Just months after legalizing late-term abortion, New York state legislators have introduced a bill that would broadly legalize sex work. The bill would also vacate prior convictions based on activity that is no longer illegal. Currently, prostitution is only legal in Nevada, where certain counties allow the operation of brothels.
Of course, advocate make it about women’s rights:
Jessica Raven, a Decrim NY organizer and former sex worker, wrote in an op-ed in the New York Daily News on Monday that until safe housing and a living wage are made available to all, people who choose to sell sex to survive should be afforded laws that make their lives safer not put them in danger. “For us, this is a bodily autonomy issue – our bodies, our choice – but more than that, it’s an economic issue,” she wrote. “And it’s personal.”
“Our bodies, our choice.” Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah – I guess they figured the slogan worked so well for abortion, why not use it for other issues. At least here, it really is just the woman’s body at stake.
To ensure they hit their wokeness quota, advocates also noted that the current laws disproportionately affect minority women and LBGTQ individuals, who are regularly targeted by law enforcement. Apparently, many of the busts are of undocumented Asian women in massage parlor raids, and in New York LGBTQ youth are over seven times more likely to sell sex than other youth. Despite its illegality, one trans worker called the sex trade “one of our best means of survival” because she earns a steady income and doesn’t face discrimination like she did in traditional jobs.
Look, I’m sure some women do choose to go into sex work purely out of choice. But if you’re doing it because you’re undocumented, or because you have no other way to make ends meet, it really takes the teeth out of the “our bodies, our choice” argument. It sounds more like a last resort. And I’m not sure how much it helps those people to try to normalize an industry that many, if not most, workers end up in only because they feel they have no other options.
The group Sanctuary for Families, which advocates for survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking, says the legislation would legalize a system than uses people, mostly women and girls, as commodities:
“It’s beyond comprehension why anyone would want to decriminalize an industry of abuse and violence which profits from the commodification of human beings,” attorneys for the group wrote last month. “We need a legislative model shown to reduce the commercial sex market, increase safety, provide services for survivors, and hold men accountable for the crimes they commit.”
“The answer is not making it legal to pimp or buy sex.”