Vanessa Hamilton’s column “Women In Sex Trade Are Not Criminals” published on Jan. 17 oversimplifies the issue of prostitution in Canada.
I do not agree with Hamilton that every woman who is part of the sex trade industry is a victim of sexual exploitation. In saying that every woman who makes or supplements her income by means of prostitution is a victim, it assumes that prostitutes are incapable of making their own decisions about the means by which they will earn an income.
This undermines the very women Hamilton wishes for the protection of, propagating the idea that these women (or men, as there are male prostitutes as well) are less than independent or have problems beyond their choice line of work.
Prostitution is one of the oldest jobs in history. Traditionally, it was reserved for women who did not have monetary support from a man and had to earn a living on their own. Few options were available to women, and they recognized that their bodies were valuable commodities.
Today, many employment options exist for women. Not all jobs are glamorous, sure, and not all provide a decent, tax-free income. But there are options that exist, not to mention social services such as welfare and employment insurance. There are definitely victims in the business of prostitution, but it is naive and uninformed to assert that all prostitutes are victims.
I am in complete agreement with Hamilton that children should not be exploited for means of sex or otherwise. But I disagree with her opinion to not legalize prostitution.
I am in favour of legalized prostitution, as long as the sex or sex acts take place between consenting adults. Prostitution, operating out of legal brothels, is easier to regulate and control than prostitution operating from shady street corners. Operators can ensure their employees are of legal age, and can provide a safe environment.
Some women enter the line of work to subsidize drug problems, but others develop drug problems as a quick way to deal with the trauma they face as vulnerable sex workers. If we can prevent this trauma from ever occurring, then that is surely beneficial to all involved.
Legal brothels also provide the opportunity to educate sex workers about the business they are in; whether that is safe sex, protecting oneself or providing support services. Businesspeople will appreciate the added tax revenue that would flow into our economy instead of supporting sleazy pimps.
Prostitution, even when illegal, will always exist. There will always be those who are willing to buy sex, and there will always be those who are willing to sell it. Much of society is not comfortable discussing sex, especially the buying and selling of sex. Maybe we all live with the fear that ol’ uncle Joe has to pay to get some.
As long as we pretend prostitution doesn’t exist instead of controlling it, we continue to push the industry underground, endangering the lives of those involved in prostitution. It is safer, fiscally prudent and socially responsible to legalize and control the sex trade than to push it under the rug, fooling ourselves into pretending it doesn’t exist.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 23, 2014