theists like myself are brainwashed, why not try to help me out instead of criticizing my beliefs?

    Again, how does one do that without actually criticizing your beliefs? I can’t point out that your beliefs are founded on zero empirical evidence, that they don’t make sense, etc. without it being critical. That’s sort of the definition. What you seem to be asking for is for us to tip-toe around and tell you that it’s all right to believe in fairy tales and that you are perfectly OK in doing so, yet somehow convince you that it’s not OK. Sorry, but I won’t do that. I respect you as a person enough not to engage in such double-speak because I find it dishonest. If anything, you should be happy that we respect you enough not to lie to your face.

  • Moses

    Mrnaglfar,
    Thanks for your input bro. As for criticisms making us more zealous, I’m not sure but I’m guessing that’s just how human nature works. Persecution seems to make the smallest of cults/religions even stronger and more devout – after all, did not Christianity have one of its strongest rate of growth during the peak of its persecution?

    Some of your beliefs about what Christianity should be are astounding. I wish more believers knew what you knew. While I believe we are to have a personal relationship with God, I’m not sure where in the Bible it says it has to be private though. I also believe in the necessity of the church because it allows other believers to gather and worship together. But yes, we should be leading by example – something Christians fail to do a lot these days. As for Jesus vetoing universal health care for children, probably not. But I do know that when Jesus does come back down, it says he will rule with an iron scepter, i.e. totalitarianism, so he would probably just implement health care and do what is right. But again, I don’t think it was necessarily “Christians” who vetoed that bill. George Bush, if he really is a Christian, doesn’t seem to follow many of the doctrines of Christianity publicly, that’s for sure. I doubt most of the politicians who claim to be Christian are actually Christian – probably just saying that for the votes. But maybe I’m being a little harsh.

    Ebonmuse,
    I did read the entire article, I just didn’t agree. I do believe there is a simple solution to it and that’s why I said what I said. I didn’t mean to burst your bubble like that. But then again, you’re the moderator so I should stop talking before you use your moderating powers, eh?

    Jack,
    Thank you for your advice. I definitely will look into it. From engaging in these comments, I’m starting to get rid of the many biases religious people have against atheists and for that, I really am thankful. I have a few atheist friends but we generally stay away from religion. None of them ever mentioned Ebonmusings.org either so this is new to me. I’m sure that I won’t give up my religious beliefs but if it’ll help me understand atheism more and somehow make the world a better place for everyone else to live, count me in.

    God bless.

  • noodle-soup

    to the confused case of Sweden, where it is legal to sell sex but not to buy it.

    I assume this is based on the premise that adult women are children who are incapable of making intelligent decisions and thus need legal protection. In the same manner that a 12-year-old child or a mentally-handicapped person cannot make the decision to engage in sex with an adult; an adult women – who is assumed to be little more than a child intellectually – cannot commit a crime by offering sex for money. However, anyone (assumed to be a male) who accepts her offer is committing a crime. The adult male, being intellectually and morally superior must refuse the offer from the adult woman and acknowledge that she is incapable of understanding her poor choices and unable to make these decisions for herself. Simply put, women must be protected from themselves because they are incapable of making rational choices and have the same legal status of a child or mentally-handicapped person.

  • Moses

    OMGF,
    Thank you for your honesty. I tried my best to answer all of the questions that were raised. I only asked to be treated the same way you would want to be treated. But I guess no matter what I say or do is going to be good enough. Well it’s been fun. I guess I can kind of see why some theists don’t come back after a few comments. Good bye.

  • Moses

    OMGF,
    Sorry I forgot to mention. Last comment I promise. Jesus came to fulfill the law according to Matthew 5:17-20 – laws based on the old covenant – this was applicable until Jesus’ death because according to Galatians 3:24-28, we are no longer under the guardian of the law. I believe there is another instance of this in Acts and Romans, but I may be wrong. Bye.

  • Eric

    Moses,

    In regards to your last post, this is awfully close to prosthylizing (spl?) whihc is not acceptable.

    Also, you sit here and quote from a book of fable and myth and you ask us to respect this. This is silliness, pure and simple. You ask us basically to do something akin to “accepting the modern day alchemist and his reseacrh and findings” as a real course. Alchemy, bible, religion…all silliness whihc is not deserving of respect or attention.

    Now, this is all wonderful but we have digressed from Ebon’s OP. Prostitution.

    One thing I would like to add to all this is that we have overlooked male prostitution. Legal or not? Should we be protecting a man’s right to seel himself as a sex tool?

    Let’s not foget that their are many male prostitutes and sex workers and they should figure into this discussion, and not just as a slight add-on.

    Also, Moses, your sign-off “god Bless.” Is quite offensive.

    But turnabout being fair play, I will sign out with this for you:

    May Ullr betotw upon you the snow of a thousand winters. May Zeus send forth the strength of a thousand horses to carry you to the next orgy and may 100 chickens be sacrificed and their blood spilled to celebrate your hidden powers.

    Eric

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Petrucio wrote:
    I think it depends on the place you are. In most of the strip clubs here (I’ll call it that – there’s no distinction between strip clubs and brothels here – they are one and the same), the vast majority of the women are happy with their profession and make more than twice the money I make.

    Yes, I think the guy posting as Moses should realize that many women secretly want to be strippers and prostitutes because, well, it’s so much fun. I know this because I hang out in strip clubs where the women are smiling and so nice to me – which has nothing to do with the fact I am shoving money down their panties. And I have no idea why atheists have a PR problem;)

    Moses wrote:
    I would love to join the bandwagon of freedom riders here. But because of that (please respect my beliefs), I am still a Christian because Jesus’ example exceeds everyone’s here.

    Moses, by freeing yourself from faith in religious texts, prophets and supernatural forces, you can indeed be free to examine and incorporate the best examples a Jesus would have to offer, into your own life – and put it out into this world for others to enjoy. You don’t have to give that up, nor working in community with others as you may now be doing in your church. Don’t let this one thread turn you off.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Thanks for this post — I’m quite interested to see how a debate over prostitution that doesn’t include religious dogmatism would run.

    Prostitution has been legal in New Zealand for a few years now. Unlike Nevada, we don’t require prostitutes to register so that they can be more conveniently discriminated against. There are no over-arching legal restrictions on where brothels can be put — just council bylaws that restrict them in the suburbs somewhat. Frankly, apart from a few early spats over exactly how such bylaws should go, I’ve noticed few changes. There are still plenty of less than subtle signs advertising ‘massages’ in the inner city, and there are still women out on the street in clothes that do their best to strike a balance between being revealing and being halfway warm. I hope that prostitutes might be able to get some assistance from the police when they need it, now that they don’t have to fear prosecution. But I don’t have any statistics, I’m afraid.

    to the confused case of Sweden, where it is legal to sell sex but not to buy it.

    I assume this is based on the premise that adult women are children who are incapable of making intelligent decisions and thus need legal protection. . . .

    Really? I thought it was based on the premise that we don’t want the practice to be legal, but we don’t want to make prostitutes fear the police, so we’ll criminalise the other half. As opposed to the usual situation when prostitution is illegal, where it’s illegal to sell, but buying is fine (We can find a nice sexist rationale for doing it that way around, too: obviously the men can’t help it, they have needs, so let’s punish the women. Both that explanation and yours above ignore the reality of male prostitutes, of course).

  • http://tinyurl.com/rotht Heathen Dan

    Is the situation of legalized prostitution in Nevada (abuse and near-slavery) the same in other places with legalized prostitution? Like in Singapore or the Netherlands, two countries where I have seen prostitution out in the open (or at least not as discreet as in other places).

  • Mrnaglfar

    Riddleofsteel,

    Yes, I think the guy posting as Moses should realize that many women secretly want to be strippers and prostitutes because, well, it’s so much fun. I know this because I hang out in strip clubs where the women are smiling and so nice to me – which has nothing to do with the fact I am shoving money down their panties. And I have no idea why atheists have a PR problem;)

    There was a night my friends convinced me to check out a strip club and I can say I didn’t much like it (since there is very little less attractive than a girl flirting with you for your money). But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there aren’t those who enjoy working in the field. It is, after all, a good way to make a lot of money in quick time, and for some, that’s the appeal of it. I do think if a woman found the field to be tasteless and hated it, she could always just not work in that area. For those who would say “they don’t have any other option”, they do have other options, they just might not like them. There are always the jobs that don’t pay as much, and some see as degrading (many minimum wage jobs seem to fit this category). There is always the army (who are always willing to take on more members, and can even provide some nice benefits for those who aren’t too well off economically); and I’m sure it’s within their power to get jobs better than the two just mentioned.

    Of course, there are those who get involved in the field because of bad family histories and/or series of abuses. Of course, to outlaw something like prostitution because of that would be to completely miss the point of the problem, which is one that needs to be dealt with on a personal basis.

    Eric,

    Let’s not foget that their are many male prostitutes and sex workers and they should figure into this discussion, and not just as a slight add-on.

    I’ve been trying to include both sexes into the discussion, but you’re right in that people frequently overlook the male aspect. I’d be curious to hear that end of the story, since tales of male prostitution are so overlooked normally. The only case of one I’ve seen has been in Transamerica, and that’s just a movie, so I can’t be sure how real to life it is.

  • DamienSansBlog

    I think this might stop the bold.

    Whatever you did, Inquisitor, thank you.

    Also, a good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your time zone) to the “Damien” with a website a few posts upstream. I suppose now I’ll have to clarify which “Damien” I am exactly, so we don’t get our opinions confused.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Thanks for this post — I’m quite interested to see how a debate over prostitution that doesn’t include religious dogmatism would run.

    Well, Lynet, until Moses came around, we had one. Good job, Moses.

    Usually I’m not this snarky, but since Moses has decided to bring up God, on an atheist website, then run home crying to his Daddy the minute somebody, on the atheist website, says “I don’t believe in God”…he’s not going to be offended at my snark, is he?

  • Entomologista

    Hey Ebon, can you be Emperor of the Universe? Because I’d like to live in the type of society that you always write about.

    One of the main things that needs to happen in order for prostitutes to be treated like human beings is for society as a whole to stop being so sex-phobic. The idea that vaginas come with a freshness seal and that a woman’s worth is tied to the state of this seal also needs to go away. Sex is natural and healthy and fun. I wish we could be adults about it.

  • David W.

    Alas, one of my favorite topics.

    The ills highlighted in the guardian, are indeed the actions of monsters, but they are fostered by society’s negative attitude towards prostitution, and consequentially apathy towards the plight of those involved in said profession. The reality is that when prostitute is raped or abused, the general reaction seems to be more split the perpetrator as well as the profession and even the victim, instead of it resting on the perpetrator and the perpetrator ALONE!!!

    As an analogy, I often like to use pornography ( I lived in a country where pornography was illegal for many years, and heard much of the same arguments being used against prostitution). The ills that plague pornography, are very similar to those that plague prostitution, but I think most will agree, that the solution isn’t to ban pornography all together, but rather, to do what most western nations have done, and enact and diligently enforce laws that cripple the perpetrators of said actions.

    Likewise in the case of pornography, the problem is neither the profession nor those honestly involved in it, the problem lies with those malevolent individuals who will exploit their fellow human beings to no end and in the most grotesque ways imaginable, every chance they get. The problem is the rapists and those who see it fit to abuse and enslave these women, and it is those people that we need to isolate and prosecute to full extent of the law…this however, can only be effectively done AFTER prostitution is made legal.

    Bottom line, is that as long as we keep prostitution illegal, we are providing the very blanket of fog that these monsters thrive under.

  • OMGF

    OMGF,
    Thank you for your honesty. I tried my best to answer all of the questions that were raised. I only asked to be treated the same way you would want to be treated. But I guess no matter what I say or do is going to be good enough. Well it’s been fun. I guess I can kind of see why some theists don’t come back after a few comments. Good bye.

    Was this supposed to make me feel bad or something, because (if you are still reading this) you come off as a petulant kid that’s running off to pout in the corner. This is especially true with your comment, “But I guess no matter what I say or do [nothing] is going to be good enough.” How funny. I have treated you like I would have myself treated. I treated you as a thinking human being that has the capacity to make points and back them up (as you tried to do in your very next post). If you want a place where you can make assertions that go unquestioned, this is not the location for you, because here you will be asked to support your assertions with some sort of logical train of thought or some empirical evidence. If this offends you, too bad, it’s how the world works. Also, you should know that your beliefs are not off-limits, especially if you parade them around and make arguments based on them. There is no mandate that anyone respect your beliefs, especially hateful ones like those that Xianity espouses. Just as I feel no need to respect the beliefs of white supremicists or any other hate group, I feel no need to respect the fairy tales of Xianity. If you have to take that personally, then the problem lies with you, not with me.

  • Angie

    Would a perfect society permit this practice, or would it be banned under the law?

    In a ‘perfect’ society I suppose prostitution wouldn’t even exist. But that ole ‘perfect society’ or ‘perfect anything’ is kind of a trap. No such thing.

    I agree that the Nevada example shouldn’t be held up as ‘what happens if you legalize prostitution.’ It’s already the way a lot of prostitution already is. It’s reprehensible that the Nevada law enforcement isn’t taking it seriously.

    I would REALLY love to get the opinions and thoughts of some sex workers about this. They’re the ones who live it – their input would be valuable and, I suspect, as diverse as any other subset of humans. I think I’ll pop over to Greta Christina’s blog and alert her to the topic. I’m suprised she hasn’t chimed in already. She wrote a book about etiquette when soliciting a sex worker, so she may have some connections.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    In a ‘perfect’ society I suppose prostitution wouldn’t even exist.

    That’s nontrivial (to use a mathematician’s phrase). Care to elaborate?

  • mackrelmint

    In Canada, prostitution is legal although soliciting for sex is a criminal offense for which both the prostitute and the john can be charged. Some municipalities, such as in Windsor, Ontario, have chosen to license escorts and escort services (where sex acts may be carried out but must be consented to and discussed in private only between the client and the sex worker), providing some measure of legal control over the sex trade and some measures of protection for the sex workers.

    This report http://www.walnet.org/csis/papers/lewis-escorts.html by a division of Health Canada may be of interest here. Although its focus is on the transmission of STIs in the sex trade in Windsor, it also addresses such factors as work place conditions, delivery and use of health and social services, victimization of workers and regulations in Nevada and The Netherlands as well as specific legislation and municipal policies in Canada. It’s worth a read for those interested and is well referenced.

    I grew up in Windsor and remember when the city’s decision to license escorts was made. Windsor was already known as the “Sin City” of the north, owing to its many strip clubs (full nudity aok), legal sales of cuban cigars and a new casino. The decision was quite controversial at the time, particularly coming on the heels of the opening of the huge city casino that drew in thousands of gamblers from outside the community and largely from Detroit, Michigan which lead to accusations of the decision simply being another cash grab by the city (which doesn’t get the income from the provincially owned casino). I can’t comment on the effect this had from the perspective of police or users or providers of the service but what was (and still is) immediately apparent to the general public were the appearances of advertising for the escort services in the classified sections of the local paper. They cannot explicitly advertise (and hence solicit) that sexual services are offered but the ads are unmistakable for what they are selling. (as an example, see this excerpt from an ad in today’s Windsor paper: BLACK BEAUTY 4U Hot, young, eager 2 please! 24 hr/flat rate) These ads were/are viewed as distasteful by many residents and there were many initial complaints to the newspaper but no one forces anyone to read them and as the services and escorts are licensed, the newspaper doesn’t deny ad space (and profits from all the ads).

    Licensing of escorts in Windsor largely gets the sex trade workers off the street and out of the public eye (excepting the newspaper ads). However, this has not meant that there are not underground unlicensed sex workers in the city and that some women are not being coerced and victimized, nor that underage prostitution isn’t also happening. I can’t find an internet link to a reference for this assertion but I know this from someone I trust that still lives in Windsor who knows of this happening.

    If anyone is interested in learning more about the legality of prostitution in Canada, this is an excellent and thorough document http://cmte.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/committee/391/just/reports/rp2599932/justrp06/06-toc-e.htm written by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights which reports on prostitution in Canada. Its table of contents is too long to list but among many issues addressed, such as types of prostitution in Canada, who sells it and who buys it, drug abuse and prostitution, health and violence, it also discusses the very concepts Ebon has presented and we’ve been discussing here such as the viewpoint of prostitution as violence against women, using Sweden as an example, contrasted with the perspective of prostitution being an act between consenting adults as a form of work and uses New Zealand as one model discussed.
    Happy reading!

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Damn. I’m so sorry I’m so late to this conversation.

    So here’s my question. How many people in this discussion have ever actually been a sex worker?

    I have. Me. Over here.

    I’ve never worked as a prostitute, but I have worked as a stripper — a profession that shares many of the same myths, misunderstanding, and stigmas as prostitution. I also have a large number of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues who are current or former prostitutes, as well as professional dominants, professional submissives, phone sex workers, porn performers, and fellow strippers. (I’ve also done extensive reading on the subject, and have written about it at length.)

    And the number one thing I want to say is this:

    The idea that almost everyone who goes into sex work does so out of desperation — this idea is flat-out wrong.

    I’m not saying that never happens. Yes there are people — not just women, there are plenty of men in the sex industry — who get into it because they don’t see any other option (or, in some cases, because they’re forced into it).

    There are other people who passionately love the work, who see it as a career and even a calling.

    And there are lots and lots and LOTS of people who see it, above all else, as a job. A job very much like any other job, with aspects they like and aspects they don’t; customers they like and customers they don’t; times they have fun with it and times they’re just watching the clock; reasons they’d rather not be there and reasons why they stay. (In particular, it can be a very good job for college students, grad students, artists, writers, and political actitivists — you can make a lot of money working fairly short hours, and the hours are very flexible.) Of all the jobs I’ve had in my life, stripping was very far from the worst. In fact, the work itself was often quite enjoyable, and if the management hadn’t been jerks, I would have stuck with it a lot longer.

    And, of course, like any other job, there are people in it who like it better than others: people who enjoy it a fair amount of the time, and people who dislike it and just do it to pay the rent.

    When it comes to sex, I think there’s a tendency for people to assume that, because they personally wouldn’t like to do a particular sexual thing, nobody else would either, and therefore if they’re doing it they must have been coerced or brainwashed or forced into it out of desperation.

    But not everyone feels the same way about sex. And the fact is that plenty of people in the sex industry do choose it — as much as anyone chooses any job, as much as accountants and bricklayers and copywriters choose their jobs. It’s the job that, out of all the other jobs available to them, works the best for them, for a variety of reasons. They’re not all helpless, poverty-stricken, drug-addled victims. Some of them are, but not all, or even most. And the attitude that they are is not only patronizing — it helps contribute to the stigma that makes their work and their lives harder.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Now, on the abuses in the sex industry.

    Which I don’t deny. I’d be an idiot to deny them.

    The abuses in the Nevada brothels described in the Guardian article are appalling. But it’s not a good example of what happens when prostitution is legalized. Prostitution in Nevada is legal; but it’s also hemmed in with a thousand rigid and draconion restrictions… restrictions that, as the article makes clear, not only don’t protect the prostitutes but actually make the business a fertile ground for abuse. (The most obvious of these may be the fact that prostitutes aren’t allowed to work on their own; they can only work legally within the brothel system.)

    The restrictions on legal prostitution in Nevada don’t come from a groovy, sex-positive, prostitute-positive attitude. They come from the same old attitude of treating sex with contempt and fear, something that needs to be tightly controlled at all times.

    There are other places in the world where prostitution is legal — Amsterdam is probably the most famous, and New Zealand, as others have mentioned, has recently adopted very progressive prostitution laws. And while the industry isn’t perfect in these places (no industry is perfect anywhere), it’s nothing at all like the situation in the Nevada brothels described in the Guardian article.

    And here’s the main point. The laws and social stigma against prostitution don’t help prostitutes. They make things worse. They create the situation in which abuses can flourish. They make it harder to seek out help from the police if you’re being abused; harder to leave the industry and find another job if and when you want to.

    I agree with Ebon that I’d like to see a world with a better social support structure, so nobody has to go into prostitution who isn’t okay with it. But I’d also like to see a world in which the people who do want to go into prostitution are supported as well.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Thanks, Greta! I was hoping you’d drop by. It’s good to see that the experts have shown up.

    I have to say, I think I’ve learned more from the comments on this post than from just about any other discussion thread on this site. I stand by my basic conclusions, but I have to correct myself on a few points.

    First: Prostitution is legal, or at least tolerated, in a lot more places than I was aware of. As bad as conditions are in Nevada, I get the impression it’s the exception and not the rule. It seems likely that this is due to the sex-phobic attitude that still prevails in much of America. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that this is another area in which this country’s excessive religiosity causes us to lag behind most of the developed world.

    And you’re right, Greta, that I shouldn’t say most prostitutes turn to the career as a last resort. I don’t have any data backing that up. (Although I have seen studies indicating that a majority of women working in prostitution would leave the field if they could – I’ll try to find a reference for those.) I still think a better social safety net would help prevent the abuse that does occur, and of course it goes without saying that no one should be forced into prostitution; but I now think it’s likely that the absence of such a thing isn’t the real root cause. The root cause is that many people still treat sex as a dirty, shameful, secret, mysterious thing and hold bigoted attitudes toward sex workers. That attitude gives rise both to criminal abuse and to draconian legislation that only worsens the problem, and it seems to me that this attitude, more than anything else, is what needs to be confronted. When more people take up a rational view of sex and not a superstitious one, a lot of associated problems are going to go away.

  • disco

    It is legal to film and pay two (or more) people having consenting sex as long as you follow the regulations. Why can you use this procedure for prostitution? Follow the law and use “amateur” guys with professional girls. Filming may not be desirable, but you can delete the film afterward saying the scene was no good for the movie. Pay the guy 1$ and the girl whatever she charges. Or the client could stand in as the production company and pay directly. Might be too complicated. But if girls gone wild can handle it, how hard could it be?

  • Angie

    To Lynet:

    That’s nontrivial (to use a mathematician’s phrase). Care to elaborate?

    I was originally thinking that in a perfect society no one would need prostitution. We’d all be able to get what we needed from our spouse/partner/etc. Upon further reflection, that’s just silly. I retract my silly statement!

  • Alex Weaver

    I think you’re confusing the connotations of “perfect society” and “perfect world.” :)

  • Angie

    Alex:

    Quite.

    Y’all should pop over to Greta Christina’s blog and check out her post on “The Stigma on Sex Work Customers” It’s an interesting ‘other side of the fence’ piece. Scroll down a few posts to find it.

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/

  • Samuel

    I think a sane, rational and humane society is a better label then a perfect society. Perfect is too vague. Personally I think that each of the states should legalize it and they should each try different systems, so we can see which one works the best. Judging from the article I can say definately that it ain’t Nevada’s.

  • Dating

    Hi,
    This same approach is taking with prostitution in most states. We are morally against it so we prosecute it as a crime in order to show our moral anger. The war on prostitution makes the problem worse but we feel we have to fight it to show that we are a decent and good people. This is silly and it is killing people. But moralists go to bed every night with the feeling that they are on the right side of the issue

  • http://lovejots.com Debs of LoveJots

    I’m sorry too that I didn’t find this earlier.
    There is a point I have yet to see anyone bring up – unless I missed it.

    The fact is that sex can and does have and end result. It’s called PROCREATION.

    The flippant attitude:
    “If the objection is that it’s wrong to pay a person for sexual gratification because it treats them as an object to serve our needs, I answer that many other kinds of economic transactions do the same thing.”

    To add to my response is how everyone is trying to fix the problem but misses the boat. It starts with the parents. It’s the parents who have the sex and who are blessed by God to help create that person. Parents then can what? Leave it to die? Obviously not. THEIR moral obligation is to feed, nurture, socialize, educate and guide that human as God did so with Jesus. Not let it starve, suffer, get lost and find it’s own way.

    Their is no foundation for that unwanted child. There is no food. There is no shelter. There is no Momma/Pappa. Where’s their due respect?

    There is a reason why God is called the Father. Because a society without rules or guidance with substance and meaning, it’s result will be havoc.

    So, on goes the cycle of desperation. There isn’t one woman that I have met that decides “hey, I’ll become a prostitute, now why didn’t I think of that earlier.”

    Blaming the system starts the argument when it’s almost at the end of the ugly cycle.

    There’s not one person on this planet that can replicate a child with their own hands. Those that accept prostitution are part of a very big problem that spurs it on and wreaks of emptiness. It’s a sad day for society when even one unwanted child is conceived.

    There is another motto: it’s called masturbation.

    Peace.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Debs,

    Outstanding

    The fact is that sex can and does have and end result. It’s called PROCREATION.

    Provided of course that sex in unprotected and vaginal. Different types of sex can be paid for, and varieties of products, namely condoms, IUDs, and birth control, are widely effective and preventing pregnacies from occuring in the first place.

    It’s the parents who have the sex and who are blessed by God to help create that person.

    What about different faiths, or people who worship different gods, or none at all? That argument is complete and total bullshit. I’m not the least bit sorry for having to inform you on that point. While I agree parents have an obligation to care for their children, marriages break down roughly 40 to 50% of the time, which last time I checked, doesn’t mean they’re blessed by god. (Those things normally don’t work 100% of the time) Likewise, I’ve seen many cases of parents who are together who are just bad parents; Nothing about being married makes them better parents.

    There is a reason why God is called the Father. Because a society without rules or guidance with substance and meaning, it’s result will be havoc.

    There has never been a society without rules, and that is in no way linked to your figment-of-imagination father figure you have. It’s strange, because I always thought the defining feature of a male wasn’t his authority, but his penis and testicles. Perhaps you’d like to enlighten me about what makes a father, since I seem to be mistaken.

    Blaming the system starts the argument when it’s almost at the end of the ugly cycle.

    What argument are you referring to? If this is talking about prostitution then I think you will find, again, how mistaken that notion is. But before I get into that, I need some clarifaction as to what you mean there.

    There’s not one person on this planet that can replicate a child with their own hands. Those that accept prostitution are part of a very big problem that spurs it on and wreaks of emptiness. It’s a sad day for society when even one unwanted child is conceived.

    It’s sad that there are unwanted children, it truly is heartbreaking. But to blame prostitution for that is outlanish. How about the failure of schools to teach children about safe sex, or how to maintain a healthy relationship? How about married or divorced parents who don’t instill in their children a sense of how to maintain a healthy relationship?

    There is another motto: it’s called masturbation.

    Which is good knowledge to impart to teens, because telling them to just not have sex has done so well in the past, right?

  • Alex Weaver

    There is a point I have yet to see anyone bring up – unless I missed it.

    The fact is that sex can and does have and end result. It’s called PROCREATION.

    Birth control. Other kinds of sex. What the other commenters said.

    The flippant attitude:
    “If the objection is that it’s wrong to pay a person for sexual gratification because it treats them as an object to serve our needs, I answer that many other kinds of economic transactions do the same thing.”

    First, that’s not flippant. Second, what about it?

    To add to my response is how everyone is trying to fix the problem but misses the boat. It starts with the parents. It’s the parents who have the sex and who are blessed by God to help create that person.

    What evidence would you offer that God has anything to do with reproduction? As I understood it there are unresolved questions but the basic process of fertilization and implantation is pretty clear and unambiguously biological. It’s also not meaningfully different from that of other placental mammals – does that mean God blesses them to create progeny as well?

    Parents then can what? Leave it to die? Obviously not. THEIR moral obligation is to feed, nurture, socialize, educate and guide that human as God did so with Jesus. Not let it starve, suffer, get lost and find it’s own way.

    Their is no foundation for that unwanted child. There is no food. There is no shelter. There is no Momma/Pappa. Where’s their due respect?

    Absolutely. This why we advocate the use of birth control and the legal availability of abortion, to help ensure that any child born will be wanted and properly cared for. By the way, what does this line of argument have to do with either the original post or the actual position of anyone here.

    There is a reason why God is called the Father.

    Yes. It’s called “sexism.”

    Because a society without rules or guidance with substance and meaning, it’s result will be havoc.

    Never mind this argument’s irrelevance to what we’re actually advocating here. Never mind that it has absolutely no logical relationship to the sentence that preceded it. Who have you encountered arguing that our society should abandon rules and guidance? Can you name even one?

    So, on goes the cycle of desperation. There isn’t one woman that I have met that decides “hey, I’ll become a prostitute, now why didn’t I think of that earlier.”

    How many have you met?

    Blaming the system starts the argument when it’s almost at the end of the ugly cycle.

    Make up your mind.

    There’s not one person on this planet that can replicate a child with their own hands.

    Actually, reproductive cloning is technologically possible at this point, albeit illegal. By the way, what does this have to do with prostitution?

    Those that accept prostitution are part of a very big problem that spurs it on and wreaks of emptiness.

    I know all these words and I still can’t parse this sentence.

    It’s a sad day for society when even one unwanted child is conceived.

    I agree. By the way, what does that have to do with prostitution?

    There is another motto: it’s called masturbation.

    I agree.

    Wait, you didn’t mean your post? (This, for the record, is the kind of comment that the term “flippant” actually refers to).

  • http://lovejots Debs

    Well I’m glad to see that everyone is alive and breathing =) I seem to have opened a can of worms LOL.

    Listen, I’m real easy going – honest. I didn’t come to bash your lack of religion here, so I’d appreciate some tolerance. May I ask then since you pointed out my notes on God or the Father etc. (and the following is really out of ignorance) since you have no religion, how does that make you feel? I mean, when you have no one to turn too to help solve a turning point in your life, what do you do? Do you just talk to yourself all the time? (I’m not being cheeky – I’m asking – again – out of ignorance).

    I can see that you are confident in your nonfaith. But those who do bash my religion I like to ask: if you can introduce to me someone as profound, loving, giving, an excellent teacher in life skills and morals as Him. it’d be great to meet him (or her). I’m not shy to say it certainly isn’t me. You?

    Anyhow – lots of comments – WOW. I just stumbled upon this conversation because I was checking out prostitution.

    The whole post was about prostitution right? Meaning paid for sex.

    Whoever wrote “there are other kinds of sex…” for sure. I suppose I didn’t put any words regarding strictly intercourse in my writing.

    You know, I’m not out to change the world on prostitution or sex. But I’d rather teach abstinence to my son, let him know about the consequences should he chose otherwise. I’m not going to stick my head under a pillow. From there it’s his own conscience that will help him make his decisions.

    I don’t think it should be up to anyone – especially our schools, to teach about sex.
    That’s family business. If the parents know how they got pregnant in the first place, it’s not too difficult for them to talk to their children.

    I didn’t say parents were perfect, I just mentioned that it is their obligation. If they didn’t have intercourse, no babies. How much more basic can it get? Accidents happen. What condom company toots 100% safety? I’m simply basing the unwanted child on this pretense – prostitution with intercourse and an accident. Sorry if I didn’t relate that well enough.

    MY POST: It’s the parents who have the sex and who are blessed by God to help create that person. YOUR COMMENT

    What about different faiths, or people who worship different gods, or none at all? That argument is complete and total bullshit. I’m not the least bit sorry for having to inform you on that point. While I agree parents have an obligation to care for their children, marriages break down roughly 40 to 50% of the time, which last time I checked, doesn’t mean they’re blessed by god. (Those things normally don’t work 100% of the time) Likewise, I’ve seen many cases of parents who are together who are just bad parents; Nothing about being married makes them better parents.

    MY ANSWER:
    Well I’m sorry that you don’t see all life as a blessing and I obviously will relate to my God. If I was of different faith, I’d have used that term instead I suppose. If I didn’t have a faith – that’s a great point. I don’t really know how I’d feel about life, maybe of your opinion perhaps….? Regarding divorce and parenting, should that time arise, and for sure, it’s rampant here in NA., they still are obliged even though they will now encounter other types of challenges.

    ++++++++++++++
    The fact is that sex can and does have and end result. It’s called PROCREATION.

    Provided of course that sex in unprotected and vaginal. Different types of sex can be paid for, and varieties of products, namely condoms, IUDs, and birth control, are widely effective and preventing pregnacies from occuring in the first place.
    MY REPLY – there’s not one item that you mentioned that is 100% safe except abstinence, period.

    ++++++++++++++
    There is a reason why God is called the Father. Because a society without rules or guidance with substance and meaning, it’s result will be havoc.

    There has never been a society without rules, and that is in no way linked to your figment-of-imagination father figure you have. It’s strange, because I always thought the defining feature of a male wasn’t his authority, but his penis and testicles. Perhaps you’d like to enlighten me about what makes a father, since I seem to be mistaken.
    MY REPLY
    I wonder who made up those rules to begin with?
    figment-of-imagination father – I’m happy to report I have tolerance here =) I don’t have all day.
    +++++++++++++++++++
    Blaming the system starts the argument when it’s almost at the end of the ugly cycle.

    What argument are you referring to? If this is talking about prostitution then I think you will find, again, how mistaken that notion is. But before I get into that, I need some clarifiction as to what you mean there.
    MR REPLY
    I’m not here to argue – that’s foremost. But this is what triggered my thought:
    This step, I think, would truly eliminate most of the social ills that come with prostitution.

    ++++++++++++++++++
    I doubt that most people who are prostitutes turn to that career out of enthusiastic choice. Far more often, it’s a last resort for the desperate. By this argument, most of the people – most of the women, I should say – who turn to prostitution would not be doing so if they had other options. Banning the practice would not solve this underlying problem. But here’s the important point: permitting it doesn’t solve that problem either.
    MY REPLY
    All I can say is if the physical abuse will continue irregardless of legalization, and the potential of unwanted children and disease (nothing is 100% except abstinence)is there, then teach abstinence first and foremost. For those who engage in prostitution or casual sex, I hope you never do contact those diseases or create an unwanted child.

    To me, it’s pretty basic stuff here. To others who don’t believe in or practice abstinence, man – you guys open up a whole can of worms and are putting a ton of pressure on society. I think we’d all benefit if you could just refrain.

    Debs
    ps – sorry I just don’t have a handle on how you all cut ‘n paste.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Debs,

    Listen, I’m real easy going – honest. I didn’t come to bash your lack of religion here, so I’d appreciate some tolerance.

    I don’t doubt that, and by no means does my response attack you – it attacks your ideas regarding prostitution and belief in god, the latter of which is an idea I don’t feel deserves respect. I can tolerate the idea in that I’m not going to tell you that you can’t hold it as your opinion, but it’s still capable of being aggrivating.

    May I ask then since you pointed out my notes on God or the Father etc. (and the following is really out of ignorance) since you have no religion, how does that make you feel? I mean, when you have no one to turn too to help solve a turning point in your life, what do you do? Do you just talk to yourself all the time? (I’m not being cheeky – I’m asking – again – out of ignorance).

    The idea of religion bothers me on a number of levels, the main of which being it makes arguments that do not base themselves in evidence (i.e. faith), which for some reason is accepted as a virtue (how is believing something despite evidence for it good?), and also that religion likes to elevate morals and people above everyone else.
    When it gets to a point in my life that I have a problem that needs solving, I normally sit down and think about it rationally, figure out what I want to achieve and how I can best achieve it, what steps to take and what I hope their outcome will be. Do some research into how other people have solved this problem, and if I have people available who’s opinions on the subject I value, I will ask them and take them into account if I find them relevent. The big part of all that being when I do encounter a problem I actually try to fix it and make sure it’s no longer a problem, instead of just try to feel better about it for the moment. But yes, it’s a lot talking to myself, so to speak, and planning and weighing options.

    I can see that you are confident in your nonfaith. But those who do bash my religion I like to ask: if you can introduce to me someone as profound, loving, giving, an excellent teacher in life skills and morals as Him. it’d be great to meet him (or her). I’m not shy to say it certainly isn’t me. You?

    I’m not to whom you’re referring, but I think I get the idea you’re trying to put across, so let me add this. When you look to your religion for a source of morality, you do so selectively. As has been mentioned on this site many times before, to try and follow the morality of the religion correctly would be impossible because it contradicts itself and our national laws time and again. Morality, however, is not something stagnant; it changes based on the situation at hand. There needs to be open discussion of what is right and wrong based on it’s effects and the factors at hand. It’s never as simple as “this is right and this is wrong always”.

    But I’d rather teach abstinence to my son, let him know about the consequences should he chose otherwise. I’m not going to stick my head under a pillow. From there it’s his own conscience that will help him make his decisions.

    Abstinence is one part of the discussion about sex, but as evidenced by it being the policy of many of our public schools to only teach that, and no condom use or birth control, or how sex can be a good thing, and the massive failures of that program to prevent STDs or teen pregnancy, one might be led to think there’s a lot that needs to be said about the subject.

    What I might lend as advice for teaching children, as well as safe sex education, perhaps education as to how to build and maintain a healthy and honest relationships.

    I don’t think it should be up to anyone – especially our schools, to teach about sex.
    That’s family business. If the parents know how they got pregnant in the first place, it’s not too difficult for them to talk to their children.

    I didn’t say parents were perfect, I just mentioned that it is their obligation. If they didn’t have intercourse, no babies. How much more basic can it get? Accidents happen. What condom company toots 100% safety? I’m simply basing the unwanted child on this pretense – prostitution with intercourse and an accident. Sorry if I didn’t relate that well enough.

    I disagree; it’s absolutely important for schools to teach that kind of education and teach it accurately and throughly. Yes, parents aren’t perfect, and many parents are just as uneducated about the subject as their children, and likely won’t be able to tell their children what they should know, since the parents dont know it themselves. Yes, teaching children to abstain from sex is simple, but is a massive failure when not coupled with the rest of the field of information.
    Also yes, it is possible for a prostitute to get pregnant or a disease, either from lack of proper information, preventative measures, or the occassional mistake. Condoms are not 100% effective, but when used properly at 95-99% effective. When used together with birthcontrol the risk of that accident becomes so low as to be almost non-existant, or at least lower than the risk of most things we accept in life.
    Even if that fails, there is always the option of an abortion as the last line of protection.

    If I didn’t have a faith – that’s a great point. I don’t really know how I’d feel about life, maybe of your opinion perhaps….?

    You might want to refer to the post about deconversions into atheism. It’s posted a short while back. Personally, I’ve enjoyed a great life so far, all things considered, without any religion.

    I wonder who made up those rules to begin with?

    People did. I can recommend the book “The Moral Animal” as a good starting point for that subject. The general answer to the question is our evolution has.

    This step, I think, would truly eliminate most of the social ills that come with prostitution.

    Rather than targetting prostitution, which only makes those prostitutes into criminals and stigmatized them socially, trying to address the problems that lead to prostitution would be a better step if the goal is to dimish it’s prevelence.

    All I can say is if the physical abuse will continue irregardless of legalization, and the potential of unwanted children and disease (nothing is 100% except abstinence)is there, then teach abstinence first and foremost.

    Abstience only education has been shown to not work. Yes, I do doubt we will ever completely stop the phyiscal abuse or spread of disease, but through the proper education and social steps we can try to greatly reduce it. Making it illegal just pushes the problems unground and makes sure they do not get dealt with.

    ps – sorry I just don’t have a handle on how you all cut ‘n paste.

    The way I do it is to highlight the text, copy it and paste in the comment box, then at the beginning type (I need to type it this way so it doesn’t just blockquote it)
    , and then at the end of the part you’re pasting, .

  • Alex Weaver

    The tags you want are <blockquote> at the beginning of the quoted phrase and </blockquote> at the end. For more information try browsing around here.

    More later.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I mean, when you have no one to turn too to help solve a turning point in your life, what do you do? Do you just talk to yourself all the time?

    Yes, actually, I do talk to myself all the time; how did you know? ;-)

    More seriously, I think you at least partially answered your own question without realizing it:

    But I’d rather teach abstinence to my son, let him know about the consequences should he chose otherwise. I’m not going to stick my head under a pillow. From there it’s his own conscience that will help him make his decisions. [Emphasis added.]

  • OMGF

    I mean, when you have no one to turn too to help solve a turning point in your life, what do you do? Do you just talk to yourself all the time? (I’m not being cheeky – I’m asking – again – out of ignorance).

    I suspect that we all turn to others that we know as well. Maybe we’ll ask someone we think is wise, or someone who has had a similar experience, or maybe we’ll ask someone close to us who can help us guide ourselves. In the end, however, it is not god that anyone turns to, but ourselves, since we are the ultimate arbiters of what we do. We might “ask god” for guidance, but what we are really doing is turning to our own conscience as ably pointed out by Nes.


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