For Their Own Good

The Results of the Prostitution Laws
as Enforced by Cops, Politicians, and Judges

Norma Jean Almodovar

This essay may be cited as Norma Jean Almodovar, “For Their Own Good: The Results of the Prostitution Laws as Enforced by Cops, Politicians, and Judges,” in Liberty for Women, ed. Wendy McElroy (Chicago: The Independent Institute, 2002), pp. 71–87.

An earlier version of this essay was published in Hastings Women’s Law Journal in 1999.  The journal presents this description of the author:

Norma Jean Almodovar is the President and Founder of the International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education (ISWFACE), a non-profit organization.  She has been a prostitutes’ rights activist since 1982, after leaving her job of ten years as a civilian traffic officer with the L.A.P.D.  Frustrated with her fellow officers for their scandalous behavior and disappointed at what she perceived to be social apathy and hypocrisy, she became a prostitute to make a social statement.  She began writing an autobiographical book, entitled Cop to Call Girl, in which she exposed her former colleagues.  Incurring their wrath, she was set up in a sting operation and charged with one count of pandering, for which she served eighteen months in the California Institute for Women.  Her book was published (Simon and Schuster) in 1993 and in paperback (Avon) in 1994.

She has served as the Executive Director of COYOTE (Call [Off] Your Old Tired Ethics) of Southern California since 1984.  In 1995, she was an official Non-Governmental Organization delegate to the United Nations Fourth World Women’s Conference on Prostitution (with California State University, Northridge Center for Sex Research).  In June, 1998, she co-chaired a panel on sex work with Dr. Smarajit Jana (Calucutta, India) at the 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.  She frequently lectures at colleges and universities throughout the United States and has been a guest on over six hundred radio and television talk shows around the world.  She can be contacted at

Page numbers appear in blue: 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87

On May 25, 1998, headlines in the Los Angeles Daily News declared, “Mexico blasts in rape response”:

Sexism and apathy have hindered Mexican police investigations into the cases of more than 100 women raped and killed in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, the federal human rights panel said Sunday.

The frequently grisly assaults, dating to 1993, have terrified residents of the industrial city south of El Paso, Texas.  They fear a serial killer—or even copycat killers—may be on the loose. . . .

In an open letter Sunday to Chihuahua state officials, the National Human Rights Commission said the assumption by local officials that some of the victims were prostitutes had slowed investigations into the killings.

Anyone concerned with human rights should be outraged as they read the preceding article.  It is unconscionable that there are law enforcement agents anywhere in the world who do not investigate the rapes and murders of some of its citizens because they may have been prostitutes.  We, in the United States, are of course more concerned about our marginalized citizens and have passed laws against prostitution so we can protect our women from exploitation.

The laws that prohibit prostitution are enacted to protect our “basic [72] human rights” and “preserve our dignity” for “our own good,” and to prevent women from being exploited, are they not?

That is the purpose of the laws, asserts Dr. Janice G. Raymond, co-executive director of “Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.”  In the Report to the Special Rapporteur she states:

There may be a small number of women that ‘choose’ to enter prostitution.  We do not doubt that some women say that they have chosen it, especially in public contexts orchestrated by the sex industry.  In the same way, some people choose to take dangerous drugs such as heroin, under conditions they did not choose originally and might not choose now, if offered something different.

However, even when some people choose to take dangerous drugs, we still recognise that drug use is harmful.  In this situation, it is harm to the person, not the consent of the person, that is the governing standard.  We cannot allow the ex industry, or even non-governmental organizations, to rationalize the existence of prostitution based on this opportunistic use of consent and deny the harm to women and girls. . . .

Some treat prostitution as a personal choice, ignoring the sexual exploitation of prostitution while at the same time announcing that the worst thing about prostitution is stigmatization.  But the worst thing about prostitution is its violation and violence against women and children.

While emphasizing the harm that is done to actual women and children in prostitution, we must also note that the sexual exploitation of prostitution is harmful to all women.  The sexual violation of any women is the sexual degradation of all women. . . .  Prostitution is a practice that violates the human dignity and integrity guaranteed to all persons in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This Declaration proclaims that all human persons are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Any form of sexual exploitation, including prostitution, abrogates this human dignity.

But what about women who, ungrateful to their more knowledgeable feminist sisters such as Dr. Raymond, do not accept the premise that their work in prostitution is a violation of their human dignity?  As Broward County, Florida, NOW chapter president Shayna Moss so poignantly interpolates in the article below, it is the opinion of some feminists that prostitutes lose all rights if we continue to allow ourselves to be exploited.

[73] She calls herself “Jane Roe II” and says she was a prostitute for the rich and famous. . . .  Now the Palm Beach County woman wants . . . to make prostitution legal. . . .

She cites Roe vs. Wade and argues;  If a woman has the right to an abortion, should not she also have the right to sell her body for sex? . . .

Asked about Jane Roe II’s argument linking abortion and prostitution, Shayna Moss, president of the Broward County, Fla. chapter of the National Organization for Women, says, I don’t see a connection between the two.  I don’t think a hooker has rights.

It is widely accepted then, in reputable circles, that prostitutes are without rights or standing before the law.  It is therefore not much of a stretch to conclude that our deaths are meaningless and it is not necessary to expend the energy to investigate our murders.  The following quotes make it chillingly clear that those of us who choose for whatever reason to engage in commercial sex are no longer considered a part of the human race.

These were “misdemeanor murders,” biker women and hookers . . . sometimes we’d call them “NHI”—no humans involved.

Since 1985 at least 45 women have been sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in San Diego County.  These women, designated by law enforcement as prostitutes, drug addicts and transients, have been associated with the police term, “NHI—no humans involved.”  NHI is an in house rhetorical discounting of crimes against individuals from marginalized sectors of our society.  This nonhuman classification, as well as the personal involvement of police officers with a number of the victims, has hindered public awareness and a full-scale investigation of these murders.

If this is truly the conviction of our own law enforcement agencies and feminist upholders of our human rights, how could we expect our neighbors to the south to be more empathetic than we are toward raped and murdered women who were probably nothing more than prostitutes?  The Mexican police who appeared negligent in their duties toward the one hundred or so women raped and killed in the border city of Ciucad Juarez are looking less and less culpable and barbaric, and more like our very own police.

Articles chronicling police abuses toward prostitutes appear with [74] alarming frequency.  If viewed individually, it is easy to dismiss each abuse as an aberration, perhaps out of character for the police.  However when viewed with other such incidents occurring nationally, it is impossible not to see a pattern of abuse.  And it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that the laws that are supposed to protect women from the “exploitation” and degradation of prostitution are abused by those who are supposed to uphold them.

Exactly what behavior is requisite to nullify a woman’s rights so she is no longer considered “human”?  In most states, prostitution is “any lewd act for money or other consideration.”  “Lewd” is defined as the touching of male genitalia and buttocks and female genitalia and breasts for the purpose of sexual arousal and gratification.  Early American case law had a much broader definition of prostitution.  A woman offering her body for sexual intercourse for hire or for indiscriminate sexual intercourse without hire was also legally a prostitute (or non-human).

Of course it is no longer an exclusively female crime; men can and are being prosecuted for prostitution, although the number of arrests of male prostitutes is disproportionately less than female prostitutes.  There are several reasons for this.  First, because it is considered less of a social problem than female prostitution, and second, because male police officers are reluctant to pose as homosexuals and potential customers of male hustlers.  These law enforcement agents have no similar compunctions about posing as customers of female prostitutes and, in some cases, having sex with them prior to arresting them.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the unresolved issues of self-determination and human sexuality that have torn our nation apart remain far from resolution.  While we wage verbal war with ourselves over who is a victim and what constitutes degradation, women’s lives are being destroyed by police officers who have the power to arrest them for choosing to accept money from men with whom they voluntarily engage in sexual acts that are not inherently illegal.  This unequivocal opportunity to exert control over some women’s lives results in the most heinous and inhumane victimization of an invisible segment of society, prostitutes.  The police, usually male, vagariously decide which woman will get arrested on any particular day and which woman will go to jail, based only on the willingness of the woman to cooperate with the law enforcement agent entrusted to protect her from being exploited.

Unquestionably there is a split in the women’s movement over the issue of prostitution and pornography.  Some feminists are even willing to abridge the First Amendment in order to prevent the production of sexually explicit material.  Since prostitution is already illegal in most states, [75] there is even a movement to link the constitutionally protected speech of pornography with illegal prostitution in order to prohibit it.  There are some very angry women who truly believe that it is acceptable to abrogate the freedom of other women to prevent a greater harm to women as a whole.

Yet these very same women champion a woman’s right to “choice” as long it is abortion that is being discussed.  If indeed a woman has a right to “choice,” there must be some fundamental reason that one can make that claim.  Without a sound underlying premise or axiom for one’s postulation-argument, no claim of rights can be established which cannot be invalidated by another group making its own proclamation.

Prostitution (and pornography) must be considered the same issue for feminists as abortion.  It is the right to choose.  The right for a woman to control her own sexuality, with whom she will have sex, when, and under what circumstances.

The concept of “self-ownership” coincides with the concept of liberty (ostensibly the underlying principle in the formation of our country), and seems to fit the bill as a suitable foundation for making such an argument.  If you “own” your own body, certainly you can choose to do what you will with it, and since slavery was abolished in this country, no individual or group can claim that somebody’s body (life) arbitrarily belongs to anyone else.

If one claims the “self-ownership” premise to establish the argument that a woman has the right to choose an abortion, then the perimeters of the concept “choice” cannot be limited to abortion.  Either an individual has a right to “choice,” defined as the act of “deciding,” which includes any and all options—good, bad, moral or immoral—available to an individual, or the claim to the right to choice is baseless and therefore meaningless.

If pro-choice advocates claim the right to choose, based on no other premise than they have the right to choose, it is equally acceptable for anti-abortion advocates to state that no such rights exist and pass laws that support their assertion.

Some feminists maintain that pornography and prostitution are degrading and harmful to all women and justify their desire to abolish these things as a means to protect women from being exploited.  If such arguments to prohibit the choices voluntarily made by some women have any validity at all, then anti-abortion activists could assert the same claims regarding the degrading and emotionally deleterious effects that abortion has on women and demand that women be protected from such harm through the prohibition of abortion.

[76] I cannot deny that some women and girls—perhaps even quite a few—are in prostitution against their will.  Further some prostitutes may find the work emotionally taxing or disagreeable and may have violent confrontations with their clients or their pimps.  Some of these lamentable conditions are shared by women who are in violent noncommercial relationships and abusive marriages; those who are forced to work in sweatshops or to clean toilets; those who are sexually exploited by their boss; and generally anyone who is in a personal relationship or working situation which is not of their choosing.  Nevertheless it would be imprudent to suggest that society resolve the unpleasantness of any coercive situation by prohibiting the basic activity such as marriage or relationships, clothing manufacturing, janitorial professions, or the coed workplace.

The threat of arrest and all that accompanies it, including extortion and forced sex with the police, is more emotionally damaging than the exchange of money for otherwise lawful activity.  So long as the sex is consensual it should not matter to anyone outside the relationship how many times the sexual activity occurs, or with how many sexual partners, or for whatever mutually agreed upon price.  If mutual agreement is not present in any relationship, there already exists an abundance of applicable laws specifically relating to coercion.  Laws against prostitution are exraneous and do not protect women from anything.

Since the laws prohibiting prostitution were first enacted at the turn of the twentieth century, there has been a collusion between the police officers, judges, politicians, pimps, and madams, in which the enforcement of the law depends upon the cooperation of the players.  In exchange for extorted sex, money, and information from the prostitutes or their agents, the police and the courts will turn a blind eye to the illegal activities.

For some women failure to continue to cooperate with the police can result in an early death, as seems to be the case with Donna Gentile, a street prostitute and police informant in San Diego.  Gentile grew weary of being extorted by the cops and blew the whistle on those who demanded free sex and information from her.  For her efforts the cops who had been involved in the sex and extortion scheme were fired and demoted, and her body was later found beaten and strangled; the killer or killers have not been caught.  Others, like Alex, the Beverly Hills Madam, maintain their lucrative business with the full knowledge and consent of the LAPD, as long as they remain informants.  In Madam Alex’s case, when she outlived her usefulness to the police after twenty years, she was arrested.  However her defense was her status as a valuable police informant, and with the witnesses and evidence she produced for the judge, she successfully avoided going to prison under the mandatory sentencing law.

[77] Why the disparity in enforcement?  Why permit some prostitutes to continue to be exploited as long as they cooperate with the police?  If encouraging prostitution is, as former Los Angeles prosecutor Ira Reiner claims, worse than rape or robbery in terms of its emotional impact upon the victim, why be lenient with some panderers because they provide valuable information?  What possible information gathered from pimps and panderers could be so valuable that law enforcement agents would allow the continued exposure of unsuspecting young women to a lifetime of shame and degradation which robs them of their bodily integrity, personal privacy, self-respect, and reputation?

District Attorney Ira Reiner further alleges that, whereas rape is accomplished by one act of force, pandering can cause a woman to be pressured into an endless series of acts of indiscriminate sexual intercourse which progressively rape her of spirit, character, and self-image.  Unlike rape, pandering is a cold-blooded, calculating profit-seeking criminal enterprise.  He concludes:  It is clearly a vicious practice.

He fails to mention that indiscriminate sexual intercourse without the exchange of money or other consideration is not a crime, nor is arranging it against the law.  One can conclude that multiple indiscriminate sexual encounters have no significant impact upon women as long as no money is exchanged.  Shame and degradation are only possible results for the victim brazen enough to charge for it.  If a woman gives it away for free, there is no problem and no crime.  The government cares not if a woman loses her reputation.  Let her charge for sex and the government will be right there to take the money away from her in the form of fines and jail sentences and give her a criminal record to boot.  This will absolve the shame for her acts?

This prostitute-as-victim theory now so deeply imbedded into law, which is espoused by the so-called feminists such as Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, involves the irrational belief that all women except for themselves and their peers are inherently incapable of self-determination and need “big sister” protection.  This protection is not from men who would exploit women for “free,” but from men who know their value and pay them accordingly.  How are women protected by being led to jail in handcuffs and having their freedom taken away?

And though the law is gender neutral, it is almost always the woman who is prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned.  Here feminists agree with us; male prostitutes do not get arrested in the same numbers or with the frequency and intensity that female prostitutes do.  They pat us on the head and insist that they do not want the police to continue to arrest us, only our customers.  This proposal is so patently absurd that one wonders if its [78] promoters could have given any thought to the obvious flaws of such a policy.

Would the police be required to arrest all clients of prostitutes, or only those potential customers of streetwalkers they can entrap through the use of police decoys, leaving alone the vast number of customers who use the services of call girls, escorts, and massage therapists?

If police are expected to arrest every customer, the question arises, how would this be possible?  The police have not yet been successful in arresting and incarcerating every prostitute (to prevent them from being exploited).  This is surprising considering all the legal advantages the police have with ever-increasing criminal penalties; major technological advances in surveillance; court decisions and laws which permit all manner of otherwise unconstitutional statutes; police behavior such as legalized entrapment and being able to arrest someone for merely possessing the “intent to commit prostitution”; and being legally permitted to have sex with a suspected prostitute.

There must be at least ten customers for every prostitute or a prostitute cannot earn a living.  Multiplying the number of suspected prostitutes around the world by ten, throw in a few more one-time-only clients and without coming close to the actual number of customers, it becomes apparent that unless the police are willing to lock up any able-bodied male with a dollar in his pocket, it would not be possible to arrest every customer.  Thus the police would be left in the untenable position of selectively enforcing the law.

So how will they decide which customers to arrest?  An arbitrary enforcement policy leads to predictable police behavior—extortion, coercion, and intimidation.  No longer able to threaten to arrest the prostitute if she fails to cooperate and give the nice officer sex, money, or information, the police instead threaten to arrest her clients if she fails to cooperate.  Naturally it would not be to her advantage to have her clients arrested, so, with her livelihood still at stake, she necessarily capitulates to the officers’ demands.  Lest one think that this scenario is implausible, one need only review the plethora of news articles from the turn of the last century to the present, in which police and other law enforcement officials have been caught with their pants down, literally.

Should police departments reallocate their scarce resources and, at the expense of domestic violence cases, rapes, assaults, robberies, homicides, and other violent crimes, deploy officers to arrest the nonviolent clients of prostitutes when no complaint against them has been made?

Apparently this is already the policy of the Los Angeles Police Department in regard to the arrest of prostitutes.  Enforcement of the prostitution [79] laws in Los Angeles has escalated since former Police Chief Willie Williams retired.

In a letter dated October 10, 1997, responding to an editorial piece in the Los Angeles Times written by COYOTE attorney Edward Tabash, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks argues his case for the continued criminalization of prostitution:

In response to your article in the Los Angeles Times regarding the legalization of prostitution, I would like to address some issues that are of concern to me. . . .

It is estimated that 95 percent of all prostitutes who work in the City of Los Angeles are working for a pimp or madam.  These individuals (the prostitutes) earn only a small part (approximately 20 percent) of the income from their prostitution activities.  Those who exploit prostitutes prey on the young males and females who are vulnerable to the controlling influence of drugs and physical/sexual abuse.  The average age of a person—male or female—who becomes involved in prostitution is 15 to 18 years old.  By the time these individuals read the age of 25 to 30, they are of marginal use to their pimps or madams and are no longer employable.  With no skills, they often become involved in other illegal activity or survive on the largess of society. . . .

It has been shown statistically that there is a direct correlation between prostitution and other serious crimes in areas where high levels of streetwalking prostitution are allowed to occur.

I would like to point out that laws prohibiting prostitution are not merely . . . to protect women from being exploited by pimps and panderers.  Laws are generally enacted to deter people from certain behavior which society seems contrary to its quality of life. . . .

Whether one advocates arresting and incarcerating prostitutes to protect them from exploitation or because their conduct is offensive to society, the undeniable fact remains that the act itself is indicative of a greater problem that will not be solved by approving the practice.

His two-page letter concludes, “I appreciate your opinion and hope this correspondence will assist you in understanding the position of the Los Angeles Police Department.”  Interestingly the arguments he offers for the continued criminalization of prostitution are chapter and verse the arguments made in the Robert Ferguson book The Nature of Vice Control in [80] the Administration of Justice, used in police training courses throughout the country.

The sad thing is that none of the arguments justify the continued use of valuable scarce resources to arrest and incarcerate men and women who work as prostitutes of their clients, unless and until other crimes are committed which violate the rights of others through the use of force, the threat of force, or fraud.

Those prostitutes who are truly victims of violence within their work environment are denied access to help because they are outside the law.  Furthermore, help is not available because the police department is too busy making prostitution arrests of women who are not 15 to 18; have no pimp; do not work on the streets; keep all the money they make (except for that which they have to pay to attorneys to defend themselves); do not have drug habits; are not abused by anyone other than the police officers who demand sexual favors or money from them; and are not committing any other “criminal activity.”

Although the “estimates” and assertions made by Chief Parks are wholly and incredibly inaccurate, let us examine each as if it were true.  These claims are fairly typical of all of the arguments made by those who do not want prostitution decriminalized.

First, Police Chief Parks alleges that “95 percent of all prostitutes who work in the City of Los Angeles are working for a pimp or madam.”  Even if it were true that we all worked with pimps or madams (which we do not), it does not justify arresting us.  The coercion which sometimes exists in the prostitute’s relationship with a pimp or madam can be dealt with without making prostitution illegal.  When the Mafia takes over the docks, the police do not arrest the dock workers for unloading the ships.  Similarly, there is no reason to arrest prostitutes when we are victimized by pimps.  When prostitutes are exiled from the benefits of the legal system the violence they face increases.

Coercion is not inherent to the profession of prostitution but is a result of criminalization.  Just as the drug trade has been made much more violent by the war on drugs the prostitutes’ trade has been made more violent by the war on prostitution.  Manufacturing alcohol was a violent profession during prohibition but is not so today when the sale of alcohol is legal.  In the United States where selling drugs is illegal, drug selling is a violent profession.  In Holland, where selling many drugs is de facto legal, drug sellers are mild-mannered shop owners.

Second, Police Chief Parks states that “These individuals (the prostitutes) earn only a small part (approximately 20 percent) of the income derived from their prostitution activities”—meaning that pimps and madams [81] supposedly take 80 percent of the monies that we make.  To the extent that this argument is true it makes a good case for legalization or decriminalization so that prostitutes could more easily choose their managers in a competitive marketplace.  But what exactly is this argument supposed to prove?  If prostitutes kept 80 percent of their income and paid only 20 percent to their pimps and madams would Chief Parks stop arresting them?  In what way is the prostitute helped by arresting him or her for only keeping 20 percent of his or her earnings?  Will Chief Parks next be examining the wages of models, realtors, and auto salespeople to see how much of their income they pay to their managers?

Third, Chief Parks declares, “Those who exploit prostitutes prey on the young males and females who are vulnerable to the controlling influence of drugs and physical/sexual abuse.”  It would seem that he has not heard that there are counterparts to those predators in sports and show business, to name only two, and that drug use is prevalent in those professions.  Has he never heard of the casting couch on which vulnerable young men and women, arriving fresh off the Greyhound buses from farming communities in the Midwest, are exploited by unscrupulous people who demand sexual favors in exchange for movie and television roles?  Should we criminalize sports and show business to prevent potential exploitation or possible drug use?  Are prostitutes more deserving of protection than the vulnerable young people who want to enter those professions?

And what about the horrible abuse that occurs in some marriages, including within the marriages of many police officers?  Should prostitutes be protected from such potential abuse but not wives?  Would anyone suggest that spousal abuse is less of a problem for women than the abuse that might occur in a prostitute-client relationship?  If prohibition of prostitution is a proven effective method to protect women, should we not support the criminalization of marriage as a way to combat the social scourge of spousal abuse?  And, if we advocate the arrest of prostitutes’ customers for no other reason than that they are customers and therefore are violating our human dignity, would it not be prudent to arrest husbands who do not abuse their wives and have never shown a propensity to violence, on the outside chance that they might someday hit their spouse in a fit of anger?

In his fouth point, Parks continues, “The average age of a person—male or female—who becomes involved in prostitution is 15 to 18 years old.”  Surely he is aware that there are already laws which would allow the police to arrest the adult individual who has sex with a minor, regardless of money involved.  How does it help the cases of fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds to arrest adults in their twenties, thirties, and forties who are working as prostitutes?  Would it not be more effective to utilize scarce police resources [82] to pursue those who hire underage people?  The argument that arresting adult prostitutes discourages clients from engaging in sex with minors is ludicrous.  Men who want to have sex with minors are not interested in hiring someone in their twenties or beyond.

Fifth, Parks asserts, “By the time these individuals reach the age of 25 to 30, they are of marginal use to their pimps or madams and are no longer employable.”  Most of the people who are being arrested for prostitution are well into their adulthood, and well past the age at which it is alleged we are “no longer employable” in our profession.  Turning again to the similarities in sports, the majority of athletes have a very short term career after which they are of marginal use to their manager or team.  Would anyone suggest that all those who have become unemployable as a result of their age, physical disabilities, or other condition outside of their control be incarcerated?

Sixth, “With no skills, they often become involved in other illegal activity or survive on the largess of society.”  Again, this is an argument for decriminalization.  By giving us an arrest record for prostitution, we are virtually guaranteed to be unemployable when we want to leave the profession.  It is the criminalization of prostitution, not the profession itself, which can lead to difficulties when a prostitute retires.  Moreover, Parks’s argument proves too much.  When middle-aged women get divorced—those who married young, have several children, and did not pursue a higher education—many have no job skills, do not have the youth and looks that are required by today’s job market, and are forced to “survive on the largess of society.”  Should we arrest women if they have no job skills; if they get divorced and become a financial drain on society; or if they are abused by their spouses and seek outside help?  Should we prohibit them from getting married in the first place, a relationship that can lead directly to the above scenario?

As a seventh statement, Parks maintains, “It has been shown statistically that there is a direct correlation between prostitution and other serious crimes in areas where high levels of streetwalking prostitution are allowed to occur.”  It is not clear if Chief Parks is talking about other countries when he states “where high levels of streetwalking prostitution are allowed to occur,” because streetwalking and other forms of prostitution are illegal in California, thus they are never “allowed” to occur.  If he is referring to the crime statistics in other countries where it is lawfully permitted to occur, he should check the facts before making such statements.

Let’s re-state the above argument with a few minor changes.  “It has been shown statistically that there is a direct correlation between bank robberies and other serious white collar crimes in areas where banks are [83] allowed to exist.”  Or how about:  “It has been shown statistically that there is a direct correlation between hold-ups and other serious crimes in areas where there are liquor stors and 7-11’s.”  If we were to close down banks, we would not have to worry about any bank-related crimes.  Closing 7-11 and liquor stores would eliminate most convenience-store related crimes, too.  It is irrational to continue to criminalize prostitution because of the ancillary crimes that occur solely because prostitution is illegal.

Next Parks argues, “Laws are generally enacted to deter people from certain behavior which society deems contrary to its quality of life.”  “Quality of life” is a subjective concept and the least impressive argument for the continued harassment, arrest, and incarceration of a group of people who are trying to improve their quality of life by earning a living.  The current enforcement of prostitution laws goes well beyond any justifiable prevention or expurgation of inappropriate public activity which would concern “society.”  Sting operations such as the one conducted by a consortium of law enforcement agencies to arrest Heidi Fleiss and her employees do not result in an improved “quality of life” for anyone other than the officers who get to ogle semi-naked women, drink alcohol while on the job, rent fancy hotel rooms, and order expensive room service.  No one is safer because Heidi Fleiss or anyone like her is behind bars.

Parks concludes, “Whether one advocates arresting and incarcerating prostitutes to protect them from exploitation or because their conduct is offensive to society, the undeniable fact remains that the act itself is indicative of a greater problem that will not be solved by approving the practice.”  Neither, of course, it is solved by the continued incarceration of prostitutes.  “Society” does not have to approve of a practice in order for it not to be a crime.  Does “society” approve of homosexuality, abortion, or divorce?  Undoubtedly many parts of “society” do not but in most of the United States homosexuality, abortion, and divorce are not and should not be illegal.

Not that long ago laws prohibiting homosexuality were actively, though selectively, enforced.  Well-meaning people believed that a stint behind bars would convince homosexuals to modify their offensive, immoral behavior.  Usually the arrest and subsequent incarceration destroyed the life of the individual, but it was for his or her own good, not to mention the good of the collective sensibilities of “society.”  The question is, who determines whose values, opinions, and prreferences become law in this “society”?  Who decides what is offensive to us all?  If there is a sufficient number of people who do not like gays, and there are, and they are vocal enough, should we return to incarcerating homosexuals because they offend “society”?  If there are enough born-again Christians to whom abortion [84] is offensive and contradictory to their Christian beliefs, is it appropriate to once again criminalize women for terminating the lives of their unborn babies?  Should divorce be illegal?

When private acts, like the ones mentioned above involving consenting adults, are criminalized, the police are forced to resort to intrusive and often unconstitutional methods to garner an arrest and obtain a conviction.  Further, the laws regulating adult human sexuality are so difficult to enforce without using selective prosecution, that many states have repealed most so-called moral laws against sodomy and oral copulation.  The California Constitution explicitely grants an “absolute right to privacy,” and accords to its citizens that as long as no coercion is involved, any private consenting adult activity is none of the government’s business—except when private activity involves money.

It would seem the government believes that money is the root of all evil, particularly if the government thinks it is not getting any of it.

In order to combat the “evils” of prostitution, law enforcement agents needed more effective “legislative tools.”  Thanks to the proliferation of prostitutes’ rights organizations, prostitutes were becoming far too savvy.  They knew what a police officer was legally permitted to do and what he could not do to make an arrest.  So, a few years ago in California, a law was enacted that amended the penal code to allow a police officer to “legally entrap” a person suspected of prostitution.  The nickname for the new law was the “use a smile, go to prison” law, because the law states “A person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution when, with specific intent to so engage, he or she manifests an acceptance of an offer or solicitation to so engage, regardless of whether the offer or solicitation was made by a person who also possessed the specific intent to engage in prostitution.”  No longer are words necessary to commit this crime of which the prostitute is the “victim.”  Facial expressions such as smiling or winking, or even body gestures are sufficient to violate the law.

And if that law was not adequate to make an arrest, a new law went into effect on January 1, 1996, that gave police unlimited power to arrest anyone they suspect of “possessing the intent” to commit prostitution.  Liberal Democrat State Assemblyman Richard Katz’s law made it a misdemeanor to “loiter in any public place in a manner and under circumstances manifesting the purpose and with the intent to commit prostitution.”  It is now a crime to harbor thoughts about breaking the law without actually violating the law.  According to the law’s author, “It is the intent of the Legislature to assist law enforcement in controlling prostitution related activities and to minimize the adverse effects these activities have upon local communities.”  The legislature finds and determines that [85] loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense constitutes a public nuisance which, if left unabated, adversely affects a community’s image, public safety, and residential and business development, and tends to encourage further criminal activity.  Furthermore, prostitution-related activities consume an inordinate amount of limited law enforcement resources.  So, in order to reduce the expense of actually having to catch someone in the act of soliciting an act of prostitution, the legislature wants the cops to be able to circumvent our constitutional rights and arrest us for merely possessing an intent to break the law.

The law defines “loitering” as “to delay or linger without a lawful purpose for being on the property and for the purpose of committing a crime as opportunity may be discovered.”  A “public place” is defined as an area “open to the public or exposed to public view and includes streets, sidewalks, bridges, alleys, plazas, parks, driveways, parking lots, automobiles, whether moving or not, and buildings open to the general public, including those which serve food or drink or provide entertainment, and the doorways and entrances to buildings or dwellings and the grounds enclosing them.”

The law further states that “among the circumstances” that can be considered in determining whether a person loiters with the intent to commit prostitution are:

(1) The person repeatedly beckons to, stops, engages in conversations with or attempts to stop or engage in conversations with passersby.

(2) Repeatedly stops or attempts to stop motor vehicles by hailing the drivers, waving arms or making any other bodily gestures, or engages or attempts to engage the drivers or passengers of the motor vehicles in conversation.  [An innocent “Hi, how are you, can you help me fix my car?  I need a ride to a service station,” becomes criminal conversation.

(3) Has been convicted of violating this section, subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647, or any other offense relating to or involving prostitution within five years of the arrest under this section.

(4) Circles an area in a motor vehicle and repeatedly beckons to, contacts, or attempts to contact or stop pedestrians or other motorists.  [Is one breaking the law if they are looking for a parking space—go around the block a couple of times, stop and ask someone in a parked car if they are leaving?]

(5) Loiters in an area that is known for prostitution activity.

[86] (6) Has engaged, within six months prior to the arrest under this section, in any behavior described in this subdivision, with the exception of paragraph (3), or in any other behavior indicative of prostitution activity.  [Which means, they can arrest you for the intent, and then, arrest you later because they arrested you before.]

If the above law were applied to any group of people other than prostitutes, undoubtedly the ACLU and other civil rights organizations would protest loudly.  But the voices of these tireless defenders are strangely silent.  Could it be that they believe some “anti-decrim” activists who allege that “most prostitutes” do not want prostitution legalized or decriminalized?  Do they actually believe that anyone would prefer to go to jail than to work as a prostitute?  Anyone who contends that we do should spend a few hours behind bars and rethink this nonsense.  Do these busybody feminists believe that it is necessary to erode the constitutional rights of all members of society just to get us prostitutes to quietly accept their protection and shuffle off to jail where we will realize how exploited we are when we accept money for what we could otherwise legally give away?

Most prostitutes do not want to get arrested and go to jail.  But as long as prostitution remains illegal, for whatever reason, the police will continue to take away our freedom.  That is why the laws must change.  Most activists within the prostitutes’ rights movement favor a decriminalized system rather than a legalized one.  Legalization is a system whereby the state regulates, taxes, and licenses whatever form of prostitution is legalized, and often involves the establishment of special government agencies to deal with prostitution.  It means that the government enacts new laws that put the control of prostitution in the hands of the police or the state.  The police department (or criminal justice system) has no business running or regulating prostitution, any more than it should run restaurants or grocery stores or the movie industry.  These are all businesses, subject to business regulations, and under civil authority.  Prostitution is a business, a service industry.  It should be run as a business, subject only to the same kinds of business laws and regulations as other businesses.

Decriminalization would allow this to happen.  It would repeal all existing criminal codes from noncoercive adult commercial sex activity, and related areas, such as management and personal relationships.  It would involve no new legislation to deal with prostitution per se, because there are already plenty of laws which cover problems such as fraud, force, theft, negligence, and collusion.  Those laws could be enforced against anyone who violated them, just as they are now, when force o[r] fraud is used in any [87] other profession.  As Priscilla Alexander points out in “California NOW, Working on Prostitution,” “decriminalization offers the best chance for women who are involved in prostitution to gain some measure of control over their work.  It would also make it easier to prosecute those who abuse prostitutes either physically or economically, because the voluntary, nonabusive situations would be left alone.”

A woman’s body belongs to her and not to the government.  The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and we believe that the Constitution protects the individual’s rights to own, use, and enjoy his or her body in any manner that he or she deems appropriate, as long as the rights of others are not violated.  Everyone has a right to make moral decisions about his or her life and property (including the use of his or her body) that others may find disagreeable, disgusting, or immoral.

Until we return the control of all individual choices to the individual, the presumably unintended consequences of protectionist legislation will be the continued victimization of those the laws were designed to protect.  The devastation to the lives of those unfortunate enough to be “protected” by the law enforcement officers charged with upholding the law is enormous and should outrage anyone who claims to be concerned with the well-being of the “less fortunate.”  As Peter McWilliams said in his book, Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do, “What the enforcement of laws against consensual activities does to the individuals is nothing short of criminal.  The government is destroying the very lives of the people it is supposedly helping and saving.”

Whether or not we as individuals find the notion of prostitution repugnant, immoral, sexist, or degrading, it is not in the best interest of women to continue to allow the use of the criminal justice system to remedy so-called social ills.  Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee—authors of Inherit the Wind, wrote these lines, “I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially.  You can only destroy.  You can only punish.  I warn you that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys everyone it touches—its upholders as well as its defilers.”  The prohibitions against prostitution are wicked laws.  For the sake of all women, we must repeal them.