Neuendorf: The Return of the Brothel

Zachary Neuendorf

Last week, Ames Police made four prostitution arrests in an undercover operation to evaluate the rate of human trafficking and prostitution in Ames.

Investigations Commander Geoff Huff said last week regarding the arrests that “We were glad it was only four, but obviously that’s four too many and there’s probably a lot going on that we don’t know about. I think it’s an opportunity for us to at least get a look at what we have going on and what we need to work on.”

I found two aspects of this arrest particularly interesting- first off, that all four solicitors were male and secondly, that this was happening in Ames. Prostitution is stigmatized to no end to be a woman’s profession and to happen predominantly in the seedy, downtown alleyways of skyscraper cities.

But, of course, this is not true. People everywhere- even in rural Iowa- desire sex and are willing to pay a pretty penny to get that sex, and stigma pushed aside, what is the problem with that?

Currently, there are issues with prostitution- issues that more or less have budded because of prostitutions illicit status in this country. If it were to be legalized, we would at least be able to confront and tackle the indisputable and self-perpetuated disadvantages of illegal prostituting.

The greatest gain of decriminalization is reducing the fear that current prostitutes hold toward law enforcement, and this fear is what prevents the sex workers from going to the police with occasions of mistreatment and violence from either procurers or customers- roughly 80% of sex workers report being assaulted at some time. And this influence from the police will surely instigate a fear into the abuser because now they are aware they cannot use the sex workers as a shield against the law.

This empowers the woman- I am generalizing the gender because fact is most but not all are women and fact is that they are the one’s suffering most from in-job violence. It is good for everyone if the woman are operating out of a licensed brothel because the brothels adhere closely to the regulations the law has granted them.

The health of sex workers would also be under strict observation if business is done in a brothel. Condoms would be required, as would frequent testing for sexually transmitted diseases. With criminalization, women are less likely to take care of their well-being because of the stigma surrounding the act or because they are unaware of the health services available.

Back to the law enforcement side of it, if we decriminalize, we lose the need for police officers to play these games of undercover missions, and then they can actually sharpen their focus and attention on protecting the sex workers rather than arresting and detrimenting the rest of the worker’s lives. And is that not the current excuse for its illegality- to prevent exploitation of the workers when, ironically, arresting has become its own form of exploitation.

With those arrests, who is usually being punished? The sex worker. And who is the victim? If anyone, it is likely to be the sex worker because of the unsafe conditions. But if the conditions are safe- which is the ultimate goal- who would be the victim? No one. So in keeping prostitution  illegal it looks like a backwards excuse to occupy the law enforcer’s time. If the cases of consensual sex work are left to the business, then the law can prioritize its time to the minor-fueled and unlawful world of human trafficking.

Now for what is commonly used as the selling point for legalizing tabooed practices- the potential tax revenue and other monetary gain. Brothels are small businesses and will pay taxes to federal, state, or local and will create jobs and hopefully positively influence the communities in which they are set.

The center of controversy for legitimizing sex work is the surviving and relentless fear of accepting the act of sex as normal and a necessity or hobby to some. If it is the goal of those kind of opposers to rid the world of its powerful-enough-to-pay sex drive, then they are out of luck because it is not happening.

Not everyone- heck, not even a small fraction of America- will agree with the ethics of prostitution, but its about time we accept it as a part of some lifestyles.