Sex, Soccer, and New Words for Hooker


The Independent Women's Forum discovers sex work:

The new politically correct word for prostitute is "sex worker"—on the theory that prostitution is a job just like any other job, so let's make it legal. Indeed, in "The Vagina Monologues," the "sex work" profession is presented as downright empowering in the feminist sense.

Sorry, but count me out on that one. Everything I've read of (and seen, via ho's [sic] on the street) suggests that unless you look like a supermodel and can command an exclusive, expensive clientele, it's nasty, exploitative, and dangerous. And if you look like a supermodel, why not be a supermodel and earn your money legitimately?

It's hard to know where to start here; let's try the second word. Via Nexis, the first reference I found to "sex work" was dated 1984, courtesy of some loony left, alterno-outfit called the "Associated Press." And here is a recent reference by the P.C. police over at National Review. We'll ignore the Vagina Monologues bit, since it is house style over at IWF to include a mention of said play in every post. And so the analysis we are left with: Legalization advocates think prostitution is "just like any other job." But it's not like any other job! In fact, it's "nasty, exploitative, and dangerous." Take that, legalizers!

Now, I don't actually know any pro-legalizing types who think prostitution is a job "just like any other job." Most people who support the legalization of commercial sex in the U.S. will have noted that the practice is, in fact, illegal. That obviously limits the access prostitutes have to law enforcement. And being cut off from legal recourse might have something to do with the "nasty, exploitative, and dangerous" side of hooking.

That's news like "sex work" is news, but it bears repeating given recent talk about human trafficking at the World Cup. Prostitution is regulated in Germany, and the authors of this Wash Post piece blame a suspected surge in trafficking on tolerance for sex work:

The traffickers support legalization because they know that "regulation" has, in practice, meant a thin layer of regulated commercial sex businesses that have opted into the system, resting on top of a far larger group of illegal operations. The underground dealers have correctly calculated that greater profits can be generated through not paying taxes, ignoring basic safety standards for women and engaging in trafficking of children. Without a commensurately large, and politically unrealistic, apparatus to meaningfully monitor and police the thousands of underground operations, the increase in demand under a legalized system dramatically drives the expansion of this sector of sex trafficking.

I have no idea whether legalized prostitution drives demand for enslaved women, and I don't know how the authors know, given that numbers on trafficking are fantastically unreliable. But they have a point about Germany's system: It sucks. The regulatory scheme includes zoning, high income taxes for hookers (relative to other occupations), advertising prohibitions, etc. The costs of going legit are way too high. That's not a critique of sex work; it's a critique of a moronic regulatory structure coupled with half-hearted law enforcement.

Most disturbingly, the authors casually conflate the consensual and the coerced, commercial sex between adults and child slavery. Is it really "politically unrealistic" to crack down on child slavery? Is it really impossible for Germans (or Americans) to fight the buying and selling of human beings while permitting adults to compensate one another for blow jobs? Apparently so. So here are your two options, Independent Women of America: Either let the traffickers tell you when to put out, or have the government do it. And then blame The Vagina Monologues.

NEXT: Slow News Day

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  1. Whether legal access changes things can be looked at quite easily in many places…

    Ask the Dutch
    Ask Nevada.

    Probably one of the few topics that has real-world contrasts around to test your theory.

  2. Ever given a hug to Norma Jean Almodovar?
    I have.

  3. It’s not the prostitutes I don’t like; it’s the pimps. The hooker should get every cent she earns. Get rid of pimps, and I pretty much have no problem with it being legal.

    Great point about cutting them off from law enforcement assistance, too. Sorta like what happens to illegal immigrants–too afraid to call the police, even after witnessing something horrific.

    No pimps, no beating up, then no problem here. And a feminist to boot.

  4. Uhh, this book first came out in 1987

  5. I find myself in agreement with libertarians almost all the time with respect to the position that many fewer things should be against the law. drugs, smoking, prostitution, gambling, painting your house purple, riding a motorcycle without a helmet. let’s all hum a few bars of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It”.

  6. Yeah but how many kind gents are gonna pay a hooker if theres force behind the pimp? Not that I’m pro pimp, or street prostitution.

    If it was legal, the government and the courts become the pimps. Hooray for all!

  7. What’s wrong with Pimps? Isn’t it just like any honest commission based job?

  8. The affect the internet has had on revolutionizing the sex trade would make a great Reason article. The industry has created a of self regulating network where both prostitutes and johns are registered and evaluated.

    I’d like to know more about the ins and outs (npi) of how the business functions in the information age. Purely from a socio-political perspective you understand. My days of paying for sex ended sometime before I got my DD-214.

  9. There’s a lot of myths about prostitution…okay, sex work, most of it perpetrated by people who have never worked in the business or paid for the services of a sex worker. There’s a kernel of truth to some of the horror stories; but the problem is is like so many other things, because the dramatic, horrific episodes get played out in the press, everyone just assumes that’s the norm. Or everything gets thrown under one blanket – no pun intended; street walking and free agent sex work get mixed up together when in reality the latter is so different from the former they don’t even really belong in the same category. Or child prostitution and sex slavery (which really should be pursued and prosecuted – the perpetrators of it locked away for good) gets confused with an ordinary sex worker cruising the bars looking for possible clients who she is free to approach or decline if she doesn’t find the client suitable. And then there’s the sex workers who have found there clients by word of mouth or some other go-between which is also vastly different and much safer from street walking, which probably would mostly disappear if legalized as there would be more attractive venues most people would want to go to.

    If we want to talk about ‘exploitive’ let’s start with American football – those guys suffer physical pain for the rest of their lives and many die young.

  10. Oh, let me reassure you, ma’am. I can assure you professional hygeine, discretion, and animal gratification.

  11. Can we at least agree that “sex worker” is an unbelievably drab and boring job title? The only way to put some pizzazz into “sex worker” would be to expand the insect-hierarchy nomenclature, with Sex Drones, Sex Warriors, Sex Foragers, Sex Armies, etc., all of them in the service of the Sex Queen.

  12. Jared: There’s a reason prostitution is the worlds oldest profession, and that’s because it involves a trade, even apparant in the lower primates: Girl lets guy have it, guy is gratified, girl gets banana/food for the young.

    A lot of jobs are comparable to prostitution, but if you’re not paid for the work you do, even if you sign a contract you can pursue them legally. The court system would be your pimp, because they would eventually be paid in your tax money anyway.

    I think you’re being a little too cynical.

  13. Great blog post Kerry.

    Another aspect of sex work that has developed are cam girls in eastern europe and elsewhere — they never have to touch or see their clients, avoid possibly sucky jobs like factory work or actual prostitution, make some extra money for school or drugs, set their own schedule and if they don’t like the ‘yuck’ factor of the client request they can turn the screen off…never hear that discussed in chats about globalization — and best of all to piss off Lou Dobbs, eastern european cam girls have driven american girls largely out of the market — a dollar a minute or so after expenses, etc. just isn’t worth it to most american girls, but that buys a lot of nylon stockings in Kiev…

  14. nasty, exploitative, and dangerous.

    I would use those word to describe a job as a sewer worker or garbage collector.

  15. Prostitution is legal in lots of countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland) and in parts of others (Turkey, Australia, United States) and it’s de facto legal is most others (here in San Francisco, brothels have neon signs, so they must not be too worried about the police cracking down on them). Apparently, there hasn’t been any huge crisis. On a practical level, the situation seems like the status of gambling 20 years ago. I wonder if there could be an analogous solution, the sex equivalent of Indian casinos…

    BTW, in doing research for this post, I discovered something very odd. “In Japan […] vaginal prostitution is against the law and fellatio prostitution is legal.” Japan is a very strange place.

  16. Strictly speaking, isn’t ‘Marriage’ a form of prostitution? I mean, it is a ‘contract’ exchanging sex (hey, c’mon, I AM a guy) for renumeration! Regards.

  17. Where are these brothels with neon signs in San Francisco? I live there and demand to know.

    Or are you talking about the massage parlors? Those do get cracked down on from time to time. About year ago the SFPD did a major sweep and many were shut down for weeks. Of course there’s always craigslist…

  18. like pot, prostitution is defacto legal in parts of the US, mainly big cities and Alaska, or at least represents a legal risk so low many are willing to take part in it and oddly don’t consder it prostitution, i.e. the john doesn’t.

    In SF most of the non-chain locally owned strip clubs are defacto brothels (in addition to the massage palours) and are rarely cracked down on…

  19. Strictly speaking, isn’t ‘Marriage’ a form of prostitution?

    It IS, but it’s religiously sanctioned, so it doesn’t count. Evolution is only possible if breeding happens. So somewhere along the line, the priestly control freaks figured out that stopping reproduction altogether will result in extinction.

    I’d like to believe that someday humans will view sex as something as biologically ingrained as pissing. Most of the time I’m disappointed, but I keep holding out hope. If not, we might lead to our own demise before the global warming can get us. (Either by lack of following generations, or by sex starved religious lunatics that trigger a doomsday device.)

  20. Not hooking. “Sex-working.”

  21. Warren, I can tell you from personal, er, from the experience of a certain friend that in addition the old reliable massage parlors, escort services and strip clubs, prostitution is pretty active through online classified forums like craigslist. The ads usually convey that sex is for sale without explicitly stating it and there is some type of screening process where the customer calls a number and is then called back with specific details. Some of the women operate out of their own homes, sometimes groups of women operate out of discreet apartment locations in residential areas, other times the services are “outcall” and the girl comes to you (often with a body guard you may or may not ever see).

    It would be interesting to discuss the issues this presents with any future legalization effort. Often the argument for legalization is that brothels can be regulated and taxed and girls can be given health exams. Street walkers or massage parlor type operations may have an incentive to go legit as it is probably less risky and may increase business and because their public locations would make a crackdown by police relatively easy. But someone freelancing through classified ads might not feel the need to pay taxes and submit to regulations. And unless law enforcement wants to send undercover cops to bust these providers one girl at a time, it would be pretty difficult to make them.

  22. I’m curious about these classified services. I wonder how often the police try sting operations on these outfits. Doesn’t anyone know. I’ve seen them in the papers in the States but it seems like it would be so easy for the police to raid one of those places, or even someone’s home. Or they could pose as a client, set up an apartment for such purposes, and then trap them there.

  23. Oh, I goofed. I was going to type “does anyone know” but it came out,”doesn’t anyone know?” didn’t mean to sound petulant.

  24. Pepe,
    They may not need to. Unless a great deal of the savings is passed onto the customer, a lot of people that buy such service on craigslist would rather go legit. There’s a value to the john in knowing the sex worker he hires is tested regularly. Obviously, there will be exceptions, but having a safe alternative will reduce the demand for this.

  25. Russell Shorto, in The Island at the Center of the World (pg. 214), discussing the sale of sex in 17th century Amsterdam:

    Sex, of course, was another product arrayed in plenitude – tourists could obtain a map of the city’s red-light district, which featured women whose whispered sighs came with French, Swedish, and German accents. If they weren’t put off by the charming nicknames of some of the girls (e.g., Krentecut: “Currant Cunt”), the new arrivals might have found the sheer variety hard to pass up.

  26. OH MY GOD! The Evangalist, fascist, Rapture Ready, Straussian NeoCons just found out I am a WANKER, so they CUT OF MY HANDS!!!!!!!!! Oh Mighty Onan, I beseech thee!!! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am attempting to lengthen my neck, a la Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, so I can BLOW ME!

  27. Chin:

    If we knew, we wouldn’t be on H&R right now.


    Too right man, I bet there isn’t a coal miner in the world who wouldn’t trade places with most “sex workers”.

  28. I feel misled by the title of this post. The title teases the reader with the suggestion that the post has something to do with soccer, and instead it is just sex, sex, sex.

  29. Germany’s got some nice brothels that don’t sound exploitive based on what I’ve read.

    Basically the sex workers rent rooms from the brothel, and negotiate their rates directly with clients. Clients, for their part, pay a cover charge to access the brothel and it’s facilities (like showers, food, drink, etc).

    It provides a safe and clean environment for the sex workers, and a relaxing and pleasant experience for the clients.

  30. This post reminded me of an interesting NYT article about teaching monkeys about money and captitalism. It eventually led to buying sex:

    “Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)”

  31. It’s always messed with my sense of logic that
    – if you a pay a woman to have sex with you, it’s prostitution and you’re both breaking the law
    – if you pay a woman to have sex with you, TAKE PICTURES or VIDEO, and then post it on the internet or make them available in the back room of the old video stores, it’s perfectly legal.

    I know. I’m probably thinking about this too hard…

  32. Pi Guy,
    It’s even worse than that. If you pay a girl money for sex, then it’s prostitution. If you take her out to a fancy restaurant, buy a nice bottle of wine and go dancing, it’s perfectly legal.

    Why not skip the middle man, give her the cash, let her buy dinner and take a dance lesson? It would save both sides a lot of time and effort.

    Sex and organs, the only two things you can give away for free, but you can’t sell directly.

    [I have a feeling this comment will be taken far too seriously]

  33. “- if you pay a woman to have sex with you, TAKE PICTURES or VIDEO, and then post it on the internet or make them available in the back room of the old video stores, it’s perfectly legal.”

    Actually, that’s not strictly true. All of the court cases I know of which distinguished pornography from prostitution involved a filmmaker paying other people. The logic of those cases is that the filmmaker isn’t paying for sex, but paying the actors to allow themselves to be filmed while having sex which they theoretically are doing for free. I’m not aware of any case in which a filmmaker beat a prostitution rap that involved having sex with a performer whom he was also paying.

  34. Sex and organs, the only two things you can give away for free, but you can’t sell directly.

    Maybe the thinking is that paying for sex is like renting use of the organs involved. 🙂

  35. “nasty, exploitative, and dangerous”

    Jason Ligon beat me to it. I roofed for a few summers, and I used to bring it up and laugh whenever those sorts of words were mentioned to describe what strippers or prostitutes or “sex workers” do. Outside of the retarded fundie notion that we should all have hangups about sex, I don’t see any real difference among these nasty sorts of jobs. They should all be well paid, they should be legitimized, and people ought to say a kind word to those folks whenever possible.

  36. SR, so we won’t be seeing any porn actor/directors winning Oscars for best director and for best actor any time soon?

  37. BTW, in doing research for this post, I discovered something very odd. “In Japan […] vaginal prostitution is against the law and fellatio prostitution is legal.” Japan is a very strange place.

    You mean those Orientals are inscrutable?

  38. “SR, so we won’t be seeing any porn actor/directors winning Oscars for best director and for best actor any time soon?”

    Well, I can’t completely rule it out. I’m just saying that the guys who announce, “Oh, I’ll just take my camera with me while I cruise the boulevard so I can claim I’m recruiting talent for a pornographic movie” really shouldn’t count on that as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

  39. Strictly speaking, isn’t ‘Marriage’ a form of prostitution?

    Legally speaking, no, because the marriage contract does not have anything about sex in it, and you can prosecute a spouse for rape.

  40. “Can we at least agree that “sex worker” is an unbelievably drab and boring job title?”

    I always liked “female pleasure unit.”


    I, too, have had many “nasty, exploitative, and dangerous” jobs. And they were all better than wearing a suit and tie and sitting in a chair for ten hours a day.

  41. On the subject of marriage as prostitution, I feel compelled to point out that Colorado, at least, has expressly addressed this issue:

    Colo. Rev. Stat. sec. 18-7-201(1): “Any person who performs or offers or agrees to perform any act of sexual intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation, or anal intercourse with any person not his spouse in exchange for money or other thing of value commits prostitution.”

    (Emphasis added)

  42. with any person not his spouse

    So this doesn’t apply to wemen?

  43. I really do know how to spell women.

  44. It sounds like in Colorado it’s prostitution to get to third base after a date. Must be a bitch to enforce.

  45. “So this doesn’t apply to women?”

    IIRC, there’s another statute that specifically says all uses of “he” and “him” should be read as gender neutral unless otherwise stated.

  46. marriage or dating is only like prostitution if:

    1. You have little to no rapport or common interests with your wife or date

    2. You pay for everything

    Not that you couldn’t have common interests or personality rapport with a hooker, but I doubt that’s what people are paying for when they visit a hooker

  47. Where are these brothels with neon signs in San Francisco? I live there and demand to know.

    South of Market, there’s Lee’s, Lucky Spa, Forever 21, and Barbary Coast (only that last has true neon signs, the others make do with painted glass signs, which may be a little cheaper.)

    Japan is a very strange place.

    You mean those Orientals are inscrutable?

    Well, I for one am unable to scrute the Japanese policy in this case.

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