July 07, 2003
AND WE WANT TIME AND A HALF FOR....UM, ER....Need further
evidence of the wide cultural and political divide between the United
States and Europe? No, I didn't think so, but here it is anyway: Britain's GMB trade union is campaigning to decriminalize prostitution and unionize sex workers:
Lopez, of the International Union of Sex Workers, is a GMB branch
secretary. She believes that the sex industry should only be viewed as a
labour issue, and supports decriminalisation of all prostitution. The
IUSW even believes that "pimps may be necessary for protection since
most of the police fail to do this for sex workers".
Lopez acknowledges that most women in prostitution, especially those
on the streets, would face difficulties joining a union, mainly because
the majority would not wish to give their names and addresses, and do
not want to be labelled prostitutes.
Yeah, that could be a problem.
I'm all in favor of decriminalizing prostitution, and hell, I suppose
prostitutes would even be good candidates for unionization. But can
you imagine a union — or much of anyone else — leading a campaign like
this in America?
Posted by Kevin Drum at July 7, 2003 04:48 PM
Prostitution is legal in Canada. Shhh.
And "exotic dancers" have unionized in San Francisco... And they just
bought their own business, the "Lusty Lady". And until a week ago, I
lived a block from the wonderful "Good Vibrations", a 'sex'
paraphernalia store that was ... kinda like any other store. Light,
You people. Stop being so ... weird about sex.
Prostitution is legal in Holland. They pay taxes and everything. In
some places, I have heard, have they made special roundabouts, separate
from the normal roads, where the prostitutes can stand while the cars
circle looking for the right girl. That way slow moving curb-crawlers
don't cause accidents and the prostitutes are safer since everything is
done in well-known and controlled locations.
They have tried to legalise prositution in Germany, but the
prostitutes don't want to register, because they have to pay taxes of
Sweden has gone the other way, criminalising the client, based on the
assumption that the prostitute is a victim of exploitation. It has
effectively removed prostitution from the streets and other visible
places. I don't believe it has managed to reduce the level of
prosititution, but it is harder for provider and consumer side to meet.
In Denmark, where I live, prosititution is legal, but the prostitutes
never declare their income. Since the IRS will become nosey if you
don't have any income, most prostitutes collect social benefits, and are
regularly caught and punished, not for prositution, but for cheating
with the welfare system.
In Italy, where prostitution is illegal, you seem them on the streets
both inside and outside the cities. Most of the prostitutes are
illegal immigrants, they have no protection whatsoever and live
Kind of funny that prostitution is so much more visible where it is
more illegal. Also, the prostitutes seem to be more exposed and
generally worse off, definitely more at the mercy of a rogue violent
client, where prostitution is illegal.
OK, OK, there's a wide cultural divide between the United States and Europe/New Zealand/San Francisco.
And Canada too. On the other hand, Iran and Saudi Arabia are on our side....
Prostitution is also legal in Nevada, though counties may opt out.
California has two chapters of COYOTE which works to help all sex
workers through a variety of inititiaves. (SF and Los Angeles.)
I have wondered when the native tribes will branch into this new line of activity?
An Australian brothel recently went on the stock market as a publicly traded company.
This is amazing.. are we behind the times with the rest of the
Western world these days, or what? Maybe it's time for another reverse
brain drain to Canada?
mc masterchef writes: "Maybe it's time for another reverse brain drain to Canada?"
Brains got nothing to do with it.
Where there's money and progressives in government, there's legalization.
Vegas hit the gravy train by legalizing gambling. Then, when BIG
BUSINESS understood the cash flow through the hotels ($10-million a day)
... without needing truckloads of merchandise to keep turning over the
stock, so to speak ... The mafia was gone. (Big business does have
And, when Indian reservations branched into gambling; and Atlantic
City bootstrapped on to get itself out of depression ... THEN WHY NOT
You think you can't get a drink when you're 18 in Vegas? Or play at
the tables? (I don't know the answer. This is a real question.)
And, once these houses of prostitution are legitimate, with the
biggest customer base UNDER 18, and over 55, what's the laws going to
How far behind can sensible marijuana laws be? (Right now our Federal
and State park lands are being destroyed by cultivators with guns.) How
best to solve this problem, may I ask?
Some day I hope prostitution becomes enjoyable for females. Now that
would be progress! (It would be enjoyable if men would be willing to
buy menapausal women. But women don't get free until its much too late.)
with regard to Germany, prostitution has been legal for a long time,
with income theoretically subject to taxes, and a requirement to pay for
private health insurance and social security. Only pimping was illegal.
There has been a change of law in 2001, and now prostitutes can
legally enforce their contract with a customer in a court of law (which
was not possible before), and enter employment contracts, subject to the
mandatory health insurance and social security in Germany. They can
also join the public service sector union, which has apparently already
worked out model work contracts for them.
Exploitative employment conditions are still illegal.
I'm all in favor of decriminalizing prostitution
Thanks to the Lawrence case, this could happen sooner than
you think. Unless the court holds that consensual sex between adults is
protected only if it is for love or lust, but not for money.
I am actually in two minds on this. The little libertarian sitting on
my left shoulder says, "this is good news! There is too much hypocrisy
regarding sex!". The little Scalia sitting on my right shoulder says,
"Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue!".
Imagine if prostitution is legalized and regulated, though ... Maybe
OSHA will have workplace guidelines, e.g. use of condoms, testing for
STDs, a reasonable customers-to-sex-worker ratio, extra pay for
overtime, procedures for dealing with sexual harrasment. The federal
government may actually require the use of birth control devices.
Legalization is cool, but I'm sort of worried about how a
prostitution union would work. Would you be forced to have sex with 60
year old Ethel because she has seniority over 24 year old Gigi? Be
required to contract out a minimum of 4 union members for any one sex
America is full of legal prostitution - it just doesn't involve any
kind of sex. Lobbyists are whores, politicians are too often whores,
corporate management personnel are too often whores, union
"representatives" are too often whores, ...
You get the idea.
Carol Herman - I've seen a few menopausal women I would be glad to patronize, were that possible.
US complains about brothel called The White House
The White House general manager Scott McGregor told the paper the
establishment had used the logo for almost two years, adding, "It's a
universally recognised symbol. I don't think they've got exclusive
rights to it."
I had to read to the end to see that what gets you is the union
aspect. Neat verbal shake 'n bake. I thought the word union had been
purged from American dictionaries?
I think a few European countries have legalized prostitution. France does. Is it legal in Nevada?
I see that everything I wrote had been written before me. I feel like Flaubert.
I have to disagree. Prostitution is inherently exploitative. No
amount of regulation and unionization can stop that. The government
should take every step to help prostitutes escape their situation and
punish men who would use them.
- Prostitution is about power. The vast majority of prostitutes have
been raped. Many, if not most, prostitutes were raped BEFORE they ever
became prostitutes. The experience of rape and the psychological damage
it does to a person plays a major role in deciding to become a
prostitute. It also betrays the nature of prostitution for what it is: a
situation where a woman is owned by a man, even if for only 15 minutes.
Prostitution is slavery in a very real sense. While prostitutes
"accept" prostitution, most are psychologically in a place where they
are not really capable of consent. The addictions and self-hatreds that
draw a person to prostitution impeed the ability of a person to consent.
Comparing prostitution to marijuana is highly inaccurate. Crack or
heroin is a better comparison. Notably, every person I know who has
engaged in prostitution was raped earlier in life and/or addicted to
heroin (and I have know 4 prostitutes personally)
- Men who seek prostitutes out are not usually just horny johns who
can't get lucky. They usually are men who like controling and "owning" a
woman. As a result, they tend to use prostitutes in horrible ways. Most
of these men will seek out illegal prostitutes even if legal ones are
- Has anyone ever met a prostitute who was not miserable about her lot
in life? I haven't. A person only engages in prostitution when they have
had all their self-worth stripped away. The profession exacerbates the
condition, leading people to almost suicidal levels of depression.
This may not be true of EVERY prostitute, but it seems to be true of
the vast majority. I cannot imagine a situation where unionizing
prostitutes would be a more effective remedy than addressing their
fundamental problems. Better to provide drug treatment and rape
counseling than to legalize a profession that preys on the survivors.
As you know Kevin-Bob, in the Netherlands prostitution has been
legalised for some time now and tolerated for much longer. I think this
is a good thing, but don't think this will magick away all the problems
associated with prostitution.
There are still problems with illegal migrants being exploited for
the sex industry because they're cheaper than legal hookers. Quite often
these are girls lured here under fals pretences, raped and then put to
work in the illegal circuit.
There are also new problems. Can you force somebody on the dole to take a job in the sex industry?
Just to clarify, prostitution is legal in Canada, but solicitation
is illegal. So no one can arrest you if you give someone money for sex,
but you are breaking the law if you ask for or offer money for sex.
Which is an awfully silly line to draw, IMHO. But who said sex laws made sense?
What Andrew Edwards said -- prostitution is not, in any practical
way, legal in Canada. We still retain some vestige of our stout
Protestant moraltiy (the vestige is about the size of a g-string ...
There is also a strong sex worker uniion in West Bengal. The US and Canada really need to catch up with West Bengal.
In tangentally related news, NBA player Damon Stoudamire just got
arrested for marijuana. Pretty sad when a multi-no, make that
super-mega- millionaire can't smoke a bit of green.
MDtoMN: the issues you raise are valid, but I don't see how it
follows that legalizing prostitution is somehow an additional negative.
In fact, I see that these women get a horrible start on life, the least
we can do is not criminalize them on top of everything else.
And your last sentence seems to be a false choice? I think de-criminalization makes it easier to get help, not harder??
I was going to post about Germany, but Raven beat me to it. I can
add that the prostitutes there have pretty strong unions, and all of
their prices are standardized depending on where they work. I think I
might be confusing their union with the union in Amsterdam, but I
believe it's called the 'red string,' with reference to a tampon string.
Don't ask me why I know so much about European hookers.
MD to MN, that's why I despise the film Pretty Woman and regret that
it was ever greenlighted. But I share doesn't matter's thoughts on your
position. I think I remember a French article saying how glad French
prostitutes were that they could unionize. You can't do that if you're
about "sex worker" unions in west bengal - the customer HAS to use a condom, he can't enter the room without it
a victory for working condition regulations?
It also betrays the nature of prostitution for what it is: a
situation where a woman is owned by a man, even if for only 15 minutes.
So, how does this differ from wage labor? AFAIK, it doesn't. And,
heck, in salaried jobs, the attitude of some employers I've had is that
they own you, 24/7.
Further, most of the horrors you describe are encouraged, rather than
discouraged, by illegality. Legal prostitutes are far less likely to be
trapped in the business by their employer also being their drug dealer,
and deliberately getting them hooked; are less likely to suffer abuse
without any recourse because of an adversarial relationship with law
I know that the legalization of prostitution might make it easier for
prostitutes to get help. At the same time, would prostitute unions
really be in the business of helping women stop being prostitutes? Why
do we think that would happen? Union leaders, like all leaders, seek
power, and the road to power for a prostitute union is NOT helping women
out of their situation. Particularly when you remember that union
leaders would also act as corporate management. If they didn't, we'd be
leaving that job to some people who would really tend to exploit
I think there's a serious danger of Intellectualizing this debate and
letting it become abstract. Prostitution is not just another job, and
seeking out prostitutes is not the same as going to a strip joint. It is
different from other work in its very nature. It seems more like
oppression and slavery than any other work I have encountered in this
I'm not completely sure I'm against legalization, but everything in
my experience has told me that prostitution is bad and wrong. I would
wait to see real prostitutes fight for this position. I have fears that
the drive for legalization is fueled more by two types of people: the
people who would like to make money off these women and the people with a
misguided belief that this will help prostitutes. I guess the voice I
would need to hear in this debate is that of an actual prostitute
arguing that her job doesn't demean her, that she really is content with
this life, and that she thinks the major barrier to her happiness is
the criminality of prostitution. Until I see that prostitute, I can't
believe this is the right course of action.
When I was young, my momma told me women married for security. Not
love. So, if you want to know where sex for money is exchanged you have
no further to look than marriage.
So many unhappy marriages. I think life would be better when young
women discover what some ugly girls learn early in life. If you 'put
out' you have more fun than virgins. Men will come anyway. Why not learn
to enjoy this biological function?
Women exploited? Not in the short run. Why? Because women who do this for a living don't put their hearts on the line.
Women get hurt when they think sex brings other benefits besides
orgasms. And, so many unhappy marriages never even know this pleasure
for the female. Just ask Masters & Johnson.
Do you know why older people need DEPENDS? They leak because they
never learn to exercise their pelvic muscles. I laugh at every exercise
commercial that says you need just ten minutes a day to exercise your
heart. AND WOMEN EXERCISE MORE FULLY THAN MEN.
Ah, I am so wise ... and I just dispense this for free. The one
thing that kills prostitution is the willingness to enjoy sex, and not
charge a dime.
MD to MN:
I agree that many if not most women who are prostitues had traumatic
sexual experiences at some point in their lives. However. Legalizing
the job that they are already doing and demanding a reasonable wage,
health insurance, the ability to seek justice for abuse by customers,
and the feeling of strength in numbers and legitimacy of legalization
might help change the mindset of some of these women. And then there
are women who do this work because they can and it's not as disagreeable
as something else-- the same benefits would apply.
I understand what you are saying about a woman being "owned" during
the time she's being paid for, but I think women need to change our
relationship with the sex and porn industries by taking power over
them-- afterall, it's a commodity we control that is being paid for....
Nothing's far when one wants to get there.
Believing in God does not require believing in religion.
Reality is not affected by our apprehension of it.
You cannot learn without already knowing.
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