Research Paper: Attitudes Towards Prostitution in the United States of America and the Netherlands

Pages: 13 (4712 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 11  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality  ·  Buy This Paper

Prostitution: Attitudes in the U.S. with a look at the Netherlands

Order ID: Prostitution U.S./Netherlands

It doesn't even occur to me that Prostitution should be illegal.

Young Woman, resident of Amsterdam (Weitzer 2011, p. 146)

Sexuality is something that is unique to each individual. It is something personal and something that is intrinsically linked with one's personal experiences and the mores by which they choose to live their life. In understanding this, it should be legal for individuals to be free to practice their sexuality in whatever ways they choose as long as they are not endangering someone else. Prostitution has been debated in nearly every single society and culture to differing degrees of acceptance or rejection (Valor-Segura & Moya 2011, p. 159) and it remains to be an intense topic in the United States. To legalize or not to legalize? Legalizing prostitution would not just benefit consenting adults who should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding their own sexual preferences, but it would have a lot of other benefits as well. Many individuals think that legalizing prostitution would reduce the crime rate, be beneficial to public health, increase tax revenue, and help individuals who are already engaging in prostitution get off the streets and practice in a safe environment (Prostitution ProCon.org 2011). Still, there are others who believe it should stay illegal because of its "immorality" -- however, this is not a good enough reason to ban people from doing what they would like with their bodies and when there has been mutual consent between individuals. Prostitution is oftentimes called "the world's oldest profession," but the laws that prohibit prostitution are also the oldest examples of the government inserting itself where it doesn't belong. In any free society, laws that prohibit prostitution violate the fundamental rights and liberties of the people and it is especially discriminatory towards women as women make up the majority of prostitutes in the United States. In countries that have legalized prostitution -- like the Netherlands -- there is a completely different view on prostitution. Whereas in the United States most people tend to not see past the sex part, in the Netherlands, for example, prostitution is seen as a job -- a consensual act in which money is exchanged. Rights are not being violated and there isn't harm done to anyone. For this reason, prostitution should be legal -- plain and simple. We can learn a lot about this issue by looking at countries like the Netherlands (which we may consider but progressive, but in the Netherlands, prostitution has been legal since the 1400s) and how they are able to legalize, regulate and standardize prostitution. In understanding prostitution laws here in the United States, we have to understand that the issues surrounding it are not necessarily merely health issues or worries about crime and drugs. These elements to the equations feel more like scapegoats so that the real truth doesn't have to be told. The Untied States is a country that is governed by puritanical codes and the people who hold the powers to make decisions erroneously believe that they have the final word on what is moral and what is not. This is the issue at hand when prostitution is discussed in the United States. It is only by understanding that we all have our own set of morals and mores by which we hold ourselves accountable that we can allow others to live their lives the way they wish to do so.

Prostitution can be defined as an activity where a person gives sexual acts in exchange for money and there are a number of different lenses in which prostitution can be viewed (e.g. public health, law, personal preferences, ethics, morals, etc.). Though the United States keeps prostitution illegal in most states, there are over one million women who call it their job. The National Task Force on Prostitution maintains that over one million people in the United States have at one time worked as a prostitute -- or approximately 1% of women in America (Prostitution ProCon.org 2011). Of course, it can be inferred from those numbers that there are also people soliciting those services. In 1993, Armentano (1993) stated that sex with a prostitute was the third most common way that an American man contracted the AIDS virus. However, in an ironic twist, it is precisely the growing number of HIV / AIDS cases (as well as other types of STDs) which is used as an argument for legalizing prostitution in the United States (1993).

As health professionals, it is important that we do not allow misinformation to be perpetuated in our society. Many opponents of legalizing prostitution think if prostitution were legalized there would be an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (e.g. HIV / AIDS) (Prostitution ProCon.org). However, countries such as France, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, and even Israel that have legalized prostitution have fewer people living with HIV / AIDS as well as the number of deaths as a result of HIV / AIDS infection when compared to records in the United States (Reasons for Liberty 2011). Opponents also believe that the legalization of prostitution would lead to global human trafficking and an increase in rapes and homicides (2011). From the perspective of a health professional, it is does not make sense thinking that the legalization of prostitution would necessarily lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases because the licensing premises would encourage prostitutes access to health care in order for them to stay licensed. That is to say, there would be a major incentive for ensuring that prostitutes were in good health. Another point is that legalization would mean that sex workers could find a safe place to work as opposed to being forced to hide out in areas that are unsafe (streets, abandoned buildings, illegal premises). The bottom line is that prostitutes are forced to work outside of the law right now in the United States (except in Nevada and Rhode Island) and this has major health ramifications. In one study that was carried out in Australia in 1998, it was found that the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections was 80 times greater in 63 illegal street prostitutes than in 753 of their legal brothel counterparts (Prostitution ProCon.org 2011). This does not seem like a mere coincidence.

One of the mainstream attitudes in society that plague this topic is that prostitution is immoral -- plain and simple, case closed. It is interesting to note that there are few topics that garner such outrage. But what it is about prostitution that enrages people so? When people try to defend the legalization of prostitution, the sentence "It's my body -- not yours" tends to be uttered. The notion of a body not belonging to someone else but only to the person residing in that body is a notion that forms many discussions on issues from abortion to euthanasia to plastic surgery even (Phillips 2011, p. 725). Even children learn that they should not touch other's bodies or allow anyone to touch theirs because bodies belong to the individuals in which embody that body. If this is true then, if a body solely belongs to the individual as if it were a piece of property owned by them, then why shouldn't they be allowed to trade it for money if they like? What are the issues? Valor-Segura and Moya (2011) posit that it could be an issue that is influenced by ideological factors (p. 159). Some perceive prostitution as akin to slavery since sex trafficking is an oftentimes a major component of prostitution, which is why some believe that sex should not be allowed to be bought or sold (Weitzer 2010, p. 940). While certainly sex trafficking and the prostitution of minors is a problem that must be dealt with in a legal way, there are many industries that hold similar risks. The point is that we cannot just blame prostitution for everything wrong in the world without having any empirical data to back it up (which there is none).

There are some cases in the United States where prostitution has tried to be normalized. Weitzer (2010) notes that in 2008 residents in San Francisco voted on a ballot measure that police should stop enforcing the law against prostitution (p. 61). Even though the measure failed, it was supported by a good size of voters (42%), which shows that there are individuals out there who believe that people should have the right to do what they want with their bodies (whether it is buying or selling sex). Despite this ballot measure in San Francisco (a city where prostitution might be expected to be more acceptable due to the LGBT population), the rest of the country is not as open to legal prostitution. Even in cities (and towns) where stripping and pornography are considered normal parts of the culture, prostitution is still viewed as the worst thing a person could engage in. It seems ironic in this day… [END OF PREVIEW]

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