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Trystn Murphy
Professor Benjamin Henderson
CAS 138T
14 April 2016
The Decriminalization of Prostitution
Since the beginning of modern humanity, a barter-style trading system has been in
effect. Initially, it was a system of trading goods for other raw materials or supplies.
Then jewels replaced general objects as a form of payment. Finally, the dollar systems
came into play. Coins and paper now had value that could be used to acquire goods
according to their price. In todays society, products as well as services can be exchanged
for money. However, the government has put restrictions on which services can actually
be bought. With ties as early as the Bible, prostitution has been around for centuries. Yet a
majority of the world has laws criminalizing sex workers as well as clients for offering
and purchasing sex. In the United States, states had laws criminalizing sex work, but
nationwide laws werent officially passed until around 1910. The Mann Act (1910) and
other legislature outlawed brothels and the transport of women for prostitution, known as
trafficking (Jenkins).
The Mann Act was only the beginning of a series of regulations keeping sex
workers from safely carrying out their profession. As of today, the only state with laws
allowing prostitution is Nevada. Even so, Prostitution is only allowed in licensed brothels
which can be found in a select eight counties (England). For sex workers running their
business outside of these few brothels, the legalization is not effective. The

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criminalization of prostitutes results in dangerous and unhealthy work conditions. In the
event that an appointment goes wrong, with the current system in place, sex workers
could not report any incidents of rape, abuse or theft. Even in the rare event that the
police would be willing to help, the law makes it very clear that the prostitutes actions
are illegal and they can be arrested instead. The job title of a sex worker also comes with
many negative connotations. However, not all prostitutes are drug addicts feeding a habit
or whores seeking attention. Though a substantial part of the sex working population is
forced into prostitution via trafficking, there are also a large portion of men and women
who choose this profession and enjoy what they do. Some workers can make anywhere
from $200-$400 an hour with rates that cap upwards of $2,000 a night. Very few jobs pay
this well without a college degree and several years of specialized training.
Another danger that criminalized prostitution poses lies with the clients
themselves. Because the client is paying for specific services, a lot of the time they are
under the impression that this gives them free reign over the worker. This leads to abusive
encounters as well as rape. In a paper published by Open Society Foundations, an
international grantmaking network, it was shown that criminalization of prostitution
forces sex workers to move their business to more secluded areas where police are less
likely to patrol. This usually means an unsafe area which can lead to incidents of being
raped and jumped. Decriminalization of prostitution would be a practical step allowing
sex workers to safely report violent incidents as well as lay ground rules with their
clients. Prostitutes would also be able to get clinical care without the fear of being

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discovered and arrested. Of course this would not be plausible as a nationwide bill. Many
conservative members in Congress would oppose this bill immediately.
In Europe, many countries have adopted what is known as the Nordic Model.
What this model says is that the act of selling sex is not illegal, however, buying sex is.
Therefore the prostitutes themselves is would not be in any trouble. Instead, only the
client would be charged if they were to be caught. This type of bill would push for sex
workers to find or meet their clients indoors and allow them to report their incidents
safely without repercussion.
Sweden has adopted this policy and found that the number of women involved in
street prostitution has decreased by at least 30 percent to 50 percent, and the recruitment
of new women has come almost to a halt. By implementing the Nordic Model Sweden
saw a drastic decline in the amount of street prostitutes. It was also seen that within the
first three years, the number of individuals in prostitution dropped from 2,500 people to
1,500 people. Oslo, the capital of Norway tested out the Nordic Model and experienced
the same results (The Swedish Way).
This data is what would most likely swing the right wing state officials, due to the
fact that by giving sex workers the freedom to report acts, the continued criminalization
of clients allows for a decrease in street prostitute activity. It also decreases the amount of
prostitutes as a whole, which would make it seem like decriminalizing prostitution would
help get rid of prostitution.
While this might be uplifting, the countries above have very different
governmental structures than the United States. Sweden is run similarly to England, with

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a Parliament system, a monarchy and laws based off of Roman-German common law.
Norway is very much run the same way. The United States has Congress, a multibranch
balance and checks system as well as laws based on the Constitution. Sweden and
Norway also known for much less severe corporal punishment. Their prisons are more
like apartments and the inmates are coached and made ready to return to society. The
maximum prison sentence in Norway is 21 years, compared to over 100 years in the
United States (Why Norways Maximum Sentence is Just 21 Years). That is to say,
European countries like Sweden and Norway seem to be more lenient with their citizens
in a way the United States is not. This can pose an issue when presenting the Nordic
Model to right wing conservative states.
Recently, Canada tried to implement this model in an attempt to help their sex
worker population, taking it a step further by outlawing any communication about
prostitution (Parliament of Canada). This would include asking rates and setting up an
appointment. The repercussions are especially harsh if the event takes place in a public
area with minors around.There was no data on how or whether this reduced prostitution
as was seen in Europe. Not all of Canada seems to agree with this new bill. Joseph Amon,
a writer for the Canadian newspaper Ottawa Citizen, states that criminalizing only the
client in turn puts the worker at more of a risk. Similar to today, sex workers will have to
find isolated areas without police around in order to safely discuss details like condom
use, ground rules, ect. It also inhibits the screening process which a lot of workers use to
check out their clients before they decide whether to meet in person. This new bill also
has the power to eliminate some businesses entirely. Many sex workers find ads for jobs

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on CraigsList or other sex work forums. This can be easily tracked to both the worker and
their clients. Amon believes Canada is taking a large step backwards, and those in his
comments section seem to agree.
Using Swedens and Norways version of the Nordic Model would provide
results that would please a conservative state legislature, while still allowing sex workers
the safety to report anything. The fact that prostitution is not being made completely legal
may be enough to push the bill through all by itself. However, the added bonus of a
decrease in active prostitutes should sway them. According to ProCon, California, Texas
and Florida had the most arrests, respectively, for prostitution in 2010. It would make
sense to start with states that have the highest arrest rates, as this would get those inmates
released and back the work they enjoy. About 8% of all prisoners are in for sex offenses
(BOP Statistics: Inmate Offenses). While this is a broad category that can include
pedophilia, non-sex work related rape, and other crimes, the arrest data from ProCon
would push more in the direction of sex work related crime. This would allow space for
individuals committing legitimate crimes.
California and Florida are democrat states which may work in favor when seeking
passage of this adaptation of the Nordic Model. Texas is where a problem may arise. As a
state deeply rooted in tradition, the evidence from Norway and Sweden will have to take
the front seat along with decreased trafficking. The point that sex workers will no longer
be penalized for engaging in their work will have to take the back seat. This would
remain true for the remaining other conservative Republican states across the country.

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As with all new legislature, there may be some opposition. It can be foreseen that
a bill like this would cause a lot of controversy from extreme conservatives and those
who are religious. This would have to be taken into consideration when predicting
whether a state would pass the Nordic Model. Modifications would most likely be made
whether it be to the whole plan, or the segment involving decriminalization of the
prostitutes themselves. If the Nordic Model is too radical at this point in time, twenty to
thirty years from now the current generation should be in control of most of the
government and would allow for easier adoption. Very few states would put this into
action today. There is still a large misconception about rape and what it entails, as well as
whether one is deserving based on their attire or occupation.
In their current state, laws criminalizing sex work perpetuate a stigma that
prostitutes are not genuine people. They perpetuate stereotypes like all prostitutes were
forced into the profession against their will as a way to fulfill a drug habit, get money for
very little work, or bridge a gap from past familial issues. By adopting the European
version of the Nordic Model, prostitutes can be fairly represented for violence done upon
them at their workplace, rape and other crimes they face. It will also make it easier for
prostitutes to maintain a clean bill of health without fear of being prosecuted. In a short
20 years, this may become the future of sex work. No longer will it be illegal to give a
client the services they are willing to pay for.


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Works Cited
Amon, Joseph. "Canada's Prostitution Bill a Step in the Wrong Direction." Ottawa
Citizen. Postmedia Network Inc., 18 June 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
"BOP Statistics: Inmate Offenses." Federal Bureau of Prisons. United States
Government, 27 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
England, Deborah C. "Prostitution in Nevada: Laws and Penalties | Criminal Law." Nolo, Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
Jenkins, John Philip. "Prostitution." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia

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Britannica, Web. 13 Apr. 2016.
McClelland, Mac. "Is Prostitution Just Another Job?" The Cut. New York Media LLC, 20
Mar. 2016. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
Open Society Foundations. 10 Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work (2015): pgs. 1-5 Mar. 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
Parliament of Canada. "62-63 ELIZABETH II: Chapter 25." Parliamentary Business. 6
Nov. 2014. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
"The Swedish Way." National Center for Policy Analysis, 30 Nov. 2009.
Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
"US and State Prostitution Arrests, 2001-2010 - Legal Prostitution."
Headlines., 4 May 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
"Why Norway's Maximum Sentence Is Just 21 Years." The Local. The Local Europe AB,
24 Aug. 2012. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.