Maine may decriminalize prostitution. What is good news in all this is that a number of prosecutors at the state level are no longer pursuing prostitution as a criminal matter. This should have happened about 200 years ago, but Jonathan Edwards (the New England religious fanatic) got in the way. Still, better late than never.
What’s bad news is that a number of decriminalization advocates still consider prostitutes as victims — victims of drug use, of white slavery, etc. This whole take on prostitution is victim-led; we can at least help these pitiable creatures by not throwing them in jail, the thought goes.
Street-Walking vs. Escorting
To have a rational discussion of this entire matter, we have to distinguished between street-walking and escorting. The streets are so awful that no rational person would choose hooking to bypassing cars except as a strategy of last-resort.
Street-walkers are usually desperate to buy drugs. They have pimps who protect them and return to them a fraction of their earnings. This is not a free-choice way of life, and if decriminalization will help them meet their clients on more equal terms, so be it.
The world of escorting is entirely different. Escorts tend to be middle-class women who are not addicts, who don’t have pimps, and who have chosen escorting as superior to working a burner at McDonald’s. (There are stories about physicians who escort on the side.) These women are definitely not being “trafficked”; they consider the term “prostitute” to be insult (they prefer “provider”), and they continue to see clients until they are well into their 40s or 50s. It is a world as different from being “on the trot” as stockbroking is from bank robbing.
The Bunny Ranch and Beyond
A good example would be the back-and-forthcoming between working as models in the adult industry and working as very high-end prostitutes at places like the Bunny Ranch in Nevada, where thousand-dollar nights are the norm and ten-thousand dollar weekends are not unusual. It had become not infrequent for pornstars to also function as high-end escorts, flying back and forth from LA to Vegas. (See on this my book, Stormy’s World: Inside Porn). Many female undergraduates move on the fringes of this world as “sugar babes.”
I believe that some of them drift into escorting. As far as I know, this has never been studied.
The public discussion of all this has become hopelessly entangled. Progressive opinion argues that we accept the “Swedish model” in which not the prostitutes, but their clients, are criminalized. This is as awful an idea as it it possible to conceive, short of burning prostitutes at the stake. The Swedish model drives negotiations between provider and client into back alleys, where she is easily victimized.
Then there are the progressive voices eager to save providers from the clutches of white-slavers and human-traffickers. Oh, please. This may happen somewhere, but it is definitely not the norm and seems mainly the product of perfervid left-liberal imaginations.
The Return of Cathouses
What is needed is not any of these witless legal reforms but the return of “cathouses,” dedicated institutions to get the women off the street, away from the pimps, and under the protective vigilance of madams. These houses exist in Europe on a wide scale, and they work very well.
There is, by the way, nothing wrong with madams who are not frankly exploitative. They have the ability to snatch girls who are in danger of drifting to the streets into middle-class settings. This is where they learn how to dress, order white wine, and provide sophisticated sexual services. Given the work options available to lots of young women, this is not necessarily horrible.