Why Prostitution Should Be Legal

Folks often use the abuses in the prostitution industry as evidence of why it should be illegal.  But these abuses are actually a result of the illegality.  Sex workers in illicit industries cannot use the police and legal system to address abuses without risking arrest.  Essentially, they are cut off from access to the legal system and its protections that we take for granted.

People act like the abuses are inherent to the fact that prostitution is a sex work industry, but here is an example of (legal) sex workers protecting themselves and addressing abuses through the legal system, just like all the rest of us do.  If prostitution were legal, then prostitutes could do the same.

Three Valley strip clubs are being sued by exotic dancers with the help of a Texas law firm over alleged unpaid tips and wages....

Hodges' firm and the strippers are suing to make the strippers official employees. Their new system would be similar to that of restaurant wait staff, who typically earn a sub-minimum salary (Arizona allows as low as $3 an hour for tipped employees) while pooling tips among their fellow workers. If no customers come in, the staff is still guaranteed to make at least minimum wage, plus time-and-a-half for any overtime worked.

I'm not a big fan of the premise of the lawsuit (trying to force businesses to change their employment model from dancers as independent contractors to dancers as employees) but it is their free access to the legal system that is the point here.  One could never imagine such a lawsuit with a group of prostitutes arguing that the people they worked for were not paying them fairly.


  1. Mercury:

    Widespread, legalized prostitution in the US would almost certainly result in generating an extensive audit trail for Johns thus making legal protitutes' services both less desireable and more expensive than whatever they are now.

    In any case prostitution will probably disappear, except at the very low and very high ends, once sex robots get good and cheap enough. They might even become an entitlement.

    Google already has the ability to build a robot army (which I'm sure they'll use them to cure cancer or something): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8YjvHYbZ9w

    But if they can bring to market a $1000, animatronic version of one of these: https://www.realdoll.com/
    ...its probably game over for Trixy.
    Given the, (ahem)...data collection possibilities they might just give them away for free like gmail accounts...

  2. Dan Lavatan:

    I don't think this is true - it isn't really a problem in Mexico, Nevada, and other places where prostitution is legal. It can be both legal and mostly anonymous. Escort services already accept credit cards if that is what you are getting at. I also don't see why people would care if it were legal. Widespread porn and sex toys may have cut demand a bit, but not to the point where it isn't a lucrative profession.

  3. John VI:

    I find it interesting that the lawsuit focuses on tips. Anytime I have frequented the peelers, the dancers are literally pelted with money, in essence, Tips. If the CLUB is collecting those tips and not giving them to the dancers then that would drive the better dancers away. If the club is not sharing bar and kitchen tips with the dancers, then that might be another story, but having worked in a kitchen before, I know those tips are not exactly shared equally amongst all the staff. And if the dancers prevail, will that rain of tip money they presumably be getting now, also be shared among the non dancing wait staff?? Something isn't passing the sniff test there.
    But I do agree that legalized prostitution has done nothing negative in any state or country that has done it ( except piss off feminists, which may or may not fall on your personal negative scale... )

  4. obloodyhell:

    Well, anyone who knows anything at all knows that dancers put money on themselves often before coming out to "play", to encourage tipping. But that said, to be claiming you're making less than minwage on tipping is rather preposterous. If you're making less than minwage on tips as a stripper, then you are in the wrong business, and probably missing significant teeth.

    Stripping is one of the most financially remunerative jobs where one does not need an extensive education to function at a high level.

    }}} One could never imagine such a lawsuit with a group of prostitutes arguing that the people they worked for were not paying them fairly.

    Rather clearly, Warren, you could make a better case for this by hunting down stats in Nevada and comparing them to other places.

  5. MNHawk:

    It's only legal to do it for money, if a camera is recording the act.

    Prostitution is just porn, without the audience.

  6. Matthew Slyfield:

    The problem with using Nevada to make this case is that while the high end of the prostitution market (brothels and call girl services) are legal, the low end (street walkers) is still illegal, and it's that low end where most of the human trafficking, slavery and other abuses happen.

  7. BobSykes:

    Much of Europe has legal prostitution, but that hasn't ended various abuses like sexual slavery. And many practices such as child prostitution cannot be legalized.

    The same thing happened when drugs were legalized in Europe. There is still a black market in drugs in every European country.

    The black markets in prostitution and drugs persist because there are profits to be made, often much larger than in the legitimate enterprises. And services and products that are in demand will be provided regardless of laws.

    That said, it is certain that the string of court decisions that began with Griswold v. Conn will continue, and that prostitution, polygamy, and incest will be legalized. The line will probably be drawn at child prostitution, although the age of consent might be reduced to its historical values between 13 and 16, and it is likely bestiality and necrophilia will be banned.

  8. morgan.c.frank:


    what european countries have legal drugs? i think your argument there is based on bad assumptions. there are a few places (like portugal) where drug possession has been decriminalized, but that is NOT the same as legal nor does it make manufacturing or selling drugs legal.

    so, of course there is a black market.

    but if you look at the US, we had no appreciable black market for drugs before they were banned, just as we had little in the way of a black market for booze.

    we ban booze, we get a black market, we legalize it again, poof. 99%+ of that black market goes away. i mean, i'm sure there is some guy with a still somewhere making his own moonshine, but it's just not an appreciable factor.

    the profits to be made in a black market are only because the price is higher. when legalized, those profits are gone. the idea that running an underground brothel full of smuggled in sex slaves is more profitable than having women willingly work at one seems utterly implausible. you run the risk of discovery, so you must hide. you cannot advertise. you need your own security. you cannot bank. you have to watch the girls who try to run. you have to keep an eye on violent competition and customers etc etc. you must settle disputes by force. also note that facing criminal prosecution if caught is a MAJOR cost. even if it were more profitable, would you really trade 3 years of profits and 10 years of jail for a 13 year career in somersetting a bit less profitable?

    this is exactly why slavery fails as an institution. it turns out it's cheaper and more productive to hire people.

    i defy you to name one market in which a good or service is legal, but the black market thrives despite legal competition.

    i will bet you cannot.

  9. obloodyhell:

    }}} what european countries have legal drugs?

    Can't speak from personal experience, but I think there's no one -- except perhaps you -- who is unaware that Denmark has some exceptionally lax drug laws. Pot is certainly legal there.

    Not to suggest I don't agree that legalization isn't generally the best way to go for both drugs and basic prostitution. Victimless crimes, in general, should be legal.

  10. obloodyhell:

    But you should still see a distinction in terms of the resultant "associated crimes".

  11. obloodyhell:

    Who needs Trixie the robot? All you need is a good VR simulation. As Dennis Miller quipped about 20 years ago, the day when you can sit in a Barcalounger with a Fosters in one hand and a remote in the other and fuck Claudia Schiffer for $19.95 will be the end of civilization.

    And SF has discussed this problem, too. John Barnes presupposes a Terran people all tied up in their virtual lives to the ignorance of the Real World in his Thousand Cultures series.

  12. morgan.c.frank:

    actually obh, pot is NOT legal in denmark, nor are any other drugs. it's not even decriminalized. it's just not aggressively enforced. but possession, sale, and production are all illegal.

    i think you may need to check your facts. pot is certainly not legal there.

    denmark does have some needle exchange/safe space rules around drugs in an attempt to mitigate harm to addicts, but none of those drugs are legal, hence, all are still adulterated black market products.

    there have been some small local experiments in europe in which heroin has been prescribed by doctors to addicts (and that resulted in far, far less harm than the previous system) but i am unaware of any in denmark. switzerland and the uk have tried it.

    when a drug is actually legalized, the black market disappears, drugs gets safer, and problem used drops. it's also consistent with basic rights to self determination and commerce. on this, i think we agree.


    if you are in the market for a really interesting book on the global drug war, i'd recommend "chasing the scream".

  13. morgan.c.frank:

    think of it this way: if someone breaks into your brewery and steals your beer, you have legal recourse. you call the police, you use the courts, you file an insurance claim, etc etc. you can have your brewery in an open, marked location where people will notice a break in. if you are in a country that, like portugal, has decriminalized possession, and someone breaks into your extacy manufacturing facility, you're SOL. what you are doing is illegal. you can't insure it, you can't call the cops, nada. the police will not keep an eye on your facility. the same with your dealers. even if the law is very lax and does not pursue you aggressively, you still have to defend your own business and salesforce with violence and it has to be hidden so that protecting it is harder. instead of doing business in a lighted, public store, you do it in a dark alley.

    prostitution works the same way. lax enforcement of law is nothing like a good or service being legal.

  14. Matthew Slyfield:

    Perhaps, but the high end of the prostitution market is less vulnerable to the "associated crimes" than the low end even in areas where both are illegal, so it wouldn't be a simple comparison.

  15. morgan.c.frank:

    also, prostitution is not legal in the parts of nevada where the tourists go.

    the parts with big casino properties like vegas, tahoe, and reno do not have legal prostitution.

    it's a county by county thing.

    so, trying to look at nevada as a whole would yield some very questionable data.

  16. vikingvista:

    Inability to access state run security and adjudication services is not the major problem suffered by black market workers. After all, many black market services have black market security and adjudication services (e.g. pimps). The major problem is the need for secrecy that is required for the workers to protect themselves from state persecution.

    Secrecy means market reputation effects are severely limited. And without reliable information, the market performs very poorly. For instance, abusive patrons of prostitutes remain largely unknown and so unavoidable. This encourages abusive patrons. Abusive pimps, likewise. Diseased or larcenous prostitutes likewise.

    State services are not unimportant in this regard, but even outside the black market they are less important than natural market relations.

    The secondary effects of the state forcing peaceful transactions underground should produce moral condemnation enough from those grasping the basic economics. But the very idea that the state or anyone should treat peaceful people violently in the first place should be outrageous to anyone whoever grew up with a mother.

  17. jdgalt:

    I can give one example: Colorado and Washington still have their black markets in marijuana, because the price with taxes is higher than the black market price. This was either very poorly thought out, or was deliberately designed so that in a few years they'll be able to claim the experiment "failed".

  18. jdgalt:

    True but, a product or service can be overregulated so severely that all the benefits from being legal disappear. Britain (and until last year Canada) have that situation in prostitution (with laws against things like "keeping a brothel" and "living on the avails"), and the Dutch are moving toward it. If it isn't worthwhile for legal providers to follow the rules, the business has become in effect illegal, even if it really isn't.

  19. jdgalt:

    Why don't you chase some numbers yourself? Because many of us don't think the "trafficking" exists at all.

  20. EricP:

    This honestly seems like the majority of the women who are of average looks trying to use an appeal to fairness against greedy businesses to garnish a percentage of the tips of the top women who probably pull in the lion's share of the tips.