Time to strike outdated prostitution laws from books
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The arrests of 16 men and women during the prostitution sting in Coralville last week has many local people wondering: why is prostitution still illegal at all?

There are numerous reasons why we should leave this archaic law behind, like other Nanny-State laws from Prohibition to sodomy laws. Let me count the ways:

1. First, human trafficking is a completely separate issue. Coralville Police Lt. Shane Kron claims that prostitution sting operations are necessary to combat the crime of minors being forced into the sex trade. Trafficking is indeed a real crime of coercion that law enforcement should target. But why is it necessary to arrest adults consorting with other willing adults in order to do so? The public is not convinced by Kron's deliberate conflation of a real crime and the victimless "crime" of prostitution.

2. Police time spent on victimless "crimes" prevents police from protecting us from real crimes. Where's the victim when consenting adults agree to exchange sex for money? ("Society" or our injured personal feelings of morality aren't real victims.)

3. Prosecuting people for these "crimes" that hurt no one breeds resentment and loss of respect for (and cooperation with) law enforcement. In the long run, this is bad for law and order in general.

4. Making something illegal makes it more dangerous and makes us all less safe. Outside the law, people must rely on "protection" from violent criminals who are attracted to the money and power of illicit activities. We should minimize the criminal economy by bringing prostitution and other victimless crimes out in the open.

5. Prosecuting victimless crimes is a flagrant waste of taxpayer money in an era of squeezed budgets.

6. It results in even further economic waste in lost productivity from jail time and having criminal records. The local dentist who was arrested in last week's sting will undoubtedly suffer the loss of some of his business for being publicly branded a criminal. And for what? For the heinous crime against humanity of attempting to patronize the services of someone perfectly willing to sell them to him. The employees he will be forced to lay off will understand the folly of such stupid laws, even if our lawmakers can't.

7. We must remember that just because we feel something is morally wrong doesn't mean it should be illegal. Most people believe it's wrong to marry for money, for instance, but we don't arrest people for doing so. These are private moral decisions that should be handled by individuals and their families, perhaps with religious guidance.

8. Sex should be a private matter between consenting adults, period. As long as no coercion is involved, how adults negotiate sexual activity should be their own business. If a man buys dinner and jewelry for a woman with the hope of physical reward to follow, that is none of our business. If a more explicit deal is struck, it likewise should be none of our business.

9. As Joseph Dobrian pointed out in his Wednesday letter, prostitution laws imply that women do not really own their own bodies -- that "society" can dictate what they are allowed to do with them. This is not how modern women view themselves, and our laws should reflect that.

10. Lastly, if women really are victims of prostitution it's hardly compassionate to arrest them, fine them and publish their names and photos so everyone in town knows about their "crimes." The looks of angry humiliation on the faces of last week's arrested women are haunting indeed. Is this how a humane society treats victims?

It's time to strike down these inappropriate, over-reaching and needlessly damaging laws. Just as modern societies now understand that arresting people for the "crimes" of homosexuality and interracial sexual relations is both barbaric and not beneficial to society at all, so should the antiquated and inhumane laws against prostitution be struck from the books.