Some advocates say legalizing sex work would create the perfect environment for sex traffickers. While others believe that outlawing sex work only brings more danger and risk.
So, what’s the scoop? Should sex work be legal?
Legalizing Sex Work? Yes? No? Maybe so...?
It’s interesting that science and research is generally upheld as the most reliable way to make decisions, especially when it comes to decisions affecting the general public. This is true for most things. Except when it comes to enacting policy and laws…
And, when it comes to sex work, the pattern is no different. Policy and debates are rooted in morals, not evidence or research.
As with most things political, asking the question “Should sex work be legal” is quite polarizing.
On one side, we have abolitionists who advocate for abolishing sex work.
This camp takes the stance that sex work is the epitome of male domination and degradation of women.
In the words of a prominent abolitionist, Gunilla Ekberg, sex work couldn’t exist without “men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation.” That without male demand, “global prostitution would not be able to flourish and expand.”
The opposing camp, however, taking a neoliberal stance, sees sex work as a legitimate form of labor. This camp asserts that the government has no right to negate nor deny sex workers their right to labor.
Instead of viewing sex work as a continuous supply to fulfill male demand, this camp’s attitude can be compared to “my body my choice.”
Legalizing Sex Work: A Band-Aid Solution?
Yes, absolutely, my body my choice!
Everyone should have the right to determine their livelihood, within reason, and I believe that sex work is within reason.
But, before we dive into legalizing sex work, it’s important to keep in mind that some communities and individuals are more likely to engage in the sex trade industry.
With an intersectional perspective, we then begin to ask why and who?
The answer is that marginalized communities are more likely to engage in sex work. These communities are faced with weak social safety nets and weak social institutions.
Thus, getting to the root problem would be strengthening social support systems.
The Political Debate
While abolitionists maintain it’s to end sex trafficking, Weitzer argues that it’s a hidden moral crusade to combat sex being normalized in culture.
In his critique, Weitzer makes three points establishing how abolitionists have engaged in this moral crusade:
Propaganda: Understanding Fact vs. Fiction
Weitzer calls out the abolitionist camp on several points. One of them being the misuse of statistics and information to overrepresent the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, human trafficking is a global threat to human rights, and sex trafficking rings in the highest amount of profits out of all of the trafficking sectors.
Yet, fear-mongering never seems to elicit a great, or even good, outcome.
The Ideal Victim
While this is the case for some victims of sex trafficking, this is not the circumstances for the majority.
Thus, those who do not fit this trope find themselves vulnerable: at risk of prosecution from the law for sex work charges and displaced from help as they may not see themselves as victims of trafficking and neither may society.
If an individual has been convinced into trafficking by a boyfriend pimp, whom they love, they’re not very likely to identify with the image of a girl being kidnapped and forced into trafficking. Meaning, when anti-trafficking advocates and social services are offering help and support, they’re not going to think that it applies to them.
Would Making Sex Work Legal Help?
Could Legalizing Sex Work Create Safer Conditions?
Let’s think about alcohol…Or abortion.
Legalizing Sex Work: Let's Get Real
Outlawing sex work on the grounds of morals is a dated and simple minded response. Criminalization forces individuals and circumstances into a black and white narrative that simply does not exist.
While, legalizing sex work, on the other hand, leaves room and protections for the many shades of grey that real life consists of.