Should We Legalize Prostitution?

Posted in christian thought, cultural relevance, social justice by Nathan Creitz on April 21, 2009

image courtesy of wili_hybrid

Should we legalize prostitution? As far as I can tell the answer to that question in most people’s opinions is basically either “yes” or “no”. An astute observation on my part as you can see. But maybe there’s another response to the question? Before we can arrive at a conclusion let’s look at the various complexities and reasons for these two choices.

Yes! Let’s legalize prostitution.

The major legitimate arguments in favor of legalizing prostitution are summarized as follows:

1. What two consenting adults choose to do behind closed doors is their decision, regardless of the consequences. Prostitution is a victimless crime.

2. Legalized prostitution would allow better regulation and protection for women who would otherwise keep quiet if they suffer abuse in any way.

3. Since prostitution is outlawed it is often done in shady locations. Legalizing prostitution would cut down on “back-alley deals”. Besides, our jails are overcrowded. We should focus on the real crimes.

No! Prostitution should remain illegal.

The major legitimate arguments in favor of keeping prostitution illegal are summarized as follows:

1. To decriminalize prostitution would send a mixed message to society that this is acceptable behavior.

2. It destroys families. Trust between a husband and wife are broken. Finances that could be used for the family are spent recklessly.

3. The prostitutes themselves are the real victims, often suffering abuse or are the victims of other crimes such as trafficking.

4. Prostitution, for obvious reasons, is one of the major contributors to the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases.

Hopefully, the reasons given above are fair to both sides. In the comments section you are free to add other reasons why you might choose to answer “yes” or “no”, but now I want to give my commentary on the issue and hopefully make a case for a “third way”.

What Do I Think?

At this point, you might expect me to pull out a few Bible verses to support why I would say “no” to legalizing prostitution. However, since our society consistently rejects Biblical values, I want to argue my position on their terms. Secondly, my answer isn’t “no” to the legalization of prostitution…but it isn’t “yes” either. There is no question that prostitution is morally wrong on Biblical grounds. The question is, should it or should it not be illegal? We are not discussing the morality of prostitution, we are discussing it’s legality.

So what is my position? Leave prostitution alone until we’ve done something about the men (primarily) who are raping, demeaning, and enslaving women through prostitution! In other words, I’m not as concerned about the selling of sex (Again, we are debating legality not morality) but paying for sex should’ve been illegal yesterday. Let me explain:

Legislation is passed for several reasons, but primarily it is for the protection of the members of society. The quick “yes” or “no” answers to the question of the legality of prostitution have led to a stalemate. Those who answer “yes” to our question believe the “workplace conditions” would be safer if prostitution were legal. Those who answer “no” believe the practice of prostitution itself is unsafe, and therefore should be illegal to keep more people from engaging in it.

But consider the following statistics:

– 92% of women prostitutes said they wanted to leave prostitution immediately, but couldn’t because they lack basic human services such as a home, job training, health care, counseling and treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. (Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation)
– The average age of when a girl enters prostitution is 14. (Prostitution Research)
– Females in prostitution have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average. (Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation)
– 68-80% of prostitutes are raped during prostitution. (Prostitution Research)
– A compilation of sources suggests that about 60% of all prostitutes are forced into prostitution against their will, 38% are forced into prostitution due to hardship and economic factors, leaving only 2% that willingly engage in prostitution and (apparently) love their job. (Prostitution Research)

These statistics (and others that could be cited) show that primarily the buying and selling of sex is of most harm to the woman. I would surmise that, emotionally, the person that is harmed most besides the prostitute is the wife of the man who is paying for sex. This isn’t a crime against the man, the man is the criminal. He is primarily the one who is doing the damage to society in this case.

We pass laws to protect society. I’m not suggesting that we legislate every issue that might be harmful to a person or to a society. We all make stupid decisions that may or may not have an effect on others. But the preponderance of issues like rape, drug abuse, physical abuse, adultery, murder, incest, sex trafficking, child exploitation, alcohol abuse, theft, low mortality rate, female exploitation, divorce, and kidnapping that are linked with prostitution give weight to my argument. We need to make it illegal to pay for sex in America.

What Now?

What does this have to do with ChurchETHOS? Remember, ethos has to do with the habits or customs of a group or society, and it also has to do with the character or reputation of an individual, group or society. How we respond as a church to this issue will reveal our character to those outside the church. So, I will be posting a follow up post with some practical things I think the church can do to tackle this issue responsibly that strengthens our reputation with the unchurched. There I will describe exactly why this issue will help us think through our habits and customs and how to improve our relationships with those who don’t share our convictions. Meanwhile, feel free to share why you would say “yes”, “no” or “prostitution isn’t the main problem” in the comments below.

Related Post: The Christian Response to Prostitution ::  Subscribe ::  Why Subscribe?