• Athena Ives

Legalizing Prostitution?

One of the oldest professions in the world is illegal in 49 of the 50 States in the USA. That profession is prostitution. In 2003, the Supreme Court acknowledged an adult's right to engage in private, consensual sex, by ruling that adults have a constitutional right to engage in private, homosexual conduct if they so choose. (Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). Many feel that this should expand to prostitution. If two consenting adults want to exchange money for sex, many feel that they should be allowed to. Despite prostitution being illegal, it is still going on.


In the USA, prostitution is illegal except in Nevada. The sellers, buyers, and sex workers can be charged with a crime. Too often what happens is the sex worker is the only one punished and the seller or purchaser is not.

Partial Decriminalization

Sweden, Norway, and Iceland adopt this. This model criminalizes the trafficker or seller, and the purchaser but does not hold the prostituted individual culpable.

“The Nordic Model refers to the 1999 Swedish legislative change that decriminalizes the sale of sex by prostituted individuals while increasing the penalties for other parties. Sweden, when making this change, identified the goal of abolishing prostitution by eliminating the demand for commercially exchanged sex. Since then a number of other Scandinavian states have followed suit. The Nordic Model is based on a recognition that prostitution is inherently harmful and therefore, a human rights abuse. Furthermore, it is essential to note that the model relies heavily on the presence of a socio-economic system that prioritizes gender equality, aspires to economic equity, and recognizes the government’s responsibility to provide comprehensive services.”

Full Decriminalization

Parts of Australia and New Zealand adopt this model. It allows for free access to purchase and sell sex through voluntary prostitution. No “prostitution specific” regulations imposed by the state. With no penalties and regulations, “sex workers” are better protected because legal operations do not need to operate underground. Prostituted individuals can organize and seek protections. This model will not likely recognize or prioritize an innate harm in prostitution, and anticipates involving prostituted individuals to help identify trafficking situations. Many argue against this as there are no regulations and violence amongst prostitutes is more common.


Austria, Brazil, Germany, and some counties in Nevada adopt this model. This model allows for free access to purchase and sell sex through voluntary prostitution, but attempts to protect the “sex worker” and limit illegal operations through “prostitution-specific” regulations.

There are numerous legislative proposals out there that are fighting to “legalize” prostitution. However, many of these proposals are misusing the term. Their proposals are closer to Full Decriminalization. When it comes to Full Decriminalization, this is a trafficker’s dream! If you think that sex trafficking is bad now, it will only get worse. Why? Sex trafficking exists because of the demand. In order to meet the demand now, people have to be forced into sexual slavery. There are over 50 million child porn files traded every single day. There are millions of sex offenders that are not behind bars. If prostitution had no regulations and people can purchase and sell with no legal ramifications, imagine how many of these sex offenders and pedophiles will be looking? The only thing holding them back before were legal consequences.

“A lot of people are under the misconception that just because it’s legal [in Nevada], then it’s safe and it’s clean and that all the people there are consenting, and that’s just not the truth,” said Rebekah Charleston, a sex trafficking survivor.

“I think a lot of people have this happy hooker mindset like, ‘Oh well, she looks happy, and she’s an adult, so she should be able to do what she wants,’ when that’s just not reality. The realities of prostitution and sex trafficking are horrific.”