Tyler Cowen on why it's OK to pay for sex
July 22, 2009 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Tyler Cowen on why it's OK to pay for sex

The rest of the debate can be found here.
posted by reenum (111 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looking at that unfortunate baldness pattern, I think he's on the pro side for purely pragmatic reasons.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:22 PM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


inevitable George Carlin:

"Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal?!"
posted by shmegegge at 3:24 PM on July 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


I there some reason you linked to just the one video out of all 14?

I love how the title of the series is IT'S WRONG TO PAY FOR SEX so no matter which position the speaker takes, it's under the IT'S WRONG heading.

For anyone who wants to know who won, skip ahead to the end. I like how they made men and women vote separately but didn't [that I saw] report the voting differences by gender. iq2 has a bunch of other debates too that are pretty interesting.
posted by jessamyn at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2009


It would be wrong to give this away.
posted by ND¢ at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2009


Who is this preacher, telling me what is or is not morally wrong?
posted by The World Famous at 3:33 PM on July 22, 2009


Who's Tyler Cowen?
posted by box at 3:34 PM on July 22, 2009


Of course Tyler Durden would think selling sex is ok.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:38 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


All sex is transactional in one way or another. TAANSTAFL.
posted by mullingitover at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2009


Personally I like the sensible Swedish approach: selling sex is legal, buying it isn't. So someone who really wants to can go pay for sex, but if he doesn't watch his step, the one he is paying can get him arrested. I am not sure if they make pimping illegal too, but I do hope so.
posted by idiopath at 3:44 PM on July 22, 2009


I have no moral problem with prostitution, per se, but the mindset of "I'm so repulsive that the only way you'd have sex with me is if I paid you" (and the converse) is all kinds of Ugh.
posted by LordSludge at 3:45 PM on July 22, 2009


In a conservative, dystopian future:

Rabbit: My, what shambles we're in.
Hare: Yeah, well that's what happens when you legalize prostitution.
Rabbit: That bad, eh?
Hare: Yup. What followed was the legalization of pedophilia.
Rabbit: Hence these rundown streets where children are running around selling themselves...
Hare: Precisely.
Rabbit: I want in on the money. Where can I start selling myself?
Hare: Sorry rabbit, tricks are for kids!

This joke brought to you by Streeeeetch Armstrong.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 3:47 PM on July 22, 2009 [27 favorites]


All sex is transactional in one way or another. TAANSTAFL.

There... ain't? any? no? such thing as ... free lunches?

There ain't any no such thing as free lunches, no there ain't.
posted by jock@law at 3:50 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sorry rabbit, tricks are for kids!

So close! So close to a truly glorious comment.

It's still pretty fucking awesome
posted by martens at 3:51 PM on July 22, 2009


The inherent problem with prostitution is that it increases the spread of HIV and STIs. Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex, which most adults would know, is important.

Also, the prostitute, often times, does not keep all of the money for his/her services.
posted by mtphoto at 3:52 PM on July 22, 2009


The George Mason University Mercatus Center has Tyler Cowen's bio and a link to his blog, and a link to the transcript (PDF), and full debate audio on NPR.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:53 PM on July 22, 2009


From Cowen's bio:
A dedicated writer and translator of economic ideas who often delves into the economics of culture, Dr. Cowen has published dozens of books, reviews, and articles. His most recent book, Discover Your Inner Economist, shows how economic notions-such as incentives, signals, and markets-apply far more widely than merely to the decisions of social planners, governments, and big business.
... and now he talks about how economic notions extend into the bedroom/ bathroom/ back alley/ wherever you pay for your sex.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2009


I'm not opposed to paying for sex on moral grounds. However, in practice, it seems like a lot of prostitutes are supporting drug habits, and are very vulnerable to assault. I'm not sure this would change if it were legalized.
posted by desjardins at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


idiopath: "Personally I like the sensible Swedish approach: selling sex is legal, buying it isn't. So someone who really wants to can go pay for sex, but if he doesn't watch his step, the one he is paying can get him arrested. I am not sure if they make pimping illegal too, but I do hope so."

I like the Costa Rica approach: prostitution is legal (and prostitutes are selective about who they do business with), meanwhile pimping is a felony.
posted by mullingitover at 4:00 PM on July 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


> All sex is transactional in one way or another. TAANSTAFL.

Housewife Charged In Sex-For-Security Scam
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:03 PM on July 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thank Dog...for a second there I thought you meant Tyler Perry...

All sex is transactional in one way or another.

Wow, really? It never has to do with love or fun or some combination thereof?
posted by JoanArkham at 4:03 PM on July 22, 2009


Personally I like the sensible Swedish approach: selling sex is legal, buying it isn't. So someone who really wants to can go pay for sex, but if he doesn't watch his step, the one he is paying can get him arrested. I am not sure if they make pimping illegal too, but I do hope so.

Pimping is far more illegal than selling or buying, but also more difficult to prove.

Not sure I have a huge problem with prostitution per se as long as it's regulated properly as a normal, potentially exploitative business activity. (In practice this mostly doesn't happen, so yeah, there are problems.)

Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex, which most adults would know, is important.

Yeah, but should something be banned because it lacks something that most adults would consider important?
posted by Dumsnill at 4:03 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


box: "Who's Tyler Cowen?"

Some guy who writes a dining guide. I guess he's also a famous economist or something.

If he knows as much about prostitution as he does about finding a good Indian buffet, I think we should just take his word on the argument.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:03 PM on July 22, 2009


Well the assault problem could conceivably decrease because prostitutes could file reports with police without fear of being arrested for prostitution.
posted by oddman at 4:05 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Joan Arkham, I often transact sex for fun.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


New Zealand legalised prostitution a couple of years ago and guess what happened?

Absolutely nothing, the people who want to sell sex and the people who wanted to buy sex kept doing what they have always been doing. If anything the sex industry, now the subject of regulation has become cleaner and safer for everyone.

Pretending prostitution doesn't exist marginalises people needlessly.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2009 [27 favorites]


However, in practice, it seems like a lot of prostitutes are supporting drug habits, and are very vulnerable to assault. I'm not sure this would change if it were legalized.

I'm no expert, and I've never paid for sex, so take this with a lot of grains of salt. But as I understand it, many illegal prostitutes (as opposed to those operating in the legal part of nevada) become so DUE TO drug addiction. the prostitution can become how they pay off mounting debts to a dealer or someone he knows. in legal brothels, such as the bunny ranch I've seen so much of on the teevee, the girls are instead willing professionals who operate in clean, regularly tested and drug free environments. one of the ideas, as I (poorly) understand it, is that something like heroin addiction - with its reliance on needles of sometimes unknown providence - is a hazard to their job security since they are regularly screened for stds that can be caught from needle sharing.

outside of that, there is the legal protection of a registered legitimate businessman having to answer to somebody when his girls claim to have been abused / pushed into addiction / coerced into service, etc... while these things are illegal for pimps no matter where they practice, people whose jobs are already illegal are less likely to shy away from other illegal activities than legitimate licensed businessmen.

that's the idea, as I understand it. if there are any actual experts here, I'd love to know where I'm off the mark.
posted by shmegegge at 4:07 PM on July 22, 2009


Personally I like the sensible Swedish approach: selling sex is legal, buying it isn't. So someone who really wants to can go pay for sex, but if he doesn't watch his step, the one he is paying can get him arrested. I am not sure if they make pimping illegal too, but I do hope so.

What the fuck is sensible about this? It's just an effort to reverse the old older to discriminate against the payer instead. The only reason something is ever okay is that if it's symmetrically okay.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:16 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the Intelligence Squared debates program(me), of which this talk is a part, is available in podcast form as well. I sometimes listen to it on my run. [Insert misogynist joke about listening to this debate on my run.]
posted by grobstein at 4:17 PM on July 22, 2009


I totally back with this guy's conclusions, but he argues so poorly.
posted by phrontist at 4:18 PM on July 22, 2009


Personally I like the sensible Swedish approach: selling sex is legal, buying it isn't. So someone who really wants to can go pay for sex, but if he doesn't watch his step, the one he is paying can get him arrested. I am not sure if they make pimping illegal too, but I do hope so.

What the fuck is sensible about this? It's just an effort to reverse the old older to discriminate against the payer instead. The only reason something is ever okay is that if it's symmetrically okay.


Yeah, why is this supposed to be good?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:19 PM on July 22, 2009


What the fuck is sensible about this? It's just an effort to reverse the old older to discriminate against the payer instead. The only reason something is ever okay is that if it's symmetrically okay.

It makes a lot of sense if you don't see the transaction as consensual. If prostitution is best viewed as the john preying on the prostitute, then it's absolutely perverse to punish the prostitute and absolutely sensible to punish the john.

Cowen's response, which seems perfectly sensible to me, is I think that treating prostitution as a forcible assault on the prostitute is a one-size-fits-all story that doesn't apply in a vast swath of situations, and that to impose that story in every case is to squash some people's chance at rare fulfillment.
posted by grobstein at 4:20 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The odd thing about Cowen's piece, besides the fact that he mentioned Nazis in like the first minute, is that he conflates the many ways you can pay for sex, even though it seems that many other people focused on prostitution. So, he talks about sexual therapists (mostly legal), prostitutes (mostly illegal) and surrogates who have sex with disabled folks (legal, not well-understood by many, I've always loved this article) because he's addressing the larger pay-for-sex world, not just the prostitute world. That said, COYOTE is my go-to place if I'm looking for some sensible information about prostitution
posted by jessamyn at 4:21 PM on July 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


TAANSTAFL

Only applies to eating in.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:22 PM on July 22, 2009


Actually, being sexually abused can lead to *both* addiction and prostitution (usually prostitution first, oddly enough according to the longitudinal research I've read) although the order may be different relative to class (ie, if you are abused and wretched in a poor neighborhood, the prostitution may come first-- if you are middle class, the addiction first).

Either way-- although this is not true for all prostitutes-- a significant proportion are victims of severe trauma and abuse and it is probably more productive to try to prevent abuse and mitigate its consequences to prevent both rather than worrying too much about the order in which they occur.
posted by Maias at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The inherent problem with prostitution is that it increases the spread of HIV and STIs.

There is nothing inherent about the spread of HIV in regard to prostitution. In fact, any such problem is almost certainly a result of prostitution's very illegality. Were it legal and regulated such that condoms and regular testing were required I suggest that people would be less likely to contract HIV from a hooker than from a random bar hookup. Case in point: the porn industry. They fuck like bunnies, usually with no condom. And it's a major, major scandal in the very rare case that somebody turns up with HIV.

Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex, which most adults would know, is important.

This is just plain dumb. Why don't we make random bar hookups illegal then? Sometimes sex is just sex.

Also, the prostitute, often times, does not keep all of the money for his/her services.

People who work as temps do not keep all the money for their services. People who work for consulting firms do not keep all the money for their services. People who work with firms that contract out (maids, painters, etc) do not keep all the money for their services. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Do you want to make all those things illegal?

I'm assuming you have a problem with the abusive relationship that a lot of prostitutes (particularly those who work the street) have with pimps. This is obviously a problem but, like with the HIV thing, is almost entirely a result of prostitutions very illegality. If it were legal and regulated the problem would mostly go away.

I hate arguments like that. It's like if using the internet were illegal and you were arguing that we shouldn't legalize it because of all the criminals using the internet. Well no shit.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on July 22, 2009 [26 favorites]


>Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex...

Maybe it does—for those who choose to involve themselves in prostitution. What's your point? Just as consenting adults have every right to put whatever the hell they want on their hamburger (or have a veggie burger instead, or forgo burgers entirely and have lasagna, or skip dinner, or eat an entire raw pumpkin with a spork), consenting adults have every right to take anything out of sex (or put anything into it) they like. Because they're, y'know, adults. And consenting.

which most adults would know, is important.

To many adults, yes—myself included. It's obviously not important to all adults at all times (or at least not the only important thing or the most important thing), or this prostitution thing wouldn't be so popular. I don't presume to tell other people what should be important to them.

Also, the prostitute, often times, does not keep all of the money for his/her services.

Many workers in many professions don't keep all of the money for their services. What's your point? There are different kinds of prostitution, and different kinds of prostitution managers. I understand that escort services, for example, look after their employees a lot better than your average street pimp—STD testing, screening clients to weed out the dangerous ones, taking care of scheduling, etc. What's wrong with that?
posted by ixohoxi at 4:35 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, anyone who notes that I often argue in these threads for making all kinds of sex and drugs legal probably pictures my life as way more fun than it actually is. Sadly.
posted by Justinian at 4:36 PM on July 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex, which most adults would know, is important.

This is just plain dumb. Why don't we make random bar hookups illegal then?


Arguing that something should be legal is not the same thing as arguing that it is "right" or "wrong" for people to do it.
posted by The World Famous at 4:40 PM on July 22, 2009


Resolved, by Paul Stanley: Let's Put The X In Sex.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:40 PM on July 22, 2009


Man, it would really suck to be a fisherman-prostitute.

A++ to Cowen for finding some way to bring in the Nazis.
posted by XMLicious at 4:43 PM on July 22, 2009


"he conflates the many ways you can pay for sex, even though it seems that many other people focused on prostitution."

That's because the motion being debated is "it's wrong to pay for sex". His opposition naturally frames the question in the least acceptable terms possible, because they wish to win. Another guy on the against panel does the same.

I'm not sure one can really determine much from an iq2 debate poll (from the recordings it sounded like some activists crashed the event and may have gamed the vote), but most of the change in opinion was from women.
posted by pwnguin at 4:44 PM on July 22, 2009


Jumping naked on my circle bed also removes a lot of the intimacy of sex, but I encourage it anyway.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:46 PM on July 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


it seems like a lot of prostitutes are supporting drug habits, and are very vulnerable to assault. I'm not sure this would change if it were legalized.

Proponents would say that legalizing prostitution would let the government regulate the spread of STD's and protect prostitutes from assault.
Also, many people use their income to support drug habits. I don't think the drug habits of legal prostitutes would be any worse than, say, food service employees.

One of the best argument for legalizing prostitution is that it would help limit the negatives surrounding prostitution (STDS, organized crime, drugs, women being mistreated).

But one of the best arguments against legalizing prostitution is that legalizing prostitution leads to an increase in illegal prostitution, including child prostitution and human trafficking. This is what happened in the Netherlands.
posted by Hume at 4:47 PM on July 22, 2009


you don't need a prostitute.
what you need is some sort of robot.

;]
posted by sexyrobot at 4:48 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The reason I consider the Swedish approach sensible is that prostitution tends to be an exploitative field, into which women are coerced, manipulated, or even abducted and held at threat of violence. Given these dynamics (which occur even in places where prostitution is legalized and regulated), it is helpful for a prostitute to be able to bring suit against a pimp or john. Under Swedish law, she does not have to prove that she was abused, coerced unfairly, or mistreated, merely that prostitution occurred. Of course a woman who was willingly in the field would have no reason to bring suit against a john or agent.
posted by idiopath at 4:48 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


mtphoto: "The inherent problem with prostitution is that it increases the spread of HIV and STIs. Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex, which most adults would know, is important.

Also, the prostitute, often times, does not keep all of the money for his/her services.
"
Um, I think the spread of HIV and STIs is greater in the world documented by that fine online anthropological journal, "Hot Chicks with Douchebags (.com)".

The keeping the money thing is more an element of a desperate or (quite frankly) dumb woman being exploited by a pimp. Pimping should be illegal, since it's violent coercion. If we didn't make drugs and prostitution illegal, and instead taxed it and took that revenue- along with the money no longer spent on DEA luxuries- for drug treatment and health counseling, as well as ensured that the police would take abuse cases seriously "even though the woman is a whore", the "inherent" problems with prostitution would mostly go away.
mullingitover: "I like the Costa Rica approach: prostitution is legal (and prostitutes are selective about who they do business with), meanwhile pimping is a felony."
I also agree. Prostitution, like drugs, seems to derive a significant amount of its negative effect from its being illegal. Healthy prostitutes can be no more a contradiction than healthy porn stars- who if they are wise get regular checkups and choose their partners carefully (in the sense that most mainstream porn stars only work with people who also get regularly checkups- they probably have safer sex than most single people)- or healthy pot smokers. But the negative sides of prostitution- pimps, abuse, drug addiction causing desperation, violence, etc- are a part of illegality of prostitution. I'd happily see pimps put in jail while happy, healthy women could choose prostitution if they wanted.
posted by hincandenza at 4:54 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want to say, fishing is wrong, buying fish is wrong, fishing boats are wrong.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:55 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was hoping this was going to be Alexyss K. Tyler, hitting the back and working the sides.

Actually, being sexually abused can lead to *both* addiction and prostitution (usually prostitution first, oddly enough according to the longitudinal research I've read) although the order may be different relative to class (ie, if you are abused and wretched in a poor neighborhood, the prostitution may come first-- if you are middle class, the addiction first).


One of the biggest correlative factors here in the UK has traditionally been being brought up in the care of the local authority. I imagine lots of those young women have also been sexually abused, but they also grow up in a culture in which they aren't valued as people, and prostitution isn't seen as particularly deviant.

Just last night, I was watching an excellent documentary called Very Young Girls in which quite a lot of young prostitutes were telling how they'd been recruited to the game. The film makes the point that the average age in which young women start in prostitution in the USA is twelve or thirteen. The film was something of a revelation to me as it's very rare to hear women talk openly about how they got into the game. None of these women talked about sexual abuse -- though some were obviously in unhappy family situations. Much more commonly, they talked about how they wanted something to love, and how having an older boyfriend gave them status -- even though they were just 12 or 13 and their pimp was in his thirties or forties.

The impression that the film gave was that the dominant factors in the lives of these young women were the poor judgment of children, combined with the predatory and exploitative skills of their pimps.

Well worth a watch.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not bad, although I'm not a fan of debates which are all about the framing of the debate, because then the debate becomes all about winning instead of coming to sensible conclusions/solutions.

The sex trade will always have exploitation, even if it's regulated to a T, because for truly desperate women (and some men) it's the last place to turn to, the last thing they have to sell. This is, of course, true of all fields, even the legal ones, at the bottom of the ladder, but we view our sexuality, and more specifically our control over it, with more sensitivity than we do, say the time spent and dignity diminished working as a fry cook.

That said, the sex trade will also attract those who are honestly interested in it. One of the more fascinating things I've read on the subject was the recent A.V. Club interview with Sasha Grey, where she tells them, "I got in to continue to explore my sexuality in a safe and controlled environment, and to challenge the industry creatively, because I saw a void." Personally, I think it'd be ridiculous to say that Grey can't have the outlet to do just that, and illuminating that, in her experience, sexual exploration in the porn industry is safer than outside of it. I doubt this is the case with, say, the myriad of "models" from Russia and other impoverished states.

So I don't know. I'd like to see more statistics out of Germany, New Zealand, and most significantly out of Nevada. I know there are professionals out there who enjoy what they do (though I've never paid for sex myself and never will) but I also know that, even if you can remove abusive pimps and abusive johns and the threat of STIs, that it would still be an industry that encourages desperate young women to monetize something that they rather wouldn't, and that you can't regulate that away.

That said, if it's going to happen anyway, regulation provides greater protection and recompense, so I don't know.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:57 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


But one of the best arguments against legalizing prostitution is that legalizing prostitution leads to an increase in illegal prostitution, including child prostitution and human trafficking. This is what happened in the Netherlands.

I've always supported legalized prostitution (it actually is legal here in the UK, but we regulate brothels and streetwalking) but I'm not at all sure this is what happened in the Netherlands. In fact, the Amsterdam City Council have been talking for the last few years about drastically reducing the red light district in an attempt to do something about the problem of human trafficking, child prostitution and various other forms of abuse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:04 PM on July 22, 2009


Damn. On re-reading, I see that we're making the same point. I'm a moron.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:07 PM on July 22, 2009


The inherent problem with prostitution is that it increases the spread of HIV and STIs.

STIs are not inherent in prostitution any more than they're inherent in any sex.

Indeed, all the sex workers I've known were downright religious about safe sex. Now I haven't known any drug-addicted street walkers or enslaved massage parlor girls, so they may not be so cautious. But, my friends who chose sex work as a career (however temporarily) were doing less to spread HIV than any sorority girl I've ever met.

I mean, one of my friends was getting his dick sucked by one of his clients. Said client was a little too rough and scraped my friend's cock with his teeth, tearing the skin ever so very slightly. My friend ended the session instantly, left the guy his money, and took the week off while his cock healed. The increased risk of STI from a scratch was enough for him to give up around $800 for that session (plus thousands more that week) and walk out.

I don't know anybody but a whore who'd do that.

While we're at it, have a look at countries with legal prostitution. Their STI rates among sex workers are usually lower than the general population. Hell, in most of those countries, you can't even get a raw handjob.

Prostitution also takes the intimacy out of sex, which most adults would know, is important.

Um, so one night stands should also be illegal? How does "intimacy" factor into this? Should we ban hotels because they're less intimate than staying at your own house? How about fast food because it's less intimate than home cookin'?

I also take some issue with your tone: "...which most adults would know is important." (emphasis added). You've confused your own personal priorities with some sort of universal objective fact. I know plenty of people who, for reasons ranging from emotional trauma all the way to busy-curing-cancer-no-time-for-it, have basically no interest in intimacy. But most of them still have an interest in, occasionally, enjoying the pleasure of sexual intercourse--for many men, and some women, sexual release is s a literal requirement for keeping a clear mind. They're happy, productive people who have realized that they a) need to get laid sometimes and b) have no intimacy to offer a potential partner. Intimacy is not important to them, but sexual pleasure is. It seems a far better (moral, less harmful) solution to pay somebody for sex than to essentially lie to a potential partner about the possibilities of a real relationship in order to get laid.

Furthermore, do you know for sure that prostitution is lacking in intimacy? Certainly I can understand how a $200 suck and fuck in the alley isn't particularly intimate. But, it seems a little presumptuous on your part to tell a client what it is he or she is feeling. As for the hooker, yeah, sex with a client isn't especially intimate. But, the greatest talent a hooker can have is instilling a sense of intimacy and emotional relations in his or her client--and some of them do it in spades, with their clients sometimes literally falling in love with them.

I'm not opposed to paying for sex on moral grounds. However, in practice, it seems like a lot of prostitutes are supporting drug habits, and are very vulnerable to assault. I'm not sure this would change if it were legalized.

I don't know that overall drug addiction in prostitutes would fall. Lots and lots of people with "regular" jobs are addicted to drugs. For instance, anesthesiologists are apparently quite likely to become addicted to (usually) opioids.

However, you would see a drop in the drug addiction rate at brothels, especially foreign-staffed massage parlors. It's widely reported that slaves at massage parlors are often intentionally addicted to heroin by the parlor owners. The idea, as I understand it, is that the heroin not only makes them far more compliant, but that it also forms another means of coercion and control. Since it's the parlor owners who supply the girls, they can force compliance by restricting the supply. I'm quite certain drug use would decrease in these situations, since the girls would be able to go to the police without fear of arrest.

And while we're on the subject of massage parlors... we'd probably see far fewer of them. They exist now because few women, even those who'd like to hook, are willing to take the legal risks to become prostitutes. If you provide a legal workforce of prostitutes supplying the client demand, the market for slaves drops dramatically. It doesn't disappear entirely, just like there are still illegal underground casinos in Vegas. But, with most of the demand for paid sex fulfilled by freemen, the financial incentive to import slaves from Asia and Eastern Europe drops considerably.

The vulnerability to assault would drop precipitously and immediately across the entire sex industry were prostitution legalized. As it stands, a hooker who attempts to report an assault is almost universally ignored, and often arrested. They get no more sympathy than a drug runner whose deal goes pear shaped. Make prostitution a legitimate profession, and they gain all the same protections that a plumber would if he got beaten up by his client.
posted by Netzapper at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


But one of the best arguments against legalizing prostitution is that legalizing prostitution leads to an increase in illegal prostitution, including child prostitution and human trafficking. This is what happened in the Netherlands.

I'd love to see a cite on that. People keep making this argument about legalizing prostitution, and I'm not sure the correlation is really there. Or, if it is, that it would necessarily be that way.
posted by lunit at 5:11 PM on July 22, 2009


Ah, thanks Peter McDermott.
posted by lunit at 5:15 PM on July 22, 2009


You know, maybe people could watch some of the other participants in the debate to see what they had to say about the issues. Both men and women became more critical of legalization after seeing everyone present.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:22 PM on July 22, 2009


Um, so one night stands should also be illegal? How does "intimacy" factor into this? Should we ban hotels because they're less intimate than staying at your own house? How about fast food because it's less intimate than home cookin'?

Whether something is wrong and whether it should be illegal are two very different questions. One can, without inconsistency, believe both that one-night-stands are "wrong" and that they should not be outlawed.
posted by The World Famous at 5:23 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


That article doesn't seem to be claiming there has been an increase in those negative effects, only that they haven't disappeared. I'd still have to see a cite for there being more human trafficking and such than before.
posted by Justinian at 5:25 PM on July 22, 2009


One can, without inconsistency, believe both that one-night-stands are "wrong" and that they should not be outlawed.

You keep saying this but that's not the issue. Mtphoto said that one reason prostitution should be illegal is that there is no intimacy involved in the sex. It is illuminating, then, to inquire whether he or she believes that the lack of intimacy is a reason for making other forms of sex illegal. If not, it clearly isn't the issue.

I agree that something can be both morally wrong and yet still should be legal. Mtphoto is arguing the opposite; that he or she considers lack of intimacy wrong and therefore it should be illegal.
posted by Justinian at 5:27 PM on July 22, 2009


You keep saying this but that's not the issue.

Sorry, I thought the issue was the post at the top of the page, which is not about legalization, but about "right" and "wrong."
posted by The World Famous at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2009


the last thing they have to sell. This is, of course, true of all fields, even the legal ones, at the bottom of the ladder, but we view our sexuality, and more specifically our control over it, with more sensitivity than we do, say the time spent and dignity diminished working as a fry cook.

and

even if you can remove abusive pimps and abusive johns and the threat of STIs, that it would still be an industry that encourages desperate young women to monetize something that they rather wouldn't, and that you can't regulate that away.

This is purely an issue of values and perspective. We have, as a group, condemned prostitution, so only those who would condemn themselves become prostitutes. It's basically the same reason you see very few people claim they want to be trash collectors when they grow up. It's not because the profession lacks inherent value, but because we've assigned it low or negative value.

The same sorts of attitudes have been held about actors in the past. The position was viewed as lacking socially redeeming value, and so the people who went into it were viewed severely negatively. People became actors because it was all they thought they could do.

Recognize prostitution as an artform, put the top courtesans on the cover of Nylon, and you'll have thousands of young men and women moving to Nevada hoping to make it into the sex industry just like they flock to Hollywood for the movie industry. Even now, with the mainstreaming of porn, you're starting to see women who could easily work as receptionists, hospital techs, or fry cooks choosing porn as a career.

There is considerable pre-Christian historical precedent for this. The hetaerai of Athens wielded nearly as much personal respect as the men who patronized them. Indeed, they were as close to enfranchised as a woman could be in Athens--they only lacked the vote and the right to marry.

Personally, I find it far more demeaning to work at Burger King, asking permission to take a piss, than I would to get paid for something I love doing (fucking). Even if many of my clients were fat, unwashed, emotionally-stunted closet cases--as they would be. Hell, if I weren't so fat, and I thought my wife would go for it, I'd start whoring tomorrow... helluva lot better pay than software engineering.
posted by Netzapper at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, mtphoto did not say anything about legality or illegality. Read the post.
posted by The World Famous at 5:31 PM on July 22, 2009


Okay, you are correct. I can't prove mtphoto also believes that prostitution should be illegal based upon his or her moral issues. I do, however, think it is a pretty good bet.

I haven't run across too many people who think prostitution is morally awful but still think it should be legal.
posted by Justinian at 5:35 PM on July 22, 2009


Since the Swedish model has come up several times: Critiques of Swedish Prostitution Law I haven't made a study of it myself, but I am aware of critiques from some sex workers (the link includes a section of critiques written by sex workers, but these aren't the only ones I've seen) who argue that the Swedish laws, by pushing prostitution underground, have made it working conditions less safe for sex workers, for reasons which include making it less possible for sex workers to be selective about their clients.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Netzapper, you make a good point, and I myself have none of the hangups that would keep me from whoring (aside from being a guy, into women, who simply wouldn't pull in that much, to be honest). But there is something different between working a shit job at McDonald's and fucking for cash when you don't want to be fucking for cash, but feel like it's the only thing you can do.

I've long said that we, as a culture, are way too uptight about sex in general, but that's not a decision I can make for everybody else.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:49 PM on July 22, 2009


I've long said that we, as a culture, are way too uptight about sex in general, but that's not a decision I can make for everybody else.

Isn't that exactly what we're doing by making prostitution illegal? It would still be just as illegal to force women into prostitution were consensual prostitution legalized.
posted by Justinian at 5:59 PM on July 22, 2009


Justinian: I'm not saying that prostitution should be illegal, just that we're being naive to assume that, legal or not, women won't be coerced either through force, finances, or otherwise into sexual situations which they would otherwise avoid.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:13 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Woman Overcomes Years Of Child Abuse To Achieve Porn Stardom

"To see Foechelman, winner of a 2003 Adult Video News Award for Best Multiple Anal, you'd never guess this smiling, glamorous, club-hopping sex starlet was sexually abused from the age of 7. Strutting confidently in her high heels, mini-skirt, and visible thong, thrusting her surgically enhanced chest out with pride, she's a source of inspiration to everyone who works with her."
posted by 445supermag at 6:23 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


But one of the best arguments against legalizing prostitution is that legalizing prostitution leads to an increase in illegal prostitution, including child prostitution and human trafficking. This is what happened in the Netherlands.

I think this is less to do with absolutes than with the "drug tourism"/"sex tourism" angle - liberalise the laws, and you'll attract the crowds, and some of these crowds will tend towards the extreme. If laws were the same everywhere, would this be an issue?
posted by kersplunk at 6:49 PM on July 22, 2009


I haven't run across too many people who think prostitution is morally awful but still think it should be legal.
posted by Justinian at 8:35 PM on July 22 [+] [!]


I am one of those, and I think it's the most sane position. I also hold this belief about abortion, booze, drugs, porn, gambling, eating junk food, driving sports cars, and other shit I have done and will probably do again. Bad things feel good, people are going to do them. We can either make it illegal and make everyone a criminal or we can legislate the humanity we've got rather than the one Jesus would hang out with.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:54 PM on July 22, 2009


You believe that eating junk food and driving sports cars are morally awful?

And you think this is the sanest position possible?
posted by Netzapper at 7:21 PM on July 22, 2009


Another who thinks it's morally awful but should be legal. Actually , I agree with everything on the Potomac Avenue list, except the sports cars and abortion.

Everything I know first and second hand about men-buying-women prostitution is bad. As far as women-buying-men, get back to me when I'm too old and wrinkled to get them any other way.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:26 PM on July 22, 2009


All sex is transactional in one way or another.

True. But in (I hope) most cases, it's a symmetrical transaction where you give pleasure while receiving pleasure in return.
posted by ymgve at 7:52 PM on July 22, 2009


Netzapper - Even if many of my clients were fat, unwashed, emotionally-stunted closet cases--as they would be.

(emphasis mine)

I'd have favourited your comment to the Bunny Ranch and back except for the... stereotype.

I've found myself in the company of (Asian) "business" men who could take 3/4 of the women at clubs home due to the combination of their looks, apparent wealth, and charisma who would go out and frequent prostitutes for the convenience. Similarly, I've been with friends of friends who are either blue collar dudes making good money or business guys managing said blue collar dudes who regularly go get 'plo chops' or full on suck'n'fucks together after a day fishing trip on the yacht or a night at the pub. Not Richard Gere or George Cloonie types, but big buff dudes with money who could pick up women for one-night stands.

On the flipside, from personal experience as a (mostly) hetero male, there is a large population of bisexual/bi-curious/closet-gay men in marriages who are, mainly, fit and reasonably attractive who'd love to bone a tight little Chinese boy, and might even pay for it (either in cash or "gifts").

In the age/society of ignorance, yeah, making prostitution illegal might make some kind of sense. In the enlightended age (ie., education/knowledge is something that anyone can obtain, despite some people who'd want otherwise), where germ theory is available and the fact that properly tested latex and polyurethane condoms are extremely effective in preventing the transfer of fluids and microbes but not parasitic anthropods like 'crabs' and the basis for rational thought such that condoms can and do break and what to do in case that happens, and that people regardless of their gender to entitled to a certain spectrum of rights based on their acquiescing to a social code such as 'don't murder' or 'don't steal' or 'don't pimp' or 'don't extort'...

I wonder how many people who are vociferously against prostitution have cheated on their (agreed-to-be-monogamous) mates?
posted by porpoise at 8:20 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Post- post

There's a lot of talk about coercion despite prostitution being legal.

Isn't coercion illegal?

If prostitution (iirc, in Canada, prostitution is legal - that is, the selling of sexual services - but solicitation [asking money for sex] and pimping [living off the avails of coercing sexual services for money]) was legal, then whoever was coerced could legally file a report against them being coerced? Coerced prostitution would still be a crime except that the victim would not be put behind bars but rather the coercers.

Why make prostitution illegal?
posted by porpoise at 8:26 PM on July 22, 2009


or we can legislate the humanity we've got rather than the one Jesus would hang out with.

Didn't Jesus pretty much hang out with the humanity we've got?
posted by weston at 8:54 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why make prostitution illegal?

So here's a question that comes from a misunderstood situation in Germany, but could be enlightening nonetheless. Let's say prostitution is legal. Let's say that a woman was just laid off from her job as an office worker. So she wants to collect unemployment benefits. Then a brothel offers her a job. Should she be forced to choose between the benefits and working as a prostitute?

Now, in order to lose your benefits, you must reject a definite offer that's suitable. The devil's in the details and you can say it's not suitable, but that would be a change in the meaning to avoid confronting this problem. If we think that sex is no different than anything else, why does this idea make us uncomfortable, if it does? Is it possible that there is something related to personhood involved with sexual activity that is so entwined with the act that we might not want to use the free market to distribute it? How about buying and selling children using market mechanisms for adoption. How does that make people feel? Why is that illegal?
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Your daughter.

Far from home.

Alone with a stranger.



Burma Shave!
posted by squalor at 9:03 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it possible that there is something related to personhood involved with sexual activity that is so entwined with the act that we might not want to use the free market to distribute it?

It's an essentially private thing. If someone wants to sell sex, they should of course be allowed to. They should never be coerced by anyone, government or private party. This seems perfectly straightforward to me, and I don't get your confusion.

re: buying children.... buying people has a rather unfortunate history; I think we've correctly determined that it's a bad idea to have a market in total control over another human being. And children are, at least in theory, quite defenseless, and likely in need of an even higher standard of protection.

Why is that illegal?

Because somewhere north of 600,000 soldiers died to make it that way.
posted by Malor at 9:29 PM on July 22, 2009


They should never be coerced by anyone, government or private party

Is a denial of unemployment benefits coercion? Does the government coerce someone to be a secretary by taking away her benefits if she refuses a job offer? If so, then we're in agreement: sex and office work and very different things. This directly contradicts a lot of 3rd-wave $pread magazine style arguments which claim that "it's just a job."
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:34 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we think that sex is no different than anything else, why does this idea make us uncomfortable, if it does?

It doesn't, particularly, because it's not a problem. We wouldn't expect a vegan to be forced to take a job as a butcher, an alcoholic to take a job as a bartender, someone with claustrophobia to take a job as a chimney sweep, or a thousand other examples. Similarly, I wouldn't expect someone with moral objections to prostitution to be forced to take a job as a prostitute or lose their unemployment benefits if they did not. It's kind of a dumb example in any case as you generally have to actively apply for a job. It's not like McDonalds is going around passing out jobs and reporting people who turn them down to the government.

Is it possible that there is something related to personhood involved with sexual activity that is so entwined with the act that we might not want to use the free market to distribute it?

It's kind of like abortion; we insist that if people have moral objections to abortion, well, by all means let them avoid getting abortions. But don't tell other people whether to have abortions or not. Similarly, if you hate prostitution it is probably a good idea not to become a prostitute. But it's not society's place to tell others what they can do with their bodies.

To use your language; If someone feels there is something so related to personhood involved with sexual activity that they wouldn't want to use the free market to distribute it, then I fully support their right not to use the free market to distribute their own sexual activity. If they impose their morality on others, though, they're essentially making the same argument as the anti-abortionists.

(For that one particular argument, of course, I realize there are other arguments against legalized prostitution.)

How about buying and selling children using market mechanisms for adoption. How does that make people feel? Why is that illegal?

If the "children" are over the age of majority (18) then by all means let them agree to it. If the child is under 18 they are unable to consent and so it should be illegal to buy and sell adoption rights to them. Similarly, if a person is under 18 it should remain illegal to buy and sell his or her sexual services. I realize the age of consent is under 18 in a lot of places but it seems like a good idea to err on the side of caution here.
posted by Justinian at 9:39 PM on July 22, 2009


Does the government coerce someone to be a secretary by taking away her benefits if she refuses a job offer? If so, then we're in agreement: sex and office work and very different things.

A better question is the one I asked: Would the government coerce a Vegan to take a job as a butcher? No they wouldn't. But it doesn't matter as it's a ridiculous question anyway. This isn't how unemployment insurance works in the United States.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


allen.spaulding: So here's a question that comes from a misunderstood situation in Germany, but could be enlightening nonetheless. Let's say prostitution is legal. Let's say that a woman was just laid off from her job as an office worker. So she wants to collect unemployment benefits. Then a brothel offers her a job. Should she be forced to choose between the benefits and working as a prostitute?

Well, personally, I don't think you should be able to lose unemployment benefits due to unsolicited job offers. There are lots of things people should reasonably be able to refuse to do. For example, I consider telemarketing to be really and significantly wrong, no better than breaking into cars or something similar. As such, I should be allowed to refuse to do it. There are plenty of things like that - mercenarying it up with one of the military contracters, the various door-to-door schemes that border on fraud, all the jobs that require a strong stomach like being an EMT, all the jobs that entail significant risk like firefighting, things that violate individual's personal phobias, etc. Hell, if this policy was applied to the limit, anyone eligible to join the military could be considered ineligible for unemployment, and that's horrible.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would the government coerce a Vegan to take a job as a butcher? No they wouldn't. But it doesn't matter as it's a ridiculous question anyway. This isn't how unemployment insurance works in the United States.

I mean, you're fighting the question and rejecting a definite job offer does affect your unemployment benefits. But you've made yourself clear in other ways. Opposition to selling your body for money is like being a vegan in your mind. Also, taking the extreme position of voluntary slavery for consent shows that this is not something that you're going to ever agree with me on.

I think that sex work is substantially different than other kinds of work. This isn't a complete argument, I've written about it elsewhere. I just hate the idea that "it's just work, nor different than any other job." If nothing else, it clearly privileges a certain narrative of those who have the ability to leave and choose to stay, versus those who cannot escape but wish to leave. Sure, for some people sex work is another consent-based occupation, no different than being a butcher. That's not true for many sex workers. And I think an unwillingness to participate is significantly different than being a vegan butcher.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2009


Netzapper - Even if many of my clients were fat, unwashed, emotionally-stunted closet cases--as they would be.

(emphasis mine)

I'd have favourited your comment to the Bunny Ranch and back except for the... stereotype.


Aw. I'm already a favorites whore... and to know that I've lost your patronage... well. That's your prerogative.

But, in my defense, I'm not basing my statement on stereotype.

"fat, unwashed, emotionally-stunted closet-case" accurately describes many of the clients of my friends who were gay escorts. Not all, not even most. But definitely many. Now, I do admit that's hearsay... but, I heard it said first hand. The balance, however, were the attractive, successful type you mentioned. I just didn't figure I needed to mention those to make my point of prefering sex with unattractive people to flipping burgers.

Indeed, the point was moreso to stave off the comments I usually get after I say I'm willing to whore. Since I'm a dude, when I say that I'd do it, I almost always get shouted down with comments along the lines of, "You know it's not like you'd be fucking hot girls all day." The assumption tends to be that I'm saying it in the same spirit most dudes say they'd whore: that is, that they wouldn't mind getting paid for sleeping with people to whom they're attracted. My point is that, if I considered myself sufficiently attractive to command acceptable rates, I'm quite happy to provide sexual services on a fairly non-discriminatory basis... and enjoy it.

Also, this is America. Most of us are fat.

Now, in order to lose your benefits, you must reject a definite offer that's suitable. The devil's in the details and you can say it's not suitable, but that would be a change in the meaning to avoid confronting this problem. If we think that sex is no different than anything else, why does this idea make us uncomfortable, if it does?

I don't think anybody's arguing that prostitution is identical to all other forms of employment. Some of us have stated that we'd personally prefer it to menial labor. But, I don't see anybody saying there's not a qualitative difference.

But, more to the point, arguing suitability is not sidestepping the issue. Suitability has far more to it than simply having the appropriate skills. For instance, would you not be identically upset with somebody losing benefits for refusing to take the job of executioner? Are you not allowed, under German law, to refuse to take a job for moral reasons? Is a Catholic obstetrician really required to take the job at the abortion clinic? Does the Jew really have to work at the pork products processing plant? Can you be required to take a job with high personal risk: a fireman or policeman, for instance?

Most folks recognize that there are lawful jobs for which some (many; most) people are not temperamentally, religiously, or emotionally suited. Sex work simply falls into the category of "not everybody has the stomach for it." It goes on the same list of "anybody can deny this one, but we'll still offer it" jobs as executioner, mortician, abortionist, cow slaughterer, etc.

Is it possible that there is something related to personhood involved with sexual activity that is so entwined with the act that we might not want to use the free market to distribute it?

Is it possible that there is something related to personhood involved with singing, painting, sculpting, or writing that's so entwined with the act that we might not want to use the free market to distribute it?

Doesn't make you queasy when you buy a book, does it?

Sex is art.

How about buying and selling children using market mechanisms for adoption. How does that make people feel? Why is that illegal?

There are some issues at play here that make this fundamentally different from prostitution.

1) The (nominally) harmed person in this situation is (nominally) incapable of consenting to the activity.

2) Selling people amounts to slavery. It implies that the parents own the child, which is untrue. Furthermore, in those times/places when the extent of the pre-adoption screening process was to pay the fee, adopted children were often forced into literal slavery.

3) It creates a perverse incentive for people who don't want children to have more children. What do you do with the child that won't sell and whom the parents didn't really want? His welfare is highly tenuous.

And, also, you're just hopelessly naive if you think children aren't adopted on a market basis. While it's true that within first-world adoption agencies, the fees are standard (between children) and are paid to the agency (not to the parent), once you factor in foreign adoption, it certainly is a market economy. It's just that the brokers get the money instead of the original parents.
posted by Netzapper at 10:14 PM on July 22, 2009


favorites whore

This is my own personal pet peeve, but we need to retire this usage of the word whore. If you'll do anything for favorites, you're a favorites John. See, John's love sex so much that they'll pay for it. Yet we think whores, who are paid for sex, are the ones who need it all the time. It's just ridiculous and nonsensical. So I call my friends attention Johns. And I get looks. And then I explain.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:19 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I mean, you're fighting the question and rejecting a definite job offer does affect your unemployment benefits.

Rejecting a solicited job offer. If someone voluntarily applies for a job as a prostitute and then turns it down then, yeah, I guess they should have their unemployment benefits terminated. Nobody loses benefits because someone approaches them out of the blue with a job.

Opposition to selling your body for money is like being a vegan in your mind. Also, taking the extreme position of voluntary slavery for consent shows that this is not something that you're going to ever agree with me on.

How does it follow that it is exactly the same as being a vegan in my mind? I pointed out a case where we wouldn't expect a person to be forced to take a certain kind of job. That doesn't mean that I find the two cases exactly the same. I could list a hundred examples, would you believe I considered them all equivalent to prostitution, or being a vegan, or whatever?

And I didn't say that people could consent to voluntary slavery. I said that if someone over 18 wanted to be adopted for money, I think they should be allowed to do that and that, by extension, it should remain illegal to sell adoption rights to people under 18.

If I sold the rights to adopt me to Bill Gates for $1,000,000,000 would that mean I had sold myself into voluntary slavery? You realize you can't actually force someone over 18 to do anything regardless of whether you've adopted them or not? They're above the age of majority. If Bill wants to pay me some cash for a meaningless adoption ceremony I'm all for it but it doesn't give him the right to actually do anything other than say "I adopted Justinian!".

bill: call me
posted by Justinian at 10:21 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I think an unwillingness to participate is significantly different than being a vegan butcher.

Sure it's different. I'll give you an example I do think is analogous; being a surrogate mother.

Do you think a woman should lose her unemployment benefits if she turns down an offer to carry my child as a surrogate mother? No? Then I guess being a surrogate mother should be illegal since it's clearly not the same as being a butcher bartender.

Wait, you don't think so? Well then you agree with me; It would be a terrible thing to force people to do some things that other people might engage in willingly or even enthusiastically.
posted by Justinian at 10:25 PM on July 22, 2009


Justinian - I misunderstood. There are those who think that consenting adults ought to be able to sell themselves into slavery. Usually they're the offspring of Ron Paul supporters who are into BDSM.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:25 PM on July 22, 2009


And again, the claim that "this is just a job like any other" is what I'm after here. It's a widely held position within 3rd wave circles. And surrogacy is a highly contentious issue within feminist circles, perhaps more than you realize. Some people think gestational surrogacy ought to be illegal and those debates are fascinating.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:26 PM on July 22, 2009


And again, the claim that "this is just a job like any other" is what I'm after here.

I understand. I think that for a great many people it wouldn't be a job like any other and therefore they shouldn't be sex workers. It doesn't, to me, follow at all that we should therefore make it illegal.

As I said I don't think most people would consider being a surrogate mother a job like any other but there isn't a huge clamor to outlaw it.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 PM on July 22, 2009


I didn't take a stance on legal/illegal, but rather the idea that this is something different.

And in the circles I run, many people think gestational surrogacy ought to be outlawed. I tend to find their arguments incredibly persuasive, at least when it comes to straight couples. I cannot imagine banning it outright, as it might be the only way that gay men can have children. Still, there is some discomfort with the idea.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:56 PM on July 22, 2009


If you've paid for sex male or female gay or straight kill yourself immediately.
posted by hamida2242 at 11:06 PM on July 22, 2009


If you've paid for sex male or female gay or straight kill yourself immediately.

This isn't fark. Keep your hate to yourself.
posted by Netzapper at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you've paid for sex male or female gay or straight kill yourself immediately.

I have to say, I'm a big fan of your posting history. It's like art. Really really bad art that makes me wonder how 14 year-olds got access to a PayPal account. Which is somehow related to prostitution, which apparently is also art. But not nearly as much art as your need to call everything gay. I'm totally gay for your artful posting history.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:15 PM on July 22, 2009


If you've paid for sex male or female gay or straight kill yourself immediately.

fascinating. I'm interested in your views and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by shmegegge at 11:16 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


And in the circles I run, many people think gestational surrogacy ought to be outlawed.

What circle is that, if I may ask? I'm assuming you don't just mean "my group of friends" but rather a particular demographic (religious, political, educational, philosophical, whatever). I hadn't realize the idea of surrogacy for infertile couples was all that controversial. I know there are practical problems that still need to be addressed better but I thought the idea itself was fairly well settled and am a little surprised to find I was incorrect.
posted by Justinian at 11:25 PM on July 22, 2009


And in the circles I run, many people think gestational surrogacy ought to be outlawed. I tend to find their arguments incredibly persuasive...

My wife and I are having real trouble imagining what those arguments might be.

Could you tell us, please? I don't want to debate it. I'm not asking you to take a position. I'm asking you to, please, to enumerate some of these arguments that you have heard.
posted by Netzapper at 11:35 PM on July 22, 2009


New Zealand legalised prostitution a couple of years ago and guess what happened?

Absolutely nothing, the people who want to sell sex and the people who wanted to buy sex kept doing what they have always been doing. If anything the sex industry, now the subject of regulation has become cleaner and safer for everyone.


One of the problems of the previous system was the draconian working conditions in the brothels - turn up late, get a heavy fine, etc (I have this first-hand from someone who was working in one, back in the 90s). Now, there are at least some brothels that are essentially set up and run by the sex workers themselves, making them more like a cooperative than a brothel. So no fines, no illegal working practices that the workers are too scared to report. Seems to me like that's a good thing.

[There was a BBC documentary recently about a Women's Institute group (yes really) travelling the world, investigating legalised prostitution, to make recommendations for the UK, and they concluded that NZ's system was the best they had seen].
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:49 PM on July 22, 2009


Personally I like the sensible Swedish approach: selling sex is legal, buying it isn't. So someone who really wants to can go pay for sex, but if he doesn't watch his step, the one he is paying can get him arrested. I am not sure if they make pimping illegal too, but I do hope so.

An interesting cross-section of the Swedish debate is frozen here at procon.org. I compiled several anti-trafficking arguments in this (ancient) comment, from which I excerpt Ann Jordan's open letter to the Bush State Department:

You may be interested in research reaching different conclusions about the new Swedish law. The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police Affairs commissioned a Working Group that reviewed the Swedish law and found that the Swedish government could not demonstrate that prostitution had decreased overall, that a decrease in the number of prostitutes on the streets was related to the legislation or other factors, or that any cases of trafficking into prostitution had been uncovered in Stockholm as a result of the law. [...] Additionally, the International Organization for Migration [...] conducted field research among employers of domestic workers and clients of sex workers in four countries and found a causal link between labor protections and trafficking. (here)
posted by kid ichorous at 12:34 AM on July 23, 2009


Also, the common-sense criticism of the Swedish approach is that criminalization selects not for careful and discrete Johns, but rather for dangerous ones.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:38 AM on July 23, 2009


A little late to the party so I don't have a great deal to add here that hasn't already been said - but I would like to say I'm pleased to see Metafilter (mostly, at least so far) doing sex well. Jolly good show!

Working in the adult media industry, and as active in the sex-positive and kink community as I am, I know a lot of sex workers. I'm well aware that moving in such circles I'm likely to only encounter the smart, empowered types who love their job and do it as a career choice, but... Hell, there's a lot of them, and their presence makes a compelling argument in itself.

So often our view of sex workers is through a lens of disgust. "Why would they choose to do that?" - and at that point people start looking for reasons. Abuse, insanity, coercion... Look hard enough you might find a little of one of those in every case. Then take a good hard look at yourself, and you'll probably find a little of them closer to home, too. If one definition of crazy is breaking taboos and living as most people don't, then yeah, as sex professionals we're crazy.

Taboo is an intense thing, and there's few bigger taboo's in most of western society than selling sex. You can argue with otherwise rational people who violently morally opposed to prostitution until they're blue in the face, so exasperated, reaching for some new unthought of justification for the anger they're feeling (which, of course, will be blissfully simple to retort). Getting them to ask themselves why, seeing as their arguments don't make much sense, they feel so strongly about it... Is hard. Once or twice I've even heard the classic "BECAUSE IT'S WRONG, END OF CONVERSATION".

Back in the days before effective treatments for bacterial STI's existed, and condoms were not so readily available and well constructed, I can see prostitution being a bad idea. Shit, nonmonogamy of any sort was a health hazard back then. Those times are not these times though, and mainstream morality has some catching up to do. I'm seeing a whole lot of happy people around me getting paid to sex, and then going home and sexing their multiple partners for free - and I'm not seeing anyone picking up anything a freely available 3 day course in antibiotics won't fix. And shit, I don't even see that very much. Frankly I'd much less rather catch the flu. Can we make the influenza-ridden social pariahs instead?

All the sex workers I know insist on condoms. No debate. They, unfortunately, don't live in the AIM bubble that we do in the porn industry, and can't trust their clients not to have picked up something in the interim between their test result and appointment. There's ways around that (tests on site like they do in Nevada) but they're way too expensive at this point for the independent small businesswoman or businessman. Legalization and regulation would help with that though I'd hope!

But yeah. I, for one, welcome our new Metafilter does sex well overlords.

I told you I'd come back in the next sex industry thread, and here I am! Just a little late though, sorry...

posted by TheTorns at 4:57 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


From Tyler Cowen's bio:

Links to Dr. Cowen's writings, his acclaimed "Ethnic Dining Guide" to Washington, DC and his vita can be found on his personal web page.

Ahh, that's why his name sounded familiar. That guide is pretty well known.
posted by exogenous at 5:53 AM on July 23, 2009


He has a pretty popular blog, too.
posted by Perplexity at 7:04 AM on July 23, 2009


Well, after watching all 14 of those videos, I have this to say: no wonder the "it is wrong" people won. There are good arguments to be made for legalized/decriminalized prostitution (many of which are in this thread), but the three of them on the "pro" side did a shoddy job of making them. Especially the first guy, Lionel Tiger. Holy hell is that guy a hot mess.
posted by lunit at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2009


Err. I guess I meant the three of them on the "con" side - those arguing that it is not wrong to buy sex.
posted by lunit at 7:44 AM on July 23, 2009


I hadn't realize the idea of surrogacy for infertile couples was all that controversial.

[derail]

A lot of radical feminists are uncomfortable with the idea and many oppose it outright. Legally, there has been a lot of discomfort since the famous Baby M case, which pointed out that if the surrogate changed her mind and wanted to keep her child, things got ugly quick, especially given the obvious class issues. Indeed, some jurisdictions make compensatory surrogacy criminal.

Margaret Jane Radin lays out the various feminist arguments for and against surrogacy quite well in "What, if Anything, Is Wrong with Baby Selling?" 26 Pac. L. J. 135 (1995). She notes the parallels between pro-choice arguments and pro-surrogacy arguments, and here's her summary of the anti-surrogacy position:
"Women's role as mothers has defined them and subjected them to subordination. So in this non-ideal world of ours, if we allow baby selling, we treat women like anonymous fungible breeders. We reinforce objectification and subordination. We retain this defining role of Mother with a capital M. But now we even make it an alienated version, because we make it into a commodity and an object rather than just saying: That's women's nature and women's character.. Entering the market by degrading oneself is not liberating under these circumstances. ... This argument could conclude..."Women have always both sold themselves and been degraded for it, so let's not do more of the same.""
The language can get pretty intense and often overlaps with criticisms of prostitution:
A market in women's bodies - wheter sexual prostitution or reproductive prostitution - reveals a social ontology in which women are among the things in the world that can be appropiately commodified - bought and sold and, by extention, stolen. The purported freedom that such institutions would give women to enter into the market by selling their bodies is paradoxical. Sexual or reproductive prostitutes enter the market not so much as agents or subjects, but as commodities or objects....Moreover, once there is a market for women's bodies, all women's bodies will have a price, and the woman who does not sell her body becomes a hoarder of something that is useful to other people and is financially valuable. The market is a hegemonic instituttion; it determines the meanings of actions of people who choose not to participate as well as of those who choose to participate. -- Sara Ann Ketchum, "Selling Babies and Selling Bodies," Hypatia, Fall 1989 at 116, 122-23.
As these two passages reveal, most of the opposition comes from an attention to the context in which these decisions are made. Believing that society is sharply marked by sexual inequality, these writers believe that surrogacy (and for some prostitution) will only deepen this inequality by reinforcing stereotypes about the proper role for women, and by giving those with significant resources even more control over the bodies of those without.

This latter point is often reflected in popular discomfort with the idea of sending egg & sperm over to India to have a 3rd-world woman act as gestational surrogate. Yet, many of these concerns don't go away when class is removed and people do this for free for their friends. As Lori Andrews noted "when society suggests that a certain activity should be done for altruism rather than money, it is generally a woman's activity." Lori Andrews, 16 L. Med. & Health Care 72,, 76 (1988).

But you're right, this is not something that is often talked about or ever problematized in most media portrayals of surrogacy. MacKinnon, one of the participants in the prostitution debate linked above, and who taught me most of the debate over surrogacy, has this to say
"Whether surrogacy can be an act of freedom when women are unequal in society tends not to be asked as a legal matter, far less whether a group-based reality of inequality on the basis of gender, class, and race could make what might be an individual act of freedom under other conditions into an act of subordination under current ones." Catharine MacKinnon, Sex Equality 1189 (2d ed. 2007).
My own views? Well, much of my discomfort comes from the legal question about "who is the mother?" To me, carrying a fetus to term, nourishing and protecting it while it takes away your ability to party it up, this is the act of motherhood - not merely being a genetic depositor. If a pregnant woman carrying the egg of another woman is thought of as merely a vessel - without parental rights, then we have effectively allowed a "male" understanding of pregnancy to trump a "female" understanding. To a male parent, you deposit your genetic material, have whatever kind of a relationship with the mother you want, then nine months later you're a parent with all sorts of rights. Now egg donors for gestational surrogacy get that experience too, but at someone else's cost. The lived experience of pregnancy is not something I want to give up - many pro-surrogacy feminists do - they think it's liberating and a path towards equality. Indeed, many disagreements among liberal and left feminists take this form (with postmodernists and 3rd wavers on the liberal side these days). Lefties are worried that "acting like a man" is not liberating and sets the wrong standard, especially given the current distribution of social power and resources. Liberals tend not to focus on whether or not the standard is a male one, but rather on the enhanced opportunities available to women. Throw in class and race issues and bam, you've got quite an issue. Whether it should be illegal - as it is in many states - is another question.

I tend to believe that won't change anything for a lot of complicated reasons (and not just that it'll drive things underground), but I do think that surrogacy contracts ought to be void for public policy. So if a couple donates an egg and a sperm to a woman, sign a contract saying she will relinquish the child, then she changes her mind and wants shared custody, the contract is void. Since I believe that the surrogate is the mother, I don't think she can be forced to sign away her rights over her child like this.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:27 AM on July 23, 2009


Prostitution in Belgium is legal. Pimping on the other hand isn't, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exit. Stamping it out will probably never be easy, but with the limited resources we have, it's better to focus on the cases where there are problems rather than trying to tackle the entire industry. Instead, the rest of the industry should be encouraged to create a safe environment for both its workers and their clients.

Examples are the red light district in Antwerpen. Years ago, this was a very sleazy area of town. Most of it was controlled by criminals and many of the women were probably imported from other countries and tricked against their will into this line of work. Finally, the city did clamp down on the district by cleaning up the streets; made an extra effort to push out the criminal activities and human trafficking that surrounded this area; and reduced the amount of windows considerably to prevent further sprawl.

While it would be wrong to assume that all the abuses have disappeared, the problem has at least become manageable and the district is now a safe and pleasant place to walk through. I don’t know what the situation is like with the girls behind the windows now days, but I imagine it has improved for them too. Though some of the workers have complained that since the cleanup, the many tourists the area is now attracting has chased away some of their regulars. It has become a popular attraction that isn’t discreet as it use to be.

There is another such district near where I live between Sint Truiden and Liege. There, the city council decided to hand out quality labels to the brothels. The brothels and its workers are regularly checked to ensure that they meet the minimum safety and hygiene regulations. It may not solve all the problems, but it does improve the situation for those involved. In a way, it is no different than making sure that the food we eat at restaurants is safe for consumption and that those preparing it aren't doing so in slave like conditions.

Of course, even if you can keep the pimps out of the equation and create a safe environment for the workers, there is still the problem of those that are left with no other options but to end up in this line of work. But rather then clamp down on prostitution itself, society should better spend its energy solving the roots of this problem. And this can be anything from helping people off of their drug addictions to retraining them so that they at least have more options on the job market.
posted by Timeless at 9:06 AM on July 23, 2009


Yeah, it’s not the sex or the money, it’s the middle men that cause the problems.

And it will go on, in one form or another. Ever see a really good looking homeless woman? The fairest law would address the exploitation while refraining from legislating sexual morality.

What is also concerning is that someone in sex work would not keep open other career options and develop other skills. Not as a matter of legality. I have the same concerns with people who pursue athletics professionally and the tournament style system that exists there. I wouldn’t favor outlawing professional sports obviously. But abuse does exist. As does drug use, etc. You do see people being exploited and cast aside.

That said, there can be exploitation the other way in sex work. You do have situations of experienced sex workers dealing with insecure or inexperienced or perhaps beholden (emotionally or perhaps cheating on their spouse) clients. So wouldn’t it be possible to take them for all the money they can? Obviously blackmail is illegal, but need it be that overt? So, some sort of pricing might need to be set, but that’s a whole subjective can of worms.

I really dunno. But some of the assumptions I see are fat losers visiting prostitutes, or other folks for convenience or whatever. But in the case of the former, what protection would exist for Joe Chubbyloser? Buyer beware certainly, but this isn’t like buying a car. It can be an ongoing long term cost - one does see strippers forming relationships with people who don’t have intimacy in their lives – the relationship is predicated on money but the trade is subtle and there are people who might not ‘get’ that end of it. And that might interfere with them finding a genuine relationship. How do we protect them? Or don’t we because they’re ‘stupid’?
None of this is an argument to keep prostitution illegal, merely an exploration of what protections may need to be in place to regulate it beyond the obvious stds and such.

One of the big hazards I see, and this is generally speaking, is that people tend to do the same thing the same way when they meet with success. That is, they have the same patter, same rotes, they rehab houses, say and flip them or they sell cars or stock and they keep doing that over and over and over and over – same deal with sex workers - a process is established which is somewhat mechanical in nature and that process needs regulation of some sort defined by the nature of its dynamic.

Some things you need to address the larger picture – as with selling stock. You regulate how it can be sold, the information brokers et.al. can have and move on, and so forth so as to insulate related systems from the possible excesses of those playing outside the rules. (At least, in theory before the bail outs and all that).
You have labor laws and such so Joe Houserehabber can’t just nomad and hire crews and not pay them and resell the place and split.
So too – there are aspects of sex work not related to sex itself which do create practical issues of fairness, equity, predation, exploitation, and need to be mitigated to prevent potential harm – regardless of any moral considerations.

I simply don’t know what to do with a sex worker who might ‘lead on’ a client. How would that be addressed? There are other standards and protections for various types of services. Some of the aspects of sex work are unique in that there are powerful emotions as well as physical needs in play – beyond the “it’s not ‘just’ a job” aspects that allen.spaulding raised. I mean, even where it is just a job – it’s a job with unique aspects. Beyond, say, hiring a musician or some such. Sex, even without intimacy, produces powerful opiates in the brain. So it's a strong physical reaction as well. Not to argue that sex is exclusive in that regard, merely that we need to recognize that there is such a reaction that does not exist, or at least does not exist to the degree it does, when getting a house painter or hiring some other service.

I’d speculate there could be an ethical standard of some sort. Nurses, reporters, lawyers, etc. have those kinds of standards. Accreditation maybe? You’d still have freelancers, etc. Ach, just speculating here.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2009


allen.spaulding: Why is it that a woman who is paid to carry a child or have sex is somehow existentially selling herself? And don't tell me that that is just what patriarchy says, because we are free to disagree with patriarchy.

Just as a black man can freely work on a farm, even a cotton farm, and very well should have that choice despite our country's messy and embarrassing history with race; a woman should be free to offer services as a paid sexual partner or surrogate mother. We pay people to do very messy, physically dangerous, and psychologically risky things in a number of fields, what other than tradition makes sexuality so much worse that it needs special legal attention?
posted by idiopath at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2009


One of the quirks of planning laws here in NSW Australia is that new brothels and churches tend to only be approved in industrial areas, apparently due to parking concerns.

What's legal where, it varies state by state.
posted by onya at 12:59 AM on July 24, 2009


Rhode Island has an interesting sort of compromise on prostitution (though, apparently, this may soon change). Prostitution, that is, exchanging sex for money, is not illegal - but solicitation is. So, you can legally go to an establishment and buy sex, but you may not legally stand on a street corner and offer sex.

This does have interesting ramifications. A friend of mine once had a woman knock on his door and ask to use his bathroom, and once she was in the house, she solicited him for sex, since she was now on private property, it was legal.

So, beware of strange women needing bathrooms, I guess.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:15 PM on July 24, 2009


« Older An Outsider's View...  |  The May 2009 issue of the FBI ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments