Updated: Feb 3, 2019
In the United States, sex work is illegal everywhere, except for in certain counties in Nevada. Prostitutes, those who engage in sexual acts in exchange for money, typically refer to women, but there are also men who work in this field.
People typically turn to prostitution as a means to make a living. Prostitution requires no specific skills or qualifications, making it a viable field of work for those without a degree or a significant/existing source of income. This also makes prostitution especially attractive to immigrants, who may be in a disadvantaged position upon coming to America. However, those in the sex work industry can span across different social classes, genders, and ethnicities.
A considerable reason as to why prostitution is still illegal is because it is often associated with crime. Prostitutes are subject to criminalities such as maltreatment, robbery, or rape from abusers. Typically, their abusers’ malicious behavior is reinforced by the inability of prostitutes to seek retributive legal action. Specifically, prostitutes may feel unsafe reporting these crimes to authorities, such as the police, in fear that they may also be charged or arrested for engaging in sex work. Additionally, because a significant amount of prostitutes are also immigrants or impoverished, the process of pursuing legal action or getting help could be confusing, foreign, or even out of financial reach due to their socio-economic status. Decriminalizing prostitution would make the line of work safer for both the clients and the prostitutes. Prostitutes would see the police as people who protect their rights, not people who should be feared because of the illegal nature of their job.
Another significant reason as to why prostitution is still illegal in America is because of deeply rooted misogynistic views. Historically, women have been subjugated by men, who have always told women what they should do with their bodies. Criminalizing prostitution supports gender prejudice by telling women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies.
Prostitution is not harmful to others, unlike crimes such as murder or robbery, so why is it still illegal? Those who choose to go into prostitutional work are benefiting themselves economically while being aware of the risks, just like any other job. The ability to voluntarily go into sex work should be a viable option for anyone, as one’s body belongs solely to him/her and not to the government.
Decriminalizing sex work would make those in the already existing, and thriving, industry feel safer and more secure. If the role of the government is the self-proclaimed protection of “life, liberty, and property”, these rights should be extended to all American citizens- including those in the sex industry. Decriminalizing prostitution would also help put an end to the cycle that continues to repeat itself- countless generations of men dictating what women should or shouldn’t do with their own bodies. If prostitution was finally legalized in America, not only would the number of working-class citizens and the safety of prostitutes increase, but there would also be a decrease in discrimination and prejudice against women who work in the sex industry.