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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Addicted to Prostitutes?

On Wednesday, a study will be released that involves 200 Chicago men who have used prostitutes and were willing to answer questions about their experiences. I try to be objective when it comes to research methodology, but some things make me admittedly biased. For one thing, it's my personal belief that prostitution should be legal. There are a number of five-second arguments that one can make which would try and sway you to this point of view, but I'll try and limit myself to just one and get it out of the way early:

It shouldn't be illegal to sell something that you can legally give away for free.

That out of the way, I have to point out that this research survey "was designed by anti-prostitution activist Melissa Farley, who is controversial because academics have accused her of tilting previous research to support a political agenda. The Chicago study is part of an international project that includes surveys in Scotland, India and Cambodia. Critics of the Scotland survey called Farley's methods unscientific."

So right off the bat, not only should you take all of the results with a grain of salt, but you might want to think twice about putting that grain of salt in your mouth. I also want to add that Farley is based in San Francisco, which means that she's probably one of those misguided bleeding-heart "liberals" who really wants to take away liberties instead of protect them.

The main result of the surveys and interviews with the 200 men who frequent prostitutes is that they are conflicted about their behavior. Most of the men obviously said they believe there is nothing wrong with prostitution, but 83% of the interviewees viewed buying sex as a form of addiction. Most of the men believed that women became prostitutes of their own free will, but also acknowledged that the sex trade can be devastating to the women involved. 57% suspect that their prostitutes were abused as children. Almost a third said that they viewed prostitutes' relationships with pimps as "harmful". 40% of men said that they are usually intoxicated when they buy sex.

I'd like to discuss some of these results with my own worldviews.

You already know my stance on there being nothing wrong with prostitution - other than the fact that it's still illegal because it shouldn't be.

Believing prostitutes enter the profession of their own free will? I can side with that argument. After all, the root nature of prostitution is just payment and sex. Both of those acts have to be agreed upon in order for it to be prostitution. Without consent to be paid, it's not prostitution. Without consent to sex, it's rape.

Acknowledgment that the sex trade can be devastating to the women? Of course. I admit that it has the potential for destroying livelihood - and that it probably has. The way to stop that is by making it legal and being able to enforce safety issues and monitor things like any other business. Legalizing it as a profession would mean the possibility for health insurance and other medical benefits.

That prostitutes were abused as children? I can see that there could be a psychological standpoint of being abused as a child leading to sexual promiscuity and the possible increased risk of becoming a prostitute, but to make that assumption? I would think that there are more cases out there of other reasons to becoming a prostitute than child abuse. I would also think that prostitutes might use a sob story like one of child abuse to get more money from clients who might "want to help" and ease their possible guilt from what they've done. It can go either way.

That the relationship between prostitutes and pimps are harmful? I would have to agree, but mostly based on the fact that it's not legal, which means there's no laws protecting the girls. If you went to your office job and your boss beat you with his "boss cane" because sales projections weren't up for the quarter, there would be lawsuits and settlement money abound. A prostitute should be entitled to the same benefits if her pimp decides to beat her with his "pimp cane" because she's not pulling enough tricks or making enough cash. Imagine your job if there were no laws about what your boss could or couldn't do...

40% of men are intoxicated when they pay for sex? That's a no-brainer. Alcohol and other drugs lower inhibitions. Inhibitions are what keep you from doing things that you know you shouldn't do. Like break the law. By paying for sex. I'm shocked that this number isn't higher, but then again I'm sure that a number of these men have long since lost those inhibitions by rationalizing that 1) the law is wrong, so why worry about breaking it or 2) the need for it supercedes the reasoning against doing it.

I lastly need to touch upon that large 83% of men who said that they viewed paying for sex as an addiction. A lot of psychologists will agree that the difference between a compulsion and an addiction is that no harm is being done to the person or to a third party. Alcohol hurts the body and drugs hurt the body - so it's safe to call a compulsion to use those substances an addiction. Does a compulsion to have sex hurt people? Perhaps in an instance of rape or molestation, yes. Paedophiles and rapists would be considered, in my mind, as having deviant sexual addictions. But for run-of-the-mill sexual intercourse (or mild variations of kinkiness that may be involved in prostitution for extra fees)? I think it's a compulsion, and one that shouldn't be shunned or blocked off with laws.

Also, it's hard to define what the potential addiction is: the act of having sex, or the paying for it? Actually, it would be the act of having sex and the act of breaking the law. The rush of adrenaline that some people get when they break a law - THAT can be considered addictive. Which means that by making prostitution legal, those addicts would have to get their fix somewhere else - like robbing liquor stores and probably getting caught. Would I feel bad if making prostitution legal led to a rise in gun violence? Not really. It would take some pretty hard work to ever tie someone to gun violence as a direct result of legalizing prostitution. I mean, proving it in a court of law.

The last statistic brought up by this survey is what the anti-prostitution creator wants to tout as the best result of the survey: 90% of the men said that they would stop if they felt there was a likely chance they would be caught and prosecuted. I think that's just bad news. She wants to make it a logical reason to make the penalties harsher as a deterrent to these men. I think that the end result of that would be MORE suffering for the prostitutes that this woman is trying to "help" - as well as a potential rise in violent sex crimes.

The full results will be made public on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008. I really think that the only way to make these results valid is a complimentary study asking similar questions to the actual Chicago prostitutes. Otherwise, you're only hearing one side of the story, and that's not enough to make a fully-educated decision either way.

And I guess I should wrap up this post by saying that: Yes, I am a Chicago male. No, I have never paid for sex. Yes, I have actually known a Chicago prostitute. No, she didn't give "freebies" to friends. Yes, I still side with her anyway that it should be legal.

What do you think? Do you think that prostitution should be made legal in order to protect these girls - or do you think that prostitution should have harsher penalties in order to protect these girls?

(The article about the potentially-biased study)


Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that prostitution should be legalized, I think the argument you used is simplistic at best. Perhaps you made a typo, but to say that it shouldn't be LEGAL to sell something that you can LEGALLY give away for free just doesn't make any sense.

While I vehemently oppose abortion, I think that the same arguments used in Roe vs Wade would apply to prostitution.

I have paid for sex with a prostitute, and generally speaking I was intoxicated when I did,and the normal reason for that was, as you said, it removes inhibitions. It was almost a compulsion at one point in my life, at least if it wasn't a compulsion it was extremely frequent.

Personally, I get more enjoyment with phonesex now than I ever did from sex with a prostitute. Of course that may be the price tier I was on.

AaronBSam said...

Thanks! The typo has been corrected!

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Troy said...

Your rants are pretty well-informed and entertaining (of course mostly because I happen to agree with you on many issues). Keep up the good work.

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