Last updated on: 11/13/2018 | Author:


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Proponents of legalizing prostitution believe it would reduce crime, improve public health, increase tax revenue, help people out of poverty, get prostitutes off the streets, and allow consenting adults to make their own choices. They contend that prostitution is a victimless crime, especially in the 10 Nevada counties where it remains legal.

Opponents believe that legalizing prostitution would lead to increases in sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, global human trafficking, and violent crime including rape and homicide. They contend that prostitution is inherently immoral, commercially exploitative, empowers the criminal underworld, and promotes the repression of women by men.

Pro & Con Arguments

Pro 1

Amnesty International

“Amnesty International considers that to protect the rights of sex workers, it is necessary not only to repeal laws which criminalize the sale of sex, but also to repeal those which make the buying of sex from consenting adults or the organization of sex work (such as prohibitions on renting premises for sex work) a criminal offence…

The fact that various aspects of sex work are treated as criminal conduct in many countries means that sex workers cannot rely on support or protection from the police. For many sex workers, reporting crimes experienced during the course of their work means putting themselves at risk of criminalization and/or penalization on the basis of their involvement in sex work, seizure of their earnings, potential loss of their livelihood through related sanctions and/or monitoring by the police to detect their clients. As a result, sex workers are frequently unable to seek redress for crimes committed against them, thereby offering impunity to perpetrators. In addition, the stigmatized and criminalized status that sex workers experience gives law enforcement officials in many countries the scope to harass, extort and perpetrate physical and sexual violence against them, also with impunity. When they are not threatened with criminalization/penalization, sex workers are better able to collaborate with law enforcement to identify perpetrators of violence and abuse, including human trafficking.”


-Amnesty International, “Amnesty International Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfill the Human Rights of Sex Workers,”, May 26, 2016

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Pro 2

Gaye Dalton, former sex worker

“I cannot understand why any form of criminal sanction should be considered applicable to the voluntary sale and purchase of sexual services in 2016. This is clearly a private matter in which the state should not seek to legislate…

Criminalisation does not help people get out of prostitution and legalisation does not trap them in it.

As a society we can choose whether to make it easier for people to escape prostitution or whether to make life harder for those trapped in it.

I have always believed that any person selling sex has a right to demand whatever resources it would take for them to leave prostitution into a situation that they can realistically thrive and grow in.”


-Gaye Dalton, written evidence submitted to the UK Home Affairs Committee’s Prostitution Inquiry,, Feb. 23, 2016

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Pro 3

Marshall Frank, retired captain from the Metro-Dade Police Department,

“It’s time for legislators to wake up from slumber land by legalizing and regulating prostitution…

Some folks disapprove of the immoral nature of sex for sale and, perhaps, rightfully so. But judging morality is for churches, employers, family members and peers. It should not be a matter for law enforcement, court dockets and jail cells, costing the taxpayer dearly, every day, every month, every year…

Prostitution flourishes in the black market that would not exist if brothels and hookers were legitimized, licensed, medically inspected, zoned and taxed. Like drugs, gambling and other crimes of morality, or alcohol prohibition of years past, the black market is nourished by draconian laws that forever fail to accomplish its intended purpose…

In Germany, and other countries, prostitution is legal and taxed. They turn the ‘crime’ into an economic plus. In other countries like the United States, we create the ‘crime,’ which turns the behavior into an economic negative. And, it’s still a thriving business, law or no law.”


-Marshall Frank, “Frank: Let’s Legalize, Regulate Prostitution,”, Aug. 29, 2015

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Pro 4

Jeanne LoCicero and Udi Ofer, both of the American Civil Liberties Union

“As civil libertarians, we believe the government should not throw consenting adults in jail for private sexual conduct. An adult who chooses to engage in sexual activity, whether for recreation, procreation or in exchange for something of value, makes a private, individual choice that should not be subject to criminal sanctions. Our rights to individual autonomy and privacy allow us all to make these decisions as adults.

As advocates for equality, we know that anti-sex work laws disproportionately target women along with LGBTQ people, young people and people of color, all of whom are overrepresented in the sex industry and at highest risk of arrest. Systemic discrimination can factor into the decision to participate in sex work. In the face of job discrimination, no viable alternatives for earning a living, ejection from school, eviction from housing or ostracism from your family for your gender identity or sexual orientation, sex work may offer one of the more stabilizing and accessible ways to support yourself and your family. As criminal justice reformers, we see laws criminalizing sex work as another way of misdirecting law enforcement resources and expanding our unjust system of mass incarceration. Scarce tax dollars underwrite people’s arrests and imprisonment for consensual activity. In addition to criminal records, arrests for sex work come with devastating collateral consequences, including eviction, loss of child custody and deportation.”


-Jeanne LoCicero and Udi Ofer, “ACLU: It’s Time to Decriminalize Prostitution,”, July 6, 2016

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Pro 5

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University

“Contrary to stereotypes of paid sex, work in a legal brothel is not especially dangerous or hazardous to one’s health. Some sex workers view their profession as involving greater skill and even a more human touch than alternative jobs open to them. They take pride in their ability to give not only physical pleasure, but also emotional support, to needy people who cannot get sex any other way.

If sex work is not going to disappear anytime soon, anyone who cares about the health and safety of sex workers – not to mention their rights – should support moves to make it a fully legal industry. That is what most sex workers want as well…

[C]ountries that criminalize the sex industry should consider the harms these laws cause, as Amnesty International has done. It is time to put aside moralistic prejudices, whether based on religion or an idealistic form of feminism, and do what is in the best interests of sex workers and the public as a whole.”


-Peter Singer, “The Case for Legalizing Sex Work,” Project Syndicate, Nov. 14, 2016

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Con 1

Melissa Farley, research and clinical psychologist

“The existence of prostitution anywhere is society’s betrayal of women, especially those who are marginalized and vulnerable because of their sex, their ethnicity, their poverty, and their history of abuse and neglect. Prostitution is sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, often torture. Women in prostitution face a statistical probability of weekly rape, like domestic violence taken to the extreme.

The complicity of governments sustains prostitution. When the sex trade expands, women are less likely to compete with men for jobs. When prostitution is incorporated into states’ economies, governments are relieved of the necessity of finding employment for women. Blood taxes are collected by the state-as-pimp in legal and decriminalized prostitution. Banks, airlines, Internet providers, hotels, travel agencies, and all media are integral to the exploitation and abuse of women in prostitution tourism, make huge profits, and are solidified as part of the economy.”


-Melissa Farley, “Very Inconvenient Truths: Sex Buyers, Sexual Coercion, and Prostitution-Harm-Denial,”, 2016

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Con 2

Donna Gavin, Lieutenant in the Human Trafficking Unit at the Boston Police Department

“Prostitution is not a fairy tale. ‘Pretty Woman’ normalizes something that destroys lives. It glamorizes prostitution and creates an illusion that prostitution is a voluntary, desirable occupation. The film suggests that prostituted people are knowledgeable and have other options they might have chosen. The reality is that prostitution and sex trafficking make up a harmful, pervasive, illegal, and violent criminal industry involving pimps and traffickers who are tied to gangs, drugs, and street violence…

Now is the time to act. We need men and women to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. We need to attack this harmful sex industry from all sides by targeting the pimps and the traffickers, providing services and exit strategies for those being prostituted, and educating and dissuading would be buyers. We need to dissuade buyers from fueling this industry and hold them accountable when they do.”


-Donna Gavin, “‘Pretty Woman’ Normalizes Something That Destroys Lives,”, Mar. 23, 2015

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Con 3

Rachel Moran, former sex worker and Co-Founder of Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment (SPACE) International

“As far as legislation towards decriminalising the sale of sex is concerned, I hold the same views today that I held all through the 1990s when I was a working prostitute myself, and that view is no, I do not support that, because to support decriminalising the sale of sex would be to support prostitution itself…

I believe if a prostitute or former prostitute wants to see prostitution legalised, it is because she is inured [desensitized] both to the wrong of it and to her own personal injury from it…

To be prostituted is humiliating enough; to legalise prostitution is to condone that humiliation, and to absolve those who inflict it. It is an agonising insult.”


-Rachel Moran, “Should Prostitution Be Legal? Let’s Try Listening to the Real Experts,”, Sep. 22, 2013

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Con 4

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States

“Some assert that this ‘profession’ can be empowering and that legalizing and regulating all aspects of prostitution will mitigate the harm that accompanies it. But I cannot accept a policy prescription that codifies such a pernicious form of violence against women. Normalizing the act of buying sex also debases men by assuming that they are entitled to access women’s bodies for sexual gratification. If paying for sex is normalized, then every young boy will learn that women and girls are commodities to be bought and sold…

[I]f full legalization is adopted, it will not be the ’empowered sex worker’ who will be the norm — it will be the millions of women and girls needed to fill the supply of bodies that an unlimited market of consumers will demand. Where do we think these young girls in the sex trade will come from? (Most victims are girls, though some boys are exploited, too.) It is simply naive to oppose sex trafficking of children and women and at the same time support decriminalizing the buyers who create the demand and the pimps who profit from the supply of girls and women.

I believe it is better to help women and girls avoid a life of prostitution and to deter men from buying sex acts.”


-Jimmy Carter, “To Curb Prostitution, Punish Those Who Buy Sex Rather Than Those Who Sell It,” Washington Post, May 31, 2016

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Con 5

Joe Vargas, former captain of the Anaheim Police Department

“In my police career, I met and even developed working relationships with ‘working girls.’ The work is nothing like Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman.’ It is deplorable and in many ways degrades and robs the participants of fragile parts of their humanity…

[M]any prostitutes have been forced or coerced into sex trafficking by abusers. Legalization won’t stop that. More than likely, male abusers still will profit from trafficking their victims — this time, in legalized locations facilitated and regulated by the government itself.

Legalization would put lipstick on modern-day slavery and call it another step in the liberation of women.

I would say the idea that prostitution should be legalized is wrong. For those few who suggest otherwise, I would argue sex for money is illegal not just because it’s immoral, but because it’s just plain bad for women at every level.”


-Joe Vargas, “Vargas: Legalizing Prostitution Would Do Nothing to Curb Abuse, Degradation of Women,” Behind the Badge OC, Feb. 26, 2017

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