Sex Work

Gary Johnson Clarifies: Sex Workers Are 'Victims' of Prohibition

"Is prostitution a victimless crime?" Not in a black market.

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screenshot/CNN

In a CNN town hall last night, Anderson Cooper asked Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson whether he supported the decriminalization of prostitution. In a somewhat muddled answer, Johnson said he would leave it up to individual states and applauded the system in parts of Nevada, where prostitution is legal under narrow circumstances.

There are so many easy libertarian answers on this one—that there's no place for the state in consenting sexual relationships between adults; that prostitution prohibition creates many of the same harms we saw with alcohol and drug prohibition; that as president, he would have very little dominion over such things anyway, to name a few—so it was disappointing that Johnson appeared to be caught off-guard by the question and seemed visibly uncomfortable with the topic. But his answer, while not perfect, may have been forgivable had Cooper not pressed him: "Is prostitution a victimless crime?"

Johnson responded that currently, "the victims are the prostitutes."

D'oh! Et tu, Johnson? And here I thought totally denying women's agency was the purview of Democrats and Republicans. Yet here was Johnson buying into the idea that sex work is inherently exploitative and victimizing, or that no woman could choose it willingly.

But wait—could Johnson have meant that, under prohibition, sex workers are victims of the state? He did throw that "currently" in there.

I reached out to the Johnson campaign for clarification, and received an answer from its communication director, Joe Hunter, Thursday afternoon. All he would say about what Johnson meant last night was this: "In an illegal environment, prostitutes are at risk."

It's not much, but it suggests that Johnson believes the victimhood he attributed to sex workers stems from the illegal nature of prostitution, not that he thinks anyone selling sexual services must be doing so unwillingly.

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  1. ENB, back on the ho beat!

    1. Beating hos is exactly why it’s a problem, damnit.

    2. The word “ho” is used more often these days as a synonym for ” unethical slut” than “prostitute.”. There is nothing wrong with either, of course, though I prefer that slutiness be exercised in an ethical fashion where everyone knows where they stand (e.g., no chearing).

      This is a terrible answer from Johnson and is yet another deal breaker for me. The correct answer is to legalize prostitution immediately and everywhere.

      1. slutiness be exercised in an ethical fashion where everyone knows where they stand (e.g., no chearing).

        i cheer sluts all the time.

  2. Clarity I guess can only hurt a candidate in this environment.

  3. Gary, you game-playing sonuvabitch

  4. Gary Johnson uses this ONE WEIRD TRICK to reach new voters and pander to his base.

    1. This would’ve been better than the bad grammar and fervent wishing that Gary Johnson would bravely waffle us all to libetopia.

    2. Thinking about it further, this is what Gary needs to do.

      Quit getting in front of people live where he can stumble over himself and say pandering and stupid shit and just stick to the vitals as distilled by buzzfeed.

      Nobody would read the “Well, you know, I’m trying to be President and, while I wouldn’t necessarily be value added, I’d like to be involved in a healthy debate about guns.” and everyone would just come away with ‘Gary Johnonson, as a libertarian, opposes gun control’.

  5. So he gave an answer that could be interpreted both ways, depending on what the listener wanted to hear?

    Muddled like a fox!

    1. You know who else swung both ways?

      1. Inigo Montoya?

      2. Pete Rose?

      3. Emmett Till?

      4. Eddie Murray?

      5. Bennie Goodman?

      6. My baby’s arm, holding an apple?

      7. My Big Balls

  6. so it was disappointing that Johnson appeared to be caught off-guard by the question and seemed visibly uncomfortable with the topic

    It’s not surprising. Johnson is completely unprepared to deal with the media.

    Here’s proof:

    “Is prostitution a victimless crime?”

    Simple answer, Johnson: NO. Simple. If you’re going to let these mediots play you, you’re going to get played.

    1. And by “NO”, you mean “YES”?

      1. It’s such a simple answer, Hyp couldn’t get it right on the first try.

  7. Using a bigger hammer and hitting harder will work this time.

  8. Johnson responded that currently, “the victims are the prostitutes.

    Sigh, you could not have played their game for them, any better than that.

  9. If I recall Weld’s follow-up answer to the same question was actually worse. he said the prostitutes were the criminals

    1. How libertarian can these guys get?

      1. Significantly more than your other three balloted options.

        1. FdA with the only relevant answer.

        2. Significantly more than the two who actually stand a chance of winning.

  10. I reached out to the Johnson campaign for clarification, and received an answer from its communication director, Joe Hunter, Thursday afternoon. All he would say about what Johnson meant last night was this: “In an illegal environment, prostitutes are at risk.”

    It’s not much, but it suggests that Johnson believes the victimhood he attributed to sex workers stems from the illegal nature of prostitution, not that he thinks anyone selling sexual services must be doing so unwillingly.

    Admire your effort here, but most people are not going to see this. They will be left with the impression that Cooper manipulated Johnson into stating, that sex workers are victims, and therefore they must be saved by the state by keeping sex work illegal.

    1. All I heard was “ENB reached out to the johnson, for clarification.”

  11. Guess who said this:

    “I don’t think there’s anything about Trump’s agenda that isn’t conservative except maybe with the issue of trade.”

  12. First Gary Johnson wanted to persecute the conservative Christians, but I didn’t mind because those people are gross.

    Then he came for the hookers, and I was like, “whoa, dude, he’s gone too far!”

    /Martin Niemoller

  13. And here I thought totally denying women’s agency was the purview of Democrats and Republicans.

    Gary Johnson IS a Republican

    Didn’t you watch the town hall last night? Weld and Johnson said they were two Republican governors running as Libertarians. It’s kinda the opposite of when Ron Paul was a libertarian running as a Republican

    I

    1. Shhhhhh! You’ll summon the Hihnmost!

  14. i get Paid Over ?80 per hour working from home with 2 kids at house. I never thought I would be able to do it but my best friend earns over ?9185 a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless.

    Heres what I’ve been doing,………. http://www.CareerPlus90.com

  15. “Sex workers are victims of aggressive state prohibition, which forces them into the grey economy, cuts off their access to legal protection and recourse, puts them at the mercy of abusive handlers, traffickers, and johns, and encourages police and prosecutors to victimize them for the crime of providing a victimless service. The victims of prostitution are overwhelmingly victims of the state.”

    1. BAM. Couldn’t have said it better. DecrimNOW.com

  16. Watched a show on Fusion on this the other night. Not one independent interviewed. Had women that had been held captive and women who had been beat repeatedly. To one of the cops credit he did say the system miserably fails the girls. They talked about a red light district but that it would make everything worse. No counter argument. No argument for legalization. It’s not like they wouldn’t have been able to find someone to interview. Showed ex-prostitutes protesting outside however owns Back Page, I think it was Village Voice. Watching shit like this is about as far as most people get thinking this issue through. Just seems to me that looking at how long it’s been around, how many resources are getting thrown at it now that it’s called human trafficking, and how if anything it’s gotten worse (although certainly the economy and restrictions on legal work don’t help), that people would recognize that this isn’t working.

    1. Basically they were saying that a red light district would just encourage the pimps to recruit more women. No mention of how much safer they might be, or how much easier it would be to have access to these girls for groups that want to provide options to them. I don’t know all the answers on this but it seems to me that out in the light is better and easier to deal with than in the dark.

    2. They never recognize that their authoritarian measures don’t work. It’s obvious to them that it just means they have to authority harder.

      1. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    3. people would recognize that this isn’t working

      They do, but they can’t imagine any response but more laws, more cops, more jails, and more money.

      1. One solution to every problem. That only works with alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems

    4. Backpage ad craigslist and whatnot of course have made prostitution enormously safer. Pimps are nearly nonexistent now. If it were legalized, everyone would go freelance, and pimps would go the way of the horse-drawn carriage once and for all. It amazes me that it’s not obvious at this point that the only reason to oppose legalization today is because one thinks sex is icky.

  17. Q: Is prostitution a victimless crime?

    A; Unfortunately, the laws against prostitution create a black market in prostitution. Black markets always create victims. So my position is that, while prostitution doesn’t create victims, but the laws against it do.

    1. If prostitution were legal, the price would be driven down so low as to totally victimize the women. Or something.

      1. Government will get their cut first

      2. Have you ever paid a prostitute in Los Vegas?

        1. Or Las Angeles?

  18. I like the new pic Elizabeth.

  19. Of course prostitution can make the prostitute victims. They could be under aged. They could be drug addicts being forced to provide their earnings to their pimp drug dealer or they could be illegals, smuggled in, with no knowledge of the language or legal system. Other prostitutes could be adults working voluntarily involved in consensual relationships. In which case she ( or he) is not a victim. If it was legal, the incentive to victimize the prostitute is diminished.

    i don’t understand why some Libertarians feel the need to attack Johnson and Weld, because they’re not purists. They’re the closest we’ll get to the White House, for a long time, unless they do well. And, what’s the alternative, a serial liar or a compulsive liar?

    1. Well, what he said is about as disingenuous as saying ‘drug dealers are the victims of drug prohibition.’ Yeah, I guess that’s true. But what about the rest of the people victimizeed by it? The majority, ya know? The purchasers?

    2. They could be under aged.

      Quite so. If they’re under Arbitrary Age X, clearly they must be victims, regardless of their thoughts on the matter.

    3. I agree they’re the best we’re getting. I intend to vote for Johnson.

      That said, we’re pushing for libertarian ideals here. Critical thinking about the LP candidate can’t be off the table, or we end up just like the big parties – eating whatever garbage we’re served up because of the letter by his name.

    4. The problem is that the term “victimless crime” is widely misunderstood. It does not mean the act doesn’t have the potential to harm someone; any act has that potential. Driving a car or falling in love has that potential. Rather, it means that all parties to the act are acting of their own free will and thus have no reason to report it to the authorities. In a real crime where someone’s person or property is harmed, that person is a victim and will likely seek redress.

      So a woman who voluntarily chooses to perform a sex act in exchange for money won’t want to call the cops, and the john won’t either. If the woman is being forced into prostitution that is obviously different, but the crime is not the prostitution itself but rather the force.

    5. “If it was legal the incentive to victimize the prostitute is diminished”

      I beg to differ.

      DECRIMINALIZATION is the better word the better path, to use if you want that to be true. You want the power to be in the hands of the workers themselves. You want equal protection under law. You want ALL arrests of the workers to STOP. Legalization is another form of criminalization. Nevada is 1 of top 3 states for prostitution arrests. The workers in the Nevada brothels do not have control of their work. The brothel owners have the power hand in hand with the state.

      http://decrimNOW.com

  20. I’m sensing that Johnson is verging on supporting the “Nordic” model, which, if he does, would probably be enough of a last straw to convince me not to vote for him. (call me a single issue voter if you will, but it’s who can deny prostitution is a wonderful issue?)

    Now, maybe he’s just being selective about what he says. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not just going soft core prog. But it wouldn’t be unprecedented.

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