General Question

xxii's avatar

Why is pornography legal, but prostitution not?

Asked by xxii (3316 points ) May 6th, 2010

Aren’t porn stars being paid to do the same thing? Why should the act of filming legalise it? Why don’t prostitutes just film themselves and sell the tapes?

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59 Answers

poofandmook's avatar

because pornography doesn’t hurt anyone or put anybody at risk for disease… that would be my best guess.

xxii's avatar

@poofandmook – You have a point about the disease, but what do you mean “hurt anyone”?

Arp's avatar

@xxii I am 15, and even I know that prostitutes are raped/harmed at least once a month.

Ah, the things you learn from grand theft auto

rangerr's avatar

@poofandmook Pornography still puts people at risk for disease. [The actors/actresses]

I would imagine that it is illegal because it’s not regulated, like the porn industry is.
It puts a lot more people in danger than the porn industry does because there are no regulations or restrictions for how it should be done.

Also: It’s only illegal in certain places.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

What about the people IN the porn you are looking at? They risk their body/health to create it, all you do is watch the end result.

poofandmook's avatar

That is true. But there’s a difference between risking body and health with other people who choose to risk body and health, as opposed to the general public, who don’t make sex their careers.

and truthfully for some reason I was thinking magazines. I had completely forgotten about films until someone pointed it out. /sigh

xxii's avatar

@Arp – I think a clear argument could be made that pornography glorifies rape… so even if the performers themselves aren’t directly harmed, it does cultivate a social environment conducive to increased rape.

chels's avatar

I wouldn’t see why people wouldn’t get tested or have mandatory STD tests done before they do porn videos. (At least non-amateur porn)

xxii's avatar

@poofandmook – One might argue that by voluntarily having sex with a prostitute, one is choosing to risk body and health. Whether it’s sex between porn stars or sex between a prostitute and her client, the sex is always voluntary. Everyone makes the choice, thus everyone risks body and health.

WestRiverrat's avatar

One is protected by the first amendment as free expression of art. The other is regulated by the individual states/municipalities. Many view prohibition of prostitution as a health issue, others are just run by a bunch of prudes.

wundayatta's avatar

Pornography is about free speech, which is protected. Prostitution is about commercial speech, which isn’t.

poofandmook's avatar

@xxii: Also, a majority of the porn industry does frequent mandatory testing. Porn stars get paid A LOT for what they do, and nobody is going to beat the crap out of them if they don’t screw enough people that day. And they’re not going to get beaten by their partners, either.

Whereas in prostitution, women sell themselves for next to nothing, get beaten by pimps and johns, and a good deal of them also sell drugs for their pimps too, which is also illegal. Except of course, Nevada, where the girls at the still-legal brothels get paid good money and also have regular medical testing (at least, at the Bunny Ranch)

DarkScribe's avatar

Prostitution is legal here. Only “mild” porn is though. No violence, underage actors or animals etc.

tranquilsea's avatar

Great question! Something I’ve wondered about for ages. I’m of the mind that they should both be legal and regulated. Then maybe the prostitutes would be better protected, actually scratch maybe…they would be. Most prostitutes won’t go to the cops if they’ve been assaulted or threatened because they are afraid they’ll be arrested. That is a recipe for continued abuse.

We had a case in Canada where prostitutes went “missing” for over a decade. Tens and maybe 100s of them. Cops didn’t take it very seriously. Turned out some guy was taking them to his property and then killing them. The Robert Pickton case was Canada’s shame.

Canada may be on cusp of making it legal. Thank god!

wonderingwhy's avatar

It’s a delicate balance of misplaced moralizing, shame, and desire.

You’ve got to be against prostitution because it’s immoral (or so some say). You have shame because you desire what is immoral. So you create an alternative (porn) and promptly condemn it (moralizing and shame again) because you can do so with relative safety (it’s not going away, free speech) yet enjoy it in the comfort of your own home. It’s also easier to hide from your wife than a hooker.

bea2345's avatar

Define pornography and then you can have a law against it. We all know what it is but we cannot be precise enough. The terms used would also apply to any other utterance made with the intention to wound or corrupt. My objection to porn is 1. it is quite addicting for some people; and 2. the fantasies too often have a basis in fact: like photographs of acts involving children; with the consequence that 3. the consumer is complicit in the exploitation of people and things for no good reason. The pornographer and his audience are equally guilty.

Response moderated
poofandmook's avatar

@bea2345: Well, child pornography is illegal, so I don’t think that applies since legal pornography is in question.

Response moderated
xxii's avatar

Can I just note that I’m not necessarily advocating restrictions on pornography? I am questioning restrictions on prostitution.

In Singapore, pornography is banned but prostitution is legal. Just an interesting inversion.

bea2345's avatar

@poofandmook – the child pornography idea was only an example of what I mean. What about animals, snuff films, scenes involving cruelty and violence? Making child involvement illegal does not justify the rest. This is not a case for outlawing pornography, because that is a total waste of resources. In my country, possession is legal, but trafficking in porn is not.

Humankind is just naturally dull, nasty and brutish. Probably that is the reason we have religion.

@xxii – it may be that prostitution is illegal simply because there is a widespread belief that it is somehow “nasty.” Of course there are many justifications for this, one of the most important being the defence of the married state. But the real reason ought to be that without strong enforcement, how are the weak, the stupid, the helpless, to be protected from exploitation?

tranquilsea's avatar

A good documentary on the history of pornography is this one.

It seems that the clamping down on pornography and prostitution came with the Victorians. Prior to that time it was legal in most places in Western Civilization.

zophu's avatar

Pornography is documented and thus easier to regulate. The problem isn’t people having sex for money, it’s people being abused and/or infected in the process.

I mean, obviously there are other problems involved with selling sex for money, but those fall outside the legal system, I think.

Rarebear's avatar

Prostitution should be legal.

Seaofclouds's avatar

In pornography all the actors are paid for their acts. In prostitution the prostitute is selling their body to their “john”. I believe it’s the act of selling ones body that is illegal. I think porn stars aren’t considered to be selling their body because it’s acting and the person they have having sex with isn’t the person paying them.

cheebdragon's avatar

Prostitution cant be taxed, so its illegal….....

YARNLADY's avatar

The laws on both need to be re-considered. I am a member of C.O.Y.O.T.E.

john65pennington's avatar

Pornography is not in real time. no chance of disease.

Prostitution is in real time. big time chance of many diseases.

Its the personal contact that distinguishes the difference between the two.

chamelopotamus's avatar

Because you can still donate blood after masturbating to pornography, but not after having sex with a prostitute.

Nullo's avatar

Once upon a time, pornography was also more or less illegal. You might blame the lobbyists for the change.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

There are places both in the USA and in Europe where prostitution is legal and carefully regulated. I believe this represents the best solution concerning “the world’s oldest profession.” I believe society has an interest in limiting the exposure of minors to both pornography and prostitution.

Assuming prostitution is conducted in areas designated for this business and under the controls that protect the sex workers and their clients, I see no justification in submitting to self-important moralists whose pleasure is derived from restricting the behaviours and pleasures of others.

Considering the sleaze and corruption prevalent in so much “normal” business, condemning prostitution is a misleading distinction. It should be carefully regulated and monitored. Run in such a manner it probably represents a smaller risk to the world than do the tobacco or petroleum industries.

CMaz's avatar

“Once upon a time, pornography was also more or less illegal.”

And Syphilis was everywhere.

alive's avatar

first of all @xxii great question.

second of all to all the people saying that ‘the reason it is illegal is due to the possibility of disease, and it cannot be regulated,’ i think you are backwards. it can spread disease and it cannot be regulated BECAUSE it is illegal (not the other way around). i.e. if it was legal, the disease would go down because getting tested would be part of the worker’s safety, and if it is legal, sex workers would have to claim the money they make therefore it would be taxed.

back to the original question, i think @Seaofclouds has made a very insightful comment about who is doing the paying/hiring or porn stars vs. prostitutes.

the porn industry is just that, an industry. they have lobbyist who literally have gone to court to defend their right to do what they do. on the other hand there is no “sex workers union” in the united states. this is due to the fact that the culture of prostituting only thrives when a pimp can keep his women from uniting against him. it functions in our society by not having unification.

so i do agree that it is strange that one is legal the other illegal (that goes for singapore also).

but i do want to just end by saying both of these ‘professions’ – porn actress/actor and prostitute (male and female) – have been shown to have harmful psychological effects on the participants.

(yes there are exceptions to the rule, and you will always find some people who will argue that they are fine despite their profession by saying “i am in porn, or i am a prostitute by my own free will, i like it and i make a lot of money.” but i would question anyone’s sanity who only does work to make a lot of money…just sayin)

Nullo's avatar

@ChazMaz That’s because people are foolish.

CMaz's avatar

Yes they were/are.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@ChazMaz were you intending to link the availability of pornography with the incident of syphilis or did you really mean to refer to prostitution? One makes more logical sense to me than the other.

CMaz's avatar

Prostitution when it was legal. STD’s and syphilis was ramped.

Cowboys got more then drunk and laid when visiting the saloon. Hollywood really polishes up what was a rather nasty experience.. Then again the people of the time did not know any better.

alive's avatar

chaz you did originally said “pornography”. hence the Dr.‘s confusion

CMaz's avatar

Yea, my bad.

Sorry friends. Hookers on the brain. ;-)

Val123's avatar

@poofandmook jumping in a little late here you said: “I would imagine that it is illegal because it’s not regulated…” it’s the other way around. It’s not regulated because it’s illegal. I’m with @Rarebear. It should be legalized and regulated. Everyone one would be safer all the way around.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ChazMaz Hookers on the brain. ;-)

Hookers on the brain? You do realise that there are some forms of sex that you are really not supposed to engage in with hookers?

CMaz's avatar

NOW you tell me! ;-)

poofandmook's avatar

@Val123: I don’t remember saying anything about regulation… or did I? meh, I’m not scrolling up to look lol

Nevermind, I did scroll up. And that wasn’t my comment ;)

xxii's avatar

I think the abuse and infection arguments would be convincing reasons to illegalise prostitution if the laws against prostitution were perfectly enforced. Unfortunately, they’re not, and the abuse and infection is arguably worse than it would be if prostitution were legal.

Singapore bans pornography on the grounds that it is necessary to protect the young. Since prostitution is regulated such that an age minimum is required to be a sex worker or receive sexual services, they don’t feel the need to place a ban on prostitution.

bea2345's avatar

I am all for legalising prostitution. It will not come any time soon, here; homosexual acts are still illegal, for example. BTW, that is homosexual acts between men. Women are not even mentioned. Isn’t that a blast?

Val123's avatar

@poofandmook Oooops! I was talking to @rangerr and didn’t realize it! Sorry!

bolwerk's avatar

@ChazMaz: My understanding is the number of hookers who have contracted STDs in Nevada since records were kept is exactly zero in, what, 30 years?

Val123's avatar

@bolwerk How in the world could they even begin to compile data like that on street walkers?? What is your source for that claim?

bolwerk's avatar

@Val123: I wasn’t referring to street walkers. Brothel-based prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada, and great care is taken to see to it that they don’t become infected. They are licensed and screened at least monthly. Although, there’s no reason why streetwalkers can’t be licensed similarly (as I believe they are in Germany).

This is one of those things where a cursory Google search will give you all the sources you want. Any source I could find seems to suggest that Nevada hookers are at greater risk from their own lovers than from their clients. Here are a few:

http://www.nevadabrotheltimes.com/nbtimes/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=48 – “To date, there has never been a recorded STD transmittal in a Legal Nevada Brothel and this data is maintained by the State of Nevada’s Department of Health.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1508424/pdf/amjph00016-0107.pdf – ”[T]hese women have demonstrated successfully the ability to facilitate condom use with clients in a unique sex-for-pay environment. It is through sexual activity with lovers that brothel prostitutes may be at greatest potential risk for acquiring HIV and other STDs.”

http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/MeetingAbstracts/ma?f=102196554.html – this is the only source I found that even hints at an STI issue. It says that the rate for gonorrhea is around 1%. For the general population, I believe it tends to be much lower (usually less than 2‰).

Val123's avatar

@bolwerk Oh! I see! So your vote is to legalize prostitution, and you have the data to back up why it’s a good idea. Excellent!

However, I still find it hard to believe that not one single instance of an STD in a brothel worker has occurred in 30 years, but I do believe legalizing prostitution would substantially reduce the risk, and make things safer for the women all the way around.

Thanks for the post!

bolwerk's avatar

@Val123: My point was pretty narrow. A poster implied that STDs skyrocket when prostitution is legal, and that doesn’t seem to be the case in the modern world of regulatory prostitution. I wasn’t really trying to comment on whether I think prostitution should be legal.

I don’t really care too much whether prostitution is legal. I do think prostitution is illegal more out of sexual hypocrisy than out of sincere concern for women, johns, social mores, etc.. I suspect legal prostitution is smarter than prohibition, but that’s more because I think prohibition does little to stop prostitution even as it makes things like sex slavery and mob-controlled pimping possible. Those inclined to visit prostitutes still find them, and in an unregulated prostitution environment probably do put themselves (and future partners) at risk for STDs.

I guess my preference would be legalized prostitution spread out in enough places that those who need access can find it. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Men need whores like cities need sewers.” I find it very strange that much of western society has apparently regressed from the Middle Ages.

Val123's avatar

@bolwerk Re the poster…THAT is ridikalis!!

Welcome to Fluther!

bea2345's avatar

“Men need whores like cities need sewers.” – that tells me more about men than I really need to know. Was Aquinas ever a parish priest, listening to confession, giving advice, etc.?

Val123's avatar

@bea2345 Did somebody on this post say that? I don’t get the point. Cities need sewers, men don’t “need” whores…..

bolwerk's avatar

@bea2345 – he was certainly a priest, though I don’t know how many confessions he heard. He is most famous as kind of the archetypal “quiet academic” of his age.

TakiCrimson's avatar

Lets take this as a legal issue and not as a moral one like so many people like to do. Prostitution is defined by the court as “the genitals, buttocks, or female breast, of either the prostitute or the customer must come in contact with some part of the body of the other for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the customer or of the prostitute.” Id (citing People v. Hill (1980)). You maybe thinking what does this has to deal with pornography? Well let me tell you, if you read carefully there a key phrase in that sentence ” for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the customer or of the prostitute” Porn actor or actress are not payed for there own sexual gratification they are payed to act and i used that word loosely and since the act of sex itself is not a crime paying two people to have sex for performance is not illegal stating (People v. Freeman, California v. Freeman and Barrows v. Municipal Court) site http://randazza.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/why-is-prostitution-illegal-but-pornography-is-not/

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Holy moly, prostitution is all about sex for money or the direct pleasure a man is getting from the prostitute. The thought of selling oneself or selling sex (which cheapens it to many) is what keeps prostitution down. Way behind the scenes prostitution got such a bad stench to it here in the US is because the US (in spite not wanting to acknowledge it) are founded on Judea/Christian ethics which say prostitution is bad. The ideal of disease can’t be played because no one has a problem with a woman being the neighborhood bicycle (everyone gets a ride) because she is just a whore and not making money. Add its is a sin and you are making money off it makes it a double whammy.

Logically it should be legal. If it were legal, the prostitutes would have better protected. If there still were pimps they would be regulated and have to treat their women according to the law and workers advocacy groups and guidelines, etc. The government can tax it and regulate how they operate be it from their homes, selected districts, rolling whore palaces, etc. Having it legal would mean there would be no reason for anyone to jump out of a bush, slip a Mickey into some coed’s drink, or creep through an open window to rape some gal. If it is legal, the price will be competitive and I am sure guys who get paid the lowest paid guy who can’t get laid can find him a romp for the night. Then the tripling of the sentence for rape should further discourage people from rape and to the services of these professionals.

Society don’t like prostitutes because they believe they will cause men to cheat and destroy families (not that free non-charging whores cannot do the same) so we can’t have that.

There is really very few logical reason to ban prostitution if you really want to separate church from state.

We really have not totally been able to do that so prostitution stays underground and the sex workers stay at risk while all that revenue goes untaxed.

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