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Prostitution and human misery.

Taslima Nasreen has a couple of posts up about prostitution & sex slavery. She considers the two to be the same thing, which I disagree with on the thinking that a prostitute gets paid and, at least in theory, has some degree of choice in her life. Someone might be considered a sex slave and have one of those two conditions, but not both. I realize that’s a blurry line at the border, but at the extremes there are clear differences and “slave” is not a word to be used lightly. I also realize that for many that “choice” offers begging on a street corner as the only real alternative, but as bad as that is, it’s still more choice than a true slave has.

I’m going to take a moment to whine about the format of those two posts before I get to my real subject here, you can safely skip the next two paragraphs if you want to just get to the point.

The first is mostly organized in a “Lie#: {allegedly false statement} Truth#: {allegedly true statement}”, with no sources given. I’ve usually seen these presented as “Myth/Fact”, but is no less irritating for the different words. They almost never provide sources and even the most accurate are still simplistic sound bites that fail to really address the issues raised. Most of these lists, if you take the time to research the subject, are filled with false dichotomies, distortions and outright falsehoods to the point where you can’t really consider them arguments made in good faith. Furthermore, I just find them really snotty, asserting this list without really discussing things.

The second post is mostly a string of arguments from authority. They may well be good authorities, I recognize some names, but I still expect better than “X says Y”. She reiterates the position that there’s no meaningful difference between prostitution and sex slavery by talking about children in brothels, which to me illustrates that there is a difference, because people don’t think about children when you talk about prostitution, but they do when you talk about sex slavery. Finally she seems surprised at the amount of discussion and arguing she got on the subject, which surprised me because I assumed she was deliberately stirring the pot to get people talking. After all, you can’t bring about change without arguing.

Okay, whining over. I want to stress that even though I felt her arguments were fallacious, flawed and unconvincing, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong. All it says is that she made bad arguments, she could still be right about her basic premise. I haven’t researched this much and I’m not going to be discussing her claims or arguing with her, with the exception of making a distinction between sex slaves and prostitutes. What I want to talk about is what she doesn’t say.

See, almost every point Taslima raises is academic. From a practical standpoint, I think outlawing prostitution, at least in places where it’s already an established industry, is likely to increase human misery. If you take an area that has both legal and illegal prostitution and declare that you’re getting rid of it all, criminalize all forms and step up enforcement, what I’m hearing is that you’re throwing those formerly legal prostitutes right over into illegal territory.  Read the rest of this entry

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