Maine’s Legislature Passes Bill To Partially Decriminalize Prostitution

“the Maine measure would institute what’s known as “asymmetrical criminalization” or the “Nordic Model” of prostitution laws, a scheme criminalizing people who pay for sex but not totally criminalizing those who sell it. This model has become popular in parts of Europe and among certain strains of U.S. feminists.
But keeping sex work customers criminalized keeps in place many of the harms of total criminalization. The sex industry must still operate underground, which makes it more difficult for sex workers to work safely and independently. Sex workers are still barred from advertising their services. Customers are still reluctant to be screened. And cops still spend time ferreting out and punishing people for consensual sex instead of focusing on sex crimes where someone is actually being victimized.

A recent study of prostitution laws in European countries found full decriminalization or legalization of prostitution linked to lower rape rates, while countries that instituted the Nordic model during the study period saw their rates of sexual violence go up.”

Rape Rates Go Down as Countries Legalize Prostitution, Rise With Sex Work Prohibition

“Overall, liberalizing prostitution laws was linked to a significant decrease in rape rates, while prohibition was linked to a significant increase—but the magnitude of these two shifts was far from equal. Rather, “the magnitude of prohibiting commercial sex is about four times as large as that of liberalizing it,” write Gao and Petrova.
The average rape rate in the sample countries was nine rapes per 100,000 people. Countries that liberalized prostitution laws saw a decrease of approximately three rapes per 100,000 people, relative to countries that did not change their prostitution laws. Meanwhile, countries that banned or further criminalized prostitution saw an increase of around 11 rapes per 100,000 people, relative to the control countries.”

“Gao and Petrova do offer the caveat that “changes in prostitution laws might not be random. It is possible that a country changes the laws as part of a general program to improve women’s social status and is thus instituting other policies that may affect rape rates,” and although they attempted to control for this in various ways, these techniques “may not fully address the possible nonrandomness of prostitution laws.””

“their findings are in line with a spate of previous research linking liberalized sex work laws to decreases in sexual violence. For instance, a 2018 study showed that rapes in Rhode Island decreased when the state temporarily decriminalized indoor prostitution. A 2017 study found fewer sexual assaults after legal street prostitution zones were opened in 25 Dutch cities. Another 2017 study linked the launch of Craigslist “erotic services” ads in various U.S. cities to decreases in female homicide rates.”

States Try to Reform Prostitution Laws—for Better and Worse

“State lawmakers in at least six states have recently introduced bills related to sex work. Some of these measures would decriminalize prostitution, while others would stipulate stronger criminal penalties for prostitution.
States considering the former have the right idea. Decriminalizing prostitution has been linked to an array of positive outcomes, from lower rates of sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections overall to less violence against sex workers. It means fewer law enforcement resources wasted on policing consensual activity between adults, freeing up time and money for stopping and solving serious crimes. It’s supported by organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, and the World Health Organization. It’s also in line with what sex workers around the world say they need.”

COVID-19 Measures Magnified the Wars on Drugs and Sex Work

“”Though Covid-19 measures may have varied from country to country, governments’ approaches to tackling the pandemic have had a common failing,” said Rajat Khosla, Amnesty International’s senior director of research, advocacy, and policy, in a statement. “An overemphasis on using punitive sanctions against people for non-compliance with regulations, rather than supporting them to better comply, had a grossly disproportionate effect on those who already faced systematic discrimination.”

“Contrary to the often-voiced claim by governments that ‘we were all in this together’, the truth is that their responses to Covid-19 have been experienced unequally,” states Amnesty’s report. “Nowhere is this more evident than in the impact of Covid-19 measures on people who are discriminatorily targeted by criminal sanctions or punitive laws, policies or regulations,” including people who are homeless, engage in sex work, or use drugs, as well as people “targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

Amnesty’s report comes from a survey of private groups “working on issues including sex workers’ rights, LGBTI rights, drug policy reform, homelessness, racial justice, Indigenous people’s rights, discrimination based on work and descent, and sexual and reproductive rights.” It includes information from 28 countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.”

Barely Legal Strippers Now Fully Illegal in Texas

“In a performative bid against “human trafficking,” Texas has raised the legal age for working at a strip club from 18 to 21 years old, putting many employees out of work and putting clubs that hire them—even inadvertently—in risk of serious legal penalties, including up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The state also updated part of its penal code to define “child” as anyone under age 21.

There’s no evidence that legal strip clubs in Texas are rife with underage workers (which would already be against the law), nor that young adults working in these clubs are at higher risk of human trafficking. Texas lawmakers—and their counterparts in Congress and in states across the country—love to Do Something About Sexual Exploitation even if that thing has serious ancillary consequences and no chance in hell of accomplishing its stated goals.

What the new Texas law (S.B. 315) will do is make it illegal for young adult women inclined to work at a strip club to do so—driving up the likelihood that some of them will instead engage in more risky forms of sex work and/or fall into the arms of exploitative third parties (those who police call “traffickers” and “pimps”). Meanwhile, someone already under the control of a “trafficker” will still be, but in a location further underground.

“Those who pushed the bill may feel like heroes for ‘rescuing’ 18, 19, and 20-year-olds from what they believe to be the horrors of the sex industry,” writes Jessie Sage—managing editor of Peepshow mag and a self-described erotic laborer—in a blog post about the Texas legislation and those who will be pushed out of employment because of it. “Yet, in the wake of a global pandemic that has devastated the economy, and a lack of employment protections for sex workers, the sure harms of such laws far outstrip any imagined benefit, particularly for the young dancers whose livelihoods now hang in the balance.””

“Strip clubs aren’t the only ones affected. The law—which was signed into law on May 24 and took effect immediately—says all “sexually oriented businesses” must comply with the new age limit. So working at shops selling sex toys, porn, or other adult goods is now off limits for adults under age 21, even though it’s legal for these same adults to purchase sex toys, purchase porn, or go to strip clubs and other sex-related businesses. Adult modeling studios, webcam studios, and their ilk are off limits too.

Any sexually oriented business found employing someone 18 to 20 years old in any capacity (with the exception of as an “independent contractor solely performing repair, maintenance, or construction services at the business”) is now guilty of a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Anyone employing an 18- to 20-year-old to work nude, topless, or “in a sexually oriented commercial activity”—that is, “a massage establishment, nude studio, modeling studio, love parlor, or other similar commercial enterprise the primary business of which is the offering of a service that is intended to provide sexual stimulation or sexual gratification to the customer”—is now guilty of violating the state’s law against Employment Harmful to Children, a felony.

Employing someone ages 18 to 20 to work nude, topless, or in a sexually oriented commercial activity has become a second-degree felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum of two years in prison (and possibly as many as 20 years in prison), plus a fine of up to $10,000. “Conduct under this section constitutes an offense regardless of whether the actor knows the age of the victim at the time of the offense,” the law states.”

“”Rather than pearl-clutching moralism, law makers would be better off listening to the chorus of sex workers who tell them that these laws are harmful to their community and young people who will be pushed into making more dangerous choices when clubs are no longer available to them,” suggests Sage. “If they were actually interested in protecting young sex workers, they would listen to them; sex workers know what they need, and it’s not less opportunity.””

Great Moments in Unintended Consequences (Vol. 3)

“The Year: 1992
The Problem: Nude dancing is degrading to women and ruining the moral fabric of Alberta, Canada.

The Solution: Establish a one-meter buffer zone between patrons and dancers.

Sounds like total buzzkill! With puritanical intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that dancers earn most of their money in the form of tips, and dollar bills don’t fly through the air very well. Thus, the measure designed to protect dancers from degrading treatment resulted in “the loonie toss”—a creepy ritual where naked women are pelted with Canadian one-dollar coins, which are known as loonies.

Way to make the ladies feel special, Alberta.”

Science-Based Policy Means Decriminalizing Sex Work, Say Hundreds of Researchers

“”The data clearly shows that criminalizing consensual adult sexual services causes severe harms, which fall mainly on the most marginalized groups—women, people of color, transgender and non-binary workers, workers’ with disabilities, and economically marginalized workers,” said Jones. This criminalization “does not prevent or minimize violence or abuse ostensibly identified with human trafficking.”

As we’ve been detailing for years here at Reason, this war on sex work not only harms people choosing to engage in prostitution but leaves little room for actually helping victims of violence and sexual exploitation.”