Amnesty International’s recent study showing that the legalization and regulation of the sex trade would decrease human trafficking and abuses and lead to safer environments for sex workers has raised the ire of many Hollywood actors. A diverse group of primarily women celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, and Lena Dunham came out on July 27 to decry the study, saying that they believe keeping prostitution and related industries illegal will somehow lead to fewer abuses. While it’s clear their hearts are in the right places, seeking to defend workers who are abused and even enslaved in many cases, it seems that their understanding of the issue is a bit lacking.
As anybody with even a modicum of understanding of human nature could tell you, just because something is criminalized doesn’t mean it will go away. In the United States alcohol prohibition led to one of the worst criminal underworlds ever seen, only topped by the war on drugs, which is now starting to go into its own death throes. Prostitution is even harder to criminalize; it is, after all, known as the world’s oldest profession for a reason. Once criminalized, purveyors of sexual services are forced underground.
It’s precisely the black market nature of prostitution that leads to the abuses and slave trade worldwide. The fact is, many people want to have sex on demand and aren’t always able to find a willing partner who will aid them in their quest without being compensated. Under a legal prostitution model, one could simply whip out their phone and order sex from a regulated and verified provider. Since it would all be above board, if there were any issues with a client or professional they could be addressed openly, as they can be in most other industries.
Under a system where the sex trade is illegal, however, clients are able to abuse or refuse payment to sex workers. The provider, in turn, could not turn to police for help as police would either simply arrest them for their job or, even worse, pile on the abuse, as police are often wont to do. This leads to sex workers relying on pimps or other types of protection, many of whom are also prone to abuse. This leaves workers stuck between abusive clients, police, and pimps with nowhere to turn. Not to mention the potential danger to the nonabusive clients. Since prostitutes are completely unregulated and not required to undergo any type of testing, for example, clients risk health dangers; or, they risk exposure to the less honorable clients who may steal from them, or worse, with the johns also unable to turn to police without fear of punishment.
Amnesty International’s study showed unequivocally that decriminalization of sex trades leads to fewer abuses thanks to the regulation of the industry. They say that “consensual sexual conduct between adults—which excludes acts that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence—is entitled to protection from state interference.”
The group of celebrities is having none of this “logic” and “research,” instead preferring to rely on emotion. They penned a letter, signed by dozens of celebrities and other misguided people who believe that laws against sex work need to be strengthened, showing that they have no understanding whatsoever of how human sex drives work. As long as their are humans who have sex drives and money, there will be sex work. And as long as it is illegal, a black market will thrive in the darkness, ruining millions of lives worldwide.
You can read the Amnesty International findings here and the celebrity letter here.