The US is falling behind, y’all. And by “falling behind,” I mean “is stuck in the freakin’ Dark Ages.” I’m not talking about education, or healthcare, or poverty, or any of the usual suspects. I’m talking about the laws that affect sex workers.
Just the other day I learned that a reporter for the New York Times is doing a story on how sex workers in New Orleans have been affected by Louisiana laws. I immediately thought of the SCAN law (in which a sex worker could end up on the sex offender registry for life for merely offering to engage in any sexual act other than vaginal sex, which were considered “crimes against nature”) ruled unconstitutional a couple years back. That’s progress.
BUT…we’ve got a long, long way to go. For instance, this law would give police more freedom to “hassle” women who they suspect are soliciting. And what might cause police to “suspect” a woman might be soliciting? Basically, loitering…while being a woman…with other women around. Yes, that’s exactly what cops need–more license to “hassle,” intimidate, and threaten women.
And, unfortunately, I doubt it will stop here. In an effort to appear “tough on crime,” politicians will introduce more and more laws that go after easy targets–poor women in poor neighborhoods who find their clients in public, on the streets. It’s so difficult to work on violent crime. But it sure is easy to go after street hookers.
And what’s the intended result? I can only assume it’s an image thing. It sure as hell doesn’t really help anyone involved. I’m eager to read the New York Times article when it’s published, but I’ve got a pretty good idea how sex workers in New Orleans have been affected by Louisiana laws: I’m betting many, many lives have been shattered–clients’ lives included–all because, for some reason, consensual sex is only OK if one person isn’t helping the other person pay her rent. Unless they’re married. Or in a relationship. Hey…but doesn’t that make relationships…oh, nevermind.
Anyway, people talk a lot about legalization, but I find the regulation of sex between consenting adults fundamentally flawed. Therefore, I lean more toward decriminalization, or something close to it. But anything’s better than giving police the right to “hassle” women they think look like sex workers. And in most of the developed world, there IS something better. For example, in Australia, the laws vary across the states, with some states having a “legalize and regulate” approach, and some having something a bit closer to decriminalization, with certain stipulations. But there’s no blanket law that criminalizes people for consensual sex in exchange for gifts, money, car rides (yes, that’s in the bill that’s going to Jindal’s office), or what-have-you.
In some of the western states in Australia, sex work isn’t regulated, other than the fact that brothels are illegal. I’m assuming this is because trafficking and exploitation, if it’s going to happen, is more likely to happen in a brothel, where the trafficked persons might be forbidden from leaving the property. That makes sense. In some of the eastern states, the laws are a bit different. For instance, in the state of New South Wales, sex work is legal and regulated. A client can visit a legal brothel (google it–there are quite a few!), call a legal escort agency, or contact the legal independent escort of his choice–and he can do so with confidence.
Why? Because it’s not some shady process of navigating the mysterious system of an underground subculture cloaked in secrecy so as to avoid attention from LE.
And, of course, this makes it easier for the sex workers themselves. An escort doesn’t have to worry about her life being thrown into tumult because a cop decides to “hassle” her while she’s trying to find clients. She can just show up at her workplace (the brothel), or check in with the manager of her agency, or advertise on the internet, and go from there. Since it’s legal, both client and escort are free meet with confidence that, should one or the other decide to try something shady, the victim doesn’t have to be afraid to seek legal/police protection. Doesn’t that make the whole process easier and safer for sex workers and clients alike??
And isn’t safety our main concern? We’re not talking about a violent crime here. We’re not talking about theft. We’re talking about legislating morality, and our insistence on doing so leads to violence, theft, and the destruction of people’s lives.
So let’s take a step in the direction of the rest of the civilized world, shall we?