Back when it first came out in 1990, many of my friends swooned about how romantic Pretty Woman was, while I alternated between gagging and fulmination. I thought it was a truly disgusting movie insofar as it encouraged prostitution as a reasonable line of work to meet a sensitive millionaire. My intuitive sense was that prostitution isn’t charming and romantic, it’s degrading.
I knew that what the movie didn’t show was that, the day before Julia Roberts showed up at the hotel to meet Richard Gere, she’d given blow-jobs to seven men, four of whom were weak on personal hygiene; and had unprotected sex with another eight men, two of whom had sexually transmitted diseases. One of them liked his sex rough, and she was sporting a large bruise on her lower back, and one of her teeth felt a little loose. For these emotional assaults, physical pains and life-ending risks, she earned $100. But all that my friends saw was Julia, shopping on Rodeo Drive and dissing the snotty store clerk.
Frankly, I thought less of those friends who liked the movie and, to the extent some of them had moved out of town, I made little effort to maintain those friendships. They saw the tagline “Who knew it was so much fun to be a hooker?” I saw the human cost.
Even in 1990, when I was still an unthinking liberal, I had an intuitive sense of the real price of prostitution. Over at American Thinker, Janice Shaw Crouse spells out the actual numbers, and they are appalling — and all the more appalling because of legalization. We are not talking about college girls who engage in hook-ups, although that’s bad enough, both in terms of their own well-being and in terms of societal health. Instead, we are talking about a world-wide industry that systematically degrades and abuses women, all the while serving as a conduit for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases:
Prostitutes call their work “paid rape” and note the friends who “didn’t make it out alive.” Nearly half of the women in prostitution attempt suicide.
Most (90%) desperately want out.
Any discussion of prostitution must center on a basic fact: Control and exploitation of another person is slavery. Pimps control 80%-95% of all forms of prostitution. Nearly 70% of those in prostitution entered before age 16. In the U.S., the average age of entry is 12. Twelve!
In Amsterdam, 80% of prostituted women reported that they were there by force. In Germany, over 60% of the prostitutes are foreigners; in Spain, it’s 80%, many coerced by gangs. In Germany, legalizing prostitution hasn’t improved conditions for prostitutes. The women do not want (or are not allowed by their pimps) to register, get health checks, pay taxes, or adhere to rules that might affect business. For example, johns are willing to pay extra for sex without a condom. Further, Germany found that legalization did not increase tax revenues like expected — mafias don’t pay taxes.
One study found that 80% of prostitutes were assaulted by their pimps, and over one-third receive death threats for themselves or their families. Nor does legalization end corruption — laissez-faire Amsterdam closed one-third of their legal brothels because of ties to organized crime while acknowledging that the illegal brothels are thriving outside the official zone. Neighboring countries call the Netherlands a “failed experiment.”
Legalizing prostitution increases sex-trafficking because demand exceeds supply. So traffickers fill the demand with girls and women from other countries — lured, tricked, or sold, they end up without their passports, assaulted and forced into sex slavery. After legalization in Australia, illegal brothels increased 300%, pulling thousands more vulnerable women into prostitution.
We’re not going to get rid of prostitution any time soon. To the extent that woman have something to sell, and men have something they want to buy, there will always be a black market. Efforts in legalization operated on the erroneous belief that getting rid of this black market would empower women and equalize the transaction, thereby doing away with the abuse. What a wrongheaded idea that was. This is sex we’re talking about, not widgets. This is a job most women do when they can do nothing else, so they start out downtrodden. This is a job that has an incredible imbalance of physical strength. I can type just as well as the next guy, but when it comes to the drug-ridden, demoralized 120 pound woman, and the drugged-out, lust filled 200 pound man, all the legalization in the world won’t create an equal balance of power.
If legalizing prostitution ever comes to the ballot, I will do my bit by voting no. I will also try to run out of office any politician who backs such a plan. But politics isn’t everything. When it comes to protecting those around me, I also do my bit by using my carpools with the older children as a forum to talk about personal integrity, self-respect, decency, and morality. So far, none of the other moms have called me to complain (so either the kids aren’t talking or the moms are okay with what I say). One mom I know is most appreciative of the fact that her daughter has been enfolded into my family.
Honest to God, you really can’t go wrong by selling old-fashioned morality. It’s definitely not one size fits all, and there are people who, sadly, slip between the cracks, but a few thousand years of Judeo-Christian trial and error have left us with the least harmful system imaginable.