Today on my show, I was having some fun with the story (courtesy, "The Smoking Gun") of two women who traded sex for a pack of smokes, were unsatisfied with the sex (which, to be clear, was what THEY offered in exchange for cigarettes), and filed rape charges. Add to this story the accompanying mugshots and, well, there is much in the way of radio fodder.
But as I was mocking the audacity of two women who complained about the price they willingly paid for cancer (seriously, it's like offering to mow your neighbor's lawn and then whining that you don't like his mower), I started to think about the aside at the bottom of TSG's article. "Police have not identified the accused man," it said, "who still could be charged with solicitation in connection with the sex-for-cigarettes arrangement." I wonder, now, what it is, exactly, that this trio did wrong, on a social level?
From here on out, I'm going to anger some people -- some of whom I hold as very dear friends. To you I say: "I'm also in favor of legalizing pot," and, "hang on; I'm not finished."
The trio in question traded sex for cigarettes. That at least two of them (and, I'm guessing, the third as well) wound up very unhappy with the outcome is really beside the point. The real question is, is what they did any different from any number of intimate pairings which law and society deems acceptable? Is trading sex for cigarettes more or less destructive and harmful than trading sex for, say, a sense of self-worth? At least in the former scenario, there exists a concrete trade-off.
What about some pink-shirted jerk who just wants a night of fun? He goes to a bar, waits for some unsuspecting lass to drink enough that he finally appears manly and attractive, and he takes her back to some seedy little no-tell motel for some one-on-one. She forgets whatever demons she was drinking to forget; he gets a notch in his white Abercrombe belt. Is this better for society because no money changed hands?
Prostitution, of course, isn't the only game in town where the players screw each other for money. But it IS one of the few that is illegal. Is trading sex for money really any better for society than current tort practices, which enable good, producing members of society to be taken advantage of by any worthless jerk that can find a lawyer and invent a grievance?
I haven't gone into the practical reasons for legalizing prostitution, and you're not going to get a detailed treatise from me on the subject. Suffice to say, I'm a firm believer that, A, prostitution is a mostly victimless crime and, B, fewer laws make fewer criminals. Really, though, that isn't the point.
Look, you're not going to see me leading any crusades calling for immediate decriminalization of prostitution. I'm against the idea of selling sex for money. For the record, I'm also against selling sex for popularity, for self-esteem, for some teenage, romanticized version of "love," or, yes, even for cigarettes. But I'm also not in favor of outlawing them.
Simply, I don't see a difference.