People in America seem to be on some kind of moral crusade when it comes to making sure that prostitution is not legalized, yet we will sit by while football coaches molest and rape young boys. Bringing the topic back to ideology is important when considering this. When did it become okay for clergy and societal leaders to molest people and not okay for people two people to consent to having sex with each other if there is money involved? One is an act of coercion and one is not. The only difference is the exchanging of money from hand to hand.
Our government has decided that it is its responsibility to decide what is moral and decent in our society and what is not. The government has come to the conclusion that prostitution is indecent and anyone who engages in it is indecent and immoral or even amoral. The decisions and laws that are made regarding both pornography and prostitution are manifestations of policy on what is a deemed a decency issue (Sharp 2003, p. 263). The individuals who set out to make policies against sexually explicit businesses are usually the kind of people who completely reject anything that is sexually explicit and they lead the way to make laws against any type of sexually explicit behavior because they see those acts as a threat to family values (2003, p. 263). In general, it can be suggested that there really is only one side in politics when it comes to sexually explicit businesses such as prostitution: opposition (2003, p. 263).
It can be hypothesized that these views on prostitution as being indecent and immoral are formed in the church and then its members carry them out into society. When it comes to any sort of moral issue, the church generally has had a say in it and has made its position very clear. Thus it can be suggested that the church shapes the ways in which public officials handle issues that appear to have some major moral component attached. However, this goes against the Constitutional principle that separates church from the state. While legalizing prostitution would perhaps be good for a state's economy, the idea that the state could be judged and deemed as indecent is far worse in the eyes of many public officials and members of society. People, in general, are too hung up on religious morals and there needs to be a separation of church and state in order to allow individuals the liberties that are protected under the U.S. Constitution.
The problem with criminalizing prostitution is that the laws benefit only the members of society who deem that prostitution is something that is morally reprehensible. So the criminalization benefits those who see prostitution as something evil. There are plenty of individuals, however, who do not think that prostitution is morally reprehensible (for example, nearly 75% of the population in the Netherlands) (Weitzer 2011, p. 149). The church has set forth that prostitution is a threat to society and social order perhaps because the church holds marriage as being the most respectable sexual institution. If the church is to condone prostitution, a sexual act where there is no intention of marriage, then they believe they would be saying that sex outside of marriage is fine and even when there is not a chance of marriage. On the other hand, St. Augustine condoned prostitution because of the idea that male desire had to have some kind of outlet and prostitutes gave them this outlet (Hayes-Smith & Shekarkhar 2003, p. 46). Though the prostitutes themselves were considered sinners, they were believed to have a function in society because without them male lust would be out of control this lust without an outlet could destroy the family order (2003, p. 46). While we can assume that this statement is not true, we can still assume that there is, indeed, a function in society for prostitutes. If there is a function in society for big businesses who thrive on corporate greed then there is surely a place for individuals who are trying to make an honest living.
The fact that prostitution is criminalized in most parts of the United States is something that is unfair and is based on others' judgment of something that does not concern them directly. Hayes-Smith and Shekarkhar (2003) refer to the criminalization of prostitution as a legal fiction. A legal fiction is a fact that is created by the judicial system and it is regarded as being a fact even though it might not really be a fact. Prostitution is a prime example of a legal fiction (2003), p. 43). It has been criminalized by the legal system in most parts of the United States, but is buying and selling sex really criminal? Many believe that it is not, so we cannot hold that prostitution is criminal because there are some who say it is while there are so many others who say it's not (as well as other countries that legalize it). Still, most of our public officials will have us believe that prostitution is one of the greatest evils in society (2003, p. 43) (even as these same public officials cheat on their wives and father babies with their mistresses).
The widespread belief that prostitution is criminal is just one of the erroneous beliefs that our government perpetuates. There are many other assumptions that plague this topic. The first of those assumptions is that by making prostitution criminal, people will stop soliciting prostitutes. That is, criminalizing prostitution is a way for deterrence (Hayes-Smith & Shekarkhar 2003, p. 44). Another assumption is that by legalizing prostitution we will be threatening the health of the public. Yet two more assumptions are, one, that legalizing prostitution will further victimize prostitutes, and, two, that legalizing prostitution will cause social chaos (2003, p. 44). It is easy to see when looking at all these assumptions how the government wants to induce fear in the hearts of people so that prostitution will remain criminal. However, none of these assumptions are empirically justifiable (2003, p. 44).
All of these assumptions can be argued against. For one, in the first assumption, that prostitution being illegal will deter people from partaking, there is the assumption on top of it that people will think that the punishment of partaking (whether buying or selling) is worse than the benefits. However, not all people may believe that the punishment is great enough to deter. Currently, the punishment for prostitution is not always severe and, in many cases, it is not even certain (Hayes-Smith & Shekarkhar 2003, p. 44). This is not to say that the deterrence argument isn't a good one, or a reasonable one -- that is, but what is clear is that deterrence is difficult (if not impossible) to study and validly test. The majority of research that has been done on deterrence illustrates that the deterrence theory doesn't explain that much of a variance in criminal activity (2003, p. 44).
Hayes-Smith and Shekarkhar (2003) note that the second assumption, that people will stop soliciting sex from prostitutes out of a fear of contracting HIV / AIDS or another sexually transmitted disease, is one that is relatively new in the argument against legalizing prostitution. The argument against prostitution was always about morality before the 19th century (2003, p. 45). The argument changed from one about morals to one about health in the 19th century (2003, p. 45), but it was just another way of finding ways to control people. It was during this time that doctors thought it wise for the government to both regulate and license prostitution and have prostitutes takes medical exams to ensure that they were healthy and not spreading any type of STD. After the first World War, there was such a fear of disease, in general, that the federal government began to see prostitution as something that could threaten the health of the nation's youth in a physical -- and moral -- way. It was this fear that was the impetus for the federal government closing most of the red-light areas near military bases (2003, p. 45).
The third assumption that Hayes-Smith and Shekarkhar (2003) address is that prostitutes are infinitely more vulnerable to violent and criminal acts because they are generally women who are in a sexually-exploitative situation (p. 45). This assumption comes from the idea that the women are more likely to be threatened while working. However, it must be noted that if prostitution were legalized and regulated, the places and the situation in which prostitutes work would most likely be much safer. Yet there is another problem with this assumption and that is that by assuming that all female prostitutes are vulnerable assumes that the women didn't have a choice but to get into prostitution and while this is probably correct in many cases it is definitely not correct in all cases. Prostitution has long been regarded as…