Legalization and Regulation of Prostitution From a Criminological Perspective Term Paper

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Criminological Perspective: Legalization of Prostitution Ecdriesbaugh

Legalization of Prostitution: Criminological Perspective

Existing laws jeopardize the lives of sex workers. Prostitutes go into darker and deeper corners to avoid criminal prosecution, and as a consequence, complicate the outreach worker's efforts to interact with them. Predators know these prostitutes will not report any abusive or violent behavior, and therefore, view the street prostitute as fair game to hunt, rape, mutilate, and kill whenever they have the inkling to do so. Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault, but first let us start with the fact that there is nothing good or dignified about prostitution. It is distasteful, somewhat animalistic, demoralizing, and degrading to the human spirit; however, sex work does provide an opportunity for people to make a living, the majority of whom are poor, displaced women, who more often than not were abused and sexually traumatized in childhood (Monet, 1997). Under the social learning and feminist criminological theories, these circumstances call for the decriminalization of prostitution in a humanitarian effort to allow sex workers access to the health services and legal protections that every woman is entitled to (Kendall-Raynor, 2007).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Legalization and Regulation of Prostitution From a Criminological Perspective Assignment

Sutherland's social learning theory revolves around the idea that criminal behavior is learned. According to Sutherland, criminal behavior is developed through contact with other persons in a series of communications, and the primary conceptualization of learned criminal behavior takes place within intimate personal groups. Furthermore, the process of learning criminal behavior can be divided into two separate objectives: methods for learning the crime, and the precise direction of reasons, intentions, motives, urges, rationalizations, and attitudes. During this learning process, the person will learn the distinct definitions of favorable or unfavorable legal codes; hence, a criminal is born when the perception of definitions leans more favorably towards violating the law instead of definitions leaning more favorably towards respecting the law. Moreover, the development of criminal behavior through association with criminal and anti-criminal models entails all of the learning devices that are involved in any other learning. Although delinquent behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not justified by those general needs and values because non-criminal behavior is an expression of comparable needs and values (Akers, 1997).

Sutherland's social learning theory pertains to the legalization of prostitution in that many prostitutes learned the patterns of criminal behavior in childhood, by being subjected to serious physical, mental, emotional, and sexual trauma. Ethical thinking and moral behavior develop through observation and modeling behaviors in one's surrounding environment. This includes moral judgments regarding right and wrong -- so it is safe to say that survival mechanisms drive these children to adapt to their experience and surroundings through conforming. These children enter adulthood with a deeply ingrained sense of unworthiness and think that selling their bodies is the only viable option that they could ever be good at. Many have never been afforded a constructive learning model or basic sense of safety, which would provide them the opportunity to know who they are and what they could be.

If social learning theory were even partially applied towards the global legalization of prostitution, it would provide a compassionate understanding of where these patterns of behavior stem from. An advantage to applying this theory towards the legalization of prostitution is that any behavior learned can be unlearned. However, the disadvantage is that patterns learned in child abuse are very hard to break, the scars are permanent, and for many people the level of trauma is so intense that it takes an entire lifetime to become what society deems "normal." There will be those who will feel morally justified to thrust their personal model of morality on these women, and this stigma will follow them forever. We mustn't forget that procurers and johns are also breaking the law and if prostitution is to remain a crime, they should be criminalized as strictly (if not more so) than the sex workers themselves. They are what keep prostitution thriving.

Prostitution is defined as "the practice of having sexual relations with emotional indifference on a promiscuous and mercenary basis." (Hagen, 2007) Prostitution is classified as public-order criminal behaviors, sometimes called "crimes without victims" or "legislated morality" because it offends public morality (p. 460). Until recently, there were considerable obstacles towards the prosecution of those who raped sex workers. Prostitutes were seen as "frequently" available to men, always consenting to sex, and unqualified to even suggest they were beaten or brutally raped (let alone request equal protection under the law). Sex workers face even more legal difficulties than other rape victims. In recent times, feminists groups have argued that complaints of rape made by prostitutes run a much greater risk of not being taken seriously by police and prosecutors. (Sullivan, 2007).

Feminist criminology comes in an array of methods and practices; however, they all share a common theme that malestream methodology to criminology communicates bias and prejudice by ignoring and eliminating women from their controlled studies (Hagen, 2002). According to Aker's (1997), there is no single precise theory of feminism just as there is no specific theory in criminology (p. 189). Aker stresses that having one specific feminist theory is of little importance, but that holding a feminist viewpoint means accepting the perspective that women experience subordination according to their gender, and that working towards the eradication of that subordination is the goal.

However, feminist theory encourages women to scrutinize crime through their own experiences with sexism; hence, feminist research sometimes conflicts with scientific method. This could be a real problem in applying feminist theory towards the legalization of prostitution. If feminists want to receive maximum credibility they will have to develop theories more closely related and guided by scientific method. Liberal feminism accentuates affirmative action but is often criticized for not challenging "white, male, capitalist privilege..." (cited in Hagen, 2002). According to Hagen, radical feminism is the prevailing methodology to feminist criminology; however, radical feminist think that all prostitution is a form of rape -- a violation of human rights -- a form of slavery, and advocate the total abolishment of prostitution (Roleff, 2006). In radical feminism, sex workers are viewed as already the victims of rape; this clearly beckons reason to question sex workers' personal statements that there is clearly an experiential difference between sex work and rape; therefore, radical feminism viewpoints definitely weaken both their consensual capacity and the ability to claim individual rape convictions. Feminist politics regarding sex work cannot stand on the outskirts of power relations; it needs to engage with (and oppose) prevailing power relations in the sexual, economic and legal spheres of influence (Sullivan, 2007).

Feminists already do this in many realms concerning gender, sexuality, and power. For instance, feminists are heavily involved in the politics of lesbian and gay civil and sexual rights, pornography, marriage, sexual harassment, abortion, and contraception. There is no reason why feminists should not similarly investigate the consequences and results in relation to prostitution and rape reform. The eradication of prostitution is not feasible. This is my own opinion, of course. Prostitution has been around forever, and as long as there is a demand for sex, prostitution will live on. Feminist theorists might consider integrating all the various theories in an effort to promote strength and cohesion for maximum power and beneficial outcomes.

Applying feminist theory to the legalization of prostitution works exceptionally well in that the overall stance is that all women (regardless of sexual history) have the right to consent; they have the right to dictate the terms of what they will or will not participate in during any particular business transaction; they have the right to health care; and they have the right to receive protection under the law. To a great extent, feminist theory is responsible for rape law reform in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. This reform has, at the very least, narrowed the admissibility of evidence pertaining to a victim's sexual character and past sexual history. This includes the character, reputation, or past participation in prostitution (and any obvious sexual promiscuity). In these countries working prostitutes and those with a history in the sex industry are under some conditions recognized by law as victims of sexual assault (Sullivan, 2007).

Proponents of the legalization and decriminalization of prostitution state that prostitution reduces the sex worker to a commodity. However, if prostitution were decriminalized, legalized, and regulated, sex workers could escape the streets, have access to a safer working environment, gain ample access to health care services, and demand legal protection under the law. If nothing else (setting all rape issues aside) a person who forces sex without consent on a sex worker could be prosecuted for destruction of property and theft of merchandise -- in the same way that muggers, thieves, and robbers are prosecuted. After all, whose property and merchandise is being referred to? Hers. A commodity perhaps, but still no less a human being.

Feminists and human rights activists need to recognize the process of construction as… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Legalization and Regulation of Prostitution From a Criminological Perspective.  (2007, December 7).  Retrieved November 27, 2021, from

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"Legalization and Regulation of Prostitution From a Criminological Perspective."  December 7, 2007.  Accessed November 27, 2021.