Vice Squad
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Indoor v. Outdoor Prostitution

Today we covered prostitution policy in our Regulation of Vice class. The assigned readings were articles by Weitzer and by Murphy and Venkatesh. Both make a compelling case that indoor prostitution is much safer than outdoor sex work, and also less connected with public nuisance.

It is my impression that the extent of violence directed at prostitutes, and its severity, is significantly greater for streetwalkers than for indoor sex workers. Today also brings news of a conviction in the trial of the man who was charged with the December, 2006 murders of five outdoor prostitutes in the Ipswich area in Britain. I recognize that legalization and regulation of indoor commercial sex work, and possibly even of some streetwalking, is no panacea, but the shortcomings have to be immense to counteract fully the almost assured fall in fatal violence directed at prostitutes that would accompany legalization. Incidentally, the convicted murderer had frequented massage parlours for 25 years, and as far as is known, without incident; he had been familiar to outdoor sex workers in Ipswich for about three years prior to the murders.

A not-too-long paper (29 pages, double-spaced) presenting an overview of my thoughts concerning regulating pornography and prostitution is available here.

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