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Should Prostitution be Legalized?


Prostitution must be decriminalized. Sometimes called the world’s oldest profession, prostitution has been around since 2400 B.C. It is usually regarded as a blasphemous, dirty, lowly job and most derogatory terms for women reduce them to prostitutes (e.g. whore, slut, hooker). It is highly stigmatized in the United States, even though the porn industry is worth between six and fifteen billion dollars per year. In Atlanta alone, the black market for sex work is worth $290 million dollars per year. When there is money to be made, people will fill that demand regardless of the legality. Risks come along with any black market trade, and lack of regulations allows for widespread disease rates among prostitutes, murder and violence against prostitutes, and human trafficking which turns into modern day slavery. Along with the advent of the internet, there are now seemingly infinite ways to sell and buy sex. Without regulations, sex trafficking is becoming a mainstream problem, leaving vulnerable populations (especially women) checking over their shoulder in public spaces and crowds. The decriminalization, and preferably the legalization, of prostitution would be a great benefit to sex workers, consumers of sex as a product, and communities as a whole. 

Sex workers are divided on the concept. Some say that prostitution is a shameful profession and should not be supported, and legalization does just that. On the contrary, there is an overwhelming amount of sex workers who support legalization because they would be able to escape from abusive situations by looking for legal recourse. Anything that is done by two consenting adults in private is not something over which the government should have any jurisdiction. This sentiment has been expressed in support of homosexual marriage, and is still valid in terms of prostitution. Law enforcement officers have stated their opposition to the legalization of prostitution because it “destroys lives”, and damages the societal fabric of America. The argument against this is simply that it does not have to ruin lives because legalization would be a step toward eliminating pimps, trafficking, and prison overcrowding. There will always be prostitutes; we may as well take that information and choose to protect the men and women who sell sexual services rather than punish them for it. 

Prostitution is not a victimless crime; the victim is the person who is referred to as a criminal. Prostitutes who are sentenced to jail time are usually put into a cycle where prostitution is the only option for post incarceration work. Fines which may be imposed for pandering usually lead to higher rates of prostitution in order to pay the fees. Another problem that is a direct consequence to the illegality of sex work is the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancies. If prostitution were legal and regulated, prostitutes may be more willing to seek out health care and preventative care that is stigmatized under current laws. Regulations would also seed out abusive pimps and johns, just as dealers of illegal cannabis have moved to different markets in states where it has been legalized for recreational use. Regulations should also take into account human trafficking statistics and the thousands of women and men who are not of the age of majority and are being abused. If prostitutes had safe, clean spaces to conduct their work it will no longer be the shady, underground business it currently is. It would also force deep web trading sites with modern human slavery as a lucrative commodity to a publicly traded and supervised market activity. Just like with cannabis use, the legalization and inevitable taxation of once prohibited black market activity caused an enormous uptick in tax revenue for the state government. These taxes have been fed into infrastructure, education, and community assistance. Prostitution’s legalization would likely have the same effect. There will always be a large demand for sex work, and given that information the most responsible decision that American politicians could make is to legalize, regulate, and tax prostitution. Prostitutes are human beings and they should be regarded as such regardless of what they do in a consenting situation with other consenting adults. They should be protected by laws just like OSHA protects workers in every industry in America. Their work should be taxed and standardized so the people involved stop funding a market in which children are regularly sex trafficked from all over the world. Sexual desire is not something that will not be eliminated no matter how vilified sex workers become, or how taboo the idea of prostitution is in the American psyche. It is estimated that between fifteen and twenty percent of men have paid for sex at least once in their lives in the United States. That comes out to roughly 31,882,000 men that have used prostitution. The criminalization of sex work is antiquated, and laws must be changed to protect everyone involved in the industry from providers to customers.