Does our society not care about prostitutes?

Many of you may have read or heard the story of Philip Markoff, the “Craigslist Killer” who murdered Julissa Brissman and attacked three other working girls. Lifetime has made a killing (no pun intended) off its movie portrayal of Philip Markoff. Tellingly, the movie barely even mentioned the lives of the girls Markoff brutalized.

Recently, another young Long Island prostitute who advertized on Craigslist, 23-year-old Megan Waterman, was murdered. Her body was found on Giglo Beach. Waterman is the fourth young prostitute to be found dead on Giglo Beach in the past three years. The police say this is the work of a serial killer.

But let’s focus on the victims before we focus on the killer.

The Craigslist victims deserve justice. Justice will not come until we learn to view prostitutes as individual citizens who have the same rights as everyone else.

This isn’t the case today. Because of the way we view their chosen profession, we don’t see prostitutes as human beings whose welfare is important. Because they work in an illegal profession, we deem their lives to be of little value. This has got to change. We must accept that the world’s oldest profession will continue to exist.

Especially in these bad economic times, many young girls are turning to the sex industry as a way to support themselves and their families. If prostitution were decriminalized, these women would have legal protection. They would be able to call the police when someone attacked them and not be worried about going to jail. They would be able to use their voices to prevent other working girls from becoming victims.

When I ran for governor of New York as a protest candidate last year, I at first proposed legalizing prostitution and talked about why legalization would be safer for both sex-workers and Johns and would drive the pimps and those who exploit women through violence, intimidation and drugs out of the industry. I also spoke about the way that legalization, regulation and taxation could fill the state’s empty coffers at a time when New York is deep in debt.

I am realistic about the prospects of legalizing prostitution in the United States, although our experience with it in parts of Nevada has been positive. That’s why, in the short term, we should work to decriminalize prostitution. Women continue to be arrested, charged, jailed and even deported for engaging in prostitution. These women are stigmatized for life with criminal records, making it impossible for them to find jobs when they get older and leave the industry (if they live that long).

Meanwhile, the Johns are rarely prosecuted. Instead, they are allowed to return to their lives and careers and families. In some cases, they become highly-paid CNN talk show hosts. Their lives are not ruined. Their livelihoods are not threatened.

Sex workers should be treated the same way. Instead of being jailed, they should be fined. Lives can be saved if we decriminalize prostitution now.

Kristin Davis is an ex-madam who founded and ran the highest grossing escort service in the world. She served four months in prison and her probation recently ended by Court order. She ran for governor of New York on a radical libertarian platform last year as a protest candidate. A former hedge fund vice president, Davis is an entrepreneur, writer and activist.

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  • timej31

    Amazes me how women would sell it. Who would want it?

  • Liberty for All

    It does seem absurd that we spend government time and money trying to stop the 2nd most powerful drive in human nature. But with MO now enacting the food police on us, eventually even eating out will become a crime. (Restaurants are like food prostitutes. Ever think of that?)

    It’s in the mind’s eye, people. If it’s okay to pick up some one in a bar, it should be okay to pay. Basically, current laws discriminate against the unattractive or hopelessly inept male. Give the poor guy a break!

    My real feel is that woman don’t like losing control over men, and sex is a great controller. It’s the free market, folks. If women have to compete with professional sex traders, the quality of sex should rise all over. Pun intended.

    Until they end alimony, marriage is pretty much sex with a balloon payment, anyways.

  • ChickFight

    Are you claiming that if prostitution had been legal, these poor women would not have been murdered? The sex racket, by its very nature, both legal and illicit, is fraught violence, exploitation and disease and as such attracts all sorts of evildoers whether legal or not. ‘Sex Workers’ are not therapists performing a public service; they are both victims and victimizers, and they exploit as much as they are exploited. After all, It is an industry that thrives off both human frailty and inhuman perversion. Similarly, the porn industry, including strip joints and phone sex outfits, is already a form of legal prostitution, and they are hardly victimless vocations. Government regulation has never been a panacea for human depravity, and enshrining prostitution, in all its forms, as ‘normal’ or ‘harmless’, which is what legalization ultimately does, will only lead to further lowered moral standards in the culture. These relaxed attitudes toward promiscuity have already substantially rotted the culture, crippled the family, and poisoned entire generations – and frankly I would hate to live in a country that treated prostitution as a viable career option for young people. The bottom line is this: Those poor women and so many like them, are not dead because of lack of government regulation or due to cultural stigma – they are dead because their chosen path is a haven for the sick scum who seek to harm them. Things which are so detrimental should have a stigma; if those baby girls had loved themselves enough to stay out of the prostitution and drugs cycle, they would still be alive today because they would not have been as vulnerable to that murdering b@stard. All of the taxpayer supported health facilities, drug counseling programs, economic scholarships, homeless shelters, welfare and police protection that was already freely available to them, could not ultimately protect them from themselves, or the Craig’s List’s maniacs of the world.

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  • robb32

    I’ve never understood exactly WHY prostitution was illegal. Everyone knows you cannot successfully legislate morality. Even GOD doesn’t do that. While not being a profession young women should aspire to, the free use of one’s body and skills are highly touted and encouraged in professional sports…why not women having the same free choice? I believe it comes down to ancient patriarchal laws that treated women like property, and did not afford them the rights and freedoms allowed men. I do however encourage changing laws involving child sex rings to include the death penalty for the adults involved, as it intrudes upon the rights and freedom of the children..something they can’t ever get back.

    • brian61

      “You cannot legislate morality” is a liberal lie that has been repeated by unthinking people for decades. We can and do legislate morality. It is merely a question of which morals we enforce. Laws with respect to lying, stealing, robbing, and killing are all based on moral values that are found in various sources, including the bible. If we choose not to make prostitution a crime, then so be it. But please don’t think for a moment that this will solve all violence against women who engage in prostitution.

      • Liberty for All

        Major felonies produce victims, slick guy, prostitution is trade. Our society has seen the folly of trying to stop alcohol and gambling. We’re still a little slow on drugs and sex. BTW, does marriage stop “all violence against women?” Come on, I’m no libtard, but we already know that unless you want to live under Sharia law, it’s best to stay out of your neighbor’s personals. And it would leave far more resources available to track down child predations.

      • BDevereaux

        Laws (should) are made to protect individual rights. Life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Hence murder, robbery, kidnapping, etc is illegal. Morals come into play during sentencing according to the situation (self defense versus a cold hearted random killing).

  • clw

    Of course society cares. But I believe they care so much that they don’t want anyone on that slippery slope. I am one of those women who believes, on the one hand, that feminism means that women can do what they want to, ANYTHING they want to, as long as they’re not being forced, coerced, harmed, or are hurting anyone else by their behavior. We’re big girls, and we can make informed decisions.

    HOWEVER, we know that here in the real world, this kind of lifestyle is EXTRAORDINARILY dangerous, and it does in fact quite often hurt other people

    • clw

      Sorry, didn’t mean to post yet…

      If you look at the porn industry, the child sex rings, it is just so fraught with danger and exploitation that you just almost can not make a sincerely well thought out argument FOR it.

      If women want to be in this chosen profession, they should probably move to a state with legalized (and heavily regulated) prostitution.

      • BDevereaux

        For most adult voluntary prostitutes this is not a lifestyle, it’s a chosen way to make a living such as any other occupation. It is no more dangerous than being a policeman or a social worker. It is no more exploitive than being a model or a sports star. It hurts other people less than alcohol or tobacco does. Yes, some women choose to move to Nevada where there are only a handful of counties with legal brothels. However, for most women this is not a feasible option. They have ‘regular’ jobs also, family, responsibilities that keep them from moving. The legal brothels are not the best business models as they have requirements (such as having to live on site) and absurd fees (docking pay if unable to show up for a line up) in addition to the fierce competition that many women will refuse to tolerate.

        If there were legal avenues (such as better run brothels or districts) in each state along with the availability of legal and peer support, then we may see positive changes.

        • clw

          IMO it could be argued as to be FAR more dangerous than a policeman or social worker; it can be FAR more exploitative than being a model or a sports star; it can hurt people FAR more than alcohol or taboacco… I just don’t buy those arguments.

          I’m not here to dissuade prostitutes from doing whatever they want. However, the title of the article is “does our society not care about prostitutes”? I maintain that we DO care. The better question may be, do they care about THEMSELVES as much as we care about them. I would argue that they don’t. They don’t value their lives and bodies as much as they should, nor as much as many others do.

          They can do whatever they want to, but they should expect whatever they get out of it; knowing that most people disapprove, most people are VERY concerned, many feel that it leads to othere crime where they live and work, and many feel that the “ponr” industry in general is at a minimum detrimental to society, and particularly, where it involves children.

          • Liberty for All

            I’m a loyal reader CLW, but I think you pick and choose. College and professional footballers take tremendous hits and play injured to stay on the team. Does society care? Not so much. We like the hits. In a laize faire world, which I think you advocate, the individual gets to weigh the risks and play their cards. I don’t think we stop prostitutes to protect them, I think we’re jealous of the easy money. And throwing kids in doesn’t work. Legalizing would probably help kids much more than hurt them.

          • BDevereaux

            And what is your opinion based on? Personal experience as a prostitute or the media stories written to attract readers or perhaps the so called “research” that is only conducted on drug addicted streetwalkers who get arrested and forced to undergo counseling and rehab? You never read about the higher percentage of adult volunteer prostitutes who conduct their business indoors because it’s not as exciting/sad/shocking simply because it’s not news worthy. There have been far more work injuries and deaths in other occupations than there are in the quiet world of internet escorting. Disease? Sex workers have a vested interest in keeping themselves disease free. Far more than the “free” stuff you may pick up at a bar. In my 20 years of being involved in the sex industry, I don’t buy the arguments that people use of how dangerous it is, how exploitive it is, how much we don’t care about ourselves, paid rape, degrading, blah blah blah. I am speaking from experience and the experience of those that I know as opposed to what the media chooses for me to read about. Am I saying that these instances don’t exist? Not at all. There are those that choose to be more at risk than others (walking the streets late at night, not screening their ‘johns’, engaging in unsafe sex practices) but these are now exceptions and not the rule thanks to the ability of the internet to advertise, research, and learn from others.

            IMO society as it is now only cares about prostitutes IF they stop prostituting.

          • clw

            Well certainly I don’t speak from personal experience, and I don’t have a vested interest one way or the other. I was sort of just throwing out my opinion, based on nearly 50 years of life experience. I believe that the majority of humans do care about them, and also about the effects on others, and society in general. Having said that, hey, if that’s what they want to do, they’re going to do it regardless of what I think, and too, do THEY care if I care about them? I don’t know, I don’t get that impression.