This Week’s Report: "Prostitution Debate"

by Marcia Clemmitt, May 23, 2008

Should the United States legalize sex work?

Prostitution made the front pages recently when Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned after he was outed as a client of a high-priced escort service. The fall of Spitzer, a fierce foe of prostitution in his previous post as state attorney general, highlighted American ambivalence about the sex industry, which receives little public debate and seems to surface in the media only when high-profile customers are named as clients. Behind the scenes, however, fierce debate rages about the best plan for limiting the harms of prostitution, which include drug addiction and minors being forced into sex work. Anti-prostitution feminists argue that the United States should follow Sweden’s example by arresting and jailing johns instead of prostitutes while providing social services to help women leave the sex industry. But other activists argue that only complete decriminalization and recognition of sex work as a form of labor can end the social stigma that leaves prostitutes unprotected from disease and violence.

  • Should the United States legalize or decriminalize prostitution?
  • Should law enforcement focus on johns rather than prostitutes?
  • Should society concentrate on ending forced prostitution rather than ending all prostitution?
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