Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments
Should prostitution be legal?

1. Victimless Crime?

"Prostitution should not be a crime. Prostitutes are not committing an inherently harmful act. While the spread of disease and other detriments are possible in the practice of prostitution, criminalization is a sure way of exacerbating rather than addressing such effects. We saw this quite clearly in the time of alcohol prohibition in this country.

What makes prostitution a 'victimless crime' in the sense that no one is necessarily harmed by it is that there are consenting adults involved."

Sherry F. Colb, JD
Judge Frederick Lacey Scholar at Rutgers Law School
E-mail to
Dec. 17, 2006

"MYTH 2 - Prostitution is a victimless crime.

Prostitution creates a setting whereby crimes against men, women, and children become a commercial enterprise.... It is an assault when he/she forces a prostitute to engage in sadomasochistic sex scenes. When a pimp compels a prostitute to submit to sexual demands as a condition of employment, it is exploitation, sexual harassment, or rape -- acts that are based on the prostitute's compliance rather than her consent. The fact that a pimp or customer gives money to a prostitute for submitting to these acts does not alter the fact that child sexual abuse, rape, and/or battery occurs; it merely redefines these crimes as prostitution."

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Female Juvenile Prostitution: Problem and Response

2. Prostitution & Free Choice

"We chose sex work after we did a lot of things we couldn't stand. Sex work is better. For me, sex work isn't my first choice of paying work. It just happens to be the best alternative available. It's better than being president of someone else's corporation. It's better than being a secretary. It is the most honest work I know of."

Veronica Montel
Prostitute and Author
in Gauntlet Magazine,

"The ILO [International Labour Organization] report admits that most women 'choose' prostitution for economic reasons. Surely no one can argue that this is free choice any more than the cattle in the squeeze chute choose to go to their death."

Diane Post, JD
Attorney and Human Rights Activist
"Legalizing Prostitution: A Systematic Rebuttal,"
Off Our Backs journal
July 1999

3. Morality of Prostitution

"Why is it illegal to charge for what can be freely dispensed? Sex work is no more moral or immoral than the chocolate or distilling industries."

Catherine La Croix
Founder of Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) chapter in Seattle
"Love For Sale,"
Internet Underground,
Oct. 1996

"Prostitution as an institution is evil. It doesn't matter if it is the 'world's oldest profession', it is still wrong."

Dorn Checkley
Director of the Pittsburg Coalition Against Pornography
"Legalized Prostitution?,"
Jan. 22, 2007

4. Human Trafficking

"Criminalizing the sex industry creates ideal conditions for rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers...[I]t is believed that trafficking in women, coercion and exploitation can only be stopped if the existence of prostitution is recognized and the legal and social rights of prostitutes are guaranteed."

Marjan Wijers
Chair of the European Commission's Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings
Global Sex Workers,

"I believe that we will never succeed in combating trafficking in women if we do not simultaneously work to abolish prostitution and the sexual exploitation of women and children. Particularly in light of the fact that many women in prostitution in countries that have legalised prostitution are originally victims of trafficking in women."

Margareta Winberg Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Speech in Stockholm
Nov. 5-6, 2002

5. Prostitution & Violence

"Decriminalization would better protect people in the sex industry from violence and abuse.

Police cannot and do not simultaneously seek to arrest prostitutes and protect them from violence.... Indeed, women describe being told, 'What did you expect?' by police officers who refused to investigate acts of violence perpetrated against women whom they knew engaged in prostitution. The consequences of such attitudes are tragic: Gary Ridgway said that he killed prostitutes because he knew he would not be held accountable. The tragedy is that he was right - he confessed to the murders of 48 women, committed over nearly twenty years. That is truly criminal."

Melissa Ditmore, PhD
Coordinator of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects
Washington Post's PostGlobal website
Feb. 28, 2007

"Regardless of prostitution's status (legal, illegal or decriminalized) or its physical location (strip club, massage parlor, street, escort/home/hotel), prostitution is extremely dangerous for women. Homicide is a frequent cause of death...

It is a cruel lie to suggest that decriminalization or legalization will protect anyone in prostitution. It is not possible to protect someone whose source of income exposes them to the likelihood of being raped on average once a week."

Melissa Farley, PhD
Founding Director of the Prostitution Research and Education
"Prostitution Is Sexual Violence,"
Psychiatric Times Oct. 2004

6. HIV/AIDS Prevention

"For HIV/AIDS prevention to succeed, the conditions of risk have to change. The context - legal, social, economic - of sex work has to change, with repeal of criminal laws, access to visas and work permits, freedom of movement and association, and occupational safety and health regulations, to reduce the imposition of risk from above. Until then, it will be heroic, strong individuals that can insist on safe behaviours, leaving those who are less heroic, those who are more timid and afraid, to suffer the consequences of the context of risk."

Priscilla Alexander
Co-founder of the National Task Force on Prostitution
"Contextual Risk Versus Risk Behaviour,"
Research for Sex

"Even if a prostitute is being tested every week for HIV, she will test negative for at least the first 4-6 weeks and possibly the first 12 weeks after being infected.... This means that while the test is becoming positive and the results are becoming known, that prostitute may expose up to 630 clients to HIV. This is under the best of circumstances with testing every week and a four-week window period. It also assumes that the prostitute will quit working as soon as he or she finds out the test is HIV positive, which is highly unlikely. This is not the best approach for actually reducing harm. Instead, in order to slow the global spread of HIV/AIDS we should focus our efforts on abolishing prostitution."

Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO
Health Consultant on Human Trafficking for the Christian Medical Association
"HIV and Prostitution: What's the Answer?,"
Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity website
Sep. 9, 2005

7. Prevalence of Rape

"It is estimated that if prostitution were legalized in the United States, the rape rate would decrease by roughly 25% for a decrease of approximately 25,000 rapes per year."

Kirby R. Cundiff, PhD
Associate Professor of Finance at Northeastern State University
"Prostitution and Sex Crimes,"
Apr. 8, 2004

"Prostitution cannot eliminate rape when it is itself bought rape. The connection between rape and prostitution is that women are turned into objects for men's sexual use; they can be either bought or stolen. A culture in which women can be bought for use is one in which rape flourishes."

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)
"Frequently Asked Questions About Prostitution."
CATW Australia website
Mar. 8, 2007

8. Prostitution as a Legitimate Business

"Sex work is legitimate work and problems within the industry are not inherent in the work itself. It is vulnerability, not sex work, which creates victims. Sex workers should enjoy the same labour rights as other workers and the same human rights as other people."

Ana Lopes, PhD
President of Britain's General Union (GMB) Sex Workers Branch
"Stigmatising Sex Workers,"
Mar. 2006

"One needs to completely rid oneself of the voracity for cash to see that prostitution, although legalized, can never be a legitimate business because it will always be associated with crime, corruption, class, mass sexual exploitation and human trafficking."

Virada Somswasdi, JD
President of the Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development (FORWARD)
Speech at Cornell Law School
Mar. 9, 2004

9. Prostitution as a Career Option

"Prostitution is not merely an exchange of sexual favors; it is a financial exchange. At this point, individualist feminists rise to defend the free market as well as a woman's self-ownership. This is expressed by the question: 'Prostitution is a combination of sex and the free market. Which one are you against?'

Feminists of all stripes should speak with one voice to demand the safety of these women by granting them the same protection as any other woman can expect. Only decriminalization can provide this."

Wendy McElroy
Research Fellow at the Independent Institute
"'Solutions' to Prostitution,"
Feb. 13, 2001

"Some prostitution defenders argue that prostitution is an acceptable solution to poverty...

What they mean, but do not say, is that prostitution is an acceptable solution for women living in poverty. Seldom do we see proposals that poor men should make their way out of poverty by welcoming the insertion of penises and other objects into them on a regular basis or dance naked on a stage in front of ogling and masturbating males.

The prostitution industry exploits to its advantage the fact that most women and children who are in prostitution come from the most oppressed and vulnerable groups in society."

Gunilla S. Ekberg
Special Advisor on prostitution and trafficking in women at the Swedish Division for Gender Equality
"Felon Disenfranchisement: Law, History, Policy, and Politics,"
Speech in Stockholm
Nov. 2002

10. Former Prostitutes' Viewpoints on Prostitution

"Decriminalization is not at all a solution to every injustice that exists in the sex industry; it is a starting point. If prostitution were not an underground activity it would allow us to much more effectively address the serious problems of forced prostitution and juvenile prostitution and the other abuses which are part of an industry that operates completely in the shadows...

[T]here are many who... want other options and they should be given alternatives and assistance. And then there are also those who organize for their rights and are not quitting at the moment and they should be afforded options, their rights, and self-determination as well. Whatever ills are attendant to prostitution, criminalization of prostitutes exacerbates the abuse."

Carol Leigh
Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania
Michael Morse
Founder of Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network (BAYSWAN) and former prostitute
"Justice Talking" on National Public Radio (NPR)
Mar. 4, 2002

"As long as we point the finger away from ourselves, away from the institutions that blame and criminalize women and children for their own rape, sexual abuse, trafficking and slavery, away from the men who we normalize as - Johns, - and as long as we disconnect adult prostitution and the exploitation of children and disconnect prostitution and trafficking in human beings for the purposes of rape and sex slavery; then we are to blame and we have assisted in creating well-funded transnational criminal networks - dollar by dollar."

Norma Hotaling
Executive Director of the Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) Project and former prostitute
Testimony to U.S. Congress
Apr. 28, 2005