Friday, December 20, 2013

Time for a grown up conversation

Canada's Supreme Court just overturned the prostitution laws here. The decision has been stayed a year to allow Parliament to deal with it, but the thing to remember is that once upon a time they promised to write laws to replace the ones that just got overturned. That was 30 years ago! Needless to say, I don't have much faith in those dickheads in Ottawa. Harper's Con's don't have the guts to think for themselves most of the time, and when they do, it's pandering to their base, in all it's smug moral rectitude.

It's good that the laws have been overturned. Canada needs to have an adult conversation about sex, and people that make their living from selling it. It's a complex world, and the old white man's view that anyone that engaged in paid sex (paying or being paid) was a moral slime ball who deserved what happened to them, and that nobody could possibly care about them, so we could make laws that victimized them even further, is long gone. We have a constitution now, and oddly enough the judges seem to be serious about enforcing it, even if the Harper Cons are not.

Except everybody (paying and paid) has parents. Most have siblings. Many have children, and there are any number of spousal or near-spousal relationships. These people care. As a society we should care too, because as that Australian General said, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. If you accept that it's ok to see some poor girl get raped and killed because she was trying to earn money to feed her children, you can hardly complain when it happens to your daughter or sister to feed her drug habit.

Here's where I stand. No society in recorded history has stopped people from exchanging value for sex. I think it's safe to say it isn't going to happen. Even in Presbyterian Canada, prostitution itself was not illegal, just everything to do with it. Communicating for purposes of, living off the avails of, keeping a building where it happened, walking down the street in a short skirt, driving down the wrong street to ask directions. Which was stupid at best, and cruel most of the time.

So if we can't make it go away, then lets talk about how to license and regulate it. Back in the day they tried Prohibition to eliminate booze. We saw how that turned out. We created very wealthy criminals that ran booze. People killed themselves trying to make their own booze. Now we have standards for distilleries and breweries. They are regulated and inspected. And taxed, let's not forget that.

Let's think about other professionals for a moment. Think about how lawyers, dentists, doctors, accountants, architects, and many others set up their practice. They rent commercial premises, customized to their needs. Some own their own buildings. They employ other professionals, receptionists, assistants, clerical staff, to say nothing of making work for other firms that supply goods and services such as cleaning, housekeeping, coffee and snacks, security, transportation, and probably others that don't come to mind. They buy and sell the products related to their trade, supporting an entire value chain.

They have professional associations that regulate conduct. There are licensing standards. There are bylaws that determine what businesses can set up where. My own office building has a coffee shop, a restaurant bar, a child care facility, and a dentists office. The one next door has a huge medical complex with many kinds of doctors, a big medical lab facility, and many other businesses.

Some businesses, such as a barbershop, the trade is conducted in public. Seeing the hair on someone's head being trimmed is an everyday experience. Pubic hair being trimmed, not so much. Much of what happens in those offices is private, but it's not secret. We all know what happens behind those doors. We talk to our accountant about our taxes. Our doctors poke and prod us in sensitive places. We talk to our lawyers about secret plans to sue the ass off that guy, or maybe just to do the paperwork to set up a new business. We talk to therapists about our neurosis, which is probably more intimate than sex, and given our society, probably closely related. Does it really matter what's happening behind closed doors? Does it really matter if our pants are off because it's time for the slippery finger of life, or because something that could look really similar to that is what gets us off?

People say that this won't work because organized crime will own the businesses. As we've been learning, organized crime seems to own most of the construction firms in Quebec. This leads to it's own problems, admitted, but we still have a need for construction work. Now that the seamy world is getting exposed to fresh air and daylight, things are being cleaned up. In any case, regulation allows oversight, if the cops and regulators haven't accepted bribes, which is a whole other rant.

Some people are squicked out by the thought of commercial sex. Frankly, when I think of what happens in some doctor's offices and hospital rooms, sex is positively clean cut and wholesome. Let's not even think about the lawyers and accountants. Would I want to be a prostitute? No. Neither do I want to be a dental hygienist, a surgeon, an accountant, or many other professions.

The nay sayers say prostitution should not be legalized because people are forced into it. Well, some are. Why? BECAUSE IT PAYS SO WELL, YOU MORONS! And why does it pay so well? Because it's essentially illegal, and people get rich supplying illegal goods and services. Decriminalize it, supply and demand equalize, competition happens, prices regulate themselves, likely going way down. Then again, maybe a really good prostitute ought to get paid the same as a good lawyer.

When you think about it, the Conservatives ought to be all over this like the white on rice, allowing free enterprise to set up. The firms would advertise they can supply men, women, she-males, and whatever else might sell. Sort of like some of the recruitment firms, developers, analysts, various professionals. Maybe these people would be contractors or employees. I don't know. They'd probably advertise training and specialities available.

In any case, we need to drag the whole issue out from under the rock where it's been festering since forever. Drag it into the sunshine and fresh air, and discuss it. Like grown ups are supposed to be able to do. How can it hurt to talk about it? Look at the issues and figure it out. How to transition to a regulated environment with what regulations?

How much oversight, and by who? If we let quacks like naturopaths and their sidekicks the homeopaths set up a regulatory body, then prostitution should be a no brainer. We know it works. I say build on the standards that other professions have. Why shouldn't prostitutes become a recognized profession?

Where should such services be allowed to set up shop? Many businesses have to abide by zoning regulations regarding noise, noxious smells, vehicular or foot traffic, hours of operation, and many other restrictions. Why not prostitution?

How much and how graphic could the advertising be? Many professions and industries have rules about advertising. Why not prostitution?

We need to get over the Victorian era ideas about sin. Rightly or wrongly our provincial governments make a ton of money from legalized gambling. And taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, which is a thoroughly obnoxious product that ought to be made illegal, or at the very least highly restricted. What's wrong with taxing people that get paid for sex? It's already happening in Canada whether you knew it or not. The government doesn't care where the income comes from, as long as you declare it and pay tax. The problem is that we're probably getting only a fraction of what's there.

One of the things the prostitution laws were designed to do was control the nuisance of working prostitutes on the street. Police went through elaborate rituals to catch and release the johns. At one workplace we had a cop come in to give personal security tips. She was telling us about her nights dressed as a hooker, entrapping guys looking for sex. That's no fun for anyone. If the trade is legalized, with organized well run brothels where the staff can protect themselves and vet the clients, then what is outside is an actual crime. Doing business without a license, trespassing, creating a nuisance, whatever.

If the business is regulated, it becomes easier to keep track of who is involved, making it easier to find the underaged or the trafficked immigrants. Please note I've no illusions about some of the seamier parts of the trade going underground, which is EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE NOW. Only it's mixed in with other parts of the trade that are technically legal. Let's sort it out, and deal with each part of it appropriately.

As long as sex is conflated with shame, and it's all hidden under a rock, there are going to continue to be victims, and we'll just keep going around the mulberry bush. Let's grow up. People want to have sex. They're willing to trade money for it, sometimes even if they can get it at home. There is no shortage of (apparently) happily married men sneaking out for something their wives or girlfriends can't or won't provide. And the reverse too, let's not forget that. There are male prostitutes.

The time is now.

Just about your last chance for AMA, Ask Me Anything, I will answer. I've got some questions lined up by people that haven't provide a question. Just because I'm evil that way.


  1. You are so awesome when you rant, the words just flow! Love it!

  2. Other than the first paragraph or two, that post has journalistic qualities. So good. Yeah!
    What qualities do you admire / dislike most in other people / in yourself?
    Is there a correlation among your likes and dislikes in others and yourself?


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