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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Legalizing sex work would protect women

    Our society deems it acceptable to lace advertisements and commercials with sexuality, such as the recent Valentine’s Day gimmick by a teddy bear company that had girls cooing over a stuffed animal because it was “”so much bigger than I thought,”” and “”I could just kiss it and kiss it.”” But when it comes to actually talking about sex and the purchase of sex, policy-makers get squeamish.

    Politicians are increasingly being ousted for purchasing sex acts. Instead of being hypocritical, their policies should reflect their actions and that entails decriminalizing sex work to help protect the women who engage in this dangerous job to support themselves.

    If sex work was made legal then our government could tax sex workers’ income, which means more tax dollars for, say, education. As it stands, our state wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution stings and to prosecute and jail sex workers. At the same time, people who solicit sex work are often not the target of prostitution investigations, even though solicitation is a prosecutable offense.

    Some sex work has been successfully decriminalized in Nevada and Rhode Island. In the few counties in Nevada where brothels are legal, they help to keep their ladies safe by having annual STD tests, available contraception and security. In Rhode Island, the sale of sex between consenting adults and behind closed doors is legal but brothels and street solicitation are illegal. Small steps in the decriminalization process allow for transparency and accountability on the part of the “”john,”” or person who wants to purchase sex from a woman.

    It is hard to say just how many people are sex workers or prostitutes because it is a hard population to take a census of. Sex workers are a very transient population. Many women do sex work temporarily, like to pay for college or get them through a tough economic crisis. Last September, a woman who called herself Natalie Dylan tried to sell her virginity on eBay.com (the Web site did not allow it).

    Selling sex is a part of our culture, whether you like it or not, and it is the oldest profession in the world. Why is it legal for someone to give sex away, but illegal for them to demand compensation for it? Sex work is work just like any other profession. Repressive policies toward what society deems “”vice-like”” activities have been repealed in the past – like when it comes to gambling and alcohol consumption. But when a woman wants to use her body as a business asset, something that our culture continually drills into her head as her only potential, it is illegal.

    Decriminalizing sex work will not increase its popularity as a job. It is already one of the few options that many women have to support themselves. It will help to protect the women who risk their lives every day when they try to make money. Making sex work legal would assure that the most vulnerable people in our society, poor women, could have some protection.

    Prostitutes are some of the most vulnerable people in our society because they are less likely to report crime. Prostitutes are often sexually assaulted and violently attacked. People with predatory behaviors often seek out prostitutes because they are an easy target. But our policies hurt the women who actually perform sexual acts. By keeping it illegal, women get arrested when they try to make a living.

    Sex work is not as glamorous as television shows like Showtime’s “”Secret Diary of a Call Girl”” make it seem. In the first episode, the main character Belle is a high-class call girl who assures the viewer that sexual abuse and poverty did not play a role in her job choice; she simply likes the flexible hours and easy money. Belle immediately negates her validity as a representation of most sex workers, since she is on the higher-paid end of the spectrum and the majority of women who are in the trade are forced into it by poverty and have often been sexually abused (either on the job or in their childhood).

    The real problem is that there is a demand for sex work, and if there is a demand then it should be legal to supply it since legality can keep things safer for the workers. Sex workers are less likely to report crimes and physical abuse because what they were doing is illegal and they feel like the police are not on their side – as, in fact, they are not. Prostitutes are prosecuted for soliciting money for sexual acts, but their clients usually get off (pun intended) with no consequences.

    The supplier of sex work is often forced to take all of the blame for their job but most people do not take into account that the industry can only thrive as long as the demand for this work is present. Sex work is criminalized and swept under the carpet. Keeping sex work illegal does not help the ladies, especially since our economy is so awful that women can be pressured into sex work as their only means for a decent income.

    The bottom line is that sex work is going to continue, whether it is legal or not. Were it a line of work that was typically done by males, it would already be legal in our patriarchal society. The government should protect everyone’s right to a safe and healthy working environment.

    -ÿAlexandria Kassman is a creative writing and Spanish senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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