|Photo by Joel Balsam c/o Vice|
There are a lot of different attitudes from a lot of different people regarding either the legalization or decriminalization of sex work. I've heard from a lot of people who argue passionately and effectively for both legalization and decriminalization, but then, I've also heard from a lot of people who argue passionately and effectively for the opposite. One such argument I read recently was written by Kat Banyard and printed by Aeon. You can click through to read her entire essay and see the argument she's making - I recommend you do, because it's a good essay and brings up a lot of strong, fact-based arguments instead of the moralistic complaints you might be expecting - but for the most part, her essay can be summarized as saying that neither legalization or decriminalization actually prevent the harm attendant to sex work - the very harm which advocates say will be prevented if prostitution is legalized or decriminalized.
Generally, I support legalization. After all, if you think prostitutes work with their bodies but coal miners don't, then your outlook is prejudiced by a moral bias of the definition of "work." If you're opposed to legal prostitution because of the dangers to the sex workers themselves as well as the public health at large, then you ought to feel the same way - and argue just as passionately - against coal mining since it's a dirty, dangerous job that one way or another kills the miners and generally pollutes the planet upon which all of us live. Are coal miners not exploited by the corporations that employ them? Where's your concern now? Perhaps you'll make the argument that "we still need coal!" Mm-hm... and where's that attitude toward one of the most basic human desires - for sexual satisfaction? You can't possibly argue that people don't need sexual satisfaction: look at all the Catholic priests sworn to celibacy. How'd that work out for them? Not so well.
Are there problems with any model of legalized or decriminalized prostitution? You betcha. But prostitution isn't going anywhere - it's not called the oldest profession in the world for no reason. So the author argues, the sex trade can't be legalized without hurting women, but you know, you can't legalize coal mining without hurting coal miners. Suffice it to say, the only constant is inequality. Each of us fights the best we can for the best we can get, and perhaps some of us support organizations who provide opportunities for disadvantaged but eager people to advance themselves, but that doesn't mean it's possible for everybody to get the best all the time. Some people take what they want, and some people take what they're given. Don't pretend that it's possible to legislate a reality into existence where everybody can take what they want, because that's a complete fantasy.