On its face the idea of legalizing prostitution seems simply like a question of personal autonomy and financial freedom, but this is a much deeper issue. Reports have consistently shown that women enter the sex industry at a young age. Some studies show the average age of a woman entering the sex industry is fifteen years old (Prostitution statistics – statistic brain, 2017), while other studies put the average age closer to nineteen (Sex trafficking in the U.S.: A closer look at U.S. citizen victims, Polaris, 2015). Either way these women entering the sex industry overwhelmingly are not doing it for their own personal gain or enjoyment. Eighty-four percent of prostitutes want to quit but can not because they do not have the money (Prostitution statistics – statistic brain, 2017). This suggests that prostitutes are victims of human trafficking and not the ones who are profiting.
One study performed in 2014 found that the commercial sex industry produced between $39.9 million and $290 million in some U.S. cities (Estimating The Size and Structure of The Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major U.S. Cities, 2014). The pimps and traffickers who participated in the study reported taking home between $5,000 and almost $33,000 a week (Dank, et al, 2014) while the average annual income of a prostitute is only $215,000 (Prostitution statistics – statistic brain, 2017). The argument that the legalizing prostitution will protect woman from the illegal sex trade and give them more financial freedom is easily shut down when we examine other countries who have legalized prostitution.
Legalization of prostitution expands the demand for sex and increases the monetary drive of Pimps and Traffickers which leads to more trafficking and exploitation of women. After the Netherlands legalized prostitution the sex industry increased by twenty-five percent and it now makes up five percent of their economy (Ten Reasons For Not Legalizing Prostitution And a Legal Response to The Demand for Prostitution, 2004). This is reflected in the State of Victoria, Australia, whose sex industry boomed after the legalization of prostitution and became a major part of their tourism industry (Raymond, 2004,). This high demand for sex workers leads pimps and traffickers to outsourced. It is estimated that over 500,000 women trafficked in Europe every year versus about 50,000 in the United States. (Raymond, 2004, )
Another major argument for legalizing prostitution is that it will protect women’s sexual health and protect them from violence by Pimps and Customers. However, countries that have legalized prostitution statistically show that this isn’t true. One study showed that in Scotland woman had less control over what they would and would not do because they were employees who had to satisfy customers to please their bosses (Raymond, 2004). Two independent studies also show that women who work in the sex industry both legally and illegally say that pimps consistently put the customers’ interests first (Raymond, 2004).
While legalization would make it so women would need to undergo sexual health checks this in practice does not protect women from contracting diseases. These tests only alert women when they contract diseases and do nothing to prevent the spread of disease to women since buyers do not need to pass health checks. The other side to the health argument is that buyers would need to wear condoms which would lessen the spread of sexually transmitted infections, however the enforcement of this is much easier said than done. As studies have shown, the woman ultimately must enforce this policy and the monetary drive of the sex industry will often make it so these women feel increased pressure to ignore these regulations. (Raymond, 2004).
Legalizing prostitution initially seems to fix many problems, but the truth of the matter is history and other countries have shown us that it only causes more problems. Many people want to ignore the terror that most prostitutes go through and how little control they have. The way to protect women who are in prostitution lies in punishing those who buy sex, traffic women, and force women to sell themselves.
Dank, M., Khan, B., Downey, P. M., & Kotonias, C. (2014). Estimating the size and structure of the underground commercial sex economy in eight major U.S. cities. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e508162014-001
Polaris. (2015). Sex trafficking in the U.S.: A closer look at U.S. citizen victims. Retrieved from https://polarisproject.org/sites/default/files/us-citizen-sex-trafficking.pdf
Prostitution Statistics – Statistic Brain. (2017, September 17). Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/prostitution-statistics/
Raymond, J. G. (2004). Ten reasons for not legalizing prostitution and a legal response to the demand for prostitution. Journal of Trauma Practice, 2(3-4), 315-332. doi:10.1300/j189v02n03_17