Strangely enough, prostitution is actually legal in many places in the U. S....but only under certain circumstances.

What are those circumstances? Simple--a camera of some sort has to be present. Sound weird? Think about it: how is pornography made? Well, somebody pays two (or more) people to have sex while some sort of visual record is made. Now, nothing prevents the director (or whoever's financing the thing) from acting in his own movie. Obviously the director can't meaningfully pay himself, so in effect he's only paying the woman for sex. Now, the production of pornography is legal in many places; thus, you're allowed to pay someone to have sex with you only if you take pictures or movies.

So in a sense, it's already legal. I don't know if anyone has pushed this issue, though ("Damnit, this whorehouse is legal! We have cameras in every room!")

The notion that prostitutes do what they do out of freedom of choice is better understood when one realizes the documented fact that over 80% of prostitutes admit to walking the streets in order to feed a drug habit. There are other problems as well with this notion:

"over 90% of prostitutes are survivors of incest or sexual abuse." - http://www.feminista.com/v1n5/depasquale.html

"The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years or 14 years. These studies are outdated, since the age of entry into prostitution is decreasing"

'Prostitution: Fact Sheet on Human Rights Violations,' 1996, Melissa Farley, Ph.D., available from melifarley@aol.com).

"The Council for Prostitution Alternatives has reported that prostituted women were raped approximately once a week"

Susan Kay Hunter, 'Prostitution is Cruelty and Abuse to Women and Children,' Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, 1994 .

"A Canadian Report on Prostitution and Pornography found that women and girls in prostitution had a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average"

Margaret A. Baldwin, "Split at the Root: Prostitution and Feminist Discourses of Law Reform," Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 1993

and finally:

"Prostitution: what is it? It is the use of a woman's body for sex by a man, he pays money, he does what he wants. The minute you move away from what it really is, you move away from prostitution into the world of ideas. You will feel better; you will have a better time; it is more fun; there is plenty to discuss, but you will be discussing ideas, not prostitution. Prostitution is not an idea. It is the mouth, the vagina, the rectum, penetrated usually by a penis, sometimes hands, sometimes objects, by one man and then another and then another and then another and then another. That's what it is."

by Andrea Dworkin, "Prostitution and Male Supremacy in Life and Death," 1997, New York: Free Press

This is all true....

It's a warm night. Several cars come around. Every time a pair of headlights, long reflected shimmers in the wet street, approaches, my heart speeds up. The girls stand in a little grove, smoking, joking, tugging at their skirts. They poke fun at me, the kid- but not nearly as much as they would if Mandy weren't standing beside me with her hand resting purposefully on my shoulder. I'm Mandy's girl. No one fucks with Mandy's girl.

The first three johns pick out Camille, Kisha, and Buffy, in that order. The fourth guy asks for me but Mandy won't let me go with him. She whispers in my ear, her breath softened, but not yet slurred, with cheap wine, "That guy's a fucking scumbag. Crazy motherfucker. I'm gonna let you have a gentle first time, sugar pea."

Mandy likes to mother me. I like to be mothered. Living on the streets, girls like us form strange families. We crave love and echo the dysfunctions of the families we left behind. Sometimes late at night, if she's in a good mood and I can't sleep, she sings to me. Her voice was probably very good once, long ago, but now it's gravelly with cigarettes and years of sickness. Sings soft country songs, pats my hair, rubs my back. I trust Mandy, even though I should know better than to trust anybody by now. I trust her because I remember what it was like to have a mother, if only vaguely, and those were the nicest days of my life.

Oh, we could get deep into the whole messy background of Mandy and me and the life we're living, and how it got to this point that she's selling me and I'm letting her, but it's a long story and it goes back much deeper than anything I'm prepared to get into right now, back to the day I was born.

I'm waiting for a car. I'm trying not to let her see how scared I am. Or for that matter, that I'm a little aroused about it all. She'd hate me for that. I smoke one cigarette after another and shift my weight back and forth between my feet. Cindy with the ridiculous fake nails is telling us about this guy who she saw set himself on fire.

A car pulls up. Beige and not too old, squarish and respectable looking- I don't know cars, that's all I can tell you. He rolls his window down and Mandy saunters up, bending low and leaning against the window frame. They stay like that for a moment, chatting, Mandy laughing coyly, laying it on thick- he's a regular, and she knows how to treat good customers. Mandy has an uncanny sense for this work. I have a feeling that this is the only thing she's ever been good at in her life- it's written on her face, the spidercracks that run through it, the meticulousness of her garish makeup, the way her eyes twinkle when she's pimping, the way they go out like discarded cigarettes when we're alone. It's her life. Reading creepy men. Giving them what they want. Knowing that the men who come to us are all so desperate to feel special, to have a girl all to themselves for just a minute.

I watched Mandy at the car and I wonder if this is it. I somehow know it is. My head feels strangely light and clear.

Mandy steps back to the curb and grabs my arm, pulls me up beside her at the window. I look down at the man. He looks up at me. He's middle-aged, white, fat, wears glasses. Dark hair, looks bland, almost nice.

"How much?"

"Thirty a shot, straight sex only. And be a gentleman or you'll be sorry."

He counts out three crisp tens. I stare at the money until it disappears into Mandy's bra.

The car door opens. I climb in. The seats are gray and threadbare. It smells like airfreshener. I cannot fucking believe I'm doing this.

When we're situated in the back seat, in an alley down the block, he doesn't make a move. Nothing. Nada. Silence. Sits there and stares at me. I've never done this before, and to tell you the truth, I'm not sure how to do it. My stomach is full of butterflies, it's like the first day of school. I sit there, chewing on my lower lip, wondering what I'm supposed to do. I keep thinking I'm fucking this up. One more thing to fuck up iin my life. Should I kiss him? Should I say something? How does this work? I'm eager to get this started, get this over with. Fuck. What do I do? Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He finally speaks. My savior. "How old are you, kid?"

"Eighteen." I try to keep a straight face.

He laughs. "Fuck you are. Tell me really."

"Fifteen." This is almost true. My birthday is next month. He looks me up and down, eyes my tiny ripples of breasts and hips, and I get the feeling he doesn't quite believe me. What does he think he's doing? Paying to fuck a twelve-year-old? How sick is this guy? I'm getting squeamish. What am I doing?

"Yeah, okay, what's your name?"

"Mary," I say, the first thing that comes to mind.

"Mary. Hi Mary." He doesn't quite say this to me, but to himself, softly. And then he gives me this look, like he almost pities me, and I think maybe he's really a nice guy. I want to think he's a nice guy, I want so badly to like doing this, so I can do this every night and make money and Mandy and I can be happy together.

"Okay Mary," he says, decisively, "let's do this." He lunges towards me, suddenly a hulking figure thrown up against the feeble light coming through the window, grabs me and pushes me down onto the car seat. Rough. It scares the hell out of me and I almost scream, biting my lip to keep from crying out. I can't look scared, I tell myself. I have to do this right. But still I've got this dreadful sense of how much smaller and weaker than him I am. Of what he could do to me if he wanted to. Whores get murdered. They get strangled, beaten, tortured, raped... and no one cares much when it happens. Whores are disposable.

As he unzips his pants I realize that I'm not going to like doing this. Ever. But that doesn't really matter, does it? It'll be just like it was with my father. I'll divide out the digits of pi or daydream about being a famous artist and it'll be fine. Just fine.

He hitches my skirt up around my waist and pulls my underwear to the side. Doesn't even take it off, just stretches it away from my cunt.

I'm just fine, I'm just fine. My heart is pounding. I tell myself I'm not going to cry and I don't. I'm fine.

He's heavy on top of me, his sweat dripping onto my face when he thrusts. Plop, plop, plop, plop, and then his body goes rigid and he's done. It's over so quickly. A snap. He kisses my cheek chastely and zips up.

I sit up. I can't believe it's over just like that. Just like that and I'm a whore. I smooth out my skirt, my tussled hair. My heart has not stopped beating. He pulls the car back around to our little patch of pavement. It's ready to break free of my chest. I look at his expressionless face, reflected a thin slash in the rearview mirror. I have this horrible sinking feeling, watching him and Mandy waiting up ahead on the curb, that no one really loves me. And no one ever really will. And I'm a whore now, isn't that just perfect? Unlovable, disposable, whore. "See you next time, Mary." I smile shyly at the man I just fucked and open the door.

When I step up onto the curb beside the other girls I stumble a little, dizzily. Mandy grabs my arm and pulls me up. The girls stop what they're doing, start to laugh and applaud me. They slap me on the ass, they crack jokes, they wink at me, and it's like I'm one of them now, I've passed my initiation. I'm grinning. I feel tough, I feel accepted. I almost throw up but I keep on grinning.

So what happens next? After that night it goes on and on. I keep whoring myself. I get as used to it as I'll ever be. Mandy keeps drinking and pimping me. A month later I break down. Just fall apart, have a full-blown psychotic episode, my very first. I spend several months in a mental hospital. I recuperate. I turn myself around.

I don't know how all the other prostitutes out there do it. It ate away at me. Tore me apart, and the longer I pretended it didn't the more it did. I had no self-esteem left and I was constantly reliving the nightmare of my father's abuse. Maybe there are confident, happy women out there who prostitute for a living and like it. I wasn't one of them. I doubt they're the type to be out walking the mean streets at night. Frankly, I don't know how they do it.

I never see Mandy again, or any of the other girls. They're still out there, I guess. Doing their thing. I could never go back.

A topic of non-stop argument and, apparent from other writeups here, considered to be pure evil with no positive aspects whatsoever.

Prostitution is the sale of sexual favours, usually (but not always) by a woman, usually (but not always) to a man.

This doesn't preclude the worker from living a happy, fun life. Typically in areas where prostitution is legal, those involved in the trade enjoy excellent pay, reasonable working conditions, excellent health, and occasionally a good lay.

Even in the United States, in the limited areas where prostitution is legal, little or no prostitution-related crime occurs, sexually transmitted diseases are non-existent (in Nevada, not a single case of HIV has ever been recorded), and customers usually leave with a big smile.

In legally licensed Nevada brothels, a prostitute lives on-premises, is provided a private room (one not used for servicing johns), off-hours entertainment (including internet access, satellite television, exercise equipment, etc.), and receives very good pay. She remains on-site to work for up to three weeks, then takes off however much time she wants or needs before returning to work. Whenever a worker returns to the brothel, she must be screened for HIV (and other STDs) and certified by a physician before returning to work. This is why most workers normally remain on-site for weeks, maximizing earnings and reducing the frequency of exams.

In such situations, prostitutes work as independent contractors, splitting basic fees with the house, keeping tips, and sometimes paying other costs out-of-pocket. These arrangements are commonly very lucrative for both contractor and brothel; a worker of average appearance may expect to gross $50,000 or more per year (this assumes two customers per day, paying $300 each, no tip, a three week working period of 15 days on and 6 days off, once per month, splitting fees down the middle with the house). Because the average prostitute works at least eight hours per day and could reasonably expect to have more than two customers per day, and because many look better than average (whatever that is), this estimate is extraordinarily low. Many prostitutes earn six-figure salaries. Those willing to participate in more lucrative activities, like group sex or servicing couples, base fees can skyrocket to $1,500 or higher, for a couple hours' work.

Anywhere prostitution is legal, safer sex is practiced either as required by law or by common sense. Even if a legal prostitute offers uncovered sex, it shouldn't be accepted unless you want to catch a disease or knock somebody up.

In environments where prostitution is illegal, more unfortunate situations can develop, as described at great length in other writeups here. These include indentured servitude, child prostitution, "crack whores", and so on.

Many people (both male and female) enter into prostitution because they feel they have no other options. Many others, however, enter into it because they believe they are attractive enough and skilled enough to earn ridiculous amounts of money under safe, controlled situations. Even in areas where prostitution is illegal, prostitutes of legal (i.e. age of consent) age enter into and remain in business by their own choice, and enjoy very pleasant levels of income. In such areas, the sex worker naturally keeps all the money instead of splitting it with a house or pimp.

Yes, some people are "trapped" in unpleasant situations that involve prostitution, but the rest are engaged in a profitable exchange of services for money. The world's oldest profession isn't the cause of all evil in the world.

Whores Are My Heroes: A plea for the decriminalization of prostitution.
This was originally a persuasive speech for a class
(Node your homework)

I consider myself to be a fairly open-minded and responsible woman when it comes to my sexuality, and I’ll even admit that I’m a bit of a pervert, in a good way. Needless to say, one of my favorite topics to research and talk about is sex. Many of you have expressed the belief that an individual should be allowed to live and let live, and be afforded basic human rights despite their sexual preferences. You may have also heard about my role in the sex industry as a phone sex operator -- which is actually a big challenge for even me to enjoy on a regular basis because of how much attention and energy I’m required to employ as an both an actress and a seductress. Of course, in my future career as a Sex Therapist and widely acclaimed public speaker, I’ll usually have the upper hand.

However, there is one category of sex workers that are not afforded the same legal freedoms and protections that I am, and they are the ones who need it the most and work the hardest – prostitutes. It is time to cut loose from the Victorian ideals that still have a hold on our sexuality. There are people at risk, and by keeping prostitution illegal we are also preventing these women and men from making legitimate contributions to society. As a small step forward in the battle for their basic human rights, I’d like to rally your support for the decriminalization of prostitution.

There are three main reasons prostitution needs to be decriminalized. First, you may have heard the claim that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession – why isn’t it treated as such? Earlier I used the terms “sex workers” and “sex industry.” People involved in this business sell services related to sexual fantasy and reality. The industry already legally includes phone sex operators, strippers, retail workers at your local vibrator store, and, if you think about it, aren’t porn stars in essence performing the same acts that occur in prostitution? They do have sex for money after all. If you ask the people involved, sex work is just that – work, a job, and even a career for some.

Adult film actress Nina Hartley says it best: “My bad days at work don’t have that much to do with the fact that I’m making a sex film. Some days I do have a sore back or my feet hurt or I’m just in a bad mood. It’s no big deal. Work is work: you have good days and bad days, but my worst day at work is still better than the best day selling shoes at Kinney’s.”

San Francisco sex worker Carol Queen describes prostitution like this: “It’s like the person going to the massage therapist; you’re paying to be touched without having to worry about intimacy, reciprocity, and long-term consequences…Same thing with seeing a psychotherapist; there you are paying someone to tell your secrets to.” Isn’t that more intimate than sex, I ask you?

The fact of the matter is that we have people among us everyday that will utilize their physical, instinctual, and emotional talents throughout their careers. Actors, Dancers, Models, Teachers, and even nurturing Registered Nurses, like Nina Hartley, and like a woman named Maryann, who worked as a prostitute while maintaining an A average in nursing school. However, every time she went to work Maryann lived with the risk of being jailed for 6 months to 8 years.

On that note, let’s discuss law enforcement. According to statistics cited by the Prostitutes Education Network, only 10% of overall arrests are customers, and a high proportion of prostitutes jailed are women of color, while customers infrequently get jailed. The process itself is a form of entrapment, where police officers pose as customers and attempt to obtain services, sometimes exposing their genitalia or fondling the prostitute. If they are unable to achieve a bust this way, they can arrest the worker for being a public nuisance or loitering instead. In addition, mere possession of a condom can be used as evidence in some states.

It’s no wonder that customers are hardly harassed – a report by the Kinsey Institute stated that 70% of adult men have utilized a prostitute’s services at least once, and these are men from all classes and races. Clearly there are double standards placing the sole blame on prostitutes, and we must remember that this is an act between two consenting adults. Last but not least, prostitutes are often victims of physical violence, emotional abuse, and rape – about 60% of which is by clients, 20% domestic partners, and another 20% is perpetrated by police officers.

I should note that according to statistics, some populations don’t show a higher incidence of abuse of prostitutes in comparison to violence against any women. The difference lies in that these women and men are fearful about seeking justice against their abusers -- more often than not the prostitutes would be the ones to end up in jail, not the violent criminals that attacked them. Are you going to sit there and tell me that a human being deserves to live in silence about a violent crime merely because they choose to make money providing sexual services?

So, what do we do about this? There are two plans already in existence from the law of the land: In 1949 the United Nations, representative of most nations in the world, decriminalized prostitution; an astonishing fifty countries ratified this resolution, and many countries complied. In the state of Nevada, prostitution is legal in several counties just outside of Las Vegas. Prostitutes and Brothels both register with the government. Prostitutes pay taxes. Street solicitation is illegal, which I support fully. Most importantly, workers are required to get tested for STD’s on a regular basis.

In addition, a task force was formed to study the effects of prostitution in San Francisco, a city comparable to NYC, my home, in its economic and cultural stature. This committee found that legalizing prostitution would serve to quell a majority of quality-of-life complaints made against the industry.

In no way do I ask your support for participation in this trade by people who are forced into it or are damaged by it. Prostitution is not for everyone, nor is teaching, for that matter. They’re both very emotionally demanding jobs. For those who DO want out, additional social services should be provided, and you’ll see momentarily where we’re going to get the funding for that.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits to society of decriminalization. First, the costs of prostitution remaining a crime are high. The average cost per arrest is around $2000. A law journal article in 1987 cited New York City spending 23 million dollars combatting prostitution; with inflation that’s over $36 million dollars today. And to reiterate an important point made earlier in the case of Nevada, legal prostitutes pay taxes.

Now, people say I’m a bit of an optimist at times, perhaps even a bit of an idealist, but let’s also look at the situation in terms of the jobs that would be created. Well, “I’d rather work at McDonald’s than have to do that,” you might be thinking right now. For $100 an hour, I personally know many women that would be quite comfortable going the extra mile if prostitution were a viable option. Frankly, I know I would.

In fact according to the Prostitute’s Education Network, a 1986 study found that call girls and brothel workers gained self-esteem on the job -- Working a corporate job didn’t do that for me. The trouble comes when you have to keep your profession a secret, sometimes even from your best friend.

Next, I’d like to dispel a major myth about prostitution that will in fact, show you how prostitutes really are assets to any society. While some prostitutes have reclaimed the term “whore,” the U.S. Department of Health statistics show they’re not “dirty whores,” contrary to popular belief. I was surprised at the numbers myself! Prostitutes account for only 3-5% of the sexually transmitted diseases in this nation, whereas, teens, account for 30-35%! Why? Because prostitutes generally are responsible about their sexuality, use condoms properly, and learn what symptoms to look for that could indicate disease. In fact, studies of women in the Nevada brothels show a condom breakage rate that’s virtually nil. The actual failure rate for ordinary users can be up to 10-14%. Consequently, men that visit prostitutes could actually learn how to practice safer sex.

While you don’t have to raise a prostitute to the level of a hero, all I’m asking for you to do is judge the basic facts of this situation that I have presented to you, and join me in supporting the decriminalization of prostitution so that our voices can be united in demanding basic human rights for these workers. Also, I encourage you to solicit the opinion of friends and lovers on this topic. I firmly believe that open, honest, and shameless communication about sexuality, along with academic research, is vital to making an informed decision when judging moral issues relating to sex. Besides, talking about sex is a fun way to perk up a dull party. Prostitutes have been known to do that sometimes, too. :)

(As a final note, I encourage you to adopt the basic values of “honesty, equality, and responsibility” when it comes to both your own sexuality, and again, in judging what works for others. Thank You. )

Bibliography

  1. San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution Final Report 1996. November 20, 2003. http://bayswan.org/SFTFP.html
  2. Model Legislation for Decriminalization of Prostitution (South Australia). November 20, 2003. http://bayswan.org/decrim.html
  3. Chapkis, Wendy. Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor. New York, NY: Routledge, 1997.
  4. Maglin, Nan Bauer and Donna Perry, eds. “Bad Girls”/”Good Girls”: Women, Sex, and Power in the Nineties. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.
  5. Pearl, Julie. The Highest Paying Customers: Americas Cities and The Cost of Prostitution Control. Hastings Law Journal, April 1987: 769-800.
  6. Prostitution in The United States – The Statistics. November 20, 2003. http://www.bayswan.org/stats.html
  7. Reiss, Ira. Solving America’s Sexual Crises. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997.


clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap;
(visualizing myself completing the speech successfully to accolades from my classmates)

Pros`ti*tu"tion (?), n. [L. prostitutio: cf. F. prostitution.]

1.

The act or practice of prostituting or offering the body to an indiscriminate intercourse with men; common lewdness of a woman.

2.

The act of setting one's self to sale, or of devoting to infamous purposes what is in one's power; as, the prostitution of abilities; the prostitution of the press.

"Mental prostitution."

Byron.

 

© Webster 1913.

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