Sex Work

Help End Violence Against Sex Workers by Decriminalizing Prostitution, Activists Say


December 17 is commemorated internationally in the sex worker community as a "Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"—violence which activists say is rooted in prostitution's criminalization. 

The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) organized the first such day 11 years ago, in response to the sentencing of "Green River Killer" Gary Ridgway. Ridgway murdered dozens of girls and women—mostly sex workers and runaways—in Washington state and California during the '80s and '90s. "Because of their work, the murders went largely uninvestigated, allowing Ridgeway's violence to continue," says SWOP-USA.

And because sex workers don't view police or hospitals as safe, they tend to avoid seeking help following violent incidents, which also makes it harder for repeat perpetrators to be caught. "If you fear arrest, negotiating your personal safety becomes a secondary concern," said Lindsay Roth, SWOP-USA's Board Chair. 

But it's not just that criminalizing prostitution makes it harder for sex workers to find protection or justice from police. "Arrest and prison are a form of violence," notes an infographic circulating widely on social media today. 

Check out #IDEVASW for more on today's events and activism. For more arguments in favor of decriminalizing both the buying and selling of sex, see:

• Legalize Prostitution to Fight Sex Trafficking? Sex Workers Say "Yes" 
• Former Sex Worker & Activist Maggie McNeill on Why We Should Decriminalize Prostitution  
• Punishing Prostitution Clients Is Not a Feminist Solution
• Sex Slaves and the Surveillance State 
• Lets Not Import Canada's Sex Work Bill

NEXT: Vaping Rises to Record Highs, Smoking Falls to Record Lows, and Activists Insist 'E-Cigarettes Are a Gateway to Smoking'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I think we all know “activists” in this case is code for human slave traders.

    1. Who were paid to say it, the dirty whores.

  2. OT: Jobless rate rises to 6.2 percent in Washington state in November

    Well, that was faster than I thought.

    For the third month in a row, Washington state’s jobless rate rose, marking the second time in two years that it was higher than the national unemployment rate.

    November’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.2 percent, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Department.

    That’s up from 6 percent in October, though down from 6.8 percent a year ago.

    It’s also higher than the national November unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, which was the same rate as in October, and down from 7.2 percent a year earlier.…..erxml.html

    1. Is this in relation to the minimum wage increases?

      I heard a bunch of states passed minimum wage laws and that progressives are harping about how unemployment rates have actually dropped since the laws were passed. Haven’t had time to look into it to found out if they’re full of if, yet.

      1. Jobless rates have probably fallen, in that it’s the November/December period when hiring is going to ramp up regardless.

        The test will be to see what happens in the first and second quarters next year.

      2. progressives are harping about how unemployment rates have actually dropped since the laws were passed.

        They’re looking at the wrong metric.

        Minimum wage workers are by definition economically marginal participants anyway, and either don’t really need to work at all (high school students, etc.) or can easily fall back on public assistance without a big hit to their lifestyle.

        So, the people who lost their jobs due to a minimum wage hike are more likely to just drop out of the workforce altogether, where they don’t show up in the unemployment statistics.

        The metric to look at is workforce participation, not unemployment.

      3. Is this in relation to the minimum wage increases?

        Not likely because minimum wage increases are applicable in only two specific regions: Seattle and the Seatac.

        I don’t blame this on the minimum wage increases, I just blame this on the general douchebaggery that is the handling of the economy.

        According to the article, Seattle actually slaw a slight downtick in unemployment. I actually don’t expect the minimum wage law to have a large affect on UI in Seattle because Seattle probably doesn’t have a huge number of mw jobs, and the sharp rise in costs will be easily borne by Seattle’s yuppie culture.

        Your eggplant entree just went up to $18. Just makes it more exclusive…

  3. This is like the vaping thing. Decriminalization just can’t be the answer because regardless of whether it actually lowers violence against women it doesn’t allow for any control over other’s actions. So it’s out as a solution.

    1. …it doesn’t allow for any control over other’s actions. So it’s out as a solution.

      Well said, Bo.

      1. except that should have been “others’ actions” /nitpick

  4. Take Your Daughter to Work Day

    1. That is probably the funniest thing I will read all day.

  5. There’s an argument to be made that the war on prostitution is more damaging than the war on drugs.

    1. Would you care to make it? Just looking at the mere number of people involved in each, I have to say that I’d think the war on drugs would be worse.

    2. I’d say that at the very least, the war on drugs does a lot more harm to people not involved with drugs at all than the war on prostitution does to people not involved with prostitution at all.

      I’ll just stick with saying it’s wrong to prohibit any kind of peaceful, voluntary transaction between consenting adults.

      1. Exactly. I have to show ID and be entered into a government database to buy a package of Sudafed. I’m not subjected to the same scrutiny when buying condoms.*

        *For illustrative purposes only. I’m married and haven’t worn a condom in over 13 years. Also, I don’t go to prostitutes.

        1. I’m sure there are quite a few state legislators in Alabama that would like to change your theoretical condom-buying experience.

        2. Not when buying, but there are examples of carrying condoms being used as evidence of prostitution.

    3. For the people caught up in it, I’m sure that’s true. But the WoD has a much bigger impact on imprisonment numbers, police priorities and incentives, foreign policy, and federal budgeting than do anti-prostitution efforts.

  6. So, what do you mean by “decriminalization”? If it’s like drug decriminalization, then it doesn’t go far enough. If it is removing all laws prohibiting both prostitution and solicitation, that’s good.

    1. Yeah, I think the key to decriminalization would be allowing people to go to police to report violence without fear of being prosecuted themselves.

      So, if there’s any reason for the police to detain them, they won’t contact the police.

    2. Just make it like any other business. If you want to say you have to be 18 to do it, fine. You want to zone it so that you don’t have street walkers and such, fine. I am even okay with medical certificates and licensing in the name of stopping STDs.

      1. United Labs could get in the business of certifying hookers. So you would just check the UL listing during negotiations. No need for government to stick its nose in.

        1. Underwriters Laboratories?

          1. oops.

            don’t work and post at the same time. bad things happen.

      2. If you want to say you have to be 18 to do it, fine.

        That’s already covered under statutory rape and child labor laws.

    3. Selling is legal; fucking is legal; so why isn’t selling fucking legal?


      1. Well it IS, as long as you tape and sell it…

      2. I thought that’s what marriage licenses were for.

      3. Selling is legal; fucking is legal

        Not sure ol’ George got that one right.

    4. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Zeb. Yes, decriminalization of anything is pretty weak tea for us libertarians, but it’s a good intermediate step between full prohibition and full legalization.

      Decriminalization generally means the offenses become ticketable misdeameanors. So the moralists still get to have the behavior illegal, the state still gets its piece of the action, and everyone else is less unhappy.

      1. I dunno, T. I’m receptive to that argument, but it can also provide an all too easy permanent resting place that is not at all satisfactory as a permanent “solution”.

      2. They’re decriminizing it for the women. They’ll never give up on punishing the men. So basically everything stays underground in the hands of thugs. So they are doing nothing at all, but they do makes themselve feel all sanctimonious and superior which is all they really care about in the first place.

      3. Good points, lads.

    5. Actually, the terms “decriminalization” and “legalization” are used basically the opposite way around with sex work than with drugs. “Legalization” refers to Nevada-style systems wherein sex work is conceived of as a crime for which the law makes certain exceptions. Under decriminalization, it’s not a matter for criminal law at all, though businesses are still covered by occupational, labor & business-type civil laws. I wrote about it at length in last December’s Cato Unbound:…..-work-work

      1. Thanks for the clarification.

      2. Good perspective on things, Ms. McNeill. Thanks.

  7. I think we should all celebrate End Violence Against Sex Workers Day by hiring a sex worker and not being violent* against him or her.

    *properly compensated safe, sane, and consensual BDSM is ok!

    1. I’ll have to run that by the wife first.

      1. She might enjoy seeing you professionally dominated, kinnath.

  8. I only hope this movement also recognizes the plight of MALE sexworkers who prostitute themselves out for cheeseburgers.
    A man’s gotta eat.

    1. Fuck off Lahey!

    2. Yeah, because the cops were notoriously vicious on actual (gay) male sex workers. Also, what EDG said.

  9. “Help End Violence Against Sex Workers by Decriminalizing Prostitution

    LOL euphamisms

    1. “Help End Violence Against Whores by Decriminalizing Whoring

      1. The only euphemism I was thinking of was “sex worker,” but that works too.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.