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Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I'll Take Missionary with the Option of Light Oral

Prostitution. It's an ugly, ugly word. Why? I don't know. It could have something to do with the American taboo on sex, but that's just a guess. I know it's ugly word. How would you feel if someone told you you were prostituting yourself to your job?

There is simply no way to begin a discussion on the question without bring in moral and emotional baggage. There is no politically correct term for prostitute that isn't, itself, offensive to those with moral objections.

That happens to be the way I like my politics. No sugar coatings, please. Let's face the issue in the harsh light, face our emotional reactions and get past them, so we can deal with the issue, instead of trading venom and insult.

Is there a good reason that prostitution should be a crime? That's difficult to answer without resting on a moralization. I'm a practical man, and I want practical answers. To get practical answers, I break the issue down. What is prostitution? In the context of this question it is selling sex.

We live in a free market economy. Selling is perfectly legal. Sex is also legal, as long as it is private. Could selling sex be consider public activity? It depends on your definition of public. From an economic stand point, it's definitely private activity, but economics isn't the only definer of what is public.

Still, private entities can't sell just anything. They have to take care to prevent distribution of materials or services that are dangerous. Such things should be regulated for public protection. Is sex dangerous?

AIDS, syphilis, herpes... I'd say yes. Like anything else, sex without a form of moderation is exceedingly dangerous.

So, I can certainly answer the second question. If prostitution were legal it would have to be regulated, for the protection of the public and the prostitutes. How one would go about doing that is somewhat beyond the scope of my abilities, and seems less of political and more of procedural question. In my view procedure only becomes political when political hacks wrestle over it for voter brownie points. I believe prostitution is legal and regulated in parts of Nevada. Certainly those places can provide some idea of how it might be done.

At the last I still don't know if prostitution should be legal. This has been a very narrow analysis that focused on the easy parts of the question. To determine if it should be legal one has to tackle the difficult question of whether the problems related to prostitution—violence, extortion, drugs—are connected to the act or to the fact that the act is illegal. Further one would have to determine if the savings in public expense on enforcement would be eaten by the expense of regulation and dealing with the inevitable breakouts of the problems the regulations were meant to prevent. There would be problems, as with any other regulated system devised by humans, something always slip through the cracks.

I would guess, from a practical stand point, that there is no reason prostitution should be illegal. But I must admit, that it really is less a political and more a moral question. I believe there is a difference between the two. The moral debate doesn't particularly interest me, so I leave that to you.

---No matter where you go, there you are.

Next Time: “Sympathy for the Opposition”

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