Friday, March 14, 2008

The requisite Eliot Spitzer Entry:

I don't actually give much of a damn about Eliot Spitzer. The adultery theme hits way too close to home for me, and I've spent much of the week ruminating on the "what lesson is he teaching his three daughters by doing this" subject.

But I have to bring up Nicholas Kristof's take on the subject:

Do As He Said

Most specifically this:

Yet the evidence is overwhelming that, in the United States, prostitution is only very rarely just another career choice. Studies suggest that up to two-thirds of prostitutes have been sexually abused as girls, a majority have drug dependencies or mental illnesses, one-third have been threatened with death by pimps, and almost half have attempted suicide.

Melissa Farley, a psychologist who has written extensively about the subject, says that girls typically become prostitutes at age 13 or 14. She conducted a study finding that 89 percent of prostitutes urgently wanted to escape the work, and that two-thirds have post-traumatic stress disorder — not a problem for even the most frustrated burger-flipper.

The mortality data for prostitutes is staggering. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a meticulous study finding that the “workplace homicide rate for prostitutes” is 51 times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women, working in a liquor store. The average age of death of the prostitutes in the study was 34.

“Women engaged in prostitution face the most dangerous occupational environment in the United States,” The Journal concluded.

We as a society forbid certain behavior by consenting adults because we deem it too dangerous or harmful. We do not permit indentured servitude or polygamy, or employment for less than the minimum wage. So why permit people to work in the unusually dangerous business of selling sex?

Generally speaking, I can take or leave (mainly leave) Kristof's columns. But when he discusses sex trafficking, it's smart to sit up & pay attention. He's done a lot of work in that area, and not of the Spitzer variety. Most of his columns on sex-trafficking concentrate on foreign affairs, but it's a problem that we have in America, even if it's one we tend to ignore, given the Liberal views on things like pornography & prostitution and that they can Never Ever Be Harmful.

What strikes me about most arguments in favor of legalizing prostitution is that they all seem to center around benefits for the men involved, and ignore the fact that there are women--all someone's daughter, mind--being taken advantage of. If you look closely at the legal sex trade in this country--something the foreign press seems to do much more of than the domestic variety--you will see that it's not pretty. The women who make porn films, for example are not, by & large, lusty women who found a way to make money doing what they love. They are broken women, quite often sexually abused as girls and exploited in more ways than the obvious. A similar tale is told with legal prostitution in Nevada, and it's quite often the same even when it comes to strippers. I'm not sure why there are those who think that legalized prostitution would be any different, and Kristof's column does a good job of explaining why it wouldn't be.

I also like his advocacy of a Swedish-style policy of criminalizing buying sex, not selling it. It makes a lot of sense.

(For the record, I didn't need to log in to view the column online, but in case it asks you, remember the wonderful

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