March 28, 2010

Violent Sexists Support Legalized Prostitution?

Justin Katz

It would be wrong, of course, to tar everybody who might consider the legalization of prostitution to be a positive development, but an advocate for the other side, Melanie Shapiro, raised a relevant point in Ed Achorn's recent column on violent online imagery directed against Shapiro and her fellow activist Donna Hughes:

"I think it is unfortunate that they have resorted to such low-level comments, but I am really concerned about the women in the brothels who have to encounter men like these. It shows you what kind of men they have to face," Ms. Shapiro said.

However much people — mainly progressives — wish to present prostitution as empowering of women, their customer base will largely consist of lowlifes who have no problem seeing them as objects. At least now, it's no longer a transaction that the state considers to be legitimate.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Justin, I think it's terrible how people exploit you to perform manual labor for them. It's a form of indentured servitude, really. Why should you have to build somebody else's deck? They should build it themselves if they want it done. It's dangerous and it's hard work. Some would say degrading. And so many carpenters and laborers get ripped off for the actual amount of work they perform. Hard hours, bad conditions. We should have laws preventing this type of exploitation from occurring, for your own good.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2010 1:12 PM

Nice try, Dan. Your qualitative points (hard work, ripped off, etc.) don't carry through, because such considerations speak to the act of working, not of the work itself. Prostitutes could be treated better or worse; it's a matter of what the work entails, per se.

On that count, the woman in prostitution is both the service provider and the object of service. Other professions entail a distinct object (e.g., the deck being built). There's a gray area, of course, in such comparisons, but to the extent that "sex" is the object, it's an object regarding which our society rightly takes consideration of the fact that it's the means by which we produce children and bind families together.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 28, 2010 1:24 PM

A service is a service. I'm not sure how some external tool or object being involved changes the nature of the act or the employment relationship. If you believe that it's possible to exploit somebody through voluntary transactions, then everything becomes fair game (a very progressive idea, I might add, hence their ever tightening regulatory scheme to prevent such "exploitation" of workers).

I will remind you of your original point that, "their customer base will largely consist of lowlifes who have no problem seeing them as objects." There are plenty of "high class" prostitutes out there who cater to businessmen and politicians and such, but the law would catch them in its wide net as well. Should prostitution be legal with high-income, well-educated customers but not for more typical Johns? If not, then why even bring up the point about the customers? I don't see how it's relevant.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2010 1:51 PM

No, a service is the provision of something. A carpenter provides the deck, or a repaired handrail, or whatever. A prostitute provides her body. She is the object. And even if we go abstract and call "sex" the object, we're left with something that a society can rightly decline to endorse as a legitimate consumer good.

That's how representative democracy works. Libertarians may believe that we can construct a single guiding principle that will govern us all without the need for judgment between such things as different services, but to get there they've got to disallow all worldviews that disagree with their own.

Incidentally, I'm not sure why you think rich men cannot be lowlifes or won't consider their servants as objects. Rich men were the main market for slave holding.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 28, 2010 2:03 PM

"On that count, the woman in prostitution is both the service provider and the object of service."

That's a business? You've got it, you sell it, you've still got it.

Seriously, I have known a few prostitutes professionally (my profession, not theirs). They were "call girls" as opposed to working in a brothel. They did not seem unhappy and the "work" suited them. The sample is small, but they seemed "lazy" for want of a better term and had no concern about the future. They would work long enough to make a couple of hundred dollars, then "pop bon bons" until the money ran out. They all had boyfriends who supported them in their activities.

Not my idea of how to lead your life, but no one seemed "victimized". I didn't really investigate, but I didn't receive the impression that they dealt with "low lives".

There is a web site that I was directed to by the Projo during the furor over prostitution. I looked it over, the posts were from men who frequent streetwalkers in Providence and rate them. While the posts were not sentimental, they didn't sound particularly like "low lives" and they thought themselves adventurous. They thought themselves "connoisseurs" and referred to themselves as "whore mongers". It introduced me to things I was completely unaware of, with comments such as "Betty's teeth aren't green from drugs yet". Who knows. You could say they are taking advantage of women in distress, but I suppose the same could be said about people who attend bankruptcy auctions or "doing out of business" sales. I know I have bought equipment from carpenters who obviously wanted the money for drugs. Is there a difference?

I tried a Google serach for that web site, but I guess I don't know the right "key words".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 28, 2010 2:11 PM

Well, as dear old dad used to say "we are all prostitutes, we just have different prices".

Is Sarah Palin a prostitute? Selling her image and talking points to the highest bidder? How about Levi? Is he a prostitute for looking for bucks in any way because he in in the limelight?

The question does not seem to be one of morality. We each, as well as the ho's and the johns - make our own choices. This will not change because of government or laws.

Let's face it - read the paper! Prostitution of all sorts happens every minute - it is called by other name, though - sometimes it is called MARRIAGE.

Justin, are you naive enough to think that a lot of relationships are not based on the money a man provides and the sex the woman does?

I have never laid down with a whore because I don't want to - it does not really turn me on to sample heavily used wares (I'm old fashioned like that).

At the same time, I do not think expanding government to make sure that men and women do not satisfy their primal urges is the right way to fight it.

I guess I'm just for keeping government out of the bedroom and, in general, out of personal matters such as this.

It's sort of strange to think that Justin approves of these dozens of highly paid union cops sitting around sending out messages on craigslist in order to stop NOTHING.

Next thing, Justin will tell us he is against legalizing most recreational drugs! I can't imagine a small government person would be against that, but it is possible. Keeping 2 million of our fellow Americans, more than any other country in the world, locked up is BIG GOVERNMENT stuff.

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 2:15 PM

Oh, and Justin, as to the selling of your carpentry skills, perhaps I should point you to my many friends who are crippled because of their work in construction, forestry, fishing, etc.

They sold more than the service or product. They sold their health and their bodies.

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 2:18 PM


I don't advocate fervent prosecution of the hookers, but do think pimps and johns should live with a perpetual fear of being caught. To your point, though, that they offer an illegal service keeps the prices up. If prostitution were legal, considering that it's not exactly a highly skilled trade, the barriers to entry would be so low that they'd soon find themselves working 40-hour weeks like the rest of us, competing for tricks and necessarily having to interact with more clients (whom I call lowlifes by definition).

My main concern isn't routing out all activity with which I disagree. It's with having a basic understanding of appropriate behaviors contribute to a health familial foundation for our society. Lowlifes and losers will get away with what they get away with, but we err if we reconstruct the law and social understanding to see them as mere consumers.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 28, 2010 2:33 PM

Justin, why don't you look at the Dutch Model or the Nevada model if you want to see what happens if it were legal?

It would seem that the same supply and demand would occur elsewhere.

Why guess when you can know?

In the same vein, is it moral and ethical for a woman to massage every part of my body except my penis in order to relax me and make me feel well, but then a consenting "happy ending" somehow breaks another code? Heck, I've almost had orgasms just with back massages.

As with most moral and ethical issues, it depends.........

I would not want my seed to become sex workers, but then again I would not want them to become a Admin Assistant to a A-Hole sexist boss either. I would not want them pimping Big Pharma for 130K+ either (they hire the hot women to do that gig).

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 3:28 PM


1. Marriage is not the legalized version of prostitution. I can tell you now, there's no way you are going to be able to make that idea consistent with the idea you want to keep government out of the bedroom.

2. You should consider how easily you were willing dehumanize a prostitute in the comments here ("heavily-used wares") in a way I suspect you would find completely unacceptable, if it had been said by a high-level manager for a corporate employer in some other business discussing an older employee. That says bunches about the intrinsically malign nature of prostitution, and how it is truly not "just another business".

3. I don't think there's much social-science research showing that legalizing prostitution makes any of the bad stuff associated with illegal prostitution go away.


If prostitution is just another service, I assume you have no problem with the existence of "service managers" who would facilitate the buying and selling of the service, but you are going to lose any support from the progressive libertines here.

Posted by: Andrew at March 28, 2010 6:14 PM

Nobody ever said that all the Johns were angels. I have a slew of emails from ones who said that they only went to spas that they knew operated 'cleanly' and where they considered themselves 'friends' with the women.

What disturbs me most about Shapiro and Hughes' 'solution' is that it actually -prevents the women from calling the police if one of these customers gets out of line or violent. Before criminalization, sex workers had the protection of the law, now they're the target of it. Do you really think the couple that helped identify the Craigslist Killer would have stepped forward if they knew they would face charges as well? The answer can be seen with the 'lawyer escort' case, where the victim of violence during an 'out call' tried to backpedal and rescind her testimony in order to maintain her day-time career.

Criminalizaton might mean living in a society with marginally less prostitution, but it's a society where the prostitution that still happens is much more dangerous. That's not a trade-off I'm willing to make. Keeping it off the streets was a great idea, and it served us well for the past few decades. Unfortunately, most of the General Assembly is so far bent that they don't even know a good thing when they see it.

Posted by: mangeek at March 28, 2010 7:43 PM

"If prostitution is just another service, I assume you have no problem with the existence of "service managers" who would facilitate the buying and selling of the service"

No problem whatsoever. As long as all transactions are voluntary, it's none of my business.

"but you are going to lose any support from the progressive libertines here"

I'd imagine that I lost support from them a long time ago. Right is right though, no matter how many people subscribe to it.

"I don't think there's much social-science research showing that legalizing prostitution makes any of the bad stuff associated with illegal prostitution go away."

Prohibitions always lead to the kind of violent criminal trafficking and gang activity that we see in the prostitution and drug markets today. So it was with alcohol during that prohibition as well. There is a long segment in Superfreakonomics about prostitution and how it changed from a geisha-like profession in which some women made the equivalent of $400,000 a year to the wretched despair it is in today after years of criminalization.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2010 8:43 PM

I wonder how in one post you can talk about limiting government and another talk about how we needed this law.
Really, it doesn't matter at this point. The law was passed, with all the ugly rhetoric by Hughes and Shapiro. The majority of Rhode Islanders did not want this law (as shown in every poll by projo and all the news stations), so if we were to follow the Republican's ideas we should be trying to repeal and replace because polls are so important. (On a side note, there is as much a chance of the Health Care Reform being repealed as the prostitution law) As for Shapiro, I do believe she truly cares for the women, but is naive, has never talked to any of these women, and has been manipulated by Hughes to form an opinion not based on a scintilla of fact.
Also, never once did I see anyone present prostitution as empowering. I believe that people who fought against the law wanted to stop the law from victimizing the victims. How do you actually help the "young girls" (all of whom were 36-61 years old in the recent arrest) by arresting them?
I wonder what was wrong with the Swedish prostitution laws that allowed selling of sex but not purchasing sex?
It would have put the Johns and Pimps in the hot seat and leave the women alone. I guess it is too much for people to use common sense.

Posted by: Tara at March 28, 2010 8:54 PM

That's all well and good to say, now, Tara, but you and your allies were busy advocating for the continuing legality of prostitution back when it was possible to shape the law that made it illegal. Had the pro-prostitution advocates switched to advocating a more hooker-friendly anti-prostitution position, you'd have likely found substantial support, including from me.

As it was, the efforts in that direction were transparent attempts to derail the whole process.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 28, 2010 9:05 PM

If the goal is a prostitution-free society through law enforcement, it actually makes more sense from an economics standpoint to come down harder on the buyers (johns) than the sellers (prostitutes and pimps). Remove one seller and the demand still exists that will see another seller immediately take his or her place. Remove one buyer and the demand itself is reduced, reducing the supplier incentives as well. Our entire drug enforcement model is backwards for the same reason, dealers should get a slap on the wrist and users should be locked away. Not that I agree with any consensual activity being criminalized in the first place, of course. Just saying that what we do now makes no sense from either perspective.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2010 9:23 PM

"No, a service is the provision of something. A carpenter provides the deck, or a repaired handrail, or whatever. A prostitute provides her body. She is the object."

What is a comedian? A movie star? A professional athlete? What is their service? Still, nothing tangible, and quite often it is also their own bodies.

As mangeek said, the law as it was a year or so ago, worked fine. It didn't need to be changed.

During testimony, we heard all about the underage prostitution, the human trafficking. Now that there have been arrests, we've seen none of that. If it was such a rampant problem to warrant the law, why have there been no arrests to match the testimonies that were given?

Posted by: Patrick at March 28, 2010 9:32 PM

Off-street prostitution not performed under compulsion and between consenting adults shouldn't be a crime.
Street prostitution should never be legal-it's dangerous to the prostitutes and the customers alike and creates a bad condition in the neighborhood,namely women who are not engaged in it being approached.
I spent a few years working human trafficking and most of it is involved with transporting ordinary laborers.It's a dirty business,and Donna Hughes has not a clue what it really involves.
I've seen trafficking in prostitutes-14 and 15 year old girls-not women in their 30' and 40's working in spas.
I had one case where the woman was kept prisoner in a basement and forced to clean,cook,and provide sexual services for smuggled aliens being harbroed on the premises.The "homeowner" was a real nice guy who had been convicted for manslaughter,raping his daughter,aggravated battery,and smuggling aliens.He died in prison awaiting sentencing.Haha.
What goes on here is better dealt with by licensing and inspection,just like a bar.
It would actually be easier to spot abuses that way.I'm not a theorist-I've dealt with it.Feel free to disagree,but "cracking down" does no good whatsoever.
The Netherlands has legalized prostitution in "windows",brothels,and escorts.The abuses occur,but with less frequency than where it's underground.
BTW street prostitution is illegal there.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 28, 2010 9:35 PM

"Had the pro-prostitution advocates switched to advocating a more hooker-friendly anti-prostitution position, you'd have likely found substantial support, including from me."

Wait, you mean like keeping them out of the criminal justice system, but still nailing them for a punitive fine, requiring STD testing, and diverting them to existing non-governmental organizations that counseled them with the other aspects of their life that may have led them to this trade in the first place? The state senate tried that and they were -lambasted- for it, here on AR and by the Projo.

The reason we wanted to 'derail' the new laws were that they weren't founded on any sort of local observation or data. We never did get real hard statistics for Rhode Island, that stuff takes time, and time was not on our side.

What we needed more than anything was to get a -lot- of data on STDs, crime, how the industry worked, how gainful the employment was, etc., We needed that to compare to areas that have been criminalizing. My impression from several one-on-one discussions with sex workers was that this was a 'haven' of sorts, just the way Delaware is a 'haven' for credit card companies (read: it cost less and was easier to do business here, so businesses came). What we had was as close to the 'mom and pop shop' brothels as you can get. Contrary to the popular 'moral decay' argument I hear, what I observed in my own neighborhood was that the 'on street' market of abused and addicted streetwalkers was replaced by a tax-paying, consensual, and clean alternative; observations that are perfectly in-line with the conservative and libertarian views that less regulation is often better regulation.

I've said this before and I'll say it again... It's different here in the city. I don't get to choose between 'no prostitution in my neighborhood, but it's legal' and 'no prostitution in my neighborhood, but it's illegal', I have to choose between 'safer, cleaner, less in-my-face prostitution' and 'hey fella, want to take a ride with me?' coming from a woman in a short skirt sporting a black eye. I'll take the former, please.

Posted by: mangeek at March 28, 2010 9:39 PM


"I don't advocate fervent prosecution of the hookers, but do think pimps and johns should live with a perpetual fear of being caught."

This leaves me with a lot to say. I certainly do not approve of pimps, but will return to that. About "Johns" I know little of it and can't make a judgment. I think there is only an imaginary line between them and the guys who pay for a "lap dance" at the Foxy Lady, or similar. Not very familiar with those either. I did meet a guy once who told me he didn't wear underwear, but did wear very worn sweat pants. The idea was that he could "get the full effect". He was quite proud of his ingenuity. I find the distinction between him and a "John" hard to make. Confusion is added by Mr. Clinton's explanation that "oral sex" is not sex. In light of all this, I think we are imposing some sort of imaginary standard on prostitutes and JOhns.

"fervent prosecution", one wonders how you can have "unfervent" prosecution with continued respect for the law? I am reminded of a few things. Police don't bother arresting unlicensed drivers who are illegal immigrants because it is a waste of time, they will simply disappear. Makes one feel put upon, when stopped by the police. More to the point, I am reminded of a college friend whose father/uncle was an NYC cop in the days when drunks could be arrested. On cold nights, they would arrest a drunk in order to get a few warm hours in the station house. I can see that happening. This is not "good law enforcement".

I am also concerned that where there is a law, the camels nose in under the tent.

Now, streetwalkers and pimps. I am not sure that pimps are cause, or effect. Since prostitution is illegal, I think the girls feel they need protection. Obviously, part of the business is "taking care of the cops". In a case like that, I think pimps are "effect". I am more concerned with pimps who are "cause" (most of my knowledge of this comes from movies). It is reported that they hang around bus depots, and other likely spots, looking for runaways. These they addict to drugs and "turn out". Who could be in favor of this? I have never heard this was a problem in RI. On the other hand, we already have "child abuse" laws. This is also a little hard on the "johns", there are a lot of 15 year olds who could be made to look "of age". They obviously "consent", so I wonder how much trouble the "johns" should be in. Should Johns be required to ask for a driver's license? Should they sue the underage girls for "entrapment"? These are questions that have to be answered without a law against prostitution. Actually, I think these questions have been answered and the age of the girl overrides everything, so, we have a crime without intent.

Doubtless, many streetwalkers are feeding a drug habit. In another age, it was alcohol. Perhaps this should be dealt with, they are the visible salient of a number of illegal enterprises. Still, for the women, it is a "choice" of sorts. Few became drug addicted against their will. It also begs the question of the effect of criminalizing drugs and driving the price up. How many women are prostituting themselves for cigarettes? (probably more than I would care to guess).

Another thought when considering all of this. Surf the Web and look at the amazing number of pornography sites. Consider the number of women, doing in "public", what prostitutes do in private. Go to, you can probably find several thousand such women on that site alone (I haven't checked for duplicates) For whatever reason, this is not illegal. Celebrity "sex tapes" are now regularly produced, I haven't heard of the Hilton girl heading for jail. One would have to be very gullible indeed to believe these videos are made in private and released by aberrant "former boyfriends". So, it would seem that if the prostitutes were to turn on video cameras, all would be well. This makes the law very confusing. Women may perform sex for money on video devices and they are constitutionally protected as "consenting adults". I am afraid that I just don't get it. That is what really bothers me.

For myself, I do find prostitution immoral and of little interest to me. About 20 years ago, while doing business in the Dominican Republic, a business associate sent a girl to my room. All that happened is we had a conversation. I never got her age, although I think she was young. What I did find out was that she was doing it "to learn English". She was paying for lessons. She wanted to get a job with the phone company which had an English requirement. So, the motives are varied. I don't recall her being embarrassed, so I think she thought it was sensible. I was embarrassed when the business associate wanted to know if I "liked boys". Obviously he had no problem with prostitutes, as seems common with Latins. I couldn't think of an explanation that would seem credible to him.

Sorry about the length, too much time on my hands I suppose.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 28, 2010 9:45 PM

Also... It seriously irks me that Hughes and Shapiro manage to squeeze out a salary with benefits from the state, essentially running a policy shop (advocating for more government, no surprise) from the state's university. None of us on the anti-side had that benefit, we have day jobs.

I think Melanie's position is technically 'secretary' to Donna. If that's true, she deserves a gold star, I don't know many secretaries willing to truck-it to the state house to make deals for their boss.

Posted by: mangeek at March 28, 2010 9:45 PM


You won't find many people here opposing your right to run & support candidates who want to run on a platform plank of making prostitution legal again, but I doubt that such candidates would draw a groundswell of popular support. I suspect that much of last year's support for not changing the prostitution law came from the Rhode Apathy political culture, where people tend to shrug their shoulders and say there's nothing we can do to change what's wrong, so why bother to even try. Now that the law has been changed, though you may believe its structure and implementation are imperfect, people will tend to react by shrugging their shoulders and say there's nothing we can do to change what's wrong, so why bother to even try.

Also, I don't know about the positions of the state legislators who opposed the change, but many of the experts from outside of RI who weighed against last year's legislation were definitely arguing that prostitution should be kept legal. That was a credibility-killer, with regards to what the calls for re-studying and re-writing the legislation were intended to achieve.


Your point isn't quite as universal as you think. Banning child labor in the United States, for example, did not lead to a massive permanent child labor black market in the US, because you've neglected the fact (that a libertarian really shouldn't, but those who call themselves "libertarians" at the moment often do) that we live in a society that believes that each person is a unique, irreducible individual, who can't be treated as an interchangeable cog in a model of supply and demand. If, based upon that attitude, society can adjust for the better to the idea that children shouldn't be factory workers, there's also a good possibility that it can adjust for the better to the idea that women shouldn't have to sell themselves for sex.

Posted by: Andrew at March 29, 2010 12:07 AM

Andrew, the difference is that child labor has a number of very good substitutes which cost only marginally more and get the job done - machines, illegal aliens, teenage workers, adult workers. When we're talking about prostitution and marijuana, there are no real substitutes for those things. Therefore the demand for them can't simply be rerouted to a slightly less convenient alternative and black markets form out of necessity to meet the festering demand. That's the obvious difference between my examples and your own.

Posted by: Dan at March 29, 2010 12:34 AM

The operative word in Andrew's analogy is "child".Children obviously can't consensually have sex,although in RI,the age of consent is 16.I think the legislators would've done the public a better service by changing that to 18.
the way it is now,a 60 year old can have sex with a 16 year old as long as no money is exchanged.
But if a 35 year old and a 40 year old have sex for money it's a crime.Asinine.
One needs to ask themselves why the legislature won't touch this.
At the VERY least a differential age law should be in effect, 18 year old and a 16 year old,okay-a 40 year old and a 16 year old=statutory rape.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 29, 2010 5:16 AM

I was just thinking, couldn't the spas and other brothels basically make this legal again by selling something else and giving the sex for free? Couldn't they sell something like say a Pawtucket Red Sox hat for $50 and you get a free turn with one of the women?

I've seen this tack used lots of times in other areas.

Posted by: Patrick at March 29, 2010 5:55 AM

Justin, it's ok to just say that prostitution is morally reprehensible to you and should be outlawed. Heck, many people would say that sex with animals is morally reprehensible and should be outlawed. Every law is just a degree of personal morals. The only question is where the line should be drawn. Even libertarians like Dan have a line. They choose to draw the line where someone else gets hurt. What you do to yourself is your business. Other people draw the line a little further out to try to protect people from themselves.

Posted by: Patrick at March 29, 2010 8:02 AM


RI Monthly did an article about that website in (thanks, Google) 2007: The article lists the website you referred to.

Posted by: Bill at March 29, 2010 9:21 AM

"Had the pro-prostitution advocates switched to advocating a more hooker-friendly anti-prostitution position, you'd have likely found substantial support, including from me."
Justin, every time I testified I said that the General Assembly had the chance to approach this absence of law with intelligence and compassion and do something new and try something that was working, like the laws in Sweden. Every time this was heard the testimony was hijacked by Hughes by saying that the women were victims of human trafficking and we needed to help the young women and girls by arresting them to get them to testify against the traffickers (a red herring created by Hughes). The general assembly had a chance to do something right, make a positive change and instead they folded to the political pressure put on them by the Projo Editorial page. The editorial page, mostly Achorn, kept misrepresenting facts and called senators obstructionists, making them out to look like people who support prostitution when nobody does.

I do find it ironic and funny that you and Achorn support two women who have nothing in common with you what so ever. I personally would like to see Shapiro put her talent and drive towards her other passion, passing gay marriage, and not towards putting women in prison.

Posted by: Tara at March 29, 2010 10:03 AM

Achorn has really impaired credibility as far as I'm concerned since he never disclosed his wife's connection to the educational "organization"that mishandled,meaning pissed away,the Feinstein scholarship funds.That has never been revisited that I know of.
I once spoke with Hughes on the Dan Yorke show and explained to her where and how the real human trafficking was taking place and she spoke to me like she knew more than I did.Too bad she wasn't with me on a hot summer day 30 years ago searching for evidence in a van where twenty people had been relieving themselves for 4 days.That was a routine occurence.And no HAZMAT gear back then.Hughes is a phony know it all and seems like a man hater.Shapiro too.
As I understand it,Tara,Hughes never interviewed any massage providers.
Kinda like Esserman learning about police work second hand,but at least he HAS to talk to real cops.
These women routinely gambled at Twin River when I worked there(when it was Lincoln Park) and they had LOTS to spend.Richest "sex slaves" you'd ever want to meet.
And let's forget the spas for a minute-what about women who just work on their own?It;'s their decision.I'm sick and tired of patronizing do-gooders.
I guess it's better to lock a woman up,put her kids in state care and wind up using taxpayer funds where it might not have been necessary.Plus,there's no evidence that women who do this work are unfit mothers for that reason alone.
They may be or not,but what they do doesn't define how they treat their children.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 29, 2010 10:33 AM


I found the web site through the RI Monthly article, that may have been where I saw it the first time.

A comment on the article, it seems to indicate that the customers are not "low lifes". Although I suppose that depends on the definition. Several mentioned have Phd's. I am more offended by their cheating on their wives, with the possibility of "bringing something home", than I am by their other activities.

I went to the site and read a few of the posts for Providence. Considering the volume and dating of the posts, it does not appear that the new law has had much effect. Although there seems to be more appeal to the "escort services". There is separate forum for "street walkers", I got tired of it and didn't explore that one.

My impression is that many of the posters are semi-delusional. They refer to enjoying the "hunt" and the "conquest". Conquest? They also seem upset when the women do not "respond", and praise those who can give that appearance. For all of that, they do not seem like "trouble makers".

Still, I didn't see any reference to beatings or the like. The women don't seem to have pimps and self advertise through Craigs List and something called the "Back Page".

The RI Monthly article quotes Hughes and company. The talk circles around "empowering" women. That sort of psycho babble does not impress me. Just a few years ago "self esteem" would have been the crucial topic.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 29, 2010 12:15 PM


You’re starting with your conclusion, if you say that sex with a prostitute “obviously” has no substitute. You don’t think the non-mentally disturbed guys who frequent prostitutes wouldn’t choose a different arrangement, if that were a possibility?

More concretely, the concept of sex encompasses both the physical act and the intimacy between two people -- unless you want to say it’s just the physical act, in which case there are definitely cheaper alternatives. The intimacy, on the other hand, can’t be bought for money alone because there are things about individual human beings and their relationships that cannot be broken down into transactable components, so the microeconomics 101 doesn't really apply.


I think your last comment is a pretty good summation of things. The only thing I would add is that some people also bring into the debate the idea that there’s no point in moving the metaphorical line, because sex-for-money would just go underground if you tighten the restrictions, etc. That was the main point of my comparison to child labor. I’m sure it didn’t go away the minute after the law against it was passed, but eventually its prohibition helped people to recognize that society could go on, without the bad practice in its midst.

Posted by: Andrew at March 29, 2010 4:41 PM

I wonder if the RNC Chairman using GOP funds to attend topless bondage clubs figures anywhere in this?

Now is the time, my tea-GOP friends, to contribute more to the Grand Old Party to make up for those huge expenses! After all, they know how to make best use of your money, and we know family values is the platform they stand upon.

Now is the time.....

Posted by: Stuart at March 29, 2010 4:54 PM

Stuart, you are great!

Posted by: Tara at March 29, 2010 5:51 PM

Interesting that the conversation has come here...

I went to a Republican city committee meeting two weeks ago to scope out the scene and who did I sit down next to? A spa owner who I had met during the debate last summer. He's concerned that many small businesses and landlords can't pay the bills in this business climate. Perhaps we're all in this sinking boat together, sinners and saints alike.

As for Andrew's "I’m sure it didn’t go away the minute after the law was passed, but eventually its prohibition helped people to recognize that society could go on without a bad practice in its midst." That's exactly our point... Prostitution hasn't gone away, nor has it diminished in America and it's been over 100 years! If anything, the lessons learned from the rest of the country should be:

1. Prostitution thrives regardless of its legal status.
2. Prostitution under criminalization is overall very dangerous (no statistical evidence of decriminalized prostitution was collected).
3. Criminalized prostitution only leads to 40 or so convictions of human traffickers per year nationwide, meaning that criminalization to catch traffickers is an expensive, failed policy. In fact, even trafficking victims seem to be arrested multiple times before they're identified. Epic Fail.
4. In the only study I could find done on the issue, police are many times as likely to extort a prostitute for sex as they are to arrest them.
5. (From Tara's documentary) Police 'raids' and 'stings' are often conducted after 'many months' of police taking wads of your tax dollars to the brothels, and spending them there. How many times should a police officer be allowed to spend taxpayer money for sex before he can act as a moral authority?
6. HIV rates in RI are half the national average, and far lower than similar areas. We also have far fewer streetwalkers. Perhaps we were on to something?

Feel how you want about prostitution, but the facts line up in the decriminalizing camp's favor. Criminalization of this crime in particular is most assuredly not 'what Jesus would do', nor is it what works best for society.

Posted by: mangeek at March 29, 2010 8:01 PM

A sad commentary, mangeek, about police extorting the prostitutes!

And that, my friend Justin, is a subject you have not addressed - which also ties in with Priests watching the young boys! Who do we trust to enforce your moral codes? Is a badge or a title or a frock what you want to use to tell people who is moral and ethical and who is not?

A sad story told to me by my own sister - some of her friends were shaken down for sex AND their drugs (pot) while they were teens....and this was in a very wealthy suburban enclave. From those and other stories, I would guess this happens enough times to be of some concern.

Interesting that a self professed "conservative" wants tyranny imposed by the government over humans natural sexual desires. Try as I might, I can't see how that makes sense.

There are many ways in which modern society and culture dehumanizes us. The largest culprit is probably the industrial work culture itself, forcing people to often become machines who stop innovation and simply produce like a machine. Sex for money does not entice me, but then again I see why some people like the idea of getting their needs met without spending their lives together!

I'll leave the matters of conscience to each individual - however, it seems as if Justin will not.

Posted by: Stuart at March 30, 2010 12:02 AM

So Stuart comes from a wealthy suburban enclave?Believeable,but pray tell how can he also be from industrial Pennsylvania?Ah,maybe Stuart's family was from that "class"of people who exploit others.
What WAS Stuart doing in Appalachia?
Ripping off the local populace?
Heaven forbid.
Maybe he was in VISTA.
Maybe he is just entertaining us with his fantasies.
He's driven poor old OTL away.Makes OTL seem like Sarah Palin.
Stuart-try RIF.Pat Crowley will love you(seriously).
Or kmareka-you can make friends with the odious "Klaus" and Nancy"Save the World" Green.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 30, 2010 2:59 AM


If 100% elimination of an activity is the goal, then there are lots of laws that have to be repealed as ineffective, i.e. burglary is illegal, yet it still goes on. Plus you can apply the increasingly strange arguments that get used to explain why prostitution should be legal to other existing laws -- burglary is illegal, and it still goes on, but maybe if we legalize it, we can stop people from moving up to worse things like mugging. And I don't think there is anyone who seriously argues that there's no more prostitution going on Nevada right now, than there would be if it wasn't legalized.

Having been through several rounds of this discussion, I know that at this point, someone will move the goalposts and say "but the difference is that one is a victimless crime...", which is a difference that has definite repercussions, but has no direct bearing on whether a law has to eliminate 100% of something in order to be considered successful.

The difference in HIV rates that you cite is interesting to note, but the people who study prostitution, rather than try to derive what all of reality must look like from micro-economic theory, have often come to the conclusion that the bad stuff that goes along with prostitution doesn't get significantly reduced when you legalize it.

Final point for now: couldn't the statistic about arrest rates point to the fact the most police officers don't take a heavy-handed by-the-book attitude towards prostitutes and let them slip through the cracks when they have the chance? It sounds like the police may have a more humanistic attitudes towards prostitutes, than jerks who would refer to them as "heavily used wares". I wonder who sex-worker activists would rather have as their allies.

Posted by: Andrew at March 30, 2010 8:49 AM

Andrew-I won't use the "victimless crime" argument since it's just going over old ground.
I will say burglary ,like murder,robbery,and rape are "malum in se"crimes.Meaning evil in and of themselves.
Prostitution,bootlegging,gambling,and personal drug use are "malum prohibitum"crimes-illegal because we say they are,not because they are inherently evil.
I think heroin and cocaine are so dangerous to the individual user they should remain illegal,but marijuana is a good example-the politics of the 60's still color the thinking on that issue.
Prohibition worked out real well,didn't it?It turned organized crime from a marginal enterprise into a growth industry.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 30, 2010 9:32 AM

Andrew, the two sources you cited both showed how -regulated- legalized prostitution has major problems. I did not observe those problems with completely deregulated legal prostitution here in Rhode Island. I would suspect that many of the people who get into the industry aren't the type to abide by strict regulation, so the big black market remains in Nevada and Scotland.

Rhode Island's case was unique, we had criminalized on-street prostitution, but legal private prostitution. This is interesting because one the word got out, the on-street market dried-up. While detractors claimed that the 'prostitution just moved indoors', they didn't take into account that the indoor market is completely different than the streetwalking one; different sex workers, commercial real-estate rental, accounting, pay and fee schedules, and -rules- about condom use all combined to create a much safer and less harmful sex industry, all without the kind of strict regulation some were asking for.

I guess what it really boils down to is where you see the problem. If your issue is people having sex for money (or having unmarried sex at all), any reduction in prostitution is a 'win'. If your concern is the health and quality of neighborhoods, the public, and the workers, I think we had a good thing going. We could have implemented some zoning rules to prevent brothels from popping up in residential neighborhoods, we could have had the Department of Health do annual surprise visits to make sure there weren't child workers or trafficking victims. That's a very lightweight, inexpensive, and highly effective way to solve the problems people had with legal prostitution here.

"burglary is illegal, and it still goes on, but maybe if we legalize it, we can stop people from moving up to worse things like mugging."

I have to agree with Joe here... Burglary is illegal because it harms people all the time. Prostitution -doesn't- harm people all the time, and criminalizing only makes what prostitution remains a much more harmful affair.

"couldn't the statistic about arrest rates point to the fact the most police officers don't take a heavy-handed by-the-book attitude towards prostitutes and let them slip through the cracks when they have the chance? It sounds like the police may have a more humanistic attitudes towards prostitutes"

I don't think you understand what I meant... Police frequently rape these women. Sex via extortion is -rape-. There's nothing 'humanistic' or 'light handed' about public servants extorting civilians for sexual favors. This is why the 'arrest all the hookers to find out if they're trafficked' method is so ineffective, would -you- be honest with a person in a uniform if you'd been raped half a dozen times by them?

Time will tell how this policy plays out in Rhode Island, but if I see a return of streetwalkers, a rise in HIV rates, or begin hearing stories from my friends who work in medicine about beaten and broken sex workers at the emergency room, I'll relay them to AR, Donna Hughes, and Ed Achorn.

Posted by: mangeek at March 30, 2010 3:54 PM

On street and off street have NOTHING in common,you are absolutely right.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 30, 2010 5:39 PM


I personally would put sex-for-money into a category of something that is malign on the merits, or at least not good -- but that's not (by itself) why I am supporter of keeping prostitution illegal. It's the fact that prostitution sucks in vulnerable people, usually young vulnerable people who don't really know what they are getting themselves into. The damage done there, combined with the lack of any significant good associated with the activity, makes a prohibition eminently defensible in my mind.


You misunderstood my point on extortions versus arrests. You presented a statistic in terms of a ratio. Suppose you've got 1,000 police officers on a force. 999 of them are good cops, who during prostitution raids go aggressively after the johns and the pimps, while letting the prostitutes slip out the back door. 1 of them is the bad apple who does the extortion. What's the ratio of arrests to extortions going to be in this hypothetical department? And if the good cops begin acting in a more hard-ass fashion, leading to a higher ratio of arrests to extortions, is that automatically a better thing, in your view?

As to your response to my point about burglary, all I can say is that you moved the goalposts.

Posted by: Andrew at March 30, 2010 11:34 PM