Brian M.

Kern Organized and Consensual Crime Professor Latham University of North Texas November 8, 2007

Prostitution: The Real Victims
Often referred to as the oldest profession, prostitution, or the selling of sexual services for remuneration, has been a factor of human existence since before recorded history. Human beings are by their very nature, sexual beings. The animalistic lusts and desires that move all life forms to propagate their species moves in us as well. And yet, due to our self-awareness and intelligence, the heat of those needs are tempered with intellect, wisdom, and for some, self-restraint. Today, prostitution is practiced widely throughout the world, from the expensive call girls that dress in diamonds and practice their art in luxurious hotels, to the gaudy and cheap girls who walk the streets. But prostitution has an invidious side as well, a dark side that bespeaks suffering, anguish, betrayal and loss. Prostitution is a well-spring of disease, of self-destruction, of duplicity, and of pain.

Prostitution is referred to as a victimless crime, since those that practice it as well as those who partake in it are both considered criminals by our society. The consensual nature of the exchange between prostitute and client excludes the concept of a victim. In a culture such as ours, one must wonder at the rational for placing social and economic morays on others, especially in light of the failed experiment of prohibition. And yet,

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from a sociological perspective we are forced to ask what drives some women to choose prostitution? An argument can be made that socio-economic forces move women with no other alternatives toward prostitution, and yet this concept is narrow-minded, since similar parallels can be drawn between prostitutes and others entering the work place. In a male dominated patriarchal society, sex is a “salable commodity”. (Carpenter:24) But the psychological makeup of those who engage in prostitution is also worthy of note.

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But not all prostitution is consensual. Over the years, trafficking in women and children has become a lucrative prospect for organized crime syndicates. The United States government routinely tracks the suspected volumes of criminally transported women and children, especially when those involved are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The U.S. Government estimates that between 800,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked each year for a wide variety of purposes. Some go to forced labor, indentured servitude, and sexual exploitation. (Troubnikoff, 3) This troubling development in the arena of prostitution changes the concept of “victimless crime” into an unimaginable horror.

As education and social-economics decrease the supply of “willing” women to engage in prostitution, especially when one considers the many dangers involved, organized criminal syndicates who run brothels and bordellos, will go to extreme measures to
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conscript women, whether willing or not, into their business. Kidnapping, fraud, and even phony marriage offers are used to bring unsuspecting women into a business morally shunned by most western nations. (Troubnikoff, 5) These methods are barbaric, and are frequently matched with other means of control, such as physical and mental abuse, and drugs. Women who find themselves in a foreign country, with no money, papers, barely speaking the language, and threatened with physical violence or drugged, are kept in abominable circumstances.

The sexual exploitation of women is a growing concern worldwide. Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands are one of the fastest growing areas of white slavery. (Troubnikoff, 6). Sex tours, also common in South and Latin America, run rampant with American, Australian, and European men, are prevalent, and there are even tourism companies that specialize in “sex tours”. Billions of dollars a year routinely pass through the hands of unscrupulous people who use women as nothing more than salable goods.

According to the US Government, 18,000 to 20,000 people are trafficked illegally to the United States each year. (Troubnikoff, 10) Unfortunately, half of those are forced into sexual servitude as prostitutes. Since many victims of white slavery have come to the United States willingly, and usually without obtaining the correct documents, the US Government has a tendency to treat these victims as illegal immigrants, deporting them to their home countries if caught, rater than make the effort to prosecute kidnappers and abusers.

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The fight against trafficking and prostitution are different battles of the same war. Currently, the United States has enacted broad policies under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations in an effort to reduce human trafficking. Sanctions have been levied against nations with poor or non-existent trafficking laws, and even legislation has been proposed that would work to prevent “sex tourism” of American men in foreign countries, especially with minors. (Troubnikoff, 22) But while these means have been working toward the elimination of illegal trafficking, it does nothing to address the social problem of prostitution.

Organized Crime is the primary mover and shaker behind prostitution in America. Estimated earnings in the billions make prostitution a viable source of income, one that Organized Crime wishes to protect. Nothing makes crime bosses happier than the continued legislation making prostitution illegal. By enforcing a moral code that has been in force for hundreds, if not a thousand years, we continue to encourage trafficking for sexual exploitation, the brutal mistreatment of women, and the influx of billions of dollars around the world into organized crime syndicates. (Troubnikoff, 21)

Even women who voluntarily choose prostitution as their profession, part or full time, could be considered victims from a variety of perspectives. Being a streetwalker is hardly safe. From Jack the Ripper to modern day serial killers who prey upon the derelict of society, women in business for themselves are frequently made targets. Their

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penchant for solitary work, usually conducted in secret, or at least inconspicuously, in an effort to avoid law enforcement, creates opportunities for evil. (Troubnikoff, 35) Women who are controlled and dominated by pimps, or become involved in a more formal brothel or massage parlor, are increasingly targeted with physical violence and exposed to drug use in order for their masters and mistresses to maintain control. Disease, mental disabilities, economic slavery, drug addiction, and the inability to get out, color the life of a prostitute.

There have been many calls for the legalization of prostitution over the years and in the United States, none have ever been honestly considered. The vast majority of Americans are steeped in a religious and moral tradition that has shunned prostitution since the time of Mary Magdalene, a woman referred to as a prostitute by the Bible. The irony to the American moral standard is that when polling conducted by gender, most American men feel that legalizing prostitution would be a benefit. As usual in our great country, honor comes above all else.


Legalizing prostitution in our country would begin the process of removing organized crime from the equation. Legitimate companies would begin to take over, and sex workers would be enabled to choose their work environments in a free manner, rather than fear arrest if escaping a violent or restrictive atmosphere. Sex workers would be

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able to report other crimes committed without the concern of their own arrest for prostitution, and the flow of cash, the life blood of organized and consensual crime, would dry up like a desert arroyo. (Troubnikoff, 27) In addition, women who frequent the street, rather than rely on outside support such as organized crime, would have the opportunity to seek safer environments than the corner of a dark road and the accompanying alley.

Legalizing prostitution would also enable the government to impose health and safety restrictions on the industry. Other nations, like the Netherlands, where prostitution is a legal enterprise, imposes mandatory health exams, certifications, and licenses for sex workers. Such documentation, which might be considered difficult to obtain if required in the United States, would ensure the health and quality of the women, prevent trafficking in sex slaves, and provide documentary evidence of the widespread use and demographics of the sex industry. (Carpenter: 18)

Another benefit of legalization would be to enable the government to generate tax revenue from legalized prostitution. As in any free market industry, taxes can be generated. With the criminal element removed from prostitution, a free market economy structure would be put in place, with prices standardized and controlled. Better quality would mean higher prices, and more taxes generated for the government. But even today this is a sticky moral question. Currently the State of Texas is unwilling to impose additional taxes on the pornography industry, citing moral concerns and wishing not to

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appear to promote immoral or indecent behavior. (Carpenter: 21) However, this concern seems juvenile when faced with the knowledge that our government consistently places larger and larger taxes on what is considered by the mainstream as vices. Smoking, alcohol, gambling, all of these pastimes which can be performed legally with only minor restrictions, are heavily taxed by our government. In an odd irony, the sin tax on cigarettes as increased dramatically, usually to fund important projects, while more and more local governments ban smoking.

Legalizing prostitution, as stated before, would enable our medical professionals to begin early treatment of disease in sex workers, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and allow our social services access to information concerning other problems such as drinking, physical or sexual abuse, and drug addiction. Legalizing prostitution would collectively bring some of the most desperate and disadvantaged women together, giving social services the ability to help those who would have chosen another path, had it been available. (Troubnikoff, 37)

Kirby Cundiff, the author of “Prostitution and Sex Crimes” a study examining the hypothesis that legalizing prostitution in the United States would reduce incidents of rape, examined rape statistics for several European nations, in relation to population and their sex industry. He found startling correlations between the decrease of rape and the advent of the legal sex industry. Cundiff estimates, based upon his findings, that the

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current levels of rape committed in the United States could be reduced by as much as twenty five percent. (Cundiff, 2)

As mentioned early, American males are one of the predominant tourists who participate in “sex tours” offered by other nations, irregardless of whether they involve illegal prostitution. By legalizing prostitution in the United States, we could suddenly create an entirely new legal industry, with high paying rewards, luxurious work environments, and keep millions of dollars within our own economy. Sex resorts would immediately be created, on par with the luxury casinos and hotels found in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas, already a model for “controlled vice”, could be considered a mainstay example of the possibilities open to our great nation. From gambling to sex, what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.

Currently, police action is the primary method of dealing with prostitution. Vice squads, sting operations, and revolving door courts are common aspects in the life of a prostitute. Judges who are easy on their sentencing and do not actively promote rehabilitation or the involvement of social services, merely propagate the social problems of prostitution. Prostitutes who are charged with selling of sexual services are frequently released with no charges, or more likely, a minor fine, and then returned to the street corner.

Prostitution in the United States is stratified into three layers: an upper class strata that caters to the wealthy, a middle class that routinely operates in bordellos, massage parlors,

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and small time escort services, and the lowest class of streetwalkers and pimp controlled girls. Police intervention is mostly involved in the more visible aspects of prostitution. High class call girls routinely practice their profession in grand hotels, resorts, or even in offices. And while there are no defined lines between their respective roles, all three suffer from the criminal nature of their activities. (Liberator, 7)

Police use a variety of methods in dealing with the visible aspects of prostitution. Common activities such as sting operations, where an attractive female police officer poses as a streetwalker in an effort to lure males seeking sexual services, provides an opportunity for law violation. Restrictive operational requirements for vice cops make it more difficult for police to catch massage and bordello prostitutes, but new methods and practices are being effectively put into place. Recently, the Texas legislature made operating a massage parlor or clinic illegal unless licensed by state authorities. Officers now enter the establishment, wait for the first touch, and then ask to see the prostitute’s license. This tactic on the part of the police creates an environment where the prostitute no longer accepts the criminal burden of the activity. In the past, parlor and bordello operators would testify that they were unaware that sexual services were being offered, and that their employees were not permitted to engage in such activity. The legal ramifications would fall upon the prostitute. With the violation of state law concerning massage parlors, police can actually shut the entire establishment down, targeting the owner, rather than the prostitute herself.

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Prostitutes themselves have created a wide variety of means to “escape” prosecution. Escorts accept expensive gifts, and only charge you for their company, stating clearly that if a sexual relation occurs it is not due to a monetary exchange, but rather an attraction between two consenting adults. One advertisement offered a “spiritual” experience, touting the stress reduction methods used as “sexual” and “mind cleansing.”

These methods, along with the fact that prostitution is bifurcated in a manner that prevents intense police involvement, creates an environment that continues unabated. Women are routinely subjected to substandard conditions of employment in the lower strata of prostitution, exposed to drug use, poor working conditions, abusive employers, dangerous clients, and disease. As higher class sex workers, many women avoid those dangers, but are still presented with the threat of criminal prosecution, the stigma of their chosen profession, and the traps and lures that come with it. While free will is highest for the expensive call girls, as well as the ability to pick and choose their clients, prostitution is still a pervasive animalistic need that requires attention. As long as there are men, there will be prostitutes.


The decision we face in regards to the question of legalizing prostitution is whether we can move past the rigid morality that once brought us prohibition. With so many
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beneficial results that could come from the legalization of prostitution, among them the safety and health of women, the reduction in illegal trafficking, the elimination of organized crime from the sexual scene, as well as the economic impact that such legalization would bring, it is hard to understand why anyone would be opposed to such measures. And yet, America stands steady in its unwavering morality, the desire to stamp the earth clean of immoral and obscene behavior. We look down our noses collectively, while secretly, in our hearts, we know it’s for the best.

1. Perkins, R. 1991 Working Girls. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. 2. Carpenter, Belinda J. Re-Thinking Prostitution: Feminism, Sex, and the Self. Peter Land Publishing. New York. 2000 3. Troubnikoff, Anna M. Ed. Trafficking in Women and Children: Current Issues and Developments; Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York 2003 4. Cundiff, Kirby R. Prostitution and Sex Crimes, Independent Institute Working Paper 50, Oakland, CA 2004 5. Liberator, Mark. Legalized Prostitution: Regulating the Oldest Profession Retrieved from: on November 20, 2007

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