“A Movement to Legalize Prostitution: Some Words in Opposition,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

“A Movement to Legalize Prostitution: Some Words in Opposition,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

In Albany, New York, a bill has been proposed and, if passed, it will be the first statewide law in this country to decriminalize prostitution, or the sex trade, involving consenting adults. Nina Luo, a member of DecrimNY, a group of organizations including immigrant rights and LGBTQ rights, states that many of the poorer classes of society cannot find employment and turn to prostitution to survive. Prostitution, presently illegal, has forced these persons struggling and in poverty into an illegal scene and put them at risk. Ms. Luo points out that Germany, the city of Amsterdam, and the state of Nevada have legalized the sex trade.

I find the arguments of Ms. Luo not only weak but extremely unconvincing and frankly an intellectual and moral outrage. First, there is no evidence that those who turn to the sex trade do so due to the inability to find work. Work is easily found in most restaurants as waitresses; and in service work in places like Staples and Home Depot. In those places, work is easily available as seen by the 75-year-old men who work the aisles servicing customers. Work is also available in office cleaning and cleaning houses. Frankly, this argument of Ms. Luo not only fails, but falls flat on its face. It is more likely that persons engage in the paid sex trade are being lured by unscrupulous criminals into the trade of human trafficking and white slavery; and, second, they may choose this occupation attracted to the fact that they can earn a great of money for relatively easy work.

There are other reasons to oppose this movement. In some sense, the idea in this movement to decriminalize prostitution is that the crime is victimless, and harmless, and perhaps confined to specific districts under state and medical supervision. Ms. Luo does not speak of or address this.

The fallacy and mistake in legalizing prostitution is twofold. First, those who frequent prostitutes, for whatever reason, whether for sex or loneliness, are characteristic of capitalist and western society and they most truly harm themselves. Use of another for lust without love is to harm, to harm the innards, and is the denigration of a relationship that should be founded in community and intimacy. The fact that no one is hurt facially does not change the hardness and tawdriness accompanying prostitution. The woman, whether by choice, for money, or tricked into white slavery, in taking this path and occupation, has a life of being used and abused and possibly has a foreshortened life and a life of great emotional pain and hurt.

Moreover, the argument that prostitution has no victim and that no harm is done falls short. Certain crimes, though apparently of antique origin, exist not so much to penalize but to assure that a certain societal level be maintained. To legalize prostitution because it will occur in any event, whether legal or not, is to give the imprimatur and even respect to something that, though done and done frequently, should not be approved.

To legalize is to approve. To approve is to encourage. To encourage is to open the gates to the plethora of apparently victimless activity that, if allowed, diminishes and denigrates us all. Prostitution not only harms but degrades both prostitute and customer, and, in a sense illegal prostitution is a finger in the dyke. The flood is better stayed. Prostitution makes garbage and refuse and destroys the humanity of those who choose to engage in and frequent this activity.