Prostitution Debate

May 23, 2008 • Volume 18, Issue 19
Should the United States legalize sex work?
By Marcia Clemmitt

Introduction

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, his wife at his side, announces his resignation on March 12, 2008, after revelations he had patronized high-priced call girls. As state attorney general Spitzer had been a fierce foe of prostitution and sex trafficking.  (AFP/Getty Images/Timothy A. Clary)
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, his wife at his side, announces his resignation on March 12, 2008, after revelations he had patronized high-priced call girls. As state attorney general Spitzer had been a fierce foe of prostitution and sex trafficking. (AFP/Getty Images/Timothy A. Clary)

Prostitution made the front pages recently when Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned after he was outed as a client of a high-priced escort service. The fall of Spitzer, a fierce foe of prostitution in his previous post as state attorney general, highlighted American ambivalence about the sex industry, which receives little public debate and seems to surface in the media only when high-profile customers are named as clients. Behind the scenes, however, fierce debate rages about the best plan for limiting the harms of prostitution, which include drug addiction and minors being forced into sex work. Anti-prostitution feminists argue that the United States should follow Sweden's example by arresting and jailing johns instead of prostitutes while providing social services to help women leave the sex industry. But other activists argue that only complete decriminalization and recognition of sex work as a form of labor can end the social stigma that leaves prostitutes unprotected from disease and violence.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Sexual Behavior
Apr. 28, 2017  Sports and Sexual Assault
Oct. 21, 2016  Pornography
Apr. 15, 2016  Decriminalizing Prostitution
Oct. 31, 2014  Campus Sexual Assault
Apr. 27, 2012  Sexual Harassment
Jan. 22, 2010  Sex Scandals
May 23, 2008  Prostitution Debate
Nov. 04, 1994  Sex on Campus
Jun. 11, 1993  Prostitution
Jul. 13, 1984  Sexual Revolution Reconsidered
Aug. 25, 1971  Legalization of Prostitution
Apr. 01, 1970  Sexual Revolution: Myth or Reality
Dec. 30, 1963  Sex on the Campus
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Domestic Issues
Popular Culture