Recently, the Conservative government launched an initiative, dubbed Bill C-36, to crack down on prostitution. They maintain that a poll they had conducted indicates a majority of respondents believe that buying sex (but not necessarily selling sex, interestingly enough) should be illegal. Perhaps the naive intention here is to rid the streets of prostitution once and for all. How ridiculous!
Prostitution, in countries and jurisdictions in which it is illegal, falls into the category of what is referred to as a “vice.” A vice is an offence, somehow against society in general (supposedly) but no one in particular. In other words — a victimless crime.
One has only to think of prohibition or the ongoing and failing war on drugs to realize that this initiative will almost certainly fail to eliminate prostitution, while succeeding only in making the sex trade more inherently dangerous for those within it by driving it further into the darkness.
Prostitution is truly the world’s oldest profession. I personally believe it played a role as profound in shaping the destiny of mankind as did agriculture.
Consider for instance the fact that paleoanthropologists thought for years that in human evolution the development of large brains preceded bipedalism (walking on two legs). The idea was that after we evolved superior intelligence, we rose up on our hind legs to make, use and carry around tools.
More recent fossil evidence, notably the finding of the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipethicus ramidus, indicates the opposite. Bipedalism preceded the development of large frontal lobes by far.
Why would our ancestors embark upon such a path well before they had created tools — at least of the sort that were actually worth carrying any appreciable distance?
It has been suggested that the reason for this is that it enabled males to carry food back to females, who, perhaps encumbered by children, were unable to provide adequately for themselves. They would, in turn, be more likely to reward the males — with sex. This, of course, would increase the likelihood of bipedalism being passed on to the next generation. This food-for-sex kind of behaviour has been seen among our close cousins, the chimpanzees, and probably led to one of our great modern institutions — marriage.
What really needs to happen is for sex-trade workers to require licenses and perform their services in licensed brothels. This would create a safer working environment for the women in question and perhaps even curtail to some extent the spread of STIs.
A brothel doesn’t have to be an unsavoury place. Consider those of the hetairai of ancient Greece or the geisha of Japan. In such brothels, the women were cultured and well-read and able to provide intelligent conversation as well as sex.
I wouldn’t expect to see something like this in my lifetime, especially given our lacklustre politicians, but perhaps it might arise in some more advanced and enlightened country — like Sweden, perhaps.