COLUMN: Agar – The pitfalls of legalizing brothels

- October 29th, 2012

Prostitution is just the enslavement and subjugation of women, for the profit and enjoyment of others

by Jerry Agar

If you were hoping to legally rent a woman’s body to manipulate for your own enjoyment at a brothel in Toronto, you might want to take a cold shower.

Ontario was set to legalize brothels due to a lower court decision, but the Supreme Court of Canada put a hold on that when it recently agreed to consider the federal government’s appeal.

This will ultimately render a decision for the entire nation.

We seem to be moving toward banning smoking outside the home, even in open-air environments like parks. There is also a suggestion to tax fatty foods and put disgusting images on the products to discourage consumption.

How, in a society where we appear to be going off the deep end to police people’s legal behaviours, does it make sense to make prostitution easier?

In the latter case, the warning labels might be amusing, but it seems inconsistent.

Smokers and over-eaters harm themselves. Nobody is hurt by second-hand smoke outdoors and there are no second-hand cheeseburgers.

But prostitution is far from a victimless crime. It isn’t even victimless if it ceases to be a crime.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) cites an article on prostitution by Melissa Farley titled, “Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart”.

It notes, “In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, 60% of prostituted women suffered physical assaults; 70% experienced verbal threats of physical assault; 40% experienced sexual violence; and 40% had been forced into prostitution or sexual abuse by acquaintances.”

In what other legal, licensed work-place would we accept that sort of behaviour without public outrage and government intervention?

Why would we believe we are any different or any better than the Netherlands? We are only better if we don’t condone it in the first place.

Just because people will do something is no reason to legalize it.

The CWA report argues the supply of willing women can’t meet demand in the sex industry, so immigrant women are used as sex slaves to fill the void. Sex slavery has also been reported in Canada.

One argument for legalization is that prostitutes are checked for diseases. But the Johns aren’t, so the problem persists.

In her book Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, a study of perhaps the most famous legal brothel in North America, Dr. Alexa Albert reports some women working as prostitutes would tell their families the large amounts of cash they earned came from illegal drug dealing, which families apparently found more acceptable than the legal truth.

As CWA concludes, “Buying someone else’s body for a determined amount of time to do with as you please and then (giving) it back, often in worse shape, is perceived by most people as a case of subjugation and an unequal balance of power. Saying it is government-sanctioned or that the prostituted person is empowered to stand up for herself and negotiate better ‘working’ conditions does not balance the scale.”

I often use this space to lobby for more free choice in people’s lives, absent government control, so my argument today may seem contrary to that position.

But legalizing brothels only seems like a libertarian, free-choice argument.

It’s actually an argument for legalizing the enslavement and subjugation of women, for the profit and enjoyment of others.

Why would we do that?

— Agar is the 9 a.m. to noon host on Newstalk 1010

Categories: Contributor Columns

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