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California Assemblyman: 'We Have to Distinguish Between' Prostitution and Sex Trafficking to Help Victims

Cali legislators heard diverse views on sex work and sex trafficking Tuesday.

Lucie_Ottobruc/FlickrLucie_Ottobruc/FlickrOn Tuesday, California legislators heard from a diverse range of voices about human trafficking and prostitution in America. The proceedings before the Assembly Public Safety Committee provided a rare chance for people with divergent viewpoints on sex work, sex trafficking, and criminal justice to come together and have their say. And then something even more rare happened: some California politicians even seemed to come away with new perspective. Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-20th District) said committee members learned yesterday that prostitution "can be voluntary" or it "can be trafficking, and we have to distinguish between the two if we are going to help the victims."

Fox News Sacramento reported on the hearing with the headline "Some Suggest Legalizing Prostitution Would Put an End to Sex Trafficking," noting the "odd mix of legislators, policy wonks, (and) sex workers" in the room. "Many of them were there to argue that the first step to getting a handle on human trafficking is to make prostitution legal," it states. 

Actually, sex work and human rights advocates tend to focus on decriminalization, not legalization, of prostitution. "Under legalisation, sex work is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions," as the New Statesman explains in a good primer on the different tacks. "Decriminalisation involves the removal of all prostitution-specific laws, although sex workers and sex work businesses must still operate within the laws of the land, as must any businesses." 

Nonetheless, the Fox article presents an atypically nuanced perspective on prostitution and sex trafficking in America, suggesting that minors engaging in prostitution tend to be "trapped" in the trade by "fear, or love, or a perceived lack of other options" rather than physically restrained or forced by evildoers. It goes on to note that "many adult sex workers say they won't be able to protect a child, or show her how to stay safe on the streets, for fear of being arrested as a trafficker."

"A lot of the way that people are identified as sex trafficking victims, is they are arrested for prostitution. So in those prostitution sweep operations, you end up arresting a lot of adult, consensual workers,” said Maxine Doogan, who advocates for sex workers.

It makes writing good policy as hard as it is important.

"Human trafficking in California has increasingly become a target not just for California Attorney General Kamala Harris but for lawmakers, who since 2013 have run 16 bills on the issue," noted The Sacramento Bee. A representative from Harris' office testified at yesterday's hearing, as did the Alameda District County Attorney, sex worker and "pro-freedom activist" Starchild, and Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLER), among others. 

Watch Reason TV's segment on an ESPLER lawsuit to overturn anti-prostitution laws in California below, or check out other recent Reason coverage of this issue: "Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Are Not the Same Thing," "The War on Sex Trafficking Is the New War on Drugs," "Human Trafficking in America: Myths and Realities," "Hundreds Arrested in FBI-Sponsored Prostitution Sting."  

Photo Credit: Lucie_Ottobruc/Flickr

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...prostitution "can be voluntary" or it "can be trafficking, and we have to distinguish between the two if we are going to help the victims."

    Yeah. Suddenly government will turn into a precision instrument instead of the sledgehammer it is now.

  • Zeb||

    At least in this case it is appropriate to try, unless you are a total anarchist. Actual involuntary sex trafficking is a pretty legitimately serious crime.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    The proliferation of redundant crimes is not helping. Sex trafficking is slavery, kidnapping, whatever; the one crime ought to be enough. It's like making wire fraud a different crime than plain old theft. If nothing was stolen, what crime was committed? If something was stolen, why does the manner matter?

    I see basically two crimes: theft and assault. Everything else is a spin-off.

    Tang is neither a spin-off nor a crime, but perhaps an exception can be made.

  • Rich||

    OOH! OOH! HATE-CRIME SEX TRAFFICKING!!

  • Zeb||

    You still need to distinguish between someone voluntarily working at a brothel and someone being held there against their will before you charge someone with assault, kidnapping or slaving. I didn't mean to suggest that "sex trafficking" needs to have a special law. I agree that it is already well covered by existing laws.

  • Paul.||

    How to raise a well adjusted child using this one weird trick...

  • Rhywun||

    You won't believe who comes next.

  • ||

    "Under legalisation, sex work is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions," as the New Statesman explains in a good primer on the different tacks. "Decriminalisation involves the removal of all prostitution-specific laws, although sex workers and sex work businesses must still operate within the laws of the land, as must any businesses."

    Either way, the state gets tax revenue. Win/win right?

    /anyone.gov

    Next thing you know, they'll be pushing this as the perfect industry for a VAT tax.

  • GILMORE™||

    "Under legalization, sex work everything is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions"

    This accurately summarizes what most progressives actually believe "Law" is supposed to do

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    No doubt paid from an ATM machine to the Department of Redundancy Dept.

  • ||

    Yep. No edit. My bad.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Why, did they hire you to implement EDIT and you took the money and ran?

    FOLKS WE GOT HIM!!!

    TIWTINEB

  • Lee G||

    What if you prostitute in traffic?

  • Vampire||

    That's fine if you want to prostitute in traffic, so long as you are not having sex in traffic. Cause then you are sexing while trafficking, or sexing in traffic which is a no no.

  • ||

    Pimp: [spotting Dee in her skimpy outfit] Damn, girl! Who you wit?

    Dee Reynolds: I think you have the wrong idea. I'm not with anybody.

    Pimp: Word. Well, lookee here: Maybe if you get up off that crack rock, you can come and be Pepper Jack's best ho.

    Dee Reynolds: Oh, I'm not on any crack rock. I mean... Okay, one time I was hooked on the crack rock. That was because I was trying to get on welfare and I failed a drug test. But that stuff, you gotta be careful. It'll mess you... Why are you asking? Do you have some on you?

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, now you're not just gonna come up here and take Pepper Jack's best ho. You want this ho back, Pepper Jack needs to get paid.

  • ||

    Dee Reynolds: [to Dennis who is hiding in bushes] Dennis!

    Dennis Reynolds: Dee! What the hell are you doing? Get out of here! You're gonna blow my cover.

    Dee Reynolds: This seems extraordinarily dangerous.

    Dennis Reynolds: Dee, that is the point of being here. This is the area of the highest concentration of murders by the serial killer.

    Dee Reynolds: I know, that's why I feel like a sitting duck out there.

    Dennis Reynolds: Well, you volunteered for this, sis, okay? As you recall, I didn't want to use you as the bait: You do not fit the profile.

    Dee Reynolds: [annoyed] I fit the profile, Dennis!

    Dennis Reynolds: That's the right attitude. [refers to Dee's breasts] Now, pull these out or something. You need to look sexy for this guy. Otherwise he's never gonna... come on.

    Dee Reynolds: I just feel this is a very inappropriate outfit for how cold it is out here.

    Dennis Reynolds: Is it cold out here?

    Dee Reynolds: [irritated] It's freezing!

    Dennis Reynolds: See, I don't feel that. I have a down jacket, a wool blanket... It's a very toasty situation I got back here. Get back out there, Tiger. You can do it! I believe in you.

  • F. Mattress Boy, Jr.||

    noting the "odd mix of legislators, policy wonks, (and) sex workers"

    I only see two groups in that mix: whores and sex workers.

  • Lee G||

    Thread winner

  • Curtisls701||

    ^^This!^^

  • Rich||

    *-)

    *** modifies old joke ***

    What's the difference between a legislator and a prostitute?

    There are *some* things a prostitute just won't do.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    So a legislator goes into a doctor's office with a duck on his head, and the duck says, "Doc, you gotta remove this ugly wart from my butt!"

  • Agammamon||

    California Assemblyman: 'We Have to Distinguish Between' Prostitution and Sex Trafficking to Help Victims

    Christ. WTF man. What's wrong with these people? Who the hell cares about prostitution and sex trafficking? The question is how does this help the *state*? That's the only important question.

  • Robert||

    I've seen that usage of "decriminalize" & "legalize" elsewhere, but I think most are still using it in a more straightforward way; "Legalize" means to make legal, i.e. not illegal; "decriminalize" means to make not a crime, although it might still be illegal, i.e. a civil viol'n.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    I literally agree. Let's not redefine words when we already have the perfectly good word 'regulate.'

  • Zeb||

    I agree. Some people get awfully fiddly with that stuff. Though "legalize" is still a little tricky. Sometimes it means remove all the laws regarding some activity. Sometimes it means to bring things into a legal framework of regulation/registration/etc (e.g. marijuana legalization and gay marriage).

  • Je suis Woodchipper||

    Agreed. I've never before seen the definitions paint decrim as preferable to full legalization.

    "Under legalisation, sex work is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions," as the New Statesman explains in a good primer on the different tacks. "Decriminalisation involves the removal of all prostitution-specific laws, although sex workers and sex work businesses must still operate within the laws of the land, as must any businesses."

    Legalization sounds like regulation which is also the law of the land for any business. And would those state-specific conditions include prohibitions against force, extortion, etc?

  • ||

    Agreed. Slightly suspect how usage deviates here. "Deregulation" may be the preferable term, capturing all restrictions (including criminal law) and benefits. Perhaps someone feels that merely restrictive regulation should be removed, while beneficial regulation (e..g. subsidization) is wanted.

  • ||

    By the way, in its narrow sense, "regulation" is sometimes contrasted with "prohibition".

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    "Under legalisation [sic], sex work is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions," as the New Statesman explains

    So… unless something is regulated, it's not legal?

  • Rich||

    Well, not legal-legal.

  • sarcasmic||

    That would be correct. No one may engage in economic activity without asking permission and obeying orders. The alternative is complete and utter chaos.

  • Paul.||

    Yep. Had a guy in a park (about three years ago, long before FAA regs were even being mentioned) who was flying around a drone said that "you can't do such and such photography with drones". When I asked him if there was a law against it, he said "no, there's no law allowing it".

    We really, finally do live in Tony's utopia. People have truly internalized and accepted that which is not explicitly allowed is verboten.

  • Zeb||

    Must depend on where you are and who you talk to. I hardly ever encounter that attitude, even among my silly leftist friends.

  • Paul.||

    Strange, maybe it's regional. I encounter it all the time, either directly, or implicitly through newspaper articles about how such and such needs a law before such and such activity can be considered legitimate.

    Washington's "legalization" of pot was a classic example. You literally had navel-gazing newspaper articles saying that there was "no market" for marijuana until regulators could create it. They constantly hammered on the idea that the market wouldn't produce the "correct amount" of marijuana until "smart regulators" could determine the size and scope of the marijuana market, then set production quotas and limits that would match that demand. Not once did anyone in the media step back and say, "Hang on..."

  • sexworkersanonymous||

    There is a HUGE difference between "legal" prostitution and "decriminalized". With "legal" - you give traffickers immunity while you can easily prosecute traffickers where it's decriminalized. That's why Amsterdam shut down it's windows district in 2009 - because of sex trafficking run rampant. www.sexworkersanonymous.com

  • TheZeitgeist||

    ..prostitution "can be voluntary" or it "can be trafficking, and we have to distinguish between the two if we are going to help the victims."


    DoD Realization Version:


    Riding camels "can be voluntary" or it "can be terrorism, and we have to distinguish between the two if we are going to drone the victims."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The DoD is rarely that economical in its language.

  • Paul.||

    Look, if you have the budget, SPEND IT! Otherwise you might not get it next year!

  • TheZeitgeist||

    How about a MIL-SPEC

    bagel?

  • Lee G||

    I like the chocolate chip cookie

    5.3.11 Style J, Chocolate chip cookies (regular, chunk or mini-chips). The cookies may be
    varied in shape and have a distinct chocolate flavor with a tan to medium brown color. The
    cookies shall have a uniform distribution of chocolate chips with a flavor unique to the
    applicable flavor. When bake type a is specified, the texture shall be crispy, crunchy, and
    slightly crumbly, with a firm bite. When bake type b is specified, the texture shall be soft and
    slightly chewy.
  • Paul.||

    Definition of terms for "firm", "crumbly" or "slightly chewy"?

  • ||

    Yeah, apparently the video is truly about leg-alizing

  • VictoriaAnker||

    I bought brand new BMW by working ONline work. Six month ago i hear from my friend that she is working some online job and making more then 98$/hr i can't beleive. But when i start this job i have to beleived her

    ••••••• ------ www.HomeJobs90.Com

  • Bella Robinson||

  • Bella Robinson||

    Correction, rather than Mel , it should read M Dante
    https://youtu.be/7pGy46yRSYk

  • sexworkersanonymous||

  • sexworkersanonymous||

    There is a HUGE juggling going on here in connection with this push. http://traffickingandprostitut.....mbers.html Noam Chomsky calls it "manufacturing consent" as there's a huge difference between people agreeing with you and manipulating them into agreeing with you. I posted what I think is going on in connection with this on that link,

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