The Absurdity of Legislating Sexual Morality

The Absurdity of Legislating Sexual Morality May 16, 2013

I used to joke that there was a glaring, if not largely ignored, loophole in all anti-prostitution laws across the United States. It seemed to me that, if any house of ill repute wanted easily to skirt the laws against money for sex, they simply needed to set up cameras in each boudoir and claim that the participants are making a movie. The fact is that laws about making sexually explicit films are sparse and largely unenforced. There is the so-called “2257 Regulations” that was supposed to require filmmakers to certify and keep record of proof of the legal age of all film participants (sorry, not calling them actors), but that was even struck down in 2007 by the U.S. circuit court of appeals for being too restrictive of free speech. Interestingly, adult films are protected by the First Amendment, according to the U.S. government.

How in the hell has no one figured out this workaround yet?

The point here is not to give birth (ahem) to a burgeoning new industry of quasi-legitimate prostitution. Rather, it is simply one example of how ridiculous it is to try and legislate sexual activity of any stripe with laws. Yes, there are laws to protect minors and to ensure the relative physical safety of those participating in such movies, but as for the line between paying someone to have sex with you and exercising your right to free speech, it seems the legal distinction could be as minor as whether you had the camera on your cell phone on during the act.

Imagine if Hugh Grant had had an iPhone back in the day. Heck, he even has his SAG card, for crying out loud!

I understand the desire of a people to have culturally agreed-upon standards of decency, but to try and explicitly state such standards and to enforce them when it comes to what consenting adults do with their naughty bits, that’s just dumb. The fact is that, while we fret over the end-result of something like prostitution,  we fail to deal with the real issues that brought people to that point in the first place, including (but likely not limited to):

  • The hyper-sexualization of women
  • Economic disparities
  • Sexual addiction
  • Sexual and physical abuse

Granted, some things like economic disparity can be addressed to a degree by government. But in general, these boil down to basic societal/cultural issues, for which the society and its various cultures must take personal stock and accountability. And if they aren’t willing to affect such changes as necessary to eradicate the end-results they find so unpalatable…

Well, they’re not actually that interested in changing, are they?

Making such practices illegal generally only serves to make those willing to risk violating the law incredibly wealthy. And in many cases, when it comes to prostitution, the ones cashing in aren’t the women themselves, but rather the “managers” and sex traffickers who organize it all. Yes, we can pursue them and put them in jail, but more will rise up in their place. We can even go to the source and arrest the women and their Johns.

And as they say in twelve-step circles, how has that strategy worked out for you so far?

The truth is we often aren’t that serious about changing ourselves in many cases, and we’re certainly not so invested in the victims of such circumstances to change the social order in a way that reduces or eliminates the prurient behavior. Better to pass it off to government, so we may sit back and castigate them for the problem when, inevitably, nothing really changes.

I’m sure this all sounds particularly cynical, but as the father of a four-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son, I spend a disproportionate amount of my time and energy wondering how in the world to keep them healthy and safe. Churches will continue to preach morality, governments will keep passing laws, and society will keep saying one thing while doing another. It may not be much, but sometimes I feel like all I have to offer them is a hugh, my time, and the assurance that, as inspired children of a loving God, they owe themselves and others much, much more.


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