The Nature of the Prostitution Business
The other afternoon, Dan Yorke was discussing, on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO, the human trafficking side of Rhode Island’s legal prostitution business, and several callers put forward the argument maintaining the occupation’s legality in Rhode Island prevents a slide down the slippery slope of interference in our bedrooms. The obvious response that came to mind was that the slope seems otherwise no better preserved in Rhode Island than in the 48 states that explicitly outlaw whore-biz.
Until I’d read a recent story about an intervention program in Chicago to help women escape that life, a larger point lingered just beyond the edge of articulation. Here’s the key statement:
Over the years, the department has discovered, more than 40 percent of the women in the jail have worked as prostitutes at some point in their lives. Prostitution was not a choice but rather a consequence of all the other failures in their lives, the staff says.
Selling sex, in other words, is an industry that tends toward depravity and abuse. It draws in and destroys the vulnerable.
What the ratio might be of such women to those who take up the trade as an economic calculation — the old “put myself through college” claim — I won’t hazard to guess. As a matter of morality, I’d suggest that all who perform such acts are behaving immorally, but our pluralistic society ought at least to be sufficiently confident to declare it illegal to profit directly from this particular moral failing in our fellow human beings.