Monday, August 10, 2015

Are Laws Against Prostitution Anachronistic?

The Red Light District of Haarlem, Holland.

When I first encountered the red light districts of Holland back at the tender age of twenty-two -- I spent about a year playing music there right after college -- I found the notion of legal but carefully regulated prostitution to be quite sensible. And that was more than a decade before AIDS devastated the casual sex lives of people around the world. After AIDS, legal, well-regulated prostitution seemed, in an advanced society, almost mandatory.

Now, almost forty-five years later, my sensibilities haven't changed. So I was quite pleased to read a well-thought-out op-ed in the New York Times suggesting that sex for money or gifts in private settings should be considered private, protected behavior. In today's world, that makes perfect sense to me, just as well-regulated, legal prostitution remains a sensible approach to the sex-trade and health issues that arise from sex for money in public settings.

Read this important piece by Laurie Shrage, professor at Florida International University. Just as laws that used to govern private sexual behavior have slowly vanished from law books over the past several decades, so too should anachronistic notions of sex-for-hire be reexamined. Should a woman who hunts for and finds a sugar daddy be prevented for satisfying him in exchange for support and expensive gifts if he freely offers them? That hasn't been thought a crime for, well, forever.

I've never availed myself of prostitutes -- though I accompanied friends who did into some of the brothels and red light districts of Europe -- but I must say I've had a girlfriend or two in my early "courting" years that left me broke and otherwise exhausted. Were they ladies of the night or just engaging, attractive women with a penchant for coke and champagne?

I do recall enjoying them until the money ran out. And, boy, did they like me until then. Oh, well.

I'm sure there are plenty of people with their own stories that brushed the line between love and, well, not quite commerce. Now, all these years later, it's time -- past time -- we sort out what's best for society, with less enforcement of public mores and more emphasis on privacy.

The old Palais d'Amour in Hamburg, Germany.  Jeez, that looks like the VW
Micro Bus I drove around Europe back in 1971-72. I stayed outside, waiting for
my traveling companions. I didn't go in. Why? Morality? Nah. It just wasn't me.

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