Brian Bates, the video vigilante, is trying to clean up his streets of street prostitutes, their pimps, and the organized crime that follows. He doesn’t talk much about the escorting side of prostitution (the private, indoor interactions between consenting adults which we advocate for). So we approach the subject of prostitution from two different angles. The subject of legalization towards all prostitutes however, is concern for those on both sides as it will affect the private sector and the street trade (though on different levels). Now I could have addressed this over on his blog but it’s easier to counter his debate over here without like, overtaking his page or something.
Please understand that I have a certain amount of respect for Mr. Bates. He saw something that he perceived as a problem and he is doing something about it. Not much different than what I am trying to do. I may not agree with some of his methods, but I understand. I disagree with street prostitution but I approach the solution differently than what he does. Perhaps if a meeting of the minds can occur and problems discussed, solutions can appear. Be that as it may… here is his blog post in entirety (with my commentary in the red)
4/25/2011 — One of the most common myths I encounter when discussing prostitution is the idea that if individual states in the USA would simply legalize prostitution then it would solve the problem by removing it from the streets, taking it out of the hands of violent pimps, make the sex industry safer both from physical violence and sexually transmitted diseases and earn lots of income tax money from the prostitutes and Johns. (From an Adult Voluntary Prostitutes (hereafter referred to as an AVP because I don’t want to keep typing that out), meaning a prostitute who does this voluntarily, is of legal age (over 18) and not under the control of a pimp or drugs, and engages in private sex work (as in not on the street) point of view, we (most AVP’s) also do not want legalization. We prefer decriminalization. In other words, keep the laws against violent pimps and underage prostitution in place (along with real force and coercion). There is a difference between the two as referenced at http://www.freedomusa.org/coyotela/decrim.html or http://www.bayswan.org/defining.html)
I would argue that none of those would be accomplished to any measurable degree under a legalized system.
Every non US country that has legalized prostitution still faces problems of illegal street prostitution, organized crime infiltrating prostitution, and trafficking of both adults and children. So much so that several countries (including Amsterdam in the Netherlands and France) are scaling back legalized prostitution or looking to eliminate it completely. (It will not completely eliminate the problem and we don’t argue that it would. Criminals will find ways to circumvent the system no matter the efforts of legalization. However, forces can be used to investigate these criminal elements if they are freed from seeking out and prosecuting the AVP’s and their consensual clients. For information on how decriminalization has worked and worked well, please refer to this page on how well it has benefited the actual sex workers in New Zealand)
Even in the US the legalization of prostitution in most of Nevada has done nothing to curtail the illegal prostitution that runs rampant in cities like Las Vegas. In fact, even with legalized prostitution, Nevada still ranks as one of the top US states for illegal prostitution arrests. A recent study also showed that a woman is more likely to be raped in Las Vegas than New York City. Which would indicate that the availability of legalized prostitution does not lower incidence of rape. (Oiy. It is so manipulated when Nevada is used as examples for either side of the argument. In this case, prostitution is ILLEGAL in Las Vegas. Therefore the only prostitution they have is ILLEGAL. However if you look at the places in Nevada where it is actually legal (like NOT Las Vegas) there are very few cases of pimping, next to zero cases of street walkers, and there is no proof of organized crime. Now if Las Vegas would ‘legalize’ it, an operational, licensed, inspected brothel could be built within a reasonable distance (the closest brothel to LV is 60 miles north, reasonable drive for a person who has NOT been drinking and gambling all day but not reasonable if the opposite is true) and if that were the case, why would a man buy pussy from the street instead of strolling over to the local, nearby brothel where the women are almost guaranteed clean and there is less of a chance of being mugged by a pimp in a dark alley. For that matter why would a prostitute work the street when she could work inside the brothel because by this time, Johns wouldn’t be out trolling up and down the avenue, they would all be at the brothel. If this happens, one would reasonably expect less illegal street prostitution, the demand has gone elsewhere. Would this work 100% of the time over night and in all cases. Probably not, but with the right education to both prostitutes and John’s I predict it would seriously put a dent into the problem. Or we could keep the status quo because yea… how’s that working again? Oh yea, it’s NOT.)
The problem with legalization as a solution is complex.
For my argument I am primarily dealing with the types of prostitution we target at JohnTV; public, forced and organized. (Ok, I’ll deal with the AVP aspect 🙂
One of the very first problems is the fact that those involved in prostitution often have no regard for the law or are unable to work within the limitations of the law – Either because their lives revolve around criminal activity (drug use, drug distribution, theft, etc.), the stigmatism associated with prostitution, the inability to qualify to work within a regulated system or the overwhelming temptation to conceal a mostly cash income from the IRS. (Most AVP’s are not drug users nor do their lives revolve around criminal activity. Aside from consensual commercial sex, AVP’s are law abiding. As for the stigmatism, that is the fault of law enforcement and society. Another reason many sex workers choose not to work in brothels or within Nevada’s ‘legal’ system is the requirement of a license which, when leaving sex work, seriously hinders the opportunity to apply for ‘normal’ work if the employer is prosti-phobic. Many AVP’s also pay taxes, we have to if we ever want to purchase a vehicle or buy a house and proof of income is needed. We file as any other cash based business, such as a babysitter, self employed massage therapist, etc.)
Legalization in Nevada has proven that most women involved in prostitution opt-out of working legally within licensed brothels – most likely due to one or more of the reasons given in the paragraph above. Recent estimates show that as few as 300 women actually are working at any one time in all of Nevada’s legal brothels, while it is estimated that many times that number work illegally in Las Vegas alone. (Actually from what I understand dealing with AVP’s, it’s the WAY that the legal brothels are run that most of us do not consider working in one. For those of us who are mothers, having to live weeks at a time away from family is not an option. In addition there are the ‘cattle’ line ups which would be a pain in my ass, the charging of fee’s to the prostitute by the house for not showing up at line up, in addition to other fee’s the house charges (had a list here, I’d have to find it). Now if the brothels were run properly with the ladies interest and well being being the main focus, it would be a different story. This is why I advocate more of a co-op than what is considered a traditional brothel. No, women don’t want to work in them because of the way they are run and managed.)
Legalization has also proven that providing a legal option for ‘Johns’ has no measurable effect on lessening the demand for illegal street, escort, child and forced prostitution. The FBI recently identified Las Vegas as one of 14 cities in the US with the highest rates of child prostitution. The U.S. Justice Department also named Las Vegas among the 17 most likely destinations for human trafficking. Vegas authorities estimate approx. 400 juveniles are picked up by police for prostitution every year. (Ok, you are still talking VEGAS where it is ILLEGAL. What are the statistics for Pahrump, NV where it is legal? I looked. Could not find cases of street prostitution, child prostitution, or forced and therefore could not find cases of Johns hiring street prostitutes. You are still speaking of a city where it is illegal. As stated before, a legal brothel being an hours drive away is still not ‘convenient’ to people who have been drinking and gambling all day. Yes, pimps and prostitutes will find Las Vegas a good place to go because of this reason, drinking and gambling and the illusion of money being tossed around. Last I looked, Seattle and Atlanta were named the destinations of choice for child trafficking for the purpose of prostitution. Still illegal, without ANYTHING reasonably close. If your argument were true, then why isn’t Nevada the number one spot?)
Women working within a legalized system are not as equal a working class as many Americans believe they would be. Under a legalized system, and as it currently stands in Nevada, prostitutes are considered independent contractors and do not receive unemployment, retirement or health benefits. Also, Nevada law requires prostitutes to work a minimum of 9 days in a row. (And hence the reason why women with family won’t work in the brothel. I couldn’t stay away from my family or properly care for them (pick them up from school, make their lunches, etc) if I had to stay someplace for nine freaking days. If the brothels were run correctly (as in the co-op I spoke of earlier) they would still be independent contractors (I’m not going to tell a woman what she should or shouldn’t charge) but I think some form of union could be formed so that access to health benefits would be reasonable (at least an opt in health care fund) as well as having an investor set up individual IRA’s as an option, etc. I would like for there to be scholarships available for those who realize they can’t do this the rest of their life and assist with further education. There is so much that can be done for these women but many of our hands are tied due to the illegality and the revolving jail house door we have been putting them through.)
Also, legalization has not proven to make prostitution safer for those who participate in it. A great read on this topic is Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada: Making the connections by Melissa Farley. Many women involved in legal prostitution report continued victimization. The victimization comes in many forms: such as violence by pimps who make the women available to legal brothels, exposure and pressure to take drugs provided within the brothels and brothel owners who keep the women as virtual prisoners by not allowing them have a vehicle on the property, come and go as they wish or even allowed a cell phone. (…. Not sure how to address this nicely…. Farley has an agenda. She believes ALL prostitutes are victims asking to be raped and is so full of shit it’s coming out her ears. She testified or spoke at that Canada ruling where the courts there told her her research was junk. I have not found a case of a single prostitute who has worked at a brothel in Nevada that was forced to be there against their will. Sure some don’t like the way it is run, sure some would rather be doing some other kind of work. But there are too many cases of AVP’s who work there because they want to, they chose to. There has never been a verified case (to the best of my knowledge and research) of a brothel employee being forced to take drugs or not being allowed a cell phone. Farley can not back up her research with any news stories, arrest records, complaints, or anything else. It’s just “because she says so”. Too many cases go against her theory/story for it to be true except for maaaaybe an isolated case.)
Many people argue that legalized prostitution mandates health checks, thus eliminating the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In reality however, the tests are designed to protect the male customers and not the female workers as only the prostitutes are required to be disease free. Most people do not realize that in Nevada STD tests are limited to weekly checkups for gonorrhea and Chlamydia and only monthly for HIV and syphilis. Both the prostitute and the John are open for exposure to disease within the windows of opportunity between tests and many STD’s like venereal warts and Herpes are not even test for. Condoms are required for all oral, vaginal and rectal intercourse, but many argue the fact illegal prostitutes do not often require condoms only feeds the demand. (Leftover hysteria. AVP’s and quite a few more of the street variety have less to do with the spread of STD’s than the drunk college co-eds you may pick up for free at a bar. Prostitutes have a vested interest in staying disease free, this is our livelihood. Since mandatory testing began in 1986, not one prostitute has ever tested positive for HIV. Zero, zip, nada. Which means none of their customers have caught HIV. No matter which side you are trying to protect, it still takes two to tango. Protect one and you protect the other. May as well outlaw all consensual sex (whether free or paid) if you truly want to cut down on STD’s. Prostitution shouldn’t be the scapegoat and even illegal prostitutes are requiring the use of condoms more and more. Dumbass Johns should also insist on the use. Maybe this would be better addressed through education rather than a legal issue.)
Most importantly when dealing with all forms of prostitution is the fact that legalization requires regulation. Regulation is political and expense to enact and enforce. Not to mention legalization would require our limited law enforcement resources to be divided between enforcing regulated prostitution and continuing to fight illegal prostitution. (Exactly, decriminalize and let local ordinances set rules in place as to what, who, how many etc. Free the limited law enforcement to go after the violent pimps, drug addicts, and child prostitutes. Set up an American Prostitution Association similar to the AMA for physicians as a regulatory board that will oversee it and work WITH law enforcement yet ensure that the safety, well being, and rights of prostitutes are protected.)
Specifically when dealing with public prostitution, a regulated system would have little impact on taking prostitutes off the streets because most would not qualify to work legally. Under virtually any model of a legalized system the following criteria would have to be met; the individual must be at least 21-years old, have no sexually transmitted diseases, and no felony convictions. Many street prostitutes would fail to qualify to work legally based on one or all three of those requirements. (No argument really for or against. This occurs whether it is legal or illegal. Maybe if it is decriminalized we can give some of these girls an option of having a place to go instead of the street.)
Additionally, to work within a legalized system there has to be a way of licensing not only the brothels but the individual prostitutes. This creates another problem. There is a huge stigmatism that comes with being identified as someone working as a prostitute. Not many women are comfortable with the idea that there is one or more databases that would contain their identifying information and label them as a hooker. Also, many women who enter into prostitution do so convincing themselves it is a temporary situation to achieve a most often financial goal (pay off a debt, pay for an education, buy a car, subsidies their income during a time of unemployment or under-employment, etc.). If a woman is convinced her time as a prostitute is limited, she most likely will not want her name appearing in a hooker database where it could create problems for her in the future. (Again this is why it should not be ‘legalized’. Autonomy should be preserved because of assholes that are prosti-phobic.)
The overall idea of legalized prostitution does not sit well with most Americans. (Not anymore. See my post here where I have compiled a lengthy list of online polls regarding this subject. More have been published since then with similar results.)
We live in a society where legalization is most often equated with acceptable behavior. Do we as Americans really want to associate prostitution (an activity proven time and time again to be a direct result of abuse and addiction) with an acceptable option for our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends? (Do all children do what is considered acceptable to their parents? No. It is for the sake of my children that I want this decriminalized so that if my child (against my wishes) does what she thinks she needs to do to survive, she will have the protection of the police without being given an arrest record that will follow her around the rest of her life and prevent her from suitable employment. It’s not about whether it’s acceptable or not. Alcohol wasn’t acceptable either but we repealed that even though it is associated with drunk driving, death, violence, and broken homes.)
Finally, making prostitution legal will turn our government into the pimp for thousands of women in our community. (The government is already a pimp, I bust my ass and still have to turn over a portion of my wages to the government for fear of being put in jail. Isn’t that already what a pimp does, uses threat to extort money from someone who has to work? Besides, you can also view it as the government recognizing an individuals right to freedom and privacy and upholding the law against those that would commit violent crimes against the vulnerable. What two consenting adults do in private is not the business of the government. I would be more impressed with a government that realizes that fact rather than the one that arrests two adults for a transaction when neither one is a victim of anything more than the economy and loneliness.)
Dam that just about took me all day. See what I mean when I figured it was better to address this here?
Now, he may come back and tell me that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Though I do encourage him to read more from our side and not just what he sees on the other side of his camera that he only points at the street. Read Maggie’s and Kelly’s blogs, links are on the side bar. Read BoundNotGagged. Find out that street prostitution is only a teeny aspect in the overall picture of things and realize that any legal move affects us all, not just the crack addicted pimped variety. In order for solutions to benefit everyone there needs to be compromise. You may not get everything you want, we may not get everything we want. But between the two of us we should come up with something that works for everyone a hell of a lot better than what is (not) working now.