Sex work has come up in topics concerning global issues and the subsequent conversation follows: Should sex work be decriminalized, legalized or remain as an illegal service? Often times, this issue remains centered around sex trafficking. Every time, everyone agrees human trafficking should be illegal, but what are ways to help victims of sex trafficking? The answer is complex, but in essence, legalizing sex work would regulate the trade under American business regulations and health code standards.
If the sex trade were to be regulated and officiated as a legal business, then automatically, sex workers would need to be treated according to American business regulations.
According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, “Most studies find the average age of entry into prostitution to be between 12 and 16, and the vulnerabilities leading girls and young women into commercial sex often conspire to keep them there.”
By law, sex workers would be limited to legal adults rather than children or young teens. Identification, social security and other necessary requirements would have to be met to legally employ any worker, particularly sex work. The same requirements have to be met for job circuits such as erotic dancing and pornography.
Likewise, business regulations mandate workers be fairly compensated for their work and enforces minimum wage, though commission/tips are included as income.
According to the NCJRS, “Studies find that up to 80 percent of samples of women and girls serving as prostitutes had been coerced or forced to engage in prostitution by pimps or traffickers…Pimps take an estimated 60 to 70 percent of the money earned.”
Though a business may earn profit, the employees have financial rights. Just as restaurant managers don’t demand a cut of a server’s tips, or dealership owners steal commission from car salespersons, the same would apply to sex trade managers and their employees.
Businesses must maintain health code standards too. Particularly concerning sex work, I imagine condoms would become a necessary requirement for anyone purchasing a sexual service.
According to the NCJRS, “Surveys of prostituted women find that those insisting on always using condoms face income losses of up to 79 percent, because most customers prefer sex without condoms.”
This is a necessary requirement that needs to be enforced for the sake of sex workers’ health along with the general public. It would be the equivalent of requiring ID upon purchase of alcohol. Sometimes minors get away with it, but at the end of the day, no employee wants to be fired for the sake of a customer; either meet the requirements or don’t request the service.
Other benefits for legalizing sex work would be workforce equality and the ability to unionize. Doing so would be a major step up from having to answer to pimps by advocating for workers’ rights. Workers would be protected under other employee laws and given right to legal protection or freedom to sue a business for unfair practice.
While human trafficking would still take place, legalizing sex work and regulating the trade would lower the number of victims. Likewise, those who are in sex work would be given an opportunity to escape, or the change needed to be protected under American law rather than continuously abused or imprisoned.
As for the morality of sex work, like anything else, ethics are based on personal choice, but individuals are obligated to be under legal protection. It’s time to stop ignoring sex work, because doing so only ignores the abuse that takes place in the system. It’s time to face these issues legally and with practicality. Sex work has been illegal for decades, yet sex work still takes place and continues to produce victims of abuse. It’s time to face the reality of the situation and act.