Thursday, March 13, 2008

Links On Prostitution

Because of the Spitzer scandal, not to mention the busting of the Cat House Sex Club in Islamabad, prostitution and discussions of it are all over the internet. I have to say many of these arguments for and against certain positions on the issue are very persuasive, so much so that I find myself constantly changing my mind.

Here's a Freakonomics interview with a high-end call girl. The fact that she references barriers to entry tells me she has at least a college education. Also make sure to read the comments in response to the interview; some really interesting stuff there.

Here's a PakSpectator post on the Cat House bust. Again, make sure to read the comments in response to the post. Note how many draw a correlation between Musharraf's "enlightened moderation" and prostitution. Because, you know, there were no prostitutes in Pakistan before 1999.

Here's Andrew Sullivan pointing out an obvious discrepancy. If you hire two people to have sex in front of you while you watch, it's prostitution and patently illegal. If you hire two people to have sex in front of you, record it, and then watch the tape, it's porn, and patently legal.

Here's Nicholas Kristof arguing against the idea that prostitution is a "victimless crime". He compares the various legal approaches to tackling the problem, and finds Sweden's to be the most effective.

Here's Sudhir Venkatesh explaining that Eliot Spitzer didn't pay enough for his needs. Venkatesh says that high-end prostitutes can be divided into roughly three categories, and the higher you go, the more money you pay, the less likely you deal with agencies and middle-men, the less likely you are to get caught, and - get this - the less likely you are to have sex. As he says, for thousands of dollars, "that's one helluva conversation".

Anyway, my two cents on the legal/illegal question is as follows: with marijuana or other soft drugs, there really isn't a question. Making something that ubiquitous and that harmless illegal is hypocrital (because there are infinitely more dangerous things out there, like cigarettes and alcohol, that are legal), stupid (because you're never going to get rid of pot smokers, no matter how hard you try), and wasteful
(because governments could be earning revenue from making it legal but taxing the hell out of it, like ciggys). But with stuff like prostitution or heroin, the question is harder. On the one hand, I'm inclined to say, "Well, you're never really going to get rid of it, so you may as well try and bring it out in the open so it's less harmful and better regulated." On the other hand, legalizing stuff that like prostitution and, that's opening up a can of worms. Where do you stop then? If all crime is a function of human nature and desire, and we decide we can't change desires, where do we stop? At some level, isn't killing people about desire? Should we make murder legal because "it's always going to be out there, so we might as well make it legal"? So I guess I would say: I don't know.


Anonymous said...

i understand you're hyperbolizing for the sake of making a point, but even so, your argument has a serious flaw: generally speaking, cocaine use only hurts the user, while murder (obviously) harms others as well.

naqiya said...

You are right, the comments are priceless! like this little jem: "If we recall our memory in the recent past, we see the innocent girls students of Lal Masjid, who kidnapped the Chinese sex workers from a massage center in Islamabad, they just kidnapped them and warned and set them free in clowns (Burqas) after few hours."

I disagree: cocaine addiction can have serious repercussion for the families of users and the community etc. Murder on the other hand does not always have to be bad: what if you kill a known pedophile? or a corrupt politician who steals pension money from poor govt workers? I think what ahsan is trying to say is that everything is one giant gray area, and its pretty hard to make blanket judgments for things being right or wrong (and by extension making them legal or illegal). Context is important.

Anonymous said...

The Freakonomics interview with a hooker brings new meaning to freakonomics.

Ahsan said...


i really liked it. it was the rare interview where i learned less about the interviewee and more about the subject under discussion. too many interviews are laden with bullshit, and not nearly enough are actually insightful.