The other day, I saw Coyote Blog grouped into a category of "conservative blogs". I know a lot of folks tend to immediately shorthand free market economics to "conservative", but I bristle at the tag, particularly given the knife sticking out of the free economy's back right now with Republican finger prints all over it. Therefore, I have decided that it is time to take one of those wildly unpopular libertarian stands that will help ensure that I don't get lumped in with Pat Robertson any more, while simultaneously guaranteeing I will never be able to hold elective office or survive a Senate confirmation.
For some reason, perhaps because of the recent Hollywood movie on the topic, there seems to be a lot of talk and concern in the press about white slavery and forced prostitution. To which the general legislative response is "Let's crack down on prostitution".
The reason women get used and abused in the prostitution trade is because the trade is illegal, not because we aren't tough enough on it. If a woman working at Wal-mart has part of her pay stolen by her boss, or is required to pay sexual favors to hold her job, she has legal recourse, both to the police and to civil court. In fact, walking into an attorney's office and declaring "I work at Wal-mart and my boss forced me to have sex and stole my pay" would likely result in her becoming a millionaire some day. On the other hand, a prostitute today who walked into a police station and declared "I work as a prostitute and my boss stole my pay" would likely result in her arrest. Women get abused precisely because their trade is illegal, giving them no real recourse to the legal system. Making prostitution legal would give thousands of abused women their first chance ever at freedom from their tormentors.
I think the time is right to revisit the subject of legalized prostitution. America, for all the talk of a Republican-led theocratic state, has continued to relax itself on enforcing moral norms between consenting adults. Forty years ago, the majority of Americans opposed legal homosexuality, legalized gambling, and even interracial marriage. In many states, even tattooing was illegal. Today, though we still suffer through some tortured ethical logic (e.g. gambling is moral as long as it is on a boat but not on land) these practices are legal in many parts of the country. Its time to recognize that consensual sex between adults should be legal in all its forms, including those forms where money is exchanged. By the way, speaking of bizarre ethical logic, today, in most states, exchanging money for sex is illegal EXCEPT if the act is filmed and the film is distributed widely. Then the sex act for money is no longer prostitution but is pornography, which while frowned upon by many is generally legal.
Interestingly, feminists tend to be split on this issue, in part because feminists tend to split into at least two camps. The first camp is the libertarian-feminist, who honestly want to empower women, and who try to be consistent to the "women should be able to make decisions for her own body" argument used in abortion and which leads them to support legalized prostitution as well. I can imagine these feminists saying "Hey women out there, if men could
make $500 an hour having sex, does anyone doubt that it would be legal?"
The second camp is the sort of uber-gender feminists, whose agenda is more about molding all women into their idealized female. These feminists, who seem to control many women's organizations today, have created a whole new kind of morality that women must follow, a morality that seeks to ban breast implants since they are a trivial pandering to male aesthetic norms and to keep prostitution illegal because they see it as degrading to women. These women use the language of choice in their abortion politics, but they are more about a new form of master-gender (rather than master-race) fascism.
By the way, when I say "free the hookers", I really mean free them. Several countries in Europe have partially liberalized prostitution, but have reported there is still a lot of sex industry underground. The reasons is that these countries have applied typical European economic policy to the fledgling industry, meaning they regulated the crap out of it. Specifically, they tend to put extreme licensing requirements that artificially limit the number of people who can perform the trade legally, much like New York artificially limits the number of cab medallions. And they get the same result as with cabs in New York - a large gray market is created, and the benefits of bringing the industry out in the open are thwarted. More on the problems with licensing here and here and here.