Many people believe that prostitution is a free choice. However, after researching several studies of prostitutes, Melissa Farley disagrees. Since 1993, Farley has been researching prostitution and human trafficking in several countries. Her research shows high rates of post traumatic stress disorder among the women studied, who worked as prostitutes whether on the street, in a brothel, or in strip clubs. Farley and her coauthors found this research to contradict the popular myths about prostitution such as the idea that people who are in prostituion have freely consented to it. Farley’s research has lead her to believe that prostitution is commonly not a free choice. Farley reports in her studies that 89% of the respondents interviewed wished to leave prostituion but lacked the means to do so. I agree with Farley and understand that this ‘profession’ is a dangerous and life threatening one. I don’t believe that any person would willingly dream of becoming a prostitute, however I understand that in some circumstances it becomes the only way for an individual to survive. For example, 84% of women interviewed in Farley’s studies reported a history of homelessness.
It is debated whether legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution would reduce it’s harmful effects. For example, countries such as Germany and New Zealand have legalized prostitution. The differences between leagalized and decriminalized prostitution are not experienced by the prostitute. Legalized prostitution is a state- sponsored activity in which the state collects taxes from this profession, just like any other. Decriminalized prositution means that all laws regarding prostitution would be removed, resulting in prostitution and all it’s forms becoming legal. Melissa Farley is opposed to both legalization and decriminalization of prostitution claiming that it does nothing to decrease the harmful effects both physically and psychologically that the women in prostitution endure. It is not the legal status of prostitution that causes the harm, it’s the act of prositution itself. Some claim that legalization or decriminalization of prostitution would decrease the shame and isolation that many prostitutes feel because of their view in society, however women in Dutch prostitution rarely register as legal prostitutes, depriving themselves of legal benefits such as retirement, simply because they are ashamed to be labeled as one. I agree with Farely and do not believe that prostituion should be legalized or decriminalized, simply because I do not believe it would allieviate any of the problems caused by prostitution. We can see this proven by the countries who have decriminalized prostitution, many of them seeing an increase in illegal, hidden and street prostitution. Countries who have legalized prositution are seeing an increase in human trafficking which brings new horrors and more problems to deal with.
Prostitution can be seen as an intersection of race, sex, and class oppression due to the fact that oppressed people are forced into this type of work by poverty and lack of education. People who view prostitution as a free choice and form of sexual liberation should analyze more closely the relationship between sexual liberation and prostitution. Sexual liberation implies the release of oppresive factors such as people, beliefs, and conditions that would control a person’s sexuality. However, studies such as those found by Melissa Farley assert that prostitution degrades and exploits those who engage in such acts, ultimately contradicting the values that sexual liberation promotes.