Report: Legalization of Prostitution In Rhode Island Led To Improvements of Both Public Health and Public Safety

220px-The_ProcuressThe criminalization of prostitution has always been an anomaly in the law when compared to sex on camera for the adult entertainment industry. Libertarians question why consenting adults should not be able to agree to such arrangements since they can have as many lovers for free as a form of protected conduct. For those who have argued for legalization of prostitution, a recent study by Baylor University’s Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah of the University of California, Los Angeles may give them something of a boost. The study found that, for the years when prostitution was effectively legal in Rhode Island (but not street walking), both public health and public safety substantially improved with a drop in rape and a drop in the rate of gonorrhea among women.

The study appears to contradict the claim among some advocates that prostitutes (as well as pornography) fuels violence against women.

The two researchers found that the statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women declined by 39 percent, and the number of rapes reported to police in the state declined by 31 percent. Those are very significant statistical drops.

The effective legalization of prostitution occurred unintentionally as the result of an effort to tailor state laws in 1980 to avoid first amendment issues. The legislators however accidentally removed a section that defines the act as a crime and years later a court ruled that prostitution was not per se a crime under the law. However, other activities, such as streetwalking, pimping and trafficking, remained illegal. Ironically, the error resulted in precisely what many have argued as an ideal reform — banning pimping, streetwalking, and trafficking while allowing indoors prostitution that can be regulated and safely managed. Legalization advocates insist that such businesses have the ability to vet customers and monitor the situation to avoid many of the problems associated with prostitution.

Shah and Cunningham estimated that decriminalizing prostitution prevented 824 rapes that would have been otherwise reported to police. They were so surprised by the results that they decided to re-examine their data with three different statistical methods.

Feminists have already attacked the study and said that prostitution itself should be viewed as rape. Melissa Farley, a feminist psychologist, insisted that “Women in prostitution generally describe it as paid rape. That’s what if feels like to them.” However, advocates of legalization would argue that regulating the industry would help guarantee that this work is done consensually and they point to a large group of sex workers who have argued for such legalization.

Ronald Weitzer, a sociologist at George Washington University, also pointed out that legal prostitution would reduce the financial incentive for organized crime since “When something is prohibited, it allows organized crime to gain a foothold.” He cites European studies showing success with legalization of prostitution on these different issues.

An interesting study in an equally interesting area of debate.

Source: Washington Post

43 thoughts on “Report: Legalization of Prostitution In Rhode Island Led To Improvements of Both Public Health and Public Safety

  1. More importantly I think would be that there would be a drop in the killings with such a more secure setting than when illegal. Perhaps the more difficult the victim, the easier to apprehend the serial killers who cannot specialize in street walker workers.

  2. On the other side of the brain:

    The word “prostitution” can also be used metaphorically to mean debasing oneself or working towards an unworthy cause or “selling out”. In this sense, “prostituting oneself” or “whoring oneself” the services or acts performed are typically not sexual. For instance, in the book, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield says of his brother (“D.B.”): “Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.” D.B. is not literally a prostitute; Holden feels that his job writing B-movie screenplays is morally debasing. Sex work researcher and writer Gail Pheterson says that this additional definition exists because “the term “prostitute” gradually took on a Christian moralist tradition, as being synonymous with debasement of oneself or of others for the purpose of ill-gotten gains”.

    (Wikipedia, “Prostitution”). The press version of this which Dick Cheney operates is called “presstitution.”

    Bush II was unaware of many versions of it:

    “We’ve got a lot of relations with countries in our neighborhood.”—Kranj, Slovenia, June 10, 2008

    “Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN’s aren’t able to practice their love with women all across the country.”—Sept. 6, 2004, Poplar Bluff, Mo.

  3. “Feminists have already attacked the study and said that prostitution itself should be viewed as rape.”

    Of course they did. This is one of the greatest threats to their power, which is derived from simultaneously describing women as helpless victims and strong capable people that are not limited by any factors. It’s how these womyn groups can claim with a straight face that if two drunk college kids have sex, only the man is culpable for his actions.

    Legalize prostitution. Regulate it. Crime will drop and women who are willing to use their bodies in that way will make a good living. Funny how puritanical the women’s groups are at times, much like the fundamentalist groups they actively campaign against.

  4. Of course, there are some feminists who think that ALL heterosexual relations are in fact rape. The majority do not. So I think that we can discount objections from that quarter. I think it is time to legalize prostitution with some good regulations as they do in many countries in Europe. This would also promote sexual health among the gay population as well since prostitutes do NOT have to be only female.

  5. “The prostitute is not, as feminists claim, the victim of men, but rather their conqueror, an outlaw, who controls the sexual channels between nature and culture.” –Camille Paglia

  6. Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter

    … slavery contracts between consenting adults …
    That is a contradiction in terms.

    Consent is a legal term which, for example, minors cannot give.

    Illegal contracts, which any slavery contract would be, are void ab initio because they are contrary to public policy.

  7. Sooo, it is public policy that we don ‘t want people being slaves, particularly with the force of law to enforce the contract. It is the same with prostitution in most states. We don ‘t want women being hookers particularly with the force of law behind it.

    But, if one goes bye bye, how soon the other???

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. Speaking of sex with many women, I am announcing my latest blog post, “Mormon misinformation, libertarian lunacy, and polygamist Pollyannas.” I was suffering from writer’s block and Turley’s blog helped me with that. I’d especially like to thank texpolygynist, John, samantha, and, of course, Turley, for their inspiration. Golden Country will be pleased that it has a plethora of links, as is usual for my work. As Bob would say, you have a nice day.

  9. “Melissa Farley, a feminist psychologist”
    A triple threat, bad combination, and oxymoron.

    Women going to her for psychological guidance and resolution will not receive therapy or help, but rather a bellyful of feminist indoctrination, and interpersonal entitlements expectation.
    It is a recipe for more psychological angst and conflict with world, not less, and dangerously not therapeutic.

  10. “We don’t want women to be hookers.” And per the data above, it’s better they be raped? “Some stuff is just wrong and should not be permitted. Period.” That’s a fine emotional rant, with no logic behind it. Laws should not be based on the concept ‘that’s just wrong’. You may find prostitution offensive; that isn’t sufficient reason to make it illegal. Perhaps you ought to check out the ‘Honest Courtesan’ blog sometime, and hear what actual ‘fallen women’ have to say about their profession and lifestyle. Or are you convinced that you already know what you need to know about this subject?

  11. Squeeky, isn’t that already what we have among 80 percent of employees, slavery contracts, who can no longer earn a living wage? Then there are those marriages. Oh, and the welfare state and its requisite clients.

    He who has a partner, has a master. — Alexandre Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo”

  12. I don’t see prostitution as rape, but I do see the the huge danger of human trafficking, which would be slavery. Paid prostitutes unaligned with a john have made the decision to sell their own bodies and keep the proceeds to themselves, a financial venture, their business, as long as they don spread disease. License them and make them come in for regular checkups.

  13. @samantha

    Close, but maybe the better word is ” peonage” which is also unconstitutional. And all these 29 hour per week jobs. What a crock for a supposedly civilized society. But when you take God out of public life, and start the pro -abortion stuff, then why should we be surprised???

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. Yeah, peonage is a better word. Their masters socialize them to line up for loans like Apple disciples lineup for new iPhones, all night long in tents on sidewalks with Depends diapers and plastic bottles for porta potties.

  15. Interesting that the conservative women here are the ‘feminists’ who see prostitution as rape, not the liberal women, me. I’ve been hearing so much about those awful liberal feminists and their puritanical fascism.

  16. I’ve been a Camille Paglia fan for decades. I’d vote for her if she ran for public office. A real woman and feminist. She’s a man loving lesbian. Grew up in an Italian family w/ strong, and loving male figures.

  17. “The prostitute is not, as feminists claim, the victim of men, but rather their conqueror, an outlaw, who controls the sexual channels between nature and culture”

    ― Camille Paglia

    Only true if they are their own ‘boss’.

  18. Annie,
    They don’t need to be their own boss, but they do need to be free from the coercion and dangers of the street. Legalized prostitution would bring light into this world, and make trafficking and other criminal exploitation much more difficult.

  19. There is a difference between prostitution and human trafficking. Some use the trappings of the latter to justify banning the former.

    As for legalization of this or other vices such as weed, oppressive regulation and taxation can be so burdensome it still has the effect of continuing the organized crime element.

    Take cigarettes for example. The cigarette tax in NYC and Washington State is so high that bootlegging prevails. Two studies in WA have demonstrated, and the Department of Revenue has shown similar numbers that between 38% and 40% of all cigarettes consumed in the state are untaxed, bootlegs, brought in from reservations, other states, and even foreign countries.

  20. “Feminists have already attacked the study and said that prostitution itself should be viewed as rape.”

    I’d be interested in knowing who these feminists are. It’s my understanding that it’s the feminists who have long wanted the sex trade to be legal and regulated such that the women (and men) are protected.

  21. I always thought it was kind of weird that prostitution was illegal. A couple of decades ago I worked as a systems integrator installing control hardware/software to run various factories. I was payed ~$20/hour but was being billed out at just over $100/hr. We would do any job anywhere. There was no job we would turn down even if we didn’t know the hardware/software being used. I remember thinking how I was just prostituting out my mind and my boss was my pimp to get me my next job. So why is it alright to prostitute one part of you body and not another. The line just seems grey to me.

  22. Jim22 is right. University football players bringing in money to the U, while they incur head injuries, knee injuries, dislocated shoulders, etc. Same thing.

  23. When we have regulated the banksters properly, then I will worry about regulating prostitution. And what BettyKath said.

  24. Prostitution is a ‘consensual’ crime, to borrow a phrase. No one consents to being robbed, assaulted, etc.; but people DO consent to having sex with someone for money, buying and selling drugs, and so forth. Making ‘consensual’ acts criminal means you create two criminals with no victim; a rather monstrous twisting of the law. Only if it’s assumed that the State is the offended party; that the State may dictate how and whom a woman may choose to have sex with; does the crime of prostitution make sense. So, it appears that those who feel that ‘prostitution is just wrong’ are happier in a world where the State has control over their bodies and relationships. Complaints about ‘peonage’ are moot, since such reasoning already concedes far greater control over women.

  25. What Paglia implies is that in nature, hormones and pleasure motivate both male and female animals to have sex. It is biologically similar, though certainly not identical, with men and women, only women attach the element of money or favor. It is hard to blame men using her perspective. There are exceptions, such as the regular junkets from London to the Caribbean, where middle aged British women pay young men for sex. Now the men are the outlaws.

    When it comes to prostitution, I think it’s less about consensual sex, more about vendor/vendee, where the vendor submits for the money, no differently than an employee submits to an employer for a paycheck. When you consider some of the disgusting slobs that prostitutes put up with, day in and day out, whether commanding 20 bucks or $20,000, shows the dismal, desperate lives they must lead, and the pay, highest when young and inexperienced, only gets worse with age. Desperate, I’d rather resort to bank robbing. The same is true if I had to be someone’s employee.

  26. Samantha, There are feminists who are pro woman, and those that are anti-male. Paglia is pro woman and despises the victimhood of mainstream man hating feminists. But, being a Paglia person, you know all this.

  27. Nick, I respect Paglia because she simply will not take sides. Die-hards, such as you find at Brown, hate her because she won’t give them a free pass. I think Salon dumped her for not submitting to the Obama religion. Like it mattered to her. Salon morphed into a Kool Aid dispensary anyway, as I see it.

  28. We are in agreement. Salon used to get scathing letters and comments whenever Paglia wrote a piece. You know the left, Toe that line!!

  29. I’m really on the fence about prostitution.

    On the one hand, your body is your own to do with what you like, including debasing yourself. Being a courtesan, or “kept woman” is legal. It’s legal for a 22 year old woman to “date” a 92 year old man, with lots of gifts usually involved. Strip clubs are legal. Women accept money and gifts from men all the time. Women have one night stands all the time. And perhaps legalizing it would protect women from the pimps who so often abuse them.

    On the other hand, I used to frequently go to Vegas. It was beyond annoying to be walking with my boyfriend at the time, and having multiple men come up and hand him flyers for brothels, while pretending I was invisible. He would always say, “No thanks.” But I would see these guys handing flyers out to fathers on vacation with their kids and wife in tow. It’s true that it makes it very seedy.

    I’ve read about some social experiments in Europe where they have legal prostitution in certain zoning areas, and even drive-throughs. But the city pays for the drive through, security, bathrooms, STD testing, and health insurance. So basically the government subsidizes the entire business, which doesn’t seem quite fair, either.

  30. Nick:

    I despise the victim mentality of mainstream feminists today.

    We need to come up with a new term. Historically, feminism simply meant the struggle for equal rights and treatment. It did not mean lowering the bar for women, such as when they make the physical requirements dangerously easy for women firefighters. It did not mean quotas. It did not mean bashing men or declaring there’s a “war on women” unless you have 20 choices of free birth control. Or claiming that boys and girls have to be exactly the same, forcing boys to play with dolls and girls to play with Legos if they don’t want to.

    I just want women to be treated equally, and with respect. Not given special treatment.

  31. It seems to me that there are a few questions that bear on the question of legalized prostitution.

    One question would have to be ‘can a man or a woman make an informed decision to be a prostitute’.

    A second question would have to be ‘for those who are coerced or intimidated to prostitution does legalization make it easier or harder to seek protection from the state’.

    A third question might be ‘does legalization make working conditions better or worse for prostitutes, clients, and neighborhoods?’

    I do have a view on this. But that would not surprise anyone who has ever heard a police officer disparage and threaten arrest to a prostitute trying to report an incident of violence or rape.

  32. People in Europe have a more balanced view of prostitution. Go to Amsterdam and you will meet married couples who are there for the man’s birthday. The wife had menopause or whatever and does not like to have sex anymore but willingly and humoursly brings the husband to the Red Light District so that he can have a roll in the hay on his B Day. There is a discount for a BD Roll In the Hay at some places.

    The difference between marriage and prostitution is terms. A guy is better off just paying by the hour or by the event.

  33. I overheard my dad talking to a friend one day, “If it flies, floats, or wears high heels (I can’t say the word he used), it’s cheaper to rent than own.”

  34. Personally I would rather sell stinky fish than sell my body to men. Personally I was for a long time in favor of legalizing prostitution because it simply offers both seller and buyer more security, esp. when it comes to health care issues. I also believed that women were entitled to selling their bodies as a commodity and seemingly the Amsterdam Red Light District offered a good deal. I now know that the second reason I supported legalized prostitution, the choice of a woman to prostitute herself, is actually a myth. Many of the prostitutes behind the windows and doors of Amsterdam’s houses of pleasure are not there because they are choosing to do so. The pimps are still right there exploiting young women from East European countries and from other places.
    So, like some commenting here, I am now on the fence. I’d rather be guilty of fence sitting on this issue than associating myself with the comments made by Squeeky “Clean” which I can only guess come from some pathological need to be self-righteous.

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