Nothing to See Here: Just Collecting Evidence on Prostitutes

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Español One of the more revealing assertions in Super Freakonomics is that prostitutes are more likely to have sex with police officers than to be arrested by them. As Melissa Farley of Prostitution Research and Education explains to the Associated Press, “prostitutes commonly complain of being coerced into giving sexual favors to police to keep from getting arrested.”

Of course, that could never happen: law enforcers breaking the very laws they’re supposed to uphold. No way.

Super FreakonomicsBut wait, in Hawaii at least, having sex with a prostitute isn’t illegal, if you’re a police officer. Apparently, such an exception is for their protection only — otherwise the prostitutes might be able to reveal undercover officers — and Honolulu police are lobbying to preserve it. Men wanting sex and abusing their state-granted power to get it has nothing to do with it.

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This is one of those moments that causes my head to spin. If paying for sex is wrong and worthy of punishment, surely intimidating a woman into it out of fear of arrest must be worse. It’s basically rape, and it is in line with the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of so much police activity, from breaking speed limits to assaulting compliant individuals (more here and here).

If this sort of double standard does not demonstrate the perverse incentives associated with police work and the hopelessness of prostitution prohibition — whether one is personally opposed to the sex industry or not — I’m not sure what will. And if you think police don’t abuse such “protections,” I ask you to consider why the use of body cameras on police causes complaints to plummet.

Similar to the rising tide of support for drug legalization, across ideological lines, I hope for and foresee a common understanding when it comes to prostitution. For more on this topic, I recommend a post by prolific PanAm Post blogger Frank Worley-Lopez: “Time to Legalize Prostitution.”

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