Rhode Island as Prostitution Satellite
You may have noticed that “a compromise bill” has emerged on the prostitution issue that may actually have a shot at passage, this week. In response, A largely anonymous Web site (with the exception of Marc Doughty), Citizens Against Criminalization, has gone live (notably named in parallel fashion to Donna Hughes’s Citizens Against Trafficking).
Look, I’m not without sympathy for the libertarian argument, on this one, honestly, but I don’t believe the sale of sex to be a right. That is, a state is within bounds to make such financial transactions illegal, and I support doing so for cultural reasons, but even more so for the image and society that Rhode Island will build by explicitly accepting the whore trade. Since illegality is the case pretty much from sea to shining sea, across the United States, this argument, from the anti-criminalization site’s FAQ is pretty much negated:
Q. What about organized crime? I heard that these places are run by the mafia.
A. Surely one would come to this conclusion if one visited other parts of the country. Luckily, because sex work is not illegal in Rhode Island, nobody needs to be ‘paid off’ in order to carry on business below the radar of the authorities. Organized crime has no place and no purpose when business is carried out legally, as it is in Rhode Island. Investigations into Rhode Island’s spas by law enforcement have showed no evidence of corruption.
Rhode Island simply won’t become a beacon of a “clean” sex industry simply because within its very narrow borders the transactions can be conducted openly. We will become the Prostitution State, and the social implications of that status will be defined by the illegality of prostitution everywhere else. “Legitimate” businesses aren’t going to isolate themselves from the criminal enterprises elsewhere (even if they set up some degree of technical insulation).