Sex work is typically considered taboo by America’s societal standards. Only legal in one state, Nevada, prostitution is heavily criminalized in the rest of the country. Despite this fact, sex work is a nationwide multi-million dollar industry. Many believe that outlawing sex work is the most beneficial thing to do in terms of safety for sex workers, but when asking sex workers themselves, they disagree.
When sex work is criminalized, those who do the act become criminals in the eyes of the justice system. This, in turn, actually makes sex workers more unsafe, as they are now subject to unwanted attention from the police. This could lead the corrupt police system to exploit these workers for their own gain. Additionally, if the worker experiences any other methods of harm from a solicitor (going beyond their given consent, refusal of pay, abuse, etc), they cannot go to the police and report the crime, because by simply selling sex, they too were committing a crime. However, morally, there is nothing wrong with selling sex: people sell their bodies through all sorts of routes. The military, construction, mining: most physical labor jobs require more of your body than of anything else, and sex work is no different.
Similarly stated above, one of the major arguments against sex work is that it is unsafe for women. But, if sex work were to be legalized, there could be rules and regulations that would allow for sex workers to be more safe and endure less violence. There could be mandated STD testing for both parties involved, as well as a working blacklist for any “John” who got rough with a worker. Similar to prohibition, making it (alcohol/sex work) illegal does not stop people from partaking in the act and only decreases personal safety, particularly since it is nearly a victimless crime.
Numerous people cite New Zealand as a prime example of what to do in terms of decriminalization of sex work. In the early 2000s, they passed a bill that decriminalized sex work across the whole country, and in return, they expected a large increase of the number of sex workers and brothels when, in reality they stayed about the same. The law review committee came to the conclusion that prostitutes were better off under the decriminalization than they were when it was illegal. Sex workers no longer had to operate in the shadows and felt like they had better access to workers’ and human rights. It also vastly improved the relationships of law enforcement and sex workers, destigmatizing some of the more negative aspects of the job. Plus, if sex work is a more open and less secretive market, it would likely affect the economy in a positive manner. Workers would be able to charge more fair prices without fear of repercussions.
Overall, sex work should be decriminalized in the United States for a multitude of reasons. It would make it safer, add to the destigmatization of sex work, affect the economy positively, and be an overall better experience for everyone involved.
Crichton, Fraser. “Decriminalising Sex Work in New Zealand: Its History and Impact.” OpenDemocracy. August 21, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2021. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/beyond-trafficking-and-slavery/decriminalising-sex-work-in-new-zealand-its-history-and-impact/.