DEAN ON PROSTITUTION
Dean Esmay* has an interesting essay on this topic, built around a Robert Heinlein quote:
A whore should be judged by the same criteria as other professionals offering services for pay — such as dentists, lawyers, hairdressers, physicians, plumbers, etc. Is she professionally competent? Does she give good measure? Is she honest with her clients?
It is possible that the percentage of honest and competent whores is higher than that of plumbers and much higher than that of lawyers. And enormously higher than that of professors.
Dean rightly believes this to be wrongheaded. His argument is complex but the crux of it is,
A whore is a predator. She feeds upon her john’s loneliness, insecurity, and need. Meanwhile, by paying her, he trivializes her humanity, giving money for something he desperately wishes she would give gladly.
Dean also notes that,
To refer to it as “a profession” demeans humanity even more.
Heinlein appears to mean “professional” in the sense of “making a living at it” given the list: “dentists, lawyers, hairdressers, physicians, plumbers, etc.” Most of us wouldn’t consider hairdressers to be “professionals” and plumbers are skilled craftsmen instead.
As to the exploitation issue, Dean is correct in principle. Still, don’t lawyers, physicians, and plumbers exploit the misery of others to make a living? Their clients are being sued or facing prison; miserable and/or dying; or just had their pipes burst or their toilets overflow. They probably haven’t budgeted for these emergencies but have little choice. In a larger sense, isn’t the entire economy predicated on exploitation? I like my job, but there are days I’d rather go to the movies or something. But The Man won’t pay me for doing that, so I am forced to go into the office. I have an innate human need for food, but the folks at Safeway won’t give me any without my turning over some money. And so it is with most of my economic existence. Oh, the humanity!
Now, it is certainly true that prostitution is more degrading than the other lines of work Heinlein lists. Would you rather your daughter or sister grow up to be a prostitute or a lawyer? [What’s the difference? -ed. Stop that.] I think almost anyone would agree that there’s not much of a contest there.
My public policy instinct here is that, like other consensual “crimes,” prostitution should be decriminalized. Not only from general libertarian principles but only simple efficacy grounds as well: the demand is too strong, the suppliers too willing to stop it, so we might as well bring it into the open so that we can at least regulate it at the margins. But, as Dean’s post makes clear, the argument that “nobody is hurt by this” is untrue.
*One of the unfortunate byproducts of Howard Dean’s rise to prominence from this campaign season is the likely permanent ruinance of the “Dean’s World” name.