I won't get into another useless rant against prostitution. Instead, I'll play devil's advocate.
First, let's examine some of the popular and feminist arguments regarding prostitutes:
'They were forced, slave-traded, blackmailed or it involved underage girls': When this is true, I have no argument here obviously. But most prostitutes made a choice, some are even happy or treat it as a regular boring job with a few highlights (I base this on interviews and reports I read), and some (like the recent incidents with high school girls) do it for quick cash and are indifferent to everything else.
'It's demeaning (to both sides)': Again, they do it to themselves and many will tell you they've come to terms with it and even have some fun. Others ignore all humiliations when they hear they can charge $100-$500 per customer, so excuse me if I seem less than sympathetic. People constantly humiliate themselves in all sorts of ways. Who are you to decide what is demeaning for them?
'It encourages men to see women as sex objects': Now this is an interesting and possibly valid argument. There are always high-class prostitutes, geishas and call-girls that may even elevate the profession into a kind of 'respectable' social interaction. But even there it can be argued that the end result is the same, only subtler. On the other hand, people make themselves into sex objects and harm their gender in many, many ways besides whoring. Why should I fixate on this particular method? Should we declare sleeping around due to insecurity illegal? What about groupies? Models? Actors? Morally, prostitution may be questionable, but it seems blown out of proportion to me.
'Poverty made them do it': So let me get this straight: If a poor man steals, mugs, or murders in order to support a family, should I feel sorry for him too? In a way, he did it out of desperation. But in the end he gave in, made a decision to do wrong, as well as break the law. And anyways, almost all cases aren't that extreme that the only resort left is the last one. I'm sick of bleeding hearts trying to shift the blame away from the prostitute and onto the client for taking advantage of her.
'Men cajoled and pressured them into doing it': Oh, give me a break. That's too weak to even address.
'Damaging competition for girl-friends and wives': Let me get this straight: This means that either you're so insecure you turn your neurotic whining against whores, or that you're really less interesting than a whore and can't keep your man interested, which is pathetic, or, that you chose to marry a man who just can't stay away from whores - what does that say about you and your choices?
Actually, this is an interesting argument for even more reasons. The underlying assumption is that men are easily lured by professional sex workers and won't be able to resist. It also assumes that the woman's job is to satisfy a man so that he won't wander, and that she can actually succeed in doing this. All of these are true up to a certain extent, but if you think about it, this argument only insults both men and women in almost every way possible.
By the way, now there are feminist prostitutes arguing for their rights and respect, and others are even arguing that it empowers them. Try this article
on for size.
A few interesting statistics:
"Percentages of male and female prostitutes varies from city to city. Estimates in some larger cities suggest 20-30% of prostitutes are male.": Right then. So all of this applies to male prostitutes as well. *sigh*
"Although violence and the threat of violence is a serious problem, some populations of prostitutes show no higher incidence of violence and abuse than women in general.": There goes the demeaning to women argument. Then again, this can be argued in many different ways: Probably, the overall effect spreads out to women in all professions. Or maybe the prostitutes give the men what they want so that, statistically, you would expect non-prostitutes to be abused more often. You can say that prostitutes don't report most acts of abuse, but then again, neither do other women.
"Some researchers suggest that prostitutes, in general, suffer from 'negative identities' or lack of self esteem. A 1986 study by Diane Prince, however, found call girls and brothel workers had higher self esteem than before they became prostitutes. 97% of call girls liked themselves 'more than before.'": Damn, you girls are pathetic. Can't you handle your sexual inhibitions, insecurities and repressions without resorting to prostitution?
"The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that over one million people in the US have worked as prostitutes in the United States, or about 1% of American women.": And, I'm assuming those are just the ones that could bring themselves to admit it, and the ones that didn't disqualify isolated events when 'they needed the money'.
The truth is, there is almost no reason why prostitution should not be legalized. They will do it anyways and it will make life less dangerous for the people involved, providing official protection or legal recourses, as well as make violent pimps more obsolete. The act is between two consenting adults. The costs involved in uselessly harassing prostitutes and brothels on a weekly basis can be used better elsewhere, and the high wages of a prostitute can be taxed. Whether or not a prostitute's work demands talent or not is a moot point but it definitely doesn't need an education and some of them get paid more than lawyers and doctors.
And the bottom line is that prostitution is not much different than all the other demeaning acts people do to themselves, many of them having to do with cheap sex. Why are we bothering with this one and not the others?
So you have the 'demeaning effect' argument. You have the devaluation of sex and the need for modesty and values arguments. But unless you are sensitive to these issues, and most people aren't, the pros for legalizing prostitution far outweigh the cons and are much more practical. It's just another legal Prohibition, only for sex instead of alcohol.
You can say this will only encourage many more women to whore themselves, but that's only wrong if you go on the assumption that prostitution is wrong. What's really wrong with it? Have you ever really thought about it? Your parents' values aren't going to convince anyone. Your inhibitions, guilt, social imprints or feelings of cheapness aren't going to work either. Besides, since when is it the job of the police force to enforce 'harmless' morality issues?
And if one day you find yourself poor, having to support children, pressured by solicitations and the offer of $500 for 20 minutes work, are you so sure you won't give in? Are you sure you have figured it all out?