Should Prostitution be Legalized?
Bob Herbert writes for the New York Times:
I must have hit a nerve. While in Las Vegas last week, I interviewed the mayor, Oscar Goodman, who enthusiastically explained how legalizing prostitution and creating a series of â€œmagnificent brothelsâ€ could be a boon to his cityâ€™s development.
Vegas is already a paradise for pimps, johns and perverts, and I accused the mayor in a column of setting the tone â€œfor the systematic, institutionalized degradationâ€ of women.
Mr. Goodman was not pleased. He snarled to the local press that he had no use for me, and added, â€œIâ€™ll take a baseball bat and break his head if he ever comes here.â€
The mayor, who made a name for himself as a defense lawyer for mobsters, loves to slip into a clownish, tough-guy persona. (He never lets anyone forget that he had a walk-on as himself in the movie â€œCasino.â€) But behind his bluster is a serious issue that should be addressed.
A lot of people more thoughtful than Oscar Goodman believe that prostitution should be legalized as a way of protecting and empowering the women who go into the sex trade. Iâ€™ve lost patience with those arguments, however well meaning. Real-world prostitution, in whatever guise, bears no resemblance at all to the empowerment fantasies of prostitution proponents. I have never seen such vulnerable, powerless women as those in the sex trade, legal or illegal.
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Back to the subject at hand, prostitution. In this regard, Iâ€™m quite libertarian. It seems to me that the government has no business telling people that they can or canâ€™t pay for sex. Sex is something extremely private, the government should stay out of it. That is, at least, my initial and automatic response. When I was reading the rest of Herbertâ€™s column I understood his point of view better and realized that, once again, it might not be as simple as Iâ€™d like to think it is.
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