It always seems to me that there are 2 arguments about why we should legalize prostitution. I’ll deal with the second in a few days.
Argument 1: It’s the world’s oldest profession. You are never going to get rid of it. Quit trying and use our tax dollars for something that you can make a difference at.
William Wilberforce became interested in eliminating slavery in the Commonwealth in around 1789. For what it’s worth, the act to abolish slavery throughout the UK was not proclaimed until 1807 (18 years later) and the act that abolished slavery throughout the commonwealth was not proclaimed until 1833( 44 years later, and Wilberforce died 3 days after)
Perhaps because I am interested in politics, I have an idea of what 44 years of political work and activism looks like. Countless meetings with people who don’t care. Ridicule. Excuses from the other side. Dissimulation. Exhaustion. Standing in the House of Commons, again and again, to talk about the same point, while those around you ignore you or scoff at you. 44 years is a very long time. Very long. I’m sure, at times, he felt alone and unequal to the task. But, I do not think he ever thought of giving up. This was his calling. But more than that, he knew he was a lamp, held up to the evil that was slavery. He knew he was a voice calling in the wilderness, calling people to stand up for right and good.
Prostitution is not the world’s oldest profession. That dubious distinction likely belongs to slavery. And yet, no one would for a moment think that anyone who can’t pay their bills should voluntarily enter into slavery. No, we say, that’s wrong, it’s morally repugnant, and we won’t let you do that. When you read through the annals of slavery in the American south, certain themes begin to emerge – the economy would fall apart, the Africans are just like children, slavery “takes care of them”, the Bible condones slavery, says it’s ok. It’s the natural order of things.
Now, we look at those “justifications” and we think, quite rightly, that they are crap. We see them for what they are, pathetic justifications of an unholy thing. We reject them as false. I bring up slavery when I talk about this myth because the roots are the same. For a long time, far too long, the world looked at those justifications and we were lazy. We said that well, we didn’t think it was nice, but it wasn’t hurting anyone. We only need to look at race relations in the US to see how wrong we were. We know deep within us, our ancestors have blood on their hands.
I doubt we will ever rid the world of the scourge of murder, the scourge of child abuse, the scourge of slavery. But we still try, don’t we? You don’t often hear of people who say that we should stop trying to police ourselves, protect our children. I suspect we will always, this side of heaven, live in a world where babies die (and there’s Jen, Marching with the March of Dimes for Gabriel). But out of the best that it is to be human, a child of God, we keep trying to make our world a better place. As Christians say, Gods will done on earth, as it is in heaven. We try out of what is pure and noble and good in humans, to make our world a better place. We don’t always succeed.
The point is this: when we say we will never eliminate prostitution from our world, we are giving in to laziness. When we say that we should stop trying, we cease to care for the woman on my street corner, on Christmas Day. We say that she doesn’t matter. We say that we are too busy to help those who need our help, to consumed by our families and our things. We keep the small parts of the law, while ignoring the call to justice and mercy and love. We are a cup that is clean on the outside only.
And I’m sorry, but she does matter. She has a family. There is someone out there, who loves her. And I’m sorry, but I have to stand up and say that she’s my neighbour. I owe her a duty of care, and that duty of care means that I have to stand up and say that she is already enslaved, and it is both wrong and every single kind of morally bankrupt to say that we should further enslave her with legislation.
Perhaps the easiest change we can make is this. It doesn’t involve volunteering with a soup kitchen, donating money, handing out condoms to sex workers. Do you have a son? A brother? A husband? Any men in your life? Teach them it’s not ok to “buy a woman”. Teach them that women are people, and they deserve respect and protection. Teach them that prostitutes aren’t out there because they like their job, and that they are some one’s daughter, mother, friend. They too are our neighbours. And if they are good and honourable men, men like Mr. Spit, affirm that. Be a light against evil and a voice calling in the wilderness.
Laziness. It’s not ever going to be a valid excuse for ignoring the marginalized. At least not in any kind of world I want to live in.