In the comments Mary’s article ‘Oh, Nevada‘ there is an epic discussion about prostitution and the morality of legalizing something that leads to drug addiction, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. While I found no hard studies on these side effects of prostitution, let’s just assume them to be true. Clearly, it is impossible to support an activity that leads to such terrible consequences, right? Wrong! Libertarians support legalized (and unregulated) prostitution not because we are horrible people who want to see people throw their lives down the shitter, but because we recognize that it is their life to throw away. Nobody has the authority to tell anybody else what they can or cannot do with his or her own body.
The case was brought up about women who voluntarily enter prostitution, but then get hooked on drugs by their pimp and are “dependent on the pimp monetarily and for illegal substances and is unable to ‘quit any time she wants to.’” (from a comment by Jacob K). Let us assume this too is also true, and still the case does not change. The prostitute is working to feed an addiction, she could leave, but she doesn’t want to, she would prefer to satisfy her need for drugs, shelter, and whatever else the pimp provides. This is a classic trade for mutual benefit, the pimp gets money for his protection and drug procuring, and the prostitute gets drugs and business for her body. They both find this trade acceptable, it happens, and they continue doing business. Neither I, nor anybody else has a right to interfere with this trade.
Of course, in the case of someone kidnapped and forced into sexual servitude, this is definitely not the case. Here, someone is forcibly taken, against his or her will, and made to perform certain acts. Yet, despite this abhorrent situation, the crime is still not prostitution. The exceptional evil here is kidnapping and slavery. Granted, prevalent prostitution leads to a greater market for sexual slaves, but trying to outlaw a legal, voluntary action to prevent a separate crime is as ridiculous as it is stupid. If it were not, there would have to be laws against trade, property, and of course, all human interaction. While these laws would drastically cut crime, they are obviously ludicrous. While more drastic than a law prohibiting prostitution, the same principle is tested. People need to be free to make mistakes, to follow their own paths, and not have bumpers on life. There is no grand social responsibility to save people’s lives from self-destruction.
In fact, the only way for prostitution to become anything but voluntary is for another, non-consensual act to take place. The prostitute must be beaten, forcibly addicted to drugs, or coerced in some other fashion, and that is the crime. Prostitution is defined as “offering sexual intercourse for pay,” and this act alone is always voluntary (see, it says ‘offering’). Getting addicted to drugs, becoming dependent on a pimp, and not making tons of money is not the responsibly of the government to stop. Even though life as a prostitute is dangerous, with exceptional risk, it should still be legal and open. It’s about freedom dammit.