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Should Prostitution Be Legal?

A tricky question as news from Maine unfolds

By Rich_Maloof Oct 15, 2012 5:21PM

The prostitution scandal in small-town Maine has been deteriorating into a case of she said/he paid. The question of who broke the law has already taken a second seat to who should be shamed, the alleged prostitute at a Zumba fitness studio and her business partner or the dozens of male customers on the Zumba Plus plan. Photo: Chas Ray Krider/Getty ImagesConcurrent news on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the defamed former IMF director, revolves around the fairness of “criminalizing lust.”

For a country with a strong Puritanical streak, America has proven remarkably tolerant of sex workers and their clientele. Hugh Grant is still a movie star, Heidi Fleiss enjoyed as much celebrity as notoriety, and Eliot Spitzer navigated a transition from disgraced politician to nightly political commentator. In the Kennebunk, Maine, case, attorneys for the male johns are fighting to protect the release of their names, characterizing them as victims of privacy invasion.

The case for decriminalizing prostitution has not held sway in the United States, despite the apparent leniency in the court of public opinion. With the exception of laws in parts of Nevada, lawmakers maintain that prostitution is inherently demeaning and that legalization would contribute to the expansion of human trafficking. Even with regulations in place, women could not be adequately protected against exploitation and the violence perpetrated by johns, pimps and traffickers. Poor women desperate for income might find themselves with no option other than turning tricks, and ever-younger girls would be drawn into dark and dangerous circles.

Proponents, meanwhile, have said that prostitution should be sanctioned and regulated in part because the world’s oldest profession will never go out of business. It is inevitable, the argument goes, so we’re better off improving the conditions  than pretending we can control the trade. Unionizing sex workers would yield legal rights protecting them against traffickers and regulating health standards to stem the tide of sexually transmitted diseases. While those opposed to legalization (notably Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times) cite the rampant victimization and increased risk of HIV in countries such as India and Cambodia, those in favor point to Germany, the Netherlands and our own state of Nevada for evidence that legalization would not increase human-slave trafficking.

If ever the United States were to rethink prostitution laws and regulations, they might look something like the law Sweden enacted in 1999. The Kvinnofrid law made it legal to sell sex but not to buy it. That is, prostitutes couldn’t be charged with a crime but their clients would be charged, as would traffickers, pimps and brothel operators. Hotly debated, with even advocates of women’s rights on both sides, the law was passed based on the belief that prostitution would always prevail with or without a ban. As our slack-jawed nation watches the news unfold in a scenic, tourist-friendly town in Maine, that much seems to be beyond debate.

Photo: Chas Ray Krider/Getty Images

Bing: Get the latest on the Zumba scandal.

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Oct 16, 2012 4:54AM

Of course.  Legal.  Stop trying to control other people.  Who do you think you are?

Oct 16, 2012 4:51AM
If it is legal in Congress why should it not be legal for the rest of us?
Oct 16, 2012 4:49AM
Our nation is experiencing an epidimic of sex offenders, rape, child molesters, perverting to homosexuality, etc. men leaving their wives because they had to form a new relationship rather than to just get laid and go home.  You do gooders think your protecting this world but your destroying it with your insensitvity toward those that aren't as fortunate as you.
I thought being a democrat politician or liberal journalist was already legal??
Oct 16, 2012 4:48AM
of course it should.  it is the oldest profession known to man.  
Oct 16, 2012 4:46AM
Legal or not  it still a fact of life , bottom line all women are prostitutes in one form or another. They use sex as a bargaining chip for whatever they want and anybody who wishes to argue that fact is from another planet.  
Oct 16, 2012 4:46AM

In a word - YES.


Many fewer of these girls/women would wind up dead. Who thinks about them? No one. Well, we should... we should think about them. We should be concerned with their safety. We should be concerned, if it's such a big deal to you, with what may have driven them to practice such an unsafe activity? Is it an abuse thing? Desparate for money? Drug issue? Or do they maybe, heaven forbid huh ladies - just like it? 


You are a cruel-hearted person to give no thought to these girls/women. (even Jesus did)


The only issue is between any user of services - which means men and women, and their spouses if they have a spouse.


And if you don't think women pay - you are sadly mistaken. Not to the extent, because they can just ask and get what they want, if sex is all they want. (And women don't as  frequently for other reasons as well.)


If not legalized... certainly the stigma should be lifted. Certainly the stigma should be lifted.

Oct 16, 2012 4:44AM

What about the young children in our country?  What example and precedent does this set for them?   What life is a prostitute, they have no rights, no insurance, and will die very early in life. 


What about the little 10 year old girl in Colorado who got chopped into bits an pieces a few days ago.  Probably, just another John out for a good time.


Where is our country headed??  What is wrong with us??????


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