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Prostitution decriminalized: Rhode Island’s experiment (newsworks.org)
312 points by MaysonL on Aug 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 248 comments

It's weird seeing this. In Australia prostitution is completely legal. There was actually a publicly listed brothel for a while. Strange to think other societies criminalise it.

I think being legal is best for the health and wellbeing of the sex workers and minimises the criminal involvement.

There are brothels all over the place but mostly they are pretty low key, often hidden in backstreets or warehouse areas with only a red light and a sign to indicate they exist.

I wish we had such an enlightened position on drugs, which remain almost completely criminalized, whilst other parts of the world move towards legalization of various aspects of drug law.

Yep, the same in NZ. The other thing is that legalisation means that both the prostitute and the customer are protected by law. There was a case recently where a customer took a prostitute to the small claims court for not providing the services agreed to and of course prostitutes can call the police without fear of repercussions if a client is getting too rowdy.

They pay tax and get the government work related accident insurance and retirement saving schemes, they get health checks and are regulated to prevent unsafe behavior, they also are presumably subject to inspections to ensure that no drugs, human trafficking, or underage prostitution occurs.

That sounds nice, but as far as I can tell, in America even most above-board jobs aren't required by government to provide those kinds of protections. Prostitution needs it more than simple things like plumber or electrician, especially things like health checks and accident insurance, but legalizing without those around is kind of a half-baked scheme which could be more harmful than the present state of being illegal.

OSHA provides more protection to a wide range of jobs than you might think. FDA does a lot to prevent the spread of food born illnesses.

So, IMO there is nothing unusual about Prostitution regulations protecting both workers and customers, it's just striking because it demonstrates the value of regulation that's normally invisible.

PS: Track on the job deaths around the world and US workers are protected from a lot of harm even with relatively poor enforcement.

Haha, I could imagine an OSHA inspection at the brothel.

I imagine it would be similar to the sorts of inspections you'd find at a hospital.

Looks like the OSHA personnel weighed in with their votes...

"I'm here to inspect your pipes"

saucy music plays

I agree that worker protections need some work in the US, but to say that a black market brothel is somehow going to be safer than a regulated, above board one is simply madness. There is no way on Earth that sex workers are better off not having access to law enforcement. And that's just one facet of being in the black market.

Plumbing and electrician work is both heavily regulated and non-trivial.

I think they were saying that plumbing and electrical are easier jobs to perform and yet more heavily regulated.


Spreading your legs doesn't exactly require a detailed training regime. Electricians and plumbers have challenging jobs that require a lot of training. Changing out electric sockets doesn't make you an electrician.

Anyone who thinks plumbing and electrical are easy jobs has no idea how to do them

Yeah, consumer protection and general employment law in the US is a whole other conversation.

Australia and NZ both have prostitution legalized with a bunch of European countries.

When I came to US I was amazed that guns and weed were legalized but not prostitution. Even in Vegas.

I'm sure there is plenty of underground prostitution in US where the workers have little rights and are probably abused.

I have no hopes that this will ever happen in trump administration but hopefully in 2020+ this could be a possibility.

weed is not legalized in most of the country, and even where it is "legal", it's a complete gray area. It's illegal federally, which completely overrules the states' ability to legalize it. Basically all the legalization you see is that the local state/county police will not come after you for it, but the DEA is still perfectly within their right to come after you if they wanted to - which has happened to some dispensaries.

FYI: Legalization and decriminalization are two different things. The first involves heavy regulation. The second involves making it not a crime, basically.

And making it a crime creates all kinds of problems. I support decriminalization.

Somehow The Netherlands, once a front-runner on legalisation of drugs and prostitution, seems to become more strict lately.

For example the local government of Amsterdam is trying to close the window brothels [0] in the cities' Red Light District and many cities now have a policy where they don't grant licences for new coffeeshops and wait for the current licenses to expire [1]. The cited reasons for wanting to close the coffeeshops (too close to schools, within 250 meters) are stupid since every Dutch student rides a bicycle and for my friends it was no big problem during a free hour to bike for a few kilometers to buy and smoke hash or weed. My friends did this many times (none became a worse person for it, either).


[0]: http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1763216/amsterdam-pro...

[1]: http://www.dutchamsterdam.nl/3485-amsterdam-coffeeshops-phas...

The reasonable reason often cited is that it attracts drug tourists and prostitution tourists which all attract their own problems.

They wanted to restrict access to coffeeshop (not sure about brothel) to only Netherlands citizens but this raises constitutional problems.

They initially thought they would be at the forefront of a wave of legalization across Europe, but as it failed to materialize, their uniqueness brought their own issues.

I do have hopes for France though. Macron has the same political sense as Hollande, who just made a show of gay marriage legalization to prevent talking about other issues. I think they are keeping weed legalization as the next smokescreen.

On prostitution, the French liberals are a bit more divided. A lot of people actually associate human trafficking and prostitution and feel that criminalizing clients could be a way to make it go away. I tend to think that legalization would actually make the fight against sex-slavery much easier but I understand why people are more cautious about this issue.

Also the far-left shared some fake stories (but not totally implausible scenario) under which legalization of prostitution could mean that unemployed women could be forced by unemployment office to accept prostitution jobs or lose their unemployment benefits. They used the outcry to justify that prostitution is not a job like every other one.

It is a complicated issue, muddied by emotional bias and over-simplified solutions.

> Also the far-left shared some fake stories (but not totally implausible scenario) under which legalization of prostitution could mean that unemployed women could be forced by unemployment office to accept prostitution jobs or lose their unemployment benefits. They used the outcry to justify that prostitution is not a job like every other one.

It would be just as outrageous if an unemployed actress had to chose between shooting a pornographic movie or lose her unemployment benefits. I don't see anyone using that argument to outlaw pornography.

I'm sure some anti-pornographers would actually use that if they heard if from you...

But I totally agree that there is no need to go so far. I think it is generally accepted that not everyone is expected to accept every job:

- A muslim or jew and a job handling non-halal/non-kosher meat

- A "pro-lifer" in an abortion clinic

- A teetotaler at a liquor store

- An ideologue vegetarian or vegan handling meat, leather, etc.

- Washing/preparing bodies in a funeral home / crematorium

- A butchering job involving killing animals

Lists as such are, in fact, implemented in every "you have to accept job offers" situation, usually officially and with a procedure you can apply for to add a new one to the list or at least get a special exemption. Almost always, "personal service" jobs are exempt.

I'm sure no one would object if no job that required "no clothing", "skin on skin contact" or "insertion of anything into a body cavity" are exempt. I mean, one should never be forced to be a food taster either.

I am pretty sure that the French unemployment office is strictly forbidden to ask their religions to practitioners. And French law does not recognize any religion, so it would actually be a breach of our very strict secularity laws to give rights (to refuse a given job and keep benefits) to a believer of one religion compared to another.

Actually this office is widely criticized to propose absurd job offers to candidates as they are pressured to remove candidates from benefits lists, either by finding them a job (rare) or by having them refuse two jobs in a row (more common).

Their scenario was really not that implausible.

The French have been proud of having technical separate religion and state since 1905. But I question this - it was only 1993 when babies quit being required (by law) to be named after Catholic saints. Religion inserts its power in many ways.

Well, knowing first hand that some French-born nationals that were not names after saints I knew this was not true but you made me google it to see where this specific date comes from. So here is the whole thing.

The law (from the early 19th century) said that names for newborns should either be chosen in the calendars (plural, no religion mentioned) or from known people in history. So from the beginning, Mohammed was an acceptable name for instance.

A law from 1966 recognized that this was vague and not really applied, as usage varied (basically it was just used to deny too harmful names to kids) and decided to give a broader definition, allowing explicitly names from mythology, regional names, composed names, variation and abbreviated versions.

In 1981 the sole interdiction was to choose a name that "would not be judged ridiculous".

The 1993 version changes even that and says (more appropriately IMO) that the officer registering the names can delay the thing, if he judges that the choice of name is contrary to "the interest of the child". A judge then has to decide or deny. I remember a case involving a «Pikachu», a «Satan» and, I think, a «Jihad».

Names like Anakin or Gandalf were likely acceptable even under the 1966 law.

For more on how legibility (through naming, street grids, single-crop farms etc) acts a prerequisite for manipulation, check out Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes To Improve The Human Condition Have Failed.


An excellent recommendation which I unreservedly second.

Thanks! I too researched it, but did not find your sources. I appreciate the effort!

> Also the far-left shared some fake stories (but not totally implausible scenario) under which legalization of prostitution could mean that unemployed women could be forced by unemployment office to accept prostitution jobs or lose their unemployment benefits.

Is this how the system really works in France? If a programmer is unemployed and some manager at McDonald's offers them a job flipping burgers, they have to either take the McDonald's job or they lose their benefits? Do the unemployed really have to accept the first job offer anyone gives them, no matter what?

You will be proposed job offers from «Pôle Emploi», the unemployment office. The job will be "within your abilities" and in a certain distance from your residence but in practice, Pôle Emploi is known to send pretty much random job offers to people. They have something like 50 categories for job seekers and job offers and make matches automatically.

After two refused job offers, your unemployment benefits will be discontinued.

Programmer and cook are probably in different categories, but there is no way for someone to say "I don't want to work with meat" like the comment I answered to suggested. As a programmer doing robotics, I made the choice to refuse military jobs but I know that in France that's more than 50% of the jobs in the field.

I would not be 100% sure that sex workers would be put in a different categories than "entertainers" making it plausible that an actress would be proposed a job in a porn studio.

Thing is, a member of a porn studio reacted to this scenario: he basically said "we know Pole Emploi does not filter offers at all. Porn acting is very specific, the last thing we want is to force people into it. It would be contrary to our work ethic and probably to the law."

They know they would be blamed for it, so the unlikely part is that they would post such an offer. If they did, however, it is likely that it would be send inappropriately.

Extrapolating from the Netherlands, it isn't an 'accept the job or go to jail'. Instead its an 'accept the job or lose your "unemployment benefit". Here "unempolyment benefit" is a lacking translation. This is basically the last safety net. As there is a freeloader stigma for people receiving these benefits, these requirements are a condition for receiving the benefits.

Doesn't that encourage coercive behavior from employers? It seems like they could lowball an unemployed individual because they know they'll be strongly penalized for not accepting even a bad job offer. The earlier comment also makes it sound like even if you don't apply for a job, someone could offer you a bad one and you'd be forced to either accept it or lose your benefits (which sounds ripe for abuse).

In the US there is a comparable work component. You are allowed to refuse any offer that isn't reasonable or comparable work. Sometimes you have to convince a judge, but there is an appeals process and so it isn't hard to argue that a bad job is beneath you.

Note that the above is about accepting a job. At times you may be required to fill out so many job applications (per week) and you are not allowed to refuse any interview offered. The result is people do apply for bad jobs and get an offer in the interview they have no intention of accepting.

Of course after a few months your benefits run out and then the low ball offer is more appealing as at least it gets you something. However even then a low ball offer isn't as common as you might think. Someone with no place to go will take it, but you cannot stop them from finding a new job next week. Offer someone too low and your risk they collect your money just long enough to become useful and then find a new job. You are paid for your first week of work even though you spend most of it learning and so you cost the company money in training, thus once a company hires you they need to keep you long enough for you to pay off that first week training time.

Note that in the US each state does things differently. The above is a generalization based on what I've seen in different states. The details are different and change.

> At times you may be required to fill out so many job applications (per week)

> and you are not allowed to refuse any interview offered.


We have this in Norway. If one has been unemployed for a while the state run employment agency will often force you to "voluntarily" agree to send 10 employment applications per week and you have to go to any offered interview.

Thus applicants are feared by everyone doing recruiting because no one wants to hire anyone that does not want to be hired. If you do the candidate may be totally unmotivated and even hostile to his new employer. This would be a very bad start for everyone.

In my experience candidates like this will often not show up for a scheduled interview, and if they do they will clearly state that they are there just to satisfy the state employment agency.

Well I imagine it's accept it, or loose your unemployment benefits.

No one should be forced to take any job they don't want. The premise that it's ok to force anyone to take any job or lose their unemployment benefit is incredibly damaging to society. The whole system is a shambles. I would consider myself quite left oriented and I feel Europe has it all wrong. We really love to take the nanny state route rather than empowering people through education, opportunity and self-actualisation. Unfortunately this point of view seems to fall completely outside of the Overton window at the moment.

I think the premise is that you are not entitled to unemployment benefits in the first place. The government provides some aid but you have to be trying to help yourself first. It sounds fair to me that if you are offered a job and you refuse then you have breached that contract. Beggars can't be choosers and all that.

Having seen the real world consequence of this I disagree. I have some friends who were the typical starving artists. They had this ignominy of shitty job centre jobs forced upon them and suffered greatly. They opted to go the hard route and reject the job and lose their unemployment benefit. Now they have well enough paying careers in their area, are tax payers etc, as they dedicated their time to their craft rather than washing dishes or some such other pointless work. This brain dead approach of any job that pays is more valuable than one that doesn't sucks the life out of society and reduces innovation, artistic endeavour and creativity across the board. It's 2017, we have the world's library in our pockets, we can talk to friends on the other side of the globe instantaneously yet somehow we're stuck in the 1700's when it comes to jobs. We have so much over-productivity that we have to create fake jobs to keep people occupied [1] yet somehow we can't afford to allow poor people the option to follow the endeavour of their choice, invest in, and figure shit out for, themselves.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com.au/fake-jobs-at-fake-compani...

Are you going to fund my passion for building model tractors? I would much rather build model tractors all day and support myself by charging admission to my museum. The above business is just as valid as your "starving artists" who made it after hard work. My family cannot afford to let me follow my dreams though so I work a standard job.

Sure. As another proponent of a guaranteed minimum income, I would be delighted if you could build model tractors all day, and even start a museum dedicated to them.

Would I pay for that through taxes? You bet.

(I'm a proponent of guaranteed minimum income even for people who want to drink beer and watch tv all day. I really don't care what people do with their money.)

A guaranteed minimum income is only solution to this problem I've ever heard of that doesn't have many large flaws. I'm not entirely convinced minimum income is something I agree with (there are always hidden downsides - thus I'm reserving my judgement until after we know what they are)

However the topic is unemployment, which is designed for those are choose to make more than the minimum income to keep a good income (not as good as before, but perhaps better than minimum). This is a different discussion with different pros and cons.

> However the topic is unemployment, which is designed for those are choose to make more than the minimum income to keep a good income (not as good as before, but perhaps better than minimum).

In EU countries, unemployment is not necessarily linked to the size of the salary you were making before. And actually, unemployment can be very limiting in many countries and a basic income would be preferable. The reason for that is that with unemployment, you immediately lose your benefits if you pick up any work, even if the work is low-paying or it’s not certain you’ll be able to stay with it long. UBI, on the other hand, is intended to be something you always keep regardless of what else you try to do to make some money. When the UBI trial was launched in Finland, several of the people involved (longtime unemployment recipients) said they were keen to start their own business or take on unusual forms of employment because there was no longer a risk in doing so.

So...you're agreeing with the point you replied to? They went the hard route and became successful, that's great for them! Do you think it would be the case if they stayed on benefits that they would be where they are today?

It's hard to go back in time and do that experiment, but I'd say with certainty that some stress and pressure leads to a net gain in the long run. Clearly in the short run that's not the case.

They would have gotten there quicker... like my richer friends who where bank rolled by mum and dad.

From what I understand the real reason they're trying to get rid of the brothels is they bring in considerably less tax money than high-end retail.

One of my big disappointments in visiting Europe the last time is how the major cities are all starting to look the same, with big shopping districts devoted to the same high end brands. It sounds like Amsterdam is heading in that direction as well.

Good point, seems a pretty straightforward observation, that a shady business will attract shady people. And that shady people would already be in that business and roll over into any new legal allowances. I remember a friend in the San Francisco area telling me about these Asian communities somewhere in Daly City or maybe SF itself who clamored to prevent Marijuana shops opening up in their area because it would attract shady characters and what not. Seems be an interesting division in California regarding legalization, some cities (the nicer ones from what I can tell) ban the dispensaries while the poorer ones wind up setting up multiple shops.

Friends involved in prostitutes' rights groups in NL told me that the attempt to close the window brothels is not only motivated by humanitarian reasons but also because it's prime property. The same thing happened in Antwerp (BE) about 15 years ago.

EDIT: Not to take over the properties themselves, but to up-value the surrounding areas.

Antwerp turned out the most pointless city in the Belgium so it's not like they're finding any use for that prime property by this example.

You now have to go to the zoo in Antwerp because otherwise there's no longer anything to see.

IMO, lines of shops selling brightly coloured and vastly overpriced pieces of cloth is even more miserable use for prime property than sex.

Yet another case of Bootleggers and Baptists.


The problem with prostitution in NL is that it's not tightly regulated, it's still a bit of a private organization of sorts. There's problems with things like loverboys (pimps seducing / coercing young girls into prostitution) and human trafficking. Eastern-European women getting lured to NL with the promise of jobs and such.

Regulation is failing, so it's being banned instead. Which will only push things further underground.

I hope they dont ban it. although i dont like the concept it needs somewhere to go. i dont think a ban is on the cards. utrecht is still building brand new brothels. unfortunately in my neighbourhood. would be better if they used areas outside of city limits for this though. you dont want kids growing up near brothels.

> My friends did this many times (none became a worse person for it, either).

Hardly a neutral observer.

Yeah. A bunch of my friends are sex workers. They make literally ten times as much money as me per hour and love their jobs.

Says more about how little tech workers are paid in Australia, than anything else. Work for Google in US and earn more than a hooker!

> Work for Google in US and earn more than a hooker!

What a marketing claim

...and then spend 90% of it on rent ;). Costs of life matter.

Australia ain't cheap.

Not sure where in America is paying $300 per hour for software developers.

The number of hours you can practically work is an important factor, as are the risks (illness of various forms, exposure to dangerous customers, ...) that at best further reduce your earning potential for a while or at worse lead to complete curtailment and/or much pain (or even early death).

Simply comparing the hourly pay rate is pretty meaningless when comparing job options like these that differ so massively in other factors.

I'll keep my tech job if it is all the same to you.

(not that I imagine many being willing to pay a good rate for an hour with my physical form, so the choice might not really be mine!)

I doubt they have 8 hour a day booked though :)

in the valley as an "rockstar" iOS developer.

With $299.95 per hour in rent.

I can sit and code for 10 hours at a time without my genitals aching.

$600,000/yr isn't that outlandish. You just need 30+ reports or do really good IC work

Have to account for stability of the job as well. How many people can work in sex markets in their 40s.

Sex work & the Valley, over 40? No job for you!

>Work for Google

You do not work for Google though, you live for Google - work just happens to be the majority of your life.

You don't live for prostitution, it pays the bills like any other non-life-consuming job.

Are you differentiating Google from other employers here, or making a more general comment on 9-5 style careers?

Hookers can probably avoid to pay much income tax, due to being paid in cash most of the time.

This is very much not true. In the US, prostitutes are very punctilious about paying their tax bills, because the having a discrepancy between declared income and visible consumption is a quick way to land yourself on an auditor's desk. Remember, they got Al Capone for income tax evasion.

The IRS is very open about this. A fellow HN commenter pointed me to this document [1], on which you should search for "Bribes" and "Stolen Property". Even if you don't want to trust to the IRS's confidentiality rules (for example, it won't share your tax return with law enforcement without a court order), it's still common practice to come up with another description for your income in order to pay tax on it.

[1] https://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch12.html#en_US_2016_pu...

In countries like Poland prostitution is actually tax-free, because if government took any money from a prostitute it would act like a pimp, which is illegal.

Once upon a time it was the best excuse for those who had undisclosed income sources (other than prostitution). Recently tax offices started demanding proofs, like names of the clients.

> Recently tax offices started demanding proofs, like names of the clients.

Huh? That makes no sense. Why would naming a client proove anything? And why would sex workers know names of their clients?

Have you ever wondered why you have to provide receipts for reimbursement, despite the fact that the vast majority of people here could put together a forged receipt quite easily?

It's not because the receipt proves anything. It's because if there was ever any question, it gives a validator something to actually validate, to call up the putative place of business and confirm the transaction and the size.

It's one of those deals where the mere threat of being able to validate tends to keep the system humming along fairly well, even to the point that many of the participants have forgotten the justification for the system. Presumably there's someone out there routinely forging receipts for fun and profit but it must not be that big a fraud considered across the entire system.

Same thing here.

I think it is more about getting the client's testimony confirming the deed. And you're right, prostitution is a business based on discretion, so most of the time prostitute would not know the name of her client. Bottom line is: they stopped taking a word for it and started demanding proofs.

That "John Smith" really makes the rounds, doesn't he?

Why not take the money and hard redirect them to charity?

I've always been curious where you take your career when you get too old or don't want to do it anymore. There'd be sudden drop off in income level, which applies pressure to any who don't plan well in advance. Makes me think of professional athletes who end up broke because they didn't plan properly and no longer have the body to perform.

I know some older people in the tech sector who can't find jobs for the same reason. It's not just athletes and sex workers. :)

Per hour probably isn't a good comparison. Developer per-hour is usually for a medium-large company that wants you for full-time hours and takes care of all risk and overhead for you. Sex worker per-hour is for a client who only wants a hour or whatever, and the worker takes basically all of the risk and overhead as far as rent/hotel rate, travel, supplies, advertising, etc.

Maybe a little more similar to a software consultant who has to spend a ton of extra time drumming up clients and setting up engagements and pays for their travel and any hotel fees out of their rate.

But do they work as many hours as you do?

(the answer is probably "they don't need to")

How much money do you make per hour?

Their pay would go down quite a bit if they were no longer part of a black-market economy.

In Australia prostitution is completely legal ... There are brothels all over the place

It can vary from state to state.

Under Tasmanian law it has never been illegal to be a sex worker, however Current Tasmanian Legislation – Sex Industry Offences Act 2005

Provides that it is illegal for a person to employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers (brothels are illegal)

Allows two sex workers (but not more) to work together in a partnership arrangement, provided neither controls or manages the other;

Makes it an offence to offer or procure sexual services in a public place – making street prostitution illegal for both worker and client

1. https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1...

2. http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/laws/tas/

some sensible rules right there. pimping is not what you want. good for tasmania.

There are several public brothels in Nevada. Prostitution is on a state-by-state basis.

I hear it's most common in Washington D.C.

Nope, brothels are illegal in DC. There used to be loads of street walkers, but not so many as the city has gentrified, cleaned-up, and crime rates in general have gone down.

I was referring to the practice of political lobbying and revolving doors, not literal prostitution.

For example:


I think the key word there was "public."

I think the OP was being sarcastic.

OP means Original Poster, or the person who started the thread/posted the article. Do you mean GP (duncan_bayne)?

Yes. Thanks for the vocab word.

Prostitution is not 'completely legal' in Australia. Brothels are still illegal in some states and even those states which have decriminalised prostitution have brothels operating illegally.


The thing with Australia is it's very difficult for the US to learn from Australian social experiments and determine if they will be effective. Australia has extremely tight border control and far more police powers. So while legalized prostitution has been a huge success in Australia, it may open avenues for human trafficking to thrive in the US.

While I generally agree with the notion that legalized prostitution reduces human trafficking, this wouldn't be a certainty from looking at the effects on Australia/NZ.

From experience in New Zealand, where prostitution is also legal for citizens and permanent residents, it doesn't do much to increase human trafficking.

I'm not going to pretend it's all clean - certainly there's underage, trafficked and exploited people. However that's still the case when it's illegal, the difference is how we can find and protect those who have been exploited by others.

When prostitution is legal a prostitute can go to the police without fear of prosecution (but not persecution unfortunately - less of an issue here because the laws were loosely enforced). Additionally a legitimate business is more attractive to most customers, so a legal businesses subject to inspection and record keeping requirements are more likely to take business from the less legitimate ones.

My personal opinion is that prostitution is here to stay. We should focus on the safety of those involved. Giving them a criminal record is certainly not going to get them away from prostitution.

When prostitution is legal a prostitute can go to the police without fear of prosecution

In theory, Sweden's approach of only criminalizing the clients (and pimps, I assume) should provide that too; a bit like the decriminalization of drug consumption. On the other hand, since every "john" is at risk if the prostitute does go to the police, it's much more likely that they'll avoid doing so. Even where drug use is decriminalized, users don't tend to go to the police if their dealer rips them off or physically assaults them.

Sweden also criminalises knowingly renting to sex workers. Women who've gone to the police about being raped by a client have been made homeless as a result after the police got in touch with their landlords and told them to evict. This was one of the major contributors to Amnesty International coming out so strongly as they did against the Swedish model.

If the johns are criminalized, there is still a disincentive to go to the police: if they know you as a prostitute, they'll know to watch you closely to catch some johns and that will impair your business.

Also I think that provides a side effect too: if a john is already committing a crime when going to a prostitute, he may be more likely to do so anonymously and with less trace, making it easier for them to add robbery or assault to their acts.

I think that hypocrisy never helps. If it is illegal to go to a prostitute, it should be illegal to be one, their existence would have no legal justification.

"I think that hypocrisy never helps. If it is illegal to go to a prostitute, it should be illegal to be one, their existence would have no legal justification."

I disagree.

Few are forced to visit and hire a prostitute. But we know people are forced to be a prostitute (trafficking), some do it for drugs, and some feel they have no other way to survive. While society understands not every prostitute is in one of these categories, it seems a cruel punishment to charge them with a crime. MOstly because it would be charging a rape victim with the crime of being raped.

Well some people are forced into gang violence. That does not give a good reason to legalize violence.

Some people are forced into working in sweatshops to sew t-shirts. That does not make a good reason to criminalize t-shirts.

Forcing someone into doing something is already illegal. The forced person is a victim, most laws are clear about it. If the issue we are talking about is fighting against human-trafficking, the only question should be to know if legalizing prostitution would help the police find human traffickers.

And this should be the top question of the debate IMHO. I don't care much to live in a society that answers differently than me to the question "Should prostitution be legal?" but I would love to be in a society where human-trafficking does not exist.

I do have the feeling that pimps do enjoy the hypocrisy and moral ambiguity of the laws: it makes their services invaluable and their activities under the radar. But this opinion mostly comes from anecdotes and common sense. I am inclined to change opinions based on facts.

When I was in Dunedin, there were rumored to be some rather underhanded tactics that brothels used against each other. One burned down shortly before I left, and word had it that it wasn't an accidental fire.

But you know how rumors are - all it takes is one person to decide that "It's obvious, innit?" and they start repeating it as fact.

Well, Germany also legalitzed it and quickly rose up the ranks to be a top human trafficking spot in Europe, but it seems like everyone in this thread completely ignores it.


Your link doesn't say that Germany is a top human trafficking spot in Europe, or that it only became so after legalization. Do you have a better one?

Well, but the story doesn't seem to be over yet (02.07.2017):


I'm not going to argue against the facts, but I will argue that the results for victims are different. If a victim of sex trafficking is caught on the street when prostitution is illegal they're now a criminal and will probably be dealt with as such by police looking for easy numbers.

When they haven't committed a crime they should be able to get aid from the authorities and their pimps and traffickers arrested.

Unfortunately this isn't a perfect world and resources aren't always available for whatever reason. I don't like it, but I also don't like creating criminals out of victims.

It seems only logical to me that legalising sex work will make it harder for human traffickers via reduced demand for illegal sex workers.

Of course it is. But who is to say that those legal businesses don't partake in human trafficking?

There are legal brothels in Australia found with links to international human traffickers. If Australia has this problem with far more police powers than American police have, who is to say that the problem won't be rampant in the US?

I am all for legal prostitution if it reduces human trafficking. My argument is just that you can't assume that what works in Australia will necessarily work in the US.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/legal-brothels-linked-to-inte...

I think it will reduce human trafficking in that it would be much easier to monitor for human trafficking whereas in the past with some sort of grey-zone criminalization, you would have to actively first detect for sex workers, convince them that you are not arresting them, and then figure out if there are human traffickers or crime involved.

Its one less step if you can more easily monitor and the sex workers can speak freely to police.

In fact I'm more about how they treated sex work in several historical governments in the past and that is only government-operated brothels are allowed.

Where are you getting this idea that Australian police have far more powers than US police? There are differences here and there but our legal systems are fairly similar.

For one Australia does not have a "bill of rights". In the US, the police require probable cause to even stop or question someone. In Australia there is no such requirement. While they can't just arrest or detain people at will, they have far more power over every day people.

Please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicious_Lawless_Association_Di...

This law would not be possible in the US due to the US constitution's protection of freedom of association, while it has been strictly enforced at times in the state of Queensland. These sorts of powers substantially weaken organized crime but at major cost to civil rights.

>In the US, the police require probable cause to even stop or question someone

They do not need probable cause, they need "reasonable suspicion"[1].

The same standard Aus had until around a decade ago (now reduced). There were nearly 700K stop and searches in NYC in 2011 alone[2] (vastly reduced now) which undermines your suggestion that the BoR provides solid protection in this particular respect. Although I agree there are some protections offered by codified rights.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_stop

2. http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data

There is however less risk and lower operating costs. I think cost benefits are a bit more complex.

However I think germany's decriminalisation was a good testcase. The netherlands don't seem to have problems either.

Prostitution in Germany is definitely far from decriminalized. I am convinced that it is right to legalize it - but it still should be thoroughly regulated. The recently introduced laws are partially a step in the right direction. Other parts of it actually criminalize it to some extent. F.x. unprotected fellatio is now criminalized.

Your point is contradicted by the fact that Germany, where prostitution is completely legal are the single biggest destination for human trafficking victims. Literally dozens of thousands of them.

Legalising brothels removes the social stigma from prostitute clients increasing demand for prostitution by the order of magnitude. Which gives human traffickers additional incentive.

I think that the good solution is what we have in Poland: prostitution is legal for the clients and individual prostitutes but it is illegal for any third party (e.g. pimp) to interfere and make profit from prostitution. This gives a prostitute possibility to just go to the police and denounce her pimp, making it much harder to force her to sex work.

Building construction is a legal trade in Germany. There are a lot of illegal immigrants working on that trade too. Maybe the relation is more to do with the "booming" economy.

> Literally dozens of thousands of them. Citation needed.

> increasing demand for prostitution by the order of magnitude A whole magnitude? Citation really needed.

In Germany a john has to report to the police if he suspects the prostitute is being coerced, if there are legal women, why would he seek an illegal one and risk jail time?

> report to the police if he suspects the prostitute is being coerced

but what would incentivize said john to report it? I don't think the john is going to make a difference in this case.

I see the German situation more a sign for completely negligent authorities. Pimps are illegal in Germany too. Prostitution is only legal as a contract between the client and the prostitute. But all of this only matters, if authorities perform regular checks which they often skip.

Even if we accept what you say as true, it doesn't contradict the point. It is possible that even if trafficking to Germany increases, the global rate of trafficking decreases, which could be explained by a lot of people going to Germany instead of buying illegally locally. You show it concentrates the rate of buying and trafficking, but not that it increases on average. (I do understand that actually showing it increases on average would be extremely difficult given that it would require a continent level study.)

IMHO, the fact that Germany is surrounded by countries where prostitution is illegal is one of the causes of human trafficking victims. If legalization is generalized, this may reduce.

Where do you have that number from?

The numbers in the Wikipedia link is a couple of magnitudes lower.

The problem with Germany is that Germany is now servicing not just Germany, but also its neighbours because it's an island of legalisation. As a result demand is higher than what the local workforce can provide, making human trafficking profitable. Also regulation is lax and mostly unenforced

Not at all. Most prostitutes in Austria are foreigners.

I suspect that legalising prostitution would actually make it much easier to prevent human trafficking for sex work.

I think that it would increase it, because contrary to what people seem to think here, prostitution is very low on people's ideal career choices. Increasing demand is going to increase the need labor, and I don't think anyone here is advising their sons or daughters to have sex with strangers for money. SO trafficking would increase.

If something is legal then workers have protection, can form unions and have rights. It's more difficult in a legal environment to have people who are coerced or forced to work.

If prostitution is illegal then it will be run by people who do not obey the law and will happily traffic people and have people people working illegally or forcibly.


Current laws seem to penalize the sex worker and the buyer, not the traffickers. Legalizing this would let both parties involved feel safer, no repercussions from calling the police if something goes awry.

Austria has lax gun laws and lose border controls and legal prostitution. You can also learn from us.

Its a mistake to re-criminalize, just look at Germany when they legalized prostitution they were able to focus efforts on slavery and human trafficking, by separating the issues of human trafficking and slavery from prostitution they saw a 75% increase in prosecution of human traffickers.


Just conservative? Isn't a defining feature of any government passing laws that enforce its way of thinking on others?

Yes, but when you have conservative governments, they try to enforce such notions. Then have an abysmally narrow minded point of view of the world and they try to make regressive changes to the country.

and no, the defining feature of any govt is not to enfore its way of thinking on others, it is to govern others in a proper way.

but at least in India, politics has become a business.

Not in any robust sense, no.

Either as a society we accept that some people will trade sexual favors for money or we refuse it. I can see arguments both ways. In the end, that is a stance on how you weight two values:

1. The morality to add financial consideration in the decision to provide consent to a sex act.

2. The amount of freewill that a person has within the job market.

What is interesting is that you can have different liberal or conservative position on both of these considerations and still be unsure about the side the scale weights in:

As a conservative:

1. Social conservatives tend to consider sex like a serious matter, set apart from the rest, so they will say that consent is not to be sold.

2. Fiscal conservatives tend to consider freewill in the job market is close to absolute: you are always free to refuse a job, so people deciding to go into prostitution really chose it without constraints.

Depending on how you weight sex-is-special vs job-market-is-free, you can be against or for prostitution as a conservative.

As a liberal:

1. Social liberals will tend to consider that consent is important in every part of life but that sex is (or can be chosen to be) an activity like any other. If someone is really willing to sell sexual favors, under what principle forbidding it? (and it turns to be a fetish too)

2. "Fiscal liberals" (is that an expression? Not sure, non-native here, I mean the opposite of "fiscal conservative) tend to consider wages and employment to be a tool of oppression and control. In that respect, they will be less likely to consider that someone who works for money chooses to do so freely.

Depending on how you weight you-are-free-to-sex-as-you-want vs wage-is-a-way-to-control you can be a liberal and be for or against prostitution.

Your "fiscal liberal" doesn't make that much sense. I suspect their claim would be towards regulating the business, making sure the workers have rights, can negotiate better conditions and ultimately resign if they wanted. Probably education would be pushed to be cheaper or free, programs to transition people out of it put in place, etc.

Maybe that's a French bias, but here we tend to consider that poor people usually have less job opportunities to choose between and that some prostitutes do this because they are out of option to make additional money.

"Have sex or starve" can be seen as a breach of consent.

Most prostitutes do not work out of a vocation or because they enjoy having sex with random people (though I guess on can find a few who do) but they do that for money. Some will think "that's so much easier and enjoyable than flipping burgers at the fastfood" and that's fine by me, but some others will think "that's the only way I can make enough money to feed my kids and pay our debts" and that's less ok.

> "Have sex or starve" can be seen as a breach of consent.

Most people in the developed world feel that "do X or starve" is not the right model and want their government to take care of that. This, however, is done via public assistance, not by tweaking rules for X1, X2, ..., Xn, ... ("have sex or starve" is wrong, but "clean toilets or starve" is OK, etc.).

"Clean toilets or starve" is, in fact, the model that one of the main sources of aid for the unemployed is built on. If you turn down a job without a damn good reason, you lose your unemployment aid. Very few people with any political power want to change that.

> "Have sex or starve" can be seen as a breach of consent.

By extension, "flip the burgers or starve" is a breach of consent as well, so forced labour/slavery.

Exactly. The further to the left you go, the more people consider that employment is a tool of oppression. Of course not literal slavery but as a toned down version of the same logic.

In that case, whether you find prostitution as acceptable as regular job depend on whether you find (toned down) forced labor more acceptable than (toned down) rape.

Like I said, to solve the consent issue of work, I feel like the "fiscal liberal" would suggest something more in line with free education, universal health care, universal basic income, etc. I don't see why they'd propose to make it illegal.

While the name 'fiscal liberal' may be a poor name in an attempt to make it fit into a grid with the other 3 names, I have to say the concept of payment of wages being inherently coercive is one I've seen numerous times. Personally I have a hard time understanding it because it seems to be a double standard that isn't applied to any other type of work, but regardless of how I view the logical consistency I have to say it is a serious view that is held by a significant percentage of people I've encountered while discussing this matter.

I would refer to what you are calling "fiscal conservatives" as "economically liberal" and what you are calling "fiscal liberals" as "leftists". Fiscal conservatism really only deals with government budgetary policy which is not at issue here.

What is the feminist position on this? It is my body vs Objectification of women ?

From what I've seen, there are strong feminist advocates on both sides of the issue. The article gives examples of both. One side insists that prostitution is inherently coercive and especially focuses on how often women in prostitution are exploited by pimps or others. The other side focuses on every person's right to do what they please with their body within the bounds of consent and on making sure women in prostitution can comfortably get healthcare and police protection. I don't think there's an easy answer to this question from a purely feminist perspective.

From what I gather, liberals in general tend to say that sex isn't special (anyone can freely have sex with whomever they want and slut shaming is wrong), but, at the same time, that sex for compensation is literally rape (because it's a form of coercion). How this makes any sense, I can't comprehend.

What? No we don't. Most liberals think that sex isn't special and that human trafficking is wrong.

I can't speak for what most think, but I've chatted with a number who view that any money being used to purchase sex is inherently coercing someone to have sex, even if we assume that everyone involved in the transaction is fully consenting. Another view I've commonly heard is that possibly engaging in sex trafficking is wrong (so that all paying of prostitutes is wrong because you can't be sure if they really want to or if they are forced), but that possibly engaging in other forms of human trafficking aren't wrong (basically think of anything you buy at the store which may have been produced by slaves, for a concrete example look at shrimp and the slavery involved with it).

I'm not saying most hold this true, but a sufficient number of my anecdotal experiences lead me to estimate this is a popular view.

As a German where prostitution is just seen as a regular trade, some general points. 1.) While paid sex is surely available at many places, we still do not live in one big brothel.

2.) Why should people have to film their act of having sex and then publish it (porn is legal in the US...)

3.) There is a problem with human trafficking that has to be dealt with. But dealing with this problem in some manner is surely the better way than making prostitution illegal. As long as there are hormons in this world, prostitution will exist. Learn to live with it.

The USA moralises issues more than any other Western democracy as far as I can tell. To a large portion of the electorate, it's not a question of what's [better for women, better for the planet, better for x], it's a question of what's right and what's wrong. Prostitution is obviously wrong, therefore nobody good should be doing it, therefore criminalising it only affects bad people, which is fine, they're bad and they deserve punishment (maybe they'll see the error of their ways and become good people).

Or that's how it seems from over here anyway. The UK's better, but not much.

The eternal battle of deontology vs utilitarianism.

For example, just a few months the Polish government made emergency contraception pill prescription-only. This government is strongly against abortion of any kind, yet it passed a bill that will surely increase (illegal) abortion rates. Yet, it does not THINK about consequences of action, just if it supports "right" or "wrong" causes (for them any non-Catholic sex life is "wrong").

Quite a few people who oppose abortion also believe that emergency contraception commonly operates by killing fertilized eggs (by preventing implantation), which would qualify as abortion under their definitions. If that is your belief, and you believe that abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then banning emergency contraception would be a self-consistent thing to do. (Now, the studies I've seen suggest that emergency contraception does not often if ever work that way since it appears to be entirely ineffective when taken after ovulation has occurred, but that's a separate question.)

> This government is strongly against abortion of any kind, yet it passed a bill that will surely increase (illegal) abortion rates.

This isn't a very good argument. If you care about "abortion of any kind", then increasing the illegal abortion rate while decreasing the overall abortion rate is a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Unlike most EU countries, in Poland there is no legal abortion (except for rape and women's life in danger).

I added "(illegal)" as an indication that all of such abortions are illegal in Poland.

> The eternal battle of deontology vs utilitarianism.

When you are violently coercing people into some kind of behavior, one of those is objectively superior to the other.

So you're 100% on the side of deontology?

Whose deontology?

Yours. The statement "When you are violently coercing people into some kind of behavior, one of those is objectively superior to the other" is purely deontological, saying that violently coercing people is bad.

I'm not coming from "this is bad" (even more because lots of times I don't think it is). Just from "this is a social imposition".

Utility has a shared meaning among a population, ontology is meaningless over a group.

Where are you getting "objectively superior" from without reference to good/bad?

One exists, the other is meaningless.

Try again. In what sense are you using the word "superior"? To an English speaker, as you've used it, it means "better".

If you want to call deontological the argument that a tool that exists is better to solve a problem than one that doesn't, then, well, we are at a new level of meta that I really wasn't speaking at earlier.

Yet, social deontology is meaningless¹, and the people using it on political arguments are just using it as a decoy for doing something that they pretty much derive utility from (on my case from being able to eventually settle anything down, on the original comment, from commanding people around and in some cases, by watching them suffer).

1 - There exists a fuzzy kind of "partial" deontology that people often share in practice. Yet, the moment one starts coercing people, it's a symptom that it just isn't there.

One could hope that human trafficking would decrease in areas where prostitution is legal. the amount of underage prostitution in the US is higher than many realize; some don't even know it is an issue.

by bringing the trade into the public and properly regulated the next goal is to eliminate any shame from using such services. I would expect not using brothels would make that easier but both means needs to be available.

Human trafficking victims working at US farms and such probably outnumber prostitutes by at least an order of magnitude. Should farming be outlawed?

(Btw are they actually victims if they are willingly doing it?)

>2.) Why should people have to film their act of having sex and then publish it (porn is legal in the US...)

Filming sex doesn't suddenly make it legal. It's the permit required which makes it legal.

What permit would that be?

> As long as there are hormones in this world, prostitution will exist. Learn to live with it.

The presence of testosterone does not make use "learn to live" with violent acts.

Sure we do. It's called boxing, ufc, wrestling, etc.

And I also did not say "as long as there are hormons, learn to live with rape and violence". Everything should be consensual.

I never understood this: it's your body so you have the right to an abortion, but...

Someone does it for free, someone for a promise to marry, someone for marriage, someone hoping it leads to something, rent paid etc etc. Who are to decide what "currency" is legal and what isn't for "her body"?

> I never understood this: it's your body so you have the right to an abortion, but...

There may be less to understand than you think: there is a huge overlap between groups of people who are very anti-abortion and groups who are very anti-prostitution. The religious right to give the most obvious example (as they are loudly vocal, highly active, and in many places countries pretty controlling via lobbying), but that is definitely not the only example.

There are reasons to support one but not the other though they are contested. Many see prostitution as something that will lead to people trafficking and other crime. The opposing views, that legalising it will reduce such crime by bringing the activity more into the open so availability is not an issue for those who wish to take part (reducing the trafficking to bring in resource) and so those who chose to take part are better protected, don't generally win out in relevant debates.

Studies of real world examples show wildly differing results (in part because most of them are run and/or funded by those with some bias towards one result or another) and experimental studies have problems getting through ethics committees for obvious reasons - so it is going to be a complex issue to resolve (and is unlikely to ever be resolved to the satisfaction of all).

> someone for a promise to marry, someone for marriage, someone hoping it leads to something, rent paid etc etc. Who are to decide what "currency"

Again, in many cases you'll find the judgement applied to selling sex is similarly applied to this form of currency, or if not other moral judgement is often found.

The "NO" side, IMO, is mostly for religious /morality reasons or the ultra-feminists that think women will be abused by men. The first part I understand, it's at least consistent. But I don't see how a bunch of women in DC or ivory towers can claim that a 16 yo girl can decide /has the right to abort but 40 yo woman can't decide to have sex for $150 a shot.

The latter are merely a very vocal minority though. Very very vocal, but in the grand scheme of things in what is a massive debate that has been going on for centuries in various forms with strongly defended positions on all sides, a drop in the ocean.

> ...it's your body so you have the right to an abortion.

Absolute sovereignty over one's own body was never really a thing. There were always substances that were illegal to consume somewhere. There were always, even today, laws about public decency. There were always laws against suicide. Today things like trans fats and alcoholic energy drinks face bans.

So the controversy isn't about whether people get to decide what to do to their bodies, it's about when.

I tend to be more libertarian on these issues, but I recognize that the principle of personal bodily sovereignty isn't widely held.

Because we view marriage as special and the sex act as affirming love? Your mother cares for you as a child because she loves you..if you found out instead your mother solely cared for you to receive a paycheck, wouldn't that cheapen it?Can you imagine a nation of mothers like that?

I've always thought about how brutally sexist it is to take this industry where women have a massive competitive advantage, and criminalize it.

Yes it is long due for a major overhaul. Fortunately with new tech it is finally possible to do something about it. Imagine a large scale union of sex workers with strong protection. They will be able to demand safer working conditions and join together to leverage power over abusive clients. They can coordinate and accurately judge demand. The company can then do marketing and logistics on their behalf. It would also enable women that are not as entrepreneurial but do not want to give up all their personal control to a local representative.

Summary of results from prostitution decriminalization experiment:

* Female gonorrhea rates decreased 40% * Reported rape offenses decreased 30% * No evidence that decriminalization increases human trafficking

> She has a theory, though, in that while she knows for some men rape is about power, "I think the argument that we're making is that that might not be true for all men, and for some, these activities could be substitutes."

> In other words, for some men, rape may be just about sex. And if there's a legal and accessible market for it, the number of rapes in a community may go down. This has not been a popular theory or study. And for many, it challenges the notion that rape is about violence and power, and not sex. "So I consider myself a feminist, but I think this finding angers a lot of feminists," Shah said. "It is a very controversial idea."

What the hell is this "rape has nothing to do with sex" nonsense and why does challenging this absurd assertion anger feminists? How removed from reality do you have to be to believe that forcing sexual intercourse on someone has nothing to do with sexual attraction?

But back to the topic of criminalization, it's downright disingenuous to conflate prostitution with human trafficking. And I don't believe the government should be in the business of imposing its moral whims on the decisions of consenting adults.

> What the hell is this "rape has nothing to do with sex" nonsense

This is because feminists (and everyone else) started rejecting Freud's theories of sex in the '60s. Freudian theory states sex and aggression are interconnected (e.g. the much misunderstood Oedipus complex). Even now people think violence is due to our culture, not biological drives or instincts. This is why feminists say we have a "Rape Culture," and that all we have to do is fix culture, then all rape and violence will disappear. Freud was much more pessimistic. "Civilization and Its Discontents" is a good summary of why.

Banning anything that has a high demand mainly gives criminals control of the market. It has little impact on demand but is an abrogation of any responsibility to regulate.

The same was true of the US 18th Amendment, of the "War on Drugs" in the US now, of the banning of sex work, or most anything else. When the government decides to just ban something, others step in to control the market without any rule of law or responsibility to the public.

TFA: Still, perhaps even more surprising than the decrease in gonorrhea was another public health development. Sexual violence, or rapes, dipped dramatically. And this wasn't just amongst sex workers. It was across the board, according to FBI crime reports and jurisdiction level data.

"Reported rape offenses decreased by about 30 percent," Shah said.

That's another big decrease. Shah says, if anything, you'd expect rape to go up as when prostitution is decriminalized, sex workers are more likely to report rapes. She compared this to neighboring states, too. The drop was only in Rhode Island. So she examined other crime data in Rhode Island, like burglaries and murders, to see if there had just been a drop in crime generally.

It didn't match.

I love how in the past hour, a NYT op-ed discussing motherhood and women's agency is flagged as irrelevant but an article on decriminalizing prostitution is at the top of hacker news with a lengthy discussion on the nuances of policy and practice /s

Articles get normally flagged when HN users don't think that the resulting discussion will become productive. For an article that brings up gender roles, it really have to be amazing new insight in order for it to cut through the otherwise predictable discussion and people violently agreeing with each other over goals and violently disagreeing in the ways to reach it.

Prostitution has its own controversy but in my view it is less likely to bring in unproductive discussion. The hard lines opinion about sex is more or less settled, so the discussion is mostly focused on policy and end results. It is also less common discussion than gender roles, so it also gets a bit of a free pass.

I have little sympathy. The author decided to pick an "edgy" title to get clicks and it clearly backfired.

If you posted "Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness" as a comment here it would get flagged to death too. Putting it as a title of an OP-Ed doesn't change that even if the author will slowly break down why that ISN'T true (or more complex/nuanced).

If the author wants to generate legitimate discussion, they should talk to their editor about dropping the faux-controversial titles. Particularly as it sets the tone for the discussion is such a negative way.

The headlines in newspapers aren't written by the people that write the columns and articles.

From what I can tell, the title unfortunately reflects the article well. Sure, the article does skirt around some interesting thoughts on ingrained societal bias / roles (which has been discussed here quite a bit). But the article struck me as preachy / opinionated, in that the author had a fairly exact idea of what she thought the motherhood of everyone else was.

It sounds line an opinion piece not backed by any discussion. Essentially a blog post that anybody could have written. Why have off-topic blog posts on HN?

Cause nothing is off topic in HN that's the rules.

Are you saying that in today's politically correct world, HN should rank and give equal front page time to every topic relating to a minority? And also implying subtly that the predominantly male audience of HN prefer prostitution stories over discussion of minority's issues?

No. What I am saying is that I don't fully understand the logic that dictates that while both articles I pointed to discuss women's autonomy and the right to decide how use their reproductive organs, only one issue relating to that is worth talking about in great detail and that is the one that discusses the legislating of vaginas in the vein of other topics like income inequality, homelessness, etc.

There's a whole lotta stuff posted to HN, most of it doesn't get discussed even if it's interesting.

It's not a male conspiracy to carefully disregard and disrespect certain topics/posts.

I think that's the source of my confusion. I've generally accepted that women's issues are uninteresting to this audience unless it's about a startup disrupting some issue and that's ok. I'm more curious why this particular aspect of this particular issue is so interesting and worth discussing.

Say we legalize prostitution in the United States. What if a sex worker gets pregnant? Does the client have any obligation to support that child? Can the client sue for false advertising of an implied reproduction-free sex organ?

Laws governing social issues are messy and interesting but not technical. My point is it's a frivolous distinction to separate motherhood and women's rights from sex work because at the end of the day they are the same issue.

To me it seems that it's not about the upvotes per se but about the flagging and the perception that prostitution is an appropriate topic for HN but motherhood isn't.

It wasn't ignored, it was flagged.

The topic that you refer to is discussed frequently here and is a well worn path.

I think the combination of experiments in deregulation, a departure from norms in a historically socially conservative place like New England, and pruient curiosity probably attracted more reaction to this particular story.

>while both articles I pointed to discuss women's autonomy

I suspect its because the relevance of this article goes far beyond "a discussion of women's autonomy".

Because that's more political and it was an opinion piece. This is more "technical" and neutral.

HN flags both anti and pro women's agency articles (most opinion articles actually) so it is fair.

I read that piece out of curiosity and didn't really see anything work discussing in it - it was pure opinion and thats about it.

i guess prostitution is a lot more interesting for us guys but i dont understand why we need to flag your article. to put it in stronger terms: how can we say its ok to be a woman in it if womens issues get flagged.

I neither endorse nor reject this paper, but it is an interesting argument: http://assets.csom.umn.edu/assets/71503.pdf

As someone from a country where all form of prostitution is legal and regulated it did not really ever come up as something odd when I grew up. Prostitution is becoming less prominent in recent years because families move into places traditionally frequented by prostitutes but the industry is healthy as ever as far as I can see.

It's legal in Germany too.

My girlfriend grew up in a red light district.

She said it was mostly okay, the nights were a bit rough, because the clients would often argue loudly with the girls right before her window.

But the "madame" of a brothel around the corner would always look after the children going to school in the morning so they wouldn't be bothered.

Does anyone else see the article presenting for a mutually agreed on act as women innocent / men predatory?

For example

> The Swedish or Nordic model takes aim at the demand, making it illegal to buy sexual services but not to sell it.


> In a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District of Rhode Island, COYOTE's lawyer argued that the state's law on prostitution was too broad and discriminated against women, given that female sex workers were arrested far more than male customers.

Saying "takes aim at the demand" for a mutually consenting interaction just seems a way of targeting men without explicitly saying it. Different countries and situations, but the reporter doesn't note the different treatment by the state when one sex is criminalized versus the other.


> "You see the silencing of victims," Hughes said. "It is just very harmful to women. It really is a libertarian approach, but the ones who get freedom are the pimps, the sex buyers, the businessmen who then can rent properties to the massage parlors, and to the sex buyers. There's very little freedom for the women."


> As for Robinson, the online escort who moved to Rhode Island? She was angry.

> "It pissed me off. I didn't know nothing about activism, I didn't know what a sex worker rights organization was," she said.

> Robinson changed that. She became active with COYOTE, the sex worker union and advocacy group.

> "Criminalization is a punishment for women who won't conform," Robinson said. "And we're just supposed to go live in the streets in poverty and not complain about it, and be good women."

Nothing wrong with a woman's perspective, but men's behavior was criminalized too. I would think it would add to the article to get some of their perspective.

Not including men's perspective, except as the businessmen who make money off the women and the rapists, makes the article sound like the reason for prostitution's negative reputation is men. Would a quote like the following fly?

> "Criminalization is a punishment for men who won't conform. We're just supposed to go live without sex and not complain about it, and be good men."

Speaking of various models of legislating sex, I found this TED talk quite informative: https://www.ted.com/talks/juno_mac_the_laws_that_sex_workers...

off topic: This is why states rights is so important. Each state acts as an incubator for ideas. Its 50 experiments running all at once.

When nearly all of the states have pretty extreme anti-sex worker views, the experiments don't happen. It's, honestly, embarrassing how long it's taking for the US to get sane policy regarding sex work. The US is perhaps too homogeneous to provide good experimental data.

But, it's great when experiments do happen. And, I guess we're reaching a tipping point on drug policy, at least with regard to the most popular (still mostly) illegal drug.

Keyword there is "nearly", though. Greetings from Nevada, land of the free and home of the Mustang Ranch.

Isn't it legal in only a handful of counties in Nevada, though? So, wouldn't that mean it's not really an entire state full of freedom, just a few enlightened counties. Also, as I understand it, the only legal prostitution is within licensed brothels. So, no independent contractors allowed anywhere in the state. That seems more like rent-seeking by brothel owners rather than rights for sex workers.

I'm not saying it's not a positive thing that prostitution is less criminalized in some parts of Nevada than in the rest of the US. But, it's still pretty repressive and it still victimizes sex workers in the general case by putting their livelihood at the mercy of brothel owners.

"Isn't it legal in only a handful of counties in Nevada, though?"

Indeed; it's notably illegal in both of Reno's two largest cities (Las Vegas because Clark County has too high of a population, so prostitution is automatically illegal per state law; Reno/Sparks because Washoe County specifically outlawed prostitution), which really hinders the effectiveness of such an experiment. About 90% of Nevadan prostitution happens illegally, from what I understand.

Still, that's better than 100% illegal statewide, which is the case in pretty much every state bordering Nevada IIRC.

"no independent contractors allowed anywhere in the state"

I'm pretty sure most (all?) prostitutes in Nevadan brothels are independent contractors. They still report to brothel owners, though.

"it's still pretty repressive"

Indeed it is.

I wonder if government-operated brothels could be a better solution, this way there is a constant monitor on sex workers and human trafficking while providing extra income to the government and being able to protect the sex worker/citizens its meant to protect.

Not sure what would be the obvious cons. Happy to know if anyone points any out.

I follow sex worker activist communities peripherally (some friends are sex workers or activists in that area), and I don't know of anyone working toward the goal of government-operated brothels (though many lean socialist on some fronts) or expressing a desire for "constant monitoring".

They just want to be treated like any other sole proprietor. They want the rule of law to apply for them, so when someone cheats them, robs them, or steals from them, they can call the police and be treated with something approaching respect. They want to be able to legally save and spend their money (and pay taxes on it) like everybody else. And, they want to be able to use tools like Backpage to find clients. Oh, and they want to be able to communicate openly with other people in their local industry so they can look out for one another when it comes to dangerous clients.

I think it's kinda the same thinking that leads to outlawing some kinds of sex work and/or equating all sex work with human trafficking (there's a whole category of so-called feminism that treats all sex work as human trafficking, which is just weird). Infantilizing the people who participate, as though they can't run their own small business without constant monitoring, and can't make their own decisions about the sort of work they want to do. There are good discussions to be had about health and legality and human trafficking, etc. But, I can't think of any good arguments for not acknowledging the basic autonomy of the workers themselves.

Each brothel would probably be open the most inconvenient hours. Like 10am-4pm Tuesdays-Fridays.

And paid sex outside a brothel would likely still be illegal.

Public workers tend to get away with anything, like politicians or cops get away with murders, theft or even rape. Putting these unaccountable people in charge of brothels sounds like a nightmare.

There's a reason that Patty and Selma work for the Department of Motor Vehicles. They "suck the life out of everything".

If they worked in a brothel it would be even less fun than visiting the DMV.


Yes it's a cartoon and a stereotype. But the reason it's funny is that it's so close to peoples' everyday experience with government employees.

It'd quickly turn into a regulated mess. The proper solution is a large-scale extrajurisdictional organization that can take both sides of the trade. Like Uber (without the sexism), it would answer to both the contractors and the customers.

Not being a government org would give it the freedom to maneuver. It could exact penalties on abusive clients (fines, banning or worse). It could engage law enforcement on its own terms to combat human trafficking. But also commercially it has many advantages. It would know demand and could thus implement demand based pricing and overall help workers maximize their earnings.

A government org is never going to do proper marketing! A company can, and will. And it is a lucrative enough business that it will be able to provide real top quality service to everyone involved without sacrificing safety.

The obvious con for sex workers is that the government knows the names of all the sex workers involved. In case of a reactionary backlash (as happened in Rhode Island after 6 years), the government can easily round up everyone involved for surveillance if they're still in sex work.

Just another quick note why I got the idea, it seems, at least to me that some sex workers depend on pimps for finding clients, protection and other services which reminded me of the mafia and their racketeering (my mom had a restaurant and was threatened for protection money as well).

This sort of action is targeted by the government because it in a way negates the government's legitimacy and influence, because the taxes you pay ensure that you are under the protection of the government and mafia/pimps are in a way usurping that power.

Thus instead of depending on underground/illegal organizations, it could be better to rely on a more public and generally more stable legal organization for protection and marketing, etc.

Probably not; that would make the employees work for the government and fall under their payment rules, e.g. fixed hourly pay, instead of what they earn right now + tips + etc.

Do you guys think that the majority of sex workers really enjoy their work or prefer it? Do you think that this is the career they prefer? Do you think it may have some affect on their psychological well-being?

I believe prostitution is an indication of a lack economic and social well-being both in the case of buyers and sellers.

Within about one or two decades maximum there will be revolutionary advances in robotics including things like much better weight-to power ratio artificial muscles and increased bio-mimicry. This will lead to truly life-like sex robots. Along the same lines, the majority of "ordinary" jobs that humans can currently do without high-bandwidth connections to computers or control over them will be replaced with sophisticated AIs and robots or automation. The perspective on sex work and general objectification of women will shift more towards one side then.

I've had a few stripper friends and acquaintances, including two roommates. Sure, these were fairly pretty girls (but not models or prom queens) doing fairly posh/well-protected "sex work" in upscale clubs, but it's worth saying that they mostly regarded it as a dream lifestyle. They'd work one or two days a week, make $60,000+ a year, and get lavished with attention during work. Naturally, they had lots of time to keep up with multiple hobbies and/or advance more long term careers in various ways. They've all gracefully transitioned into smart long-term career options.

It's hard to say how representative these experiences are, but my hunch is that workers catering to middle class and upper class clients actually have pretty nice lives.

I believe prostitution is an indication of a lack economic and social well-being both in the case of buyers and sellers.

I went to strip clubs occasionally and once in a blue moon saw escorts in my late 20's and early 30's. I would fully agree that I was "socially unwell" (but quite fine economically) - when dating is all dead ends and your life completely lacks intimate touch, life isn't great, no matter how much money you make. A decade later, I see it as a phase that quickly passed, but helped me in ways that traditional self-improvement (including working out) and therapy were really not moving me toward. I have profound misgivings about the "industry" but it was really a bridge to living a full life and happy, fulfilling relationships.

I say this because it's underrated/ignored/mocked what a profound, innate human need sex work addresses. I certainly hope society can evolve enough to seriously consider creating ethical, legal and safe ways of addressing this need.

Working in a poisoned corporate environment has some effect on psychological well being.

It is easy to reason about these things on an armchair, much like it is to reason about war.

And much like soldiers who have actually been in the battlefield, many prositutes suffer from PTSD. I suspect the percentage of corporate drones suffering from debilitating PTSD is much lower than among soldiers and prostitutes.

The article mentions a decrease in both STD rates and sexual violence with legal prostitution. So it's not crazy to think that there may be a reduction in PTSD as well. And making their trade legal makes it easier to provide (mental health) services.

For sure. I was just trying to explain why the "corporate effect on mental well being" is not comparable to the effect that sex work has on sex workers (which is closer to PTSD in the military).

The only way I can understand the downvotes to my comment is the missing /s on the first line; I somehow completely failed to communicate that, it seems.

I just can't understand how people think that you can regulate sex between consenting adults. Did we not learn anything from prohibition? Trying to make something that almost everyone wants illegal is just not possible. Hell, we can't even enforce a speed limit on the highways.

I think the best way to handle prostitution and recreational drugs is to let each neighborhood decide what is allowed. If the majority of residents and majority of property owners are okay with a particular activity, it should be legal there.

There are always going to be problems allowing these activities and problems with banning them. If you let each neighborhood decide, at least you're moving the problem to areas that are ready and willing to deal with the problems. They can tax it, regulate it, provide security, drug treatment etc. That means the neighborhood has to form some kind of legal entity, of course.

And you're giving the customers reasons to go where they are welcome. By doing it on a neighborhood level, it becomes much easier to comply. It's easier to drive 15 blocks than to go to the next county.

And I think enforcement where it is banned can just be done with fines, giving people a good reason to take their business to where it is welcome. There's no reason to put people in prison.

That's an amazingly dumb idea.

A fitting phenomenon for the "Red Island" :)

I highly recommend the document Whores' Glory by Michael Glawogger which gives you a different look on what prostitution can also be like.

Look no farther than some South Asian societies. Countries with no madness around prostitution are better off socially.

It is not an accident that Thailand is a Buddhist country - people are tolerant to whatever is not harming others living beings.

Too much pressure on sexual issues is a sign of primitive authoritarian societies (who are cooksure that they know better what is right and what is wrong than biology and evolution).

It is not an accident that Thailand is a Buddhist country - people are tolerant to whatever is not harming others living beings

Oh really?


So tolerant!

Haha you wouldn't have to go back 14 years for most nations...

Perhaps not even for Thailand; I just happen to know of this particular episode. But regardless, Buddhism's influence there certainly didn't start 14 years ago!

It should be taught in high school that extremes are not representative.

The popular areas of sex tourism in Thailand are safer than most tourist hotspots without any security forces, cameras, etc. Everything is self-regulated, like a healthy market or society should be.

prostitution is probably the oldest profession.

Rhode Islander checking in. I'll share a story I heard from someone downcity many years ago, before this law was reversed in '09.

Buddy's (7-time wiseguy mayor of Providence, and 2-time convicted felon) usual driver was unavailable, and a detective was assigned to escort him. The mayor gives his new driver an address. The detective recognizes it, bit can't quite place it, and gets on his way.

When he gets there, it hits him. "Buddy, this is the address of a known brothel".

Buddy quips back "you must be a detective" and disappears into the building.

Did you listen to the podcast "Crimetown?"

No, but everyone keeps telling me about it, it's on my TODO list.


Please don't do this here.

We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14946448 and marked it off-topic.

Hi dang. I don't understand why this post is considered off-topic if the post it replied to is considered on-topic.

The post that this responds to asked if prostitution would be a viable career post forty, and my response is directly on-point. I certainly respect your right to moderate, but I'm trying to understand why this was unacceptable and their post was.


Honest question... for those of you on board with this: how do you reconcile the complaints about the objectification of women as sex objects (and how that harms women) with this?

The objectification of women will be present either way, the only difference is that in one scenario, we criminalize a woman's sexual agency and in the other we don't. We know that decriminalization creates better outcomes in terms of safety and public health, so at the end of the day I feel like the hand wringing over objectification is not helpful.

Legalizing prostitution increases human trafficking:


The correct approach is to decriminalize providing, and crack down hard on buyers.

this always strikes me as a mistaken case of white-knightism. it does not help these girls who would have to lower the price to adapt to adjust to lowered demand. you need customers to run a business.

The idea is to get demand to dry up, so prostitutes will be incentivized to find other lines of work. Ending prostitution, and the exploitation it brings, is the goal. Criminalizing johns but not prostitutes will make prostitutes fear the authorities less and come forward if they have been victimized.

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