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by Peter Moskos

September 13, 2009

War on Massage

I talk a lot about the war on drugs and why it's messed up. But can I also mention that the fight again prostitution is pretty absurd, too. Shouldn't we regulate prostitution and worry about health issues, human trafficking, and quality of life concerns instead of wasting police resources arresting people for committing consensual acts?


David Bratzer said...

Do you know if there are any credible and well respected national or international organizations researching or promoting legal and regulated sex work? Something like the equivalent of the Drug Policy Alliance?

I've looked around but haven't found anything that appeals to me. I should clarify that I'm interested in this from a public policy perspective and not, err, for employment purposes.

PCM said...

There's the Red Thread in Amsterdam.
But that's more a prostitutes' union and advocacy group than a research organization.

As far as I know, prostitution is legal in much of the world (and at least in Holland, Germany, Australia, Canada, Mexico, part of America, and Israel). Even some Islamic countries have legal prostitution. So there must be some studies.

Of course I don't think a prohibition against prostitution works any better than a prohibition on drugs.

But I don't know of any big movement. It's hard to see people supporting legal prostitution as a moral issue. And as a policy issue, unlike drugs, you lose a lot of support from liberal side because of issues of female exploitation.

Stilgar said...


As a libertarian, I see the legalization of prostitution as a moral imperative. There's a world of difference between a woman making a conscious decision to have sex for money and a woman being forced into it. The former is, IMHO a basic human right and a government ban on it is reprehensible. The latter is slavery, no two ways around it. Unfortunately, most Americans don't seem to make this distinction; our attitudes towards sex mean that we tend to lump all prostitutes together as "whores". (Of course, the difference between the two groups of women I mentioned above can be extremely difficult to determine in individual cases).

Human trafficking cuts to the heart of the issue. People who abduct women are scum and need to be severely punished. But it's difficult to determine issues of exploitation in these cases, especially when women are coming to America from impoverished home countries. Unfortunately, I don't see this level of subtlety entering the discussion on prostitution anytime soon.