I just read an article about how Sweden has all but eliminated prostitution within its borders. I don’t think much about prostitution, but Sweden’s method of accomplishing this feat has forced me to evaluate my position on it.
The way they did it was elegant and fascinating: they made it illegal to purchase prostitution, but decriminalized being a prostitute.
It sounds peculiar at first, but then you hear the pitch:
Prostitution is seen in Sweden as abuse against women. So it’s illegal to abuse women, but it’s not illegal to get abused.
Well, when you put it that way.
I think a good analogy would be domestic abuse. When a man hits a woman he’s in the wrong. But when a woman is in a relationship where she gets hit she needs help getting out of the relationship.
And that’s their approach.
Treat prostitutes as victims of abuse who need help getting out of the life, and treat prostitution customers as propagators of that abuse.
This perspective forced me to reconsider my position on prostitution.
I knew that many women in prostitution were abused, but I thought that many also weren’t. I didn’t see it as purely bad, in other words. I thought that there were situations or setups where the women had actually made a choice, and that it would be wrong to judge that choice as wrong because we don’t agree with it.
So I looked at it as basically bad, especially in practice given all the crime and such, but not necessarily bad in theory.
But then I started thinking about the various reasons I would never be a customer myself. At the top of the list would be my belief that I would be somehow abusing the woman, no matter what she said.
If she told me it was a life choice to sleep with men for money I would be sad for her, and I would assume that she made this decision in the past from a position of abuse or weakness and was now just carrying it through.
I do concede that it could be, and likely is, possible for a woman to be completely healthy and simply want to make a living this way. And in such a scenario they’d be able to pick and choose and not feel any actual pressure to life that life.
But how many in the profession are actually in that situation?
One percent? If that?
I have no idea really, but I do know (or think I know) that the vast majority of women who make their money doing this do not have control over how they do so. Most are forced to varying degrees to work when their employer wants them to, and with who they want them to.
And when a woman has no options but to do so, or even convinces herself that she’s the one making the choice, that’s abuse.
I agree with Sweden’s position on this, and I look forward to seeing other governments take a similar stance in the near future.