Thursday, November 12, 2009

Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

We ended the semester with a bang. Literally. Our fearless discussion leaders - Dave, Aaron, J.J., and Ryan-kicked off our final talk, asking the question: "Who in here would pay for sex?" Surprisingly, more than a few people felt comfortable enough to raise their hands.

The discussion was on Kate Butcher's article, "The Confusion between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking." To start, Dave summarized it for us. "She's arguing against a US bill that treats prostitution and sex trafficking like they are the same thing." Butcher believes that prostitutes should have rights. We talked about whether we agreed or disagreed with this. We also talked about whether prostitution should be legalized, and if so, how it might be regulated.

Some of us felt that prostitution could be regulated and should be legalized. Maria said that it's a person's choice. Josh pointed out that prostitution is illegal because it puts women at a disadvantage. A prostitute gets in a car and offers herself up to be robbed, raped, or murdered. Ryan and J.J. brought up prostitution in Europe, where women work out of houses, because it's safer.

We all admitted that there's no surefire way to regulate it. Every day, people slack off at their jobs. Prostitutes can forget condoms. Johns can get out of hand. The important thing is that we figure out what's best for everyone in the US. Would legalizing and regulating prostitution help or hurt Americans?

Justin added that the difference between a prostitute and a victim of sex trafficking may not be that easy to see. This is especially true if women are working out of a house. A sex trafficked woman might be too scared or too drugged up to let on her status. The sex trade is an illegal business. The world of crime is dark and unclear. C'mon. It's not called the "shady underground" for nothing.

Ultimately, we found that the overall argument is not solely about prostitution. Jan pointed this out by highlighting one of Butcher's concluding points. Lawmakers and social workers deal with prostitution and sex trafficking from the perspective of someone who's NOT a prostitute or a victim of sex trafficking. They project their own understanding of the trade onto the people actually working in the business. It's slightly imperialistic. One person is forcing his or her viewpoint on someone else. In our discussion, that's what we were doing as well.

So we discovered something about prostitution. It's incredibly hard to regulate, because we don't know what it's like to be a prostitute. We don't know if prostitutes choose to be prostitutes or not. As a human race, we have not yet figured out if prostitution is morally right or wrong. It's in the grey area. Perhaps that's why it has stayed illegal in the US for so long.

1 comment:

  1. Well the truth is, the difficulty lies in dealing with this issue on a lawful level, which means a global scope, while the problem at hand is definitely very person-centric, like you outline it at the end.

    Some prostitutes chose this path. Some for money, some for money plus the flexible hours and the loads of time it gives them to be with kids, some only temporarily to pay for college tuition, some because they got divorced and didn't get a penny, and some just because they like the erotic appeal and the relationships they develop in the job, even if only on a professional level, and some purely for the sexuality, as they get to still have some control over who gets to be their one-time (or more) partner.

    But still, some don't choose it and are forced into it, very early on and as minors, and others later on for different reasons. YOur social context plays a role, so do your background, your education, your own approach to sexuality and your sense of ethics.

    You cannot define something like this as right or wrong. YOu will eternally be stuck between the kantian view of ethics that if it fails even only one individual, then it is utterly morally wrong (let's say, abused children forced into sex-trafficking in poor areas), and the utalitarian view on the other hand, which tells you that though it might be wrong, making it legal would make the working conditions for those in this business a lot safer (and also safer for the clients in the end, and the to-be-abused children).

    Tricky question as usual, and I know what I'm talking about considering what I write about on my blog.