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Home » Sexual Resources » Sex Articles » Sex & Society

Making Prostitution Legal
Improving Our Society

Watching HBO's Documentary series the other day I saw a re-run I had seen back in the late 90's called Pimps Up, Ho's Down (1999) by Brent Owens. This is a documentary on the world of pimps and prostitutes. Some of the pimps featured are Mr. Whitefolks, Don "Magic" Juan (former pimp) and "Snooky"(1998 Pimp of the Year... yes, they actually have an award ceremony for pimps by pimps).

Mr. Whitefolks is so unbelievable in some of the things he does and says that you almost feel you are watching a character like Archie Bunker from the sitcom "All In The Family." He is one of very few white pimps and has ebonics down to an art form. He speaks about how it is important to keep ho's in line by beating them up for just looking at their pimp when on the street. He said that this has to happen when they don't overt their eyes to show respect.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

Copyright: Holistic Wisdom- Do NOT Copy Warning

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Now, I admit that like many Americans I enjoy some of the music and style that comes from this culture but I draw the line at reality. It's one thing to dress flamboyantly it's quite another to beat someone and take their money!

I am not advocating banning any of the multimedia that I have shown in this article as I believe we all have the right to express ourselves. To be honest I listen to some of the catchy tunes of 'Pimp icons' like 50 cent and P. Diddy (Sean Combs), and I thought that Snoop Doggy Dog was great in the Starsky & Hutch movie with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. I also like the MTV show "Pimp My Ride," where they take old, beat up cars and 'pimp them out.'

I am not suggesting that society should agree that prostitution is moral, but I do think we need to take a different approach. We need a solution to address not only the health concerns, millions of tax dollars spent on police enforcing the law against prostitution as well as cut out the need for prostitutes to have pimps.

The most high-profile prostitution prosecution in recent years was the Heidi Fleiss case out of Los Angeles. Heidi organized call girls for wealthy customers. Her 'employees' made up to $10,000 a day and none complained about how she treated them.

Heidi's lawyer Thomas Tanana detailed the Los Angeles police campaign against her in 1995 in the Orange County Register: "While people were getting murdered, mugged, and raped in other parts of Los Angeles, 20 to 30 members of the LA metro vice squad safely perched themselves high atop the spacious penthouse of a Beverly Hills hotel for weeks conducting endless preparatory strategic meetings, installing and testing hidden video cameras behind special see-through mirrors in adjoining suites, bugging rooms with recording devices, chatting with young call girls about sex, and watching racy movies all at taxpayers' expense. In 1993, one Los Angeles government official estimated that prostitution enforcement was costing Los Angeles alone over $100 million a year.

HIV infection rates tend to be stratospheric among the nation's streetwalkers. In Newark, New Jersey, 57 percent of prostitutes were found to be HIV-positive; in New York City, 35 percent of prostitutes were HIV-positive; and in Washington, D.C., almost half of all streetwalkers were found to be HIV-positive.

In contrast, brothels are legal in ten rural Nevada counties and the legal brothels tend to be paragons of public safety. The University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health studied the health of legal Nevada brothel workers compared with that of the jailed Nevada streetwalkers. None of the brothel workers had AIDS, while 6 percent of the streetwalkers had AIDS. Brothel owners had a strong incentive to police the health of their employees, since they could conceivably face liability if an infection were passed on to a customer.

The legalization of prostitution seems to offer one of the easiest means to limit the spread of the contagion and of improving the quality of law enforcement in this country as many of our police officers could spend their time more wisely by going after murders and rapists. It frees up tax money to pursue more important issues that impact our society such as improving education for our children and creating employment through environmental and transportation projects.

Perhaps legalizing something like the Mayflower Madam (Sidney Biddle Barrows who had the Cachet escort service) was not such a bad idea. It would offer women health care, legal protection, and since it is going to happen whether it is legal or not legal it seems we should at least make it safer.

There are some organizations that support prostitutes such as the Network of Sex Work Projects and there is even a World Charter For Prostitutes' Rights which I was surprised to find even existed. Do such organizations or charter of rights hold any power in the U.S.? No, so while there are good intentions there... there is no progress being made.

In speaking about the possibility of legalizing prostitution, please know that I am not giving my moral stamp of approval; but think about this- 78% of 55 women who sought help from the Council for Prostitution Alternatives in 1991 reported being raped an average of 16 times a year by pimps, and were raped 33 times a year by customers. No one deserves to be raped no matter what they do for a living. NO ONE.

I believe that all humans deserve a safe environment and if prostitution is going to continue, which I am 100% sure it will, then we need to come up with better alternatives than ridiculous "sting" operations that do nothing to help people. Isn't the whole point of law to help our society be a safe place to live where our rights as human beings are not violated? Why then do we allow prostitutes to have their right to safety and health violated while we spend so much time and money focusing on the aspects of sex rather than the really important concerns?

Infidelity Issues With Legalization Of Prostitution?

I am completely against infidelity as demonstrated in my article When is Infidelity Okay? I mention infidelity because I think that often times people fear that the legalization of prostitution would promote infidelity. This may be a good point to consider. I wonder... is the infidelity rate higher, the same or lower in areas where there is legalized prostitution? It is hard to know for sure since most people who are unfaithful to a partner don't report it. My overall feeling is that those who want to cheat on a significant other will do so regardless of a legal sex service.

Despite centuries of attempts to suppress prostitution, the problem continues to flourish and little has changed. Simply because prostitution may, in many people's opinion, be immoral is no reason for police to waste their time in a futile effort to suppress the oldest profession, for women to not receive health care in such a high risk profession, or for women to seek out pimps for protection and end up with someone who beats them and takes their money.


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