10 Things That Would Happen if Prostitution Were Legalized


How to deal with prostitution is one of the hotly debated questions in society. Many people think it’s immoral and should be illegal. Others think that two consenting, grown adults should be able to do whatever they want. Currently, it’s illegal in many places around the world. So, we want to look at what would happen to a society like the United States if it was legalized.

Of course, men buying sex from women isn’t the only form of prostitution, but it is the most common. To simplify the list, which is already a very complex issue, we just focus on that form. However, we are fully aware that someone from any sex can be both a sex worker and patron.

10. Cleans Up Cities


One of the arguments for legalizing prostitution is that it’s not going to go away. This has led to countries all over the world opening up red light districts. Some of the most famous ones include the one in Amsterdam, The Reeperbahn in Germany, and Soi Cowboy in Thailand. The idea of these districts is that it removes sex workers from working the streets so that minors will hopefully have less exposure to the sex trade.

In essence, you’re taking all of this devious activity and confining it to one section. That way, the vast majority of the city will be clean and family-friendly.

9. Women Would Have More Rights


A feminist argument for legalizing prostitution is that it can be empowering to women.

No one should ever be forced into prostitution. But if someone chooses to, why shouldn’t they be able to? This would give women the ultimate right to do what they want with their body. While it certainly wouldn’t be a viable or preferable profession for many women, it would still be a step forward for women’s rights.

One way it could benefit women is that prostitution can be quite profitable. This would help address a major problem around the world. That’s the amount of women who live in poverty. While one would hope that women have other options to escape poverty, if they don’t, why should they face legal trouble or public shaming for turning to prostitution?

Another way legalizing prostitution will help with women’s rights is that sex workers will be more in control of their careers, rather than being controlled by a pimp or organized crime syndicates. They will be able to control their own money and they dictate their own rules and standards.

So while it’s a pretty sad thought that we live in a world where it’s a step up to let women literally whore themselves out to gain financial independence and get control of their lives, it is still a step in the right direction in terms of women’s right.

8. The Court System Won’t be as Jammed Up


In the United States and many other countries around the world, there’s a massive backlog of criminal cases. The court system is essentially clogged. Sadly, this can have some pretty horrible effects on society. For example, in 2010, it cost $9 billion a year to jail people who were awaiting trial because they can’t afford bail. These are people who are often involved with non-violent crimes, like prostitution. They can sit in prison for a year before their trial. Meaning: they could spend a year in prison without being convicted of a crime. This also detracts from the economy. Instead of working, buying things, and paying taxes, millions of people sit in prison, which costs the taxpayers money.

Contributing to the clogging is people arrested for being involved in the sex trade. In 2010, 61,000 people were arrested in the United States. Most of them were women, but this also includes 18,000 men who were arrested for solicitation or for being a pimp. If prostitution was legalized, 61,000 people would be removed from an overcrowded system. It wouldn’t solve the problem of court backlog because a vast majority of crimes are related to drugs, but it certainly would help.

7. More Sexually Open Society


Legal prostitution will only really work if the attitudes towards the profession change. There is an awful large stigma against sex workers from many different groups of people. This includes the police and the courts. If you don’t think that the courts take rape cases seriously, think about how they treat sex workers. Sadly, this is also true when it comes to murder. Think about how many serial killers that got away with killing dozens of prostitutes over the span of decades. Why is that though? Why is someone who exchanges sex for money so unworthy that even their murders are not worth the time and effort to investigate?

Unfortunately, that is a complex issue. One reason, which is incredibly puritan, is that some people believe a woman’s main worth is her purity and chastity. Once that is gone, they somehow lose their worth. We see that all the time with slut shaming.

However, in order for legalized prostitution to work, society would need to remove this stigma from sex workers. As a result, it may remove the idea of shame around sex in general, essentially loosening up society in terms of morality surrounding sexuality.

6. Men Will Be Happier, Women Might Not


If prostitution became legal and less taboo (but not too much because one reason men give for doing it is because it is taboo), then one would think that more men would visit a prostitute. Studies have found that men from all different walks of life go to a sex worker for different reasons. Many of us think of men who pay for sex as sad, lonely men who can’t get it anywhere else. And that is definitely a segment of their clientele. However, we’re pretty sure we can say that someone like Justin Bieber doesn’t have to pay for sex, but in 2013 he was caught leaving a brothel in Brazil.

Some men also tend to like being with a sex worker. In a study from England, 41 percent of men said they enjoyed their experience with a sex worker, while 15 percent were neutral about it. So if men want to go, and they enjoy it, then they will also get the benefits of sex, which includes making people feel less stressed out and happier. This would suggest that if more men went to prostitutes, a segment of the male population would be less stressed out and happier.

We do want to point out that this is only a byproduct of legalizing prostitution, and is not an argument to legalize it. This scenario wholly depends if the sex workers choose this profession because they want to do it and are happy doing it. After all, women are not here on Earth to service the needs of men and legalizing prostitution is meant to help women, not make men happier.

5. Governments Will Have More Money


If prostitution was legalized, money would be needed to regulate it. However, the good news is that governments will have more money to spend. First, they won’t have to spend the money policing prostitution in the ineffective way they are now. Essentially, police patrol around, pick up prostitutes, they sit in jail for a night or two, then they go to court. In many cases, they are right back out on the streets. Well, that isn’t cheap to do.

The most recent stats that we could find from a reliable source comes from 1998, where cities like New York were spending $12 million a year battling prostitution. Accounting for inflation, that is $17.7 million today. Another study from 1987 found that nationally, $120 million, which is $268 million when accounting for inflation, was being spent on police to cruise the streets, arrest prostitutes, and churn them through the system – only to have them back out on the streets again.

The second way that governments would have more money from the sex trade is by taxation. Let’s say there was a brothel with a bar inside of it. The owner would have to pay for the liquor license, the prostitution license, and other legitimate taxes. Next, sex workers will also have to pay income tax. All this taxation isn’t small, either. In 2007, it was estimated that the underground commercial sex industry in seven major American cities (Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Miami, San Diego, Seattle, and DC) was worth $975 million.

As for legal brothels, there are some in Nevada and they make $50 million a year. Amazingly, in 2009, the brothels in Nevada offered to pay taxes and the state turned them down.

4. Spread of Sexually Transmitted Disease


There are some studies that have shown that legalizing prostitution will reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

However, like many of the items on this list, it’s true, but it’s complicated. If prostitution was legalized, the law would also need to include a provision that states that condoms had to be used at all times. If that were to happen, then transmission rates would probably go down.

But the problem is that not everyone is going to follow that provision. For example, in India, some sex workers don’t make nearly as much money as sex workers who force their clients to wear a condom. In other countries, like Brazil, 10 percent of prostitutes said they did not use a condom with their last client and 55 percent said they did not use condoms with all of their clients. A lot of times this is due to the threat of violence or the client negotiates a price to not wear a condom.

Another problem is that in places like Nevada, where prostitution is legalized, sex workers have to get tested monthly. However, the symptoms of many sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, HIV, and syphilis, don’t start to show until four-to-six weeks after infection, and people are highly contagious when they are first infected. This could lead to a sex worker, or one of her clients, becoming a hub for STD transmissions and an outbreak could happen.

Again, if the right legislation was put in place that ensured condoms were worn, and there were stiff punishments for people who didn’t follow the rules, then, yes, it’s highly possible that sexually transmitted diseases would go down. Otherwise, outbreaks would seem likely.

3. Human Trafficking Levels Will Go Up Without Proper Enforcement


Human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is one of the most deplorable crimes imaginable and it is a major part of an industry that is worth $32 billion. Sadly, many victims who are forced into sexual slavery are under the age of 18. So, this leads us to the obvious question, will legalizing prostitution help or hurt human trafficking? And the answer is that it’s complicated.

When looking at the effects of legalized prostitution on human trafficking, people often point to Germany. They legalized prostitution in 2002, yet human trafficking hasn’t decreased dramatically and it is still a big problem. However, that could actually stem from the fact that the German government hasn’t enacted a lot of recommendations to stem the problem.

Essentially, it comes down to the laws of supply and demand. If prostitution becomes legal then theoretically demand will rise. However, just because the need for prostitution goes up, and it’s legal, it does not mean that women will flock to the sex trade. One study found that 88 percent of women sex workers surveyed said they want to leave the profession. This would suggest that human smugglers will probably have their heyday if prostitution was legal to fill a need in the market, unless there are changes in human trafficking laws made alongside legislation. If governments were to do that then…

2. Organized Crime Could be Crippled


If a government decided to crack down on human trafficking as part of their legalization policy, it could be a major blow to organized crime. Human smuggling, both for the sex trade or slave labor, is a huge business for organized crime syndicates around the world. As we mentioned in the previous entry it’s a $32 billion industry and it’s the second only behind drug smuggling. Besides just smuggling, organized crime syndicates also run prostitution rings. If prostitution was legalized and there was a focus on hitting human trafficking and illegal prostitution rings, like having resources such as safe houses for victims and stiffer punishments for traffickers, then this would take away valuable lines of income for organized crime syndicates.

However, human trafficking could also happen fairly organically if prostitution was legal. One study found that a deterrent to men sleeping with prostitutes is that if they know that the woman is probably there because of sexual slavery, they are less likely to go through with it. If they do, they are less likely to feel good about it afterwards. So, given the choice, if a man wanted to sleep with a prostitute, what will the more likely to choose? Illegally have sex with a victim of sexual slavery and give money to organized crime, or choose a legal option that betters an independent woman?

1. Less Violence Against Women


One of the biggest problems facing sex workers is violence at the hands of their clientele. Globally, in one year, a sex worker has a 32 to 55 percent chance of experiencing sexual violence. Amazingly, studies have found that if prostitution were legalized, violence against women, not just sex workers, but all women would decrease. One study suggested that rape among the general population would drop 25 percent. Another study from Rhode Island found that when prostitution was accidentally made legal and stayed that way for six years, the rate of rape dropped by 31 percent during that time. For this reason, the World Health Organization recommends the decriminalization of prostitution.

One theory why rape rates would drop involving sex workers is that if their work was legal, they could call the police if they were having a problem with a customer. As for why it decreased among the general population is a slightly more disturbing theory and it’s that the men who would have committed those rapes resorted to a prostitute instead. Yay humanity!

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, follow him on Pinterest or visit his website, or his true crime YouTube channel.

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  1. To reduce the rape rate, decriminalize rape. This would make it much more straightforward to send rapists to prison, not for the rape, but for the unlawful restraint, kidnapping, violence, threats of violence, and disease transmission that often accompanies rape.
    Not every rape is accompanied by the above. Buy with a 5% or less conviction rate for rapes that are accomplished or accompanied by the above, and a slightly more than zero rate of conviction for rapes not accompanied by them, like raping drunk, drugged or just sleeping women, keeping “rape” from being mentioned would keep rape from stirring up the emotions of those in the criminal justice system.
    Why should anyone care about the specific reason from incarcerating a rapist being rape? Isn’t the same punishment for violence, with a far higher conviction rate, just as good?