Prostitution, what some might consider to be humanity’s oldest occupation, is today heavily scrutinized as an immoral and deviant form of objectifying one’s body for money. Prostitutes are unfairly ridiculed as being unintelligent, slutty and, in some cases, worthless. The United States unethically illegalizes prostitution when it is simply a form of human service.
People require different types of intimacy: emotional, physical, sexual. Some of these desires can be fulfilled through friendships and family ties. But resources may not always be readily available or efficiently solve the intimacy issues at hand. Psychological therapists deal with emotional intimacy, and massage therapists fill our need for physical contact, although it may be unconventional to see them as sources of intimacy. But they provide a service some people are now unable to obtain for free. There is not much difference if you look at intimacy-providing occupations in the same realm as the hospitality and service industries, which provide consumers with physical and/or emotional services. If these services can be sold, sexual services should be as well.
As a community, we require collaborative efforts not only to sustain our economy but also to foster progression within our society. With jobs becoming less secure, it has become increasingly difficult for some people to make ends meet. One simple solution is diversify the types of legal occupations. Legalizing prostitution will open the door to the unionization of the industry, which will not only protect the rights of workers but also decrease the success and profitability of underground prostitution by disbanding U.S. crime operations in that field. I won’t hypothesize its effects in other countries nor will I touch upon global human trafficking, as I am not an expert in those areas — I am only focusing on the effects of legalizing prostitution in the United States. It would be fiscally smarter to reallocate the money spent fighting prostitution — for example, by having law enforcement officers concentrate on violence and larceny, both of which are bigger threats to our society.
Opponents of legal prostitution claim that legalizing the occupation would intensify the patriarchal hegemony we already face, promoting issues such as rape and female repression by men, all the while commercializing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Rape and sexual patriarchy may be reduced by allowing people (specifically men) to release bottled sexual urges. When humans’ strong sexual desires are withheld, they are sometimes manifested in vicious impulses. If men were allowed to purchase sex, there could be a drastic decrease in sexual violence.
Another problem we currently face with the illegality of prostitution is that some workers feel they are unable to rely on law enforcement for protection. Some purchasers of sex rely on the instability of legality during the transaction to take advantage of the willing prostitute. Providing the workers with employment rights gives them protection under laws such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act, under which employees will be able to willingly call upon police when faced with violence or unsafe working conditions.
Sexually transmitted infections can be combated by government regulation using safety principles, not only for the well-being of prostitutes but for that of consumers as well. Federal law could standardize requirements such as health exams and the use of contraceptives. This could drastically reduce the spread of infections.
Although there are many ethical and financial benefits to legalize prostitution, I don’t believe our society would readily accept this practice as a legitimate occupation. It isn’t because many people wouldn’t appreciate it — I personally would make use of this service — but rather because in some instances, it would replace people’s pursuit of an education or traditional career. Yes, the job option may cause a decrease in postsecondary intellectual pursuits, but that won’t necessarily result in a degradation of future technological or medical progress. After all, not everyone will become prostitutes, and not all current college students pursue degrees in engineering or medical research. Prostitution is simply another skill-based occupation that requires some vocational training, just like training is required to become chefs, professional athletes or digital animators.
It may also be frowned upon as some people still see it as immoral, illogical and unsanitary. This ideology is highly regarded by those who continue to see sex as binary and emotionally binding. But it shouldn’t be. Sex is a form of intimacy that has been unfairly restrained. Sex is one of the greatest human desires, and not all of us are fortunate enough to constantly enjoy in its revitalizing fervor. We should be able to pay for it, if we can afford it.
Nonetheless, we must remember that prostitution has always existed and will always continue to be profitable. People who decide to become prostitutes have a right to do so, as they are in complete control of what to do with their own bodies. The government should not be allowed to control decisions of consenting adults whose actions impose no immediate threat to anyone else. Hopefully, we can use the liberated mindset of millennials to, one day, sell sex.
Brett Tanonaka writes the weekly Sex on Tuesday column. You can contact him at [email protected].