Should Sex Work Be Legal?

Julie Bindel rails against legalized prostitution:

A third of Amsterdam’s bordellos have been closed due to the involvement of organised criminals and drug dealers and the increase in trafficking of women. Police now acknowledge that the red-light district has mutated into a global hub for human trafficking and money laundering. The streets have been infiltrated by grooming gangs seeking out young, vulnerable girls and marketing them to men as virgins who will do whatever they are told. Many of those involved in Amsterdam’s regular tourist trade — the museums and canals — fear that their visitors are vanishing along with the city’s reputation.

Like me, Daniel Nexon has mixed feelings:

This is one of those issues that I can’t sort out of my views on. My inner libertarian tells me that the state does not have the right to prohibit the exchange of money for sex. My inner pragmatists looks at the experience of some European countries and says, more or less, “that’s nice in theory, but in practice legalization just makes things worse.” My inner lefty responds, “but that’s because of inadequate regulation — if the regulators, parliamentarians, and police did their jobs than selling sex would be little different than offering personal training or non-sexual massage services.” My inner old-school feminist chimes in by pointing out that prostitution is the ultimate in objectification. My inner new-school feminist champions sexual autonomy and de-stigmatizing sex work. And on it goes. Of course, the internet isn’t much help in sorting out fact from propaganda.

I can’t help but note that a third of the brothels, as it were, have been closed. So some regulation is clearly going on. And Amsterdam’s problem may be its uniqueness – attracting far more scumbags than would be the case if sex work were more broadly available and legal. But that’s from where I’m sitting. This is a pragmatic decision, it seems to me. The Dutch will figure it out. They are among the sanest people on the planet.