Lurking in the shadows since 2006, the prostitution debate is back. From what I've seen, the argument for decriminalization has yet to really change in the past two years: Legalize prostitution to protect women. Proponents generally argue that prostitution, when no longer a criminal act, can in fact benefit women financially, and that just as long as it is made safe and secure, the net result is positive for society as a whole.
There are several problems with this argument that I should first address. For starters, how to make prostitution 'safe and secure' is notoriously unclear, as there is no fool proof way to prevent the spread of STI's and guarantee the safety of the prostitute. Second, the number of 'successful' prostitutes is infinitesimal to the amount of 'unsuccessful' prostitutes, even in countries like Germany and the Netherlands that have decriminalization. Third, the creation of First World prostitution zones provides a legitimate outlet for human traffickers worldwide. There's a lot more to be said, but I'd like draw attention to the one person who isn't discussed: The john.
Pro-decriminalization folks virtually always speak of the woman, though rarely the john. It's assumed that via decriminalization john's will simply become 'better customers', more responsible, more clean, more discriminating. And that's the extent of it; the rest of the discussion is of the female 'sex worker'. So what of the john? It seems that proponents realize that discussing the john is to draw the debate away from its strengths and toward its fundamental weaknesses. The john represents the failure of an adult man. He pays for something he should, in a sense, earn through courtship, maturity, love and commitment. His 'yes' to paying for sex is simply another moral failure in that man's life. He will take his experience of paying for sex with him wherever he goes - to work, to school, and to home. Now imagine men having easy and quick access to prostitutes. Only the artlessly naive could ignore the clear societal implications of decriminalization.