We need protection for sex, and I’m not talking about contraceptives.
I have memories of visiting Sin City when I was younger, taking the family van on a trip across the desert to an oasis of glitz and glamour.
My mother rushing me through the thick smog of the weathered casinos, telling me to not pay attention to the dazed expressions of the adults perched on swivel chairs in front of slot machines that promised riches beyond compare.
I caught glimpses of glittered décolletage and sparkly stilettos beneath a flurry of feathers of the women that would saunter through the casino, leaving a swath of perfume in their wake.
America, get real about sex work. It’s 2019 and prostitution needs to be made legal in the states.
Prostitution is one of the most dangerous vocations; the death rate in the United States is 204 people for every 100,000. Incidents of prostitutes being physically attacked happen on a regular basis, and they often have nowhere to turn to for help.
Of all the states in the U.S., Nevada is the only state that has legal prostitution. It is illegal in most states but not because of federal laws; prostitution is subject to state regulations.
Even so, regulated and legal brothels exist only in some rural areas of Nevada, despite the fact that the sex trade is everywhere.
Prostitution exists in the rest of the states in a very hush-hush manner, and because they have to operate around the law, there is no real way to track people. Keeping the sex trade illegal is harmful to the workers and the victims of sex trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 51,919 independent cases of sex trafficking have been reported inside the United States since 2007, with the hotline receiving over 41,000 tips this year alone.
Sex traffickers coerce victims using threats, manipulation and lies. They may lure in victims by making false promises of a job, preying on people who are desperate for a job or masquerading it under the pretense of a modeling or dancing opportunity. These people force both adults and children against their will to engage in commercial sex acts.
It’s important to legalize sex work, especially when vulnerable populations are targeted the most by traffickers—groups including runaway and homeless youth and victims of domestic violence.
Children are suffering because states want to sweep the sex trade under the rug. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated in 2018 that 1 in 7 runaway youths reported were likely victims of sex trafficking.
If prostitution was legal, people could work safely—without fear that they will be beaten, raped or tortured in the sex trade because they are operating around the law. The vocation is valid; people partake in the services but don’t want to admit that the workers are human and deserve to feel safe at work.
Pimps and sex traffickers take advantage of their monopoly on prostitution by manipulating children through physical, emotional and psychological abuse. It’s especially important in the age of the internet, where it’s easy for these abusers to facilitate this kind of horrible exploitation.
Aside from victims forced into commercial sex, there are also people who choose to be sex workers.
For adults who want their livelihood to be in sex work, they should be treated like those in any other profession. Their work should not be criminalized just because of some moral standards, this is the courts, not church.
Especially when some forms of sex work—pornography—is legal.
Especially when their clients don’t face the same penalties.
Especially when it’s happening now.
Prostitution does not cease to exist because it is illegal, it just operates under the guise of other shops. Making it a criminal offense only drives sex work underground, where it’s difficult for people to survive.
Sex workers are unable to report abuse to the law because of the risk of incriminating themselves and being penalized. They are forced to stay silent because their circumstances don’t allow them to safely operate with the support of the law.
If sex work is going to happen, it should be under the worker’s own accord. Their health and safety should be prioritized, not tucked away in the shadows because of the social stigma and shame.
Prostitution needs to be legitimized. Workers need to be licensed and medically inspected. Human rights should not be violated based on someone’s occupation.
Nevada is known as “the Silver State” but if the U.S. wants to go for gold, it’s time to make that leap to legalize the sex trade.
As a child, I only saw a carnival of bright lights, but lurking beneath the smoke and mirrors of the city’s nightlife, is a violent fight.
Save the sex shame and save people instead.