Should We Decriminalize Sex Work?

This is an interview I had with my friend, Sarah Daggers, of Washington D.C. who is a Libertarian activist and advocate for women.

1. What exactly is sex work and why should its prohibition be lifted?

“A sex worker is someone who provides sexual services for a fee. This includes nude dancing, adult video production, and prostitution. Anti-prostitution advocates insist on calling sex workers “prostituted persons,” “sexually exploited persons,” or “sex slaves.” Discussion of prostitution, sex worker rights, and trafficking have become the subject of a long standing and hostile debate between rights activists and moralists. The moralists consist of an odd alliance between very conservative religious groups and radical feminists. Both wish to abolish all prostitution. The anti-prostitution moralists insist that all, or virtually all, prostitution is slavery. Prostitutes are seen as helpless victims of vicious pimps and traffickers. They spin vast numbers of millions of victims worldwide and hundreds of thousands in the United States. They produce propaganda films about sex slavery that air on cable TV frequently.”

2. Isn’t sex work immoral and risky for both the worker and the client?

“An individual would have to decide what they feel is moral or immoral for themselves, but the side effects of prohibition are arguably more immoral than the act of sex work. There are several forms of criminalization across the world. Each form creates serious consequences toward providers and clients and redirects resources from helping those that actually need it.”

3. How does this effect sex-trafficking?

“By keeping prostitution criminalized we have created a black-market of sex work. This prevents providers and clients from receiving help when they need it. It also makes it easier to hide and exploit those that a typical person would consider a sex slave. By lifting prohibition sex workers, clients and law enforcement would work together to protect those who are truly being victimized. There would be less tax payer money spent on the judicial system for victimless offenses and it would be easier to take other work without the stigma of being labeled a sex worker after an arrest.”

4. Lastly, why should people in Oklahoma care about this issue?

“A study was done that showed in 2004 to 2009, when indoor prostitution was decriminalized in Rhode Island, forcible rape decreased by 34%. This was a controlled study. All other violent crime stayed the same. In 2010, after it was re-criminalized the rate went back up. If Oklahoma had the same rate of decrease it would have gone from 2,314 to 1,408. That, along with the ability to protect the real victims and decreasing government spending, are all great incentives to decriminalize sex work.”

I am grateful Sarah shared her time to speak on this important issue. As a Pastor in Grove, Oklahoma I have worked with ladies in the sex industry, ranging from exotic dancers to cam models. In Seattle, Washington I saw both the dark side of the sex industry and the dignified side, where women were treated with respect and had chosen their profession intentionally. Men also are increasingly choosing the sex industry to make ends meet financially. These people have the same inherent dignity as you and me. Whatever you feel about the industry, let’s all agree that compassion needs to take center stage.

As a follower of Christ I believe the Bible is God’s Word and it says any sex outside of heterosexual marriage is outside of God’s best for humanity. I do not believe it is government’s job to legislate my morality or spiritual convictions on all of society. Though politically I advocate for the decriminalization of sex work and for us to stop prosecuting victimless crimes, I do not endorse or recommend being involved in the sex industry unless it is to provide friendship and outreach. Just because something is legal, doesn’t necessarily make it moral or the right decision. Have we not learned throughout American history that prohibition doesn’t work? It only creates a more lethal and shady industry that operates underground. Legalization would make sex work transparent and accountable to the public, you and me. Believe it or not, decriminalization of something does not increase participation. We do not need continuous government interference in our lives and decisions. We do not need government to tell us what is moral and what is not. I hope you will think about this issue before coming to a quick conclusion based on past assumptions. Sex trafficking in particular is a real concern and if we decriminalized sex work then law enforcement would be free to go after actual criminals and the men, women, and children who need our help.

Let’s unleash American individuals to decide for ourselves what is best.

For life and liberty,

Richard Castaldo

Grove, Oklahoma

Pastor/Libertarian Candidate for US Congress OK-CD2

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Additional resources:

XXXChurch – Helping people out of addiction.

StripChurch – Loving ministry to women of the industry.

American Medical Association –  Decreasing Human Trafficking through Sex Work Decriminalization