Should the United States Legalize Prostitution?

While the United States has long criminalized prostitution, there appears to be growing momentum for a new examination of legalization, especially within the Democratic Party.

Patriots owner Bob Kraft is in hot water for charges of soliciting prostitution (Fox).

Patriots owner Bob Kraft is as close to New England royalty as you can get. Under his tenure, the New England Patriots’ dominance of the American football landscape over the last two decades has been unprecedented and legendary. Along with head coach Bill Belichick, and long-time quarterback Tom Brady, Kraft has charted a bold course, cementing his place as the most successful team in the history of the sport.

He is also now charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a Jupiter, Florida “spa.” Such spas often hide in plain sight, advertising other services, when their real business is almost entirely provision of illicit sexual acts, generally performed by women trafficked from China or South Korea. Kraft’s solicitation was allegedly videotaped, and took place the same day as the Patriots dramatic overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

Kraft is in world of trouble now. He is likely to face severe disciplinary action from the league, and is facing a predictable media firestorm.

Should ownership of a professional sports team hold one to a higher moral standard? Should such a position require a certain level of virtue?

Fundamentally, many Americans are wrestling with the question of whether prostitution should be illegal at all.

California Senator, and top echelon presidential candidate, Kamala Harris weighed in on the topic recently in an interview with The Root, calling for the decriminalization of sex work between consenting adults.

The issue is one where the Democratic Party aligns more closely with the views of libertarians, who generally consider prostitution to be a victimless crime, and call for its legalization. Yes, it is true that no one is hurt when two consenting adults enter into a contract for sex work. It is true that the government likely has far better things to do with its time and money than legislating morality in such cases…(a criticism that is often leveled at the Drug War as well).

Nonetheless, the fact that Kraft’s incident took place at a spa adds another dimension to the case: a dimension that involves contractual relationships that are far more troubling than an agreement between two responsible and consenting adults.

The women who typically staff such spas are hardly typical employees who work a job, and then go home at the end of the day. The reality is far more troubling. According to NBC News, the women typically have “entered the country illegally, are deeply in debt and are drawn into sex work through a combination of lies, threats and other forms of coercion.” This often involves situations where women are charged vast sums to be trafficked into the United States, and then work as virtual slaves for years or decades to work off their dubious “debts” to the criminal organization that trafficked them.

Women are housed on the premises of the spa, and in many cases are forbidden from leaving the premises. They are threatened with violence, and their “employers” confiscate their passports.

It seems that the government should have little interest in criminalizing prostitution, but should have great interest in preventing human trafficking, and throwing the book at transnational organized criminal elements that traffic women from East Asia and then hold them in slavery-like conditions.

Many of the same people who routinely rip Donald Trump for his border security efforts, are the same ones who are decrying human trafficking on a regular basis.

Let’s use some common sense here. The government (for a whole host of reasons), has a great interest in protecting the borders and territorial integrity of the United States. It has a great interest in fighting modern day slavery. It has a great interest in making sure that people who are forcing women into prostitution through threats and violence face hard time. It doesn’t have a great interest in telling consenting adults what to do behind closed doors.

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