A lot of people look at laws that are hard to enforce and say, “let’s get rid of those laws.” The three major recipients of this line of reasoning are drugs, prostitution and illegal immigration. People ask, “Why criminalize these inevitable behaviors, especially since criminalizing them draws into the law enforcement net people who seem more like victims than bad actors?”
I happen to think that some behavior needs to be criminalized, because a society has to draw lines defining what its values are. I won’t touch the drug question in this post, since I think it was well hashed out here in Don Quixote’s earlier post. However, I would like to talk about prostitution and illegal immigration. The first issue — whether we’re right to make prostitution illegal — seems to me to reflect two core values. The first is respect for women. We as a society refuse to allow women to be treated as pure sexual commodities.
Of course, in reality that principle teeters on the edge of a very slippery slope. We allow pornography and Vogue Magazine, and sleazy TV shows and sex in movies, all of which arguably fall into the same category of female exploitation. It’s hard to draw bright lines, because the relationship between men and women is always going to be sexualized. More than that, women tend to do a lot of parading for each other, not in a sexual way, but in a boastful way.
As a perfect example of this last point, I urge you, if you can, to watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair, which examines the obsession so many black women have with avoiding the genetic legacy of “nappy” hair, opting instead to try to replicate straight, long, Anglo hair. The link I included above advertises the video as “funny” and, in a way, it is. Mostly, though, it’s tragic. It turns out that black women who want Anglo hair have two choices: dangerous chemicals or staggeringly expensive human hair weaves. The irony with this Hobson’s choice is that the women’s real audience isn’t men or white people, it’s other black women. I doubt white people notice black hair much. (The last time I noticed was in the early 70s, when ‘fros were a political, not a fashion, statement.) Even worse, the black men to whom Rock spoke hated the weaves: they hated the time and money spent, and they hated the fact that weaves mean that black women will not allow anyone to touch their hair, nor will they engage in any activities that mess that precious hair.
My point about the black women’s hair is that, as is true with so many sexualized activities, those activities are actually aimed at women. (Think: fashion magazines.) Prostitution, however, creates a direct dynamic between male and female that we, as a moral, Judeo-Christian culture, wish to avoid. That we are frequently unsuccessful in that effort doesn’t mean we should give up trying. This is a line — a moral, ethical and social line — that we draw to define who we are and what we value. It sends a message to the people within our culture. Those who argue that legalizing prostitution actually protects the prostitutes miss the point: the whole institution is corrupt. Legalizing it is a band-aid over a festering wound. Certainly the British Muslims who turn British women into their sex slaves understand the real dynamic at work. (Porn, by the way, isn’t much better.)
I can make much the same argument for doing away with the laws governing illegal immigration, all of which focus on the ills resulting from the immigration laws themselves: (1) Mexicans are nice people; (2) children are the innocent victims of their parents’ illegal acts; (3) we need the labor and its wrong to turn workers into criminals; etc. Those are all the details. The bigger principle, however, is that a nation needs to protect its sovereignty, and that includes making decisions about who crosses its borders. Defending borders is a use-it-or-lose it proposition. Either you are a nation, or you are a patch of land over which people fight. I’d prefer the former, as opposed to the anarchy of the latter. With that overarching principle in mind, I’m willing to accept the challenges of enforcement, and the tragedy of divided families (a tragedy that wouldn’t happen, of course, if the parents hadn’t decided to gamble with their children’s lives).
I’m sorry if this is a bit of a wondering post, but my chaotic day has meant that I’ve been writing these six paragraphs over the last six hours. I admit that I’m weaving in some random thoughts as they come along, but I’m hoping that y’all get my point — one with which you can agree or disagree. I just feel relieved that I finally was able to sit down and wrap this thing up!