By Jordan Jardine
As stated in previous articles, I am this magazine’s resident anarchist. I believe that all individuals should be free to pursue their dreams, desires and passions as long as these do not infringe upon the rights of others. This is especially the case with social issues. One of the least-discussed of these issues is the world’s oldest profession: prostitution. Sex work is almost as old as humanity and has existed in nearly every society, especially since the budding of prosperous ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia and various parts of Asia.
Obviously, prostitution is still practiced in most societies in the world today, including in America. We are supposedly a “free country” that values individual liberty. Yet, our society demonizes sex work. According to data from a 2016 Marist Poll survey, only 49% of Americans believe prostitution should be legalized. While this number demonstrates an increase in the favorability of prostitution when compared to polls from previous years, a slight majority of Americans are still of the position that prostitution and other forms of sex work should not be allowed in our society. I understand that Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) all object to the practice of sex work, but that does not mean adherents of those religions should have the power to insert their religious beliefs into the laws of a secular government and society, such as that of the United States. If someone is caught engaging in child prostitution, of course they should be punished because minors lack the capacity to consent. However, what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes or hotel rooms is none of the state’s business and is also no business of religious leaders. If you are opposed to prostitution, don’t engage in it – but, leave people alone who disagree with you and may want to engage in that activity. Prostitutes and those who choose to partake in sexual activities with prostitutes do not deserve to have their lives destroyed or face the potential of being locked in a cage for participating in a voluntary transaction that does not do even a modicum of harm to anyone else around them.
Furthermore, the criminalization of prostitution in the United States and elsewhere actually puts sex workers in a considerable amount of danger. Since sex work is illicit, prostitutes and escorts are forced to sell their labor on the black market, making it much easier for criminals to take advantage of them and possibly use these poor people as pawns in an abhorrent game of human trafficking chess. Sex workers need to be protected by the state, not punished by it.
Thomas Jefferson famously declared that all Americans have three basic rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The criminalization of prostitution deprives sex workers of all three of these rights. Getting fined and/or incarcerated for sex work can destroy a person’s life by ruining their reputation in the job market and in society at large. Also, sex workers see their liberty being taken away when they are not legally allowed to participate in a profession that they voluntarily have decided to be a part of. Finally, if prostitution is a person’s sole or even supplemental source of income, the government is taking away the workers’ chances to pursue their own happiness with said income if and when the state takes extreme disciplinary actions against them.
This is simply unacceptable in a country that claims to stand for freedom, opportunity and justice. The government in this country needs to spend more time incarcerating Wall Street criminals, murderers, rapists and thieves and less time trying to destroy the lives of free, autonomous individuals involved in activities which pose no direct threat to anyone else or their rights. Again, you may not agree with sex work itself, but ruining people’s lives because you disagree with things they do on their own time and dime is the height of immorality and stupidity. The government should punish people who rape sex workers and can also put a stop to human trafficking operations and sex crimes involving minors, but that is where the state’s responsibility should end in the area of sex work. Conservatives should support the legalization of sex work because the government would largely stay out of it, barring the circumstances mentioned above. Less government and individual freedom are supposed to be core conservative tenets, after all. This is why I see social conservatism as a contradiction to what is generally thought of as “conservatism” today. You cannot simultaneously advocate for less government and penalizing people for engaging in activities which they personally disapprove of. One is entitled to hold socially conservative views at a personal level, but should not push their social agenda through government legislation. This is the United States, not Iran. We are a democracy, not a theocracy, and that should continue to be the case. So, to put it briefly, we must legalize the world’s oldest profession to give the world a new perspective on social freedom and individual autonomy.