Prostitution Must Be Legalized: A Former Sex Worker’s Opinion

Prostitution must be legalized. If a person feels their best career opportunity is in the sex industry, it should be their right to pursue that line of work.

Many well-educated, well-intentioned people have told me that it's in a sex worker's best interest for prostitution to be illegal, because legalizing it condones and legitimizes it. None of these people have ever worked in the sex industry. The only thing criminalizing prostitution does is insure that sex workers, many of them women with no resources, will be punished. Poor, hungry, undereducated, unskilled, ill-equipped women who are already being punished every day in every city of America. By johns, by pimps, by cops.

Prohibition does not work. We proved that already in our country. The only thing criminalizing sex work does is put the business into the paws of both organized and unorganized crime. If sex work were licensed and controlled by an organization that aggressively protected the rights of sex workers, perhaps they wouldn't be stabbed, shot, raped, harassed, jailed and forced to give freebies to every cop with an attitude. With tax revenue generated from the sex industry, scholarship and trade education programs could be set up for sex workers, in addition to health, drug, and career counseling.

Many sex workers have been sexually abused. By a parent, an uncle, a cousin, or a total stranger. An abuse survivor needs help to break the patterns this abuse produces, as well as the damage abuse does to the brain. Many sex workers want help, and there is no one to help them. But some don't.

And that is their right.

If your options are to make four dollars an hour flipping burgers, or $500 a day turning tricks, suddenly selling your sex doesn't seem quite so unreasonable.

In a utopian society there would be no prostitution. There would be enough love to go around so people didn't feel they had to try to buy it. People would express their love freely in all kinds of intercourse, not just sexual. There would be interesting and profitable work for everyone. There would be no bigotry, no orphans, no sexually abused children.

But we do not live in a utopia. We live in America. There's always been a sex industry in America. And business is booming, even as we speak.

Because we live in an erotophobic society that represses natural sexuality, we make sex work a heinous act. If a person has skill at sex, and they don't feel guilty or suffer from it, why isn't their skill as valued as any other essential skill, like building a house, or talking someone down from the ledge?

Instead of burying our heads in the sands of utopianism, or condemning sex workers with moralistic puritanism, we must be protecting the valiant men and women of the sex business. Monitor the industry to eliminate violence and decease. Tax it and use the money to help educate, enlighten, and train sex workers.

Prostitution must be legalized.



Since David Sterry left the sex business at 17, he graduated from Reed College, worked as a migrant fruit picker, a stand-up comic, a soda jerk, a human guinea pig, an athlete, an actor? (he worked with everyone from Will Smith to Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp); the emcee at Chippendale’s male strip club; a writer (stand-up comedy, scripts for Disney, Fox, and Jerry Bruckheimer, published poet); a TV spokesman (AT&T, Crest, Isuzu, McDonald, etcetcetc.); and a marriage counselor.

sterry book

On David Sterry's Chicken: Self Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

Chicken (Harper-Collins, Feb. 2002) is the dark, savage, funny journey of David Sterry from sweet, polite, wide-eyed son of the Seventies Suburbia, to a $500-an-hour sadorageaholic sexually compulsive sex worker. In answering the question: how did a nice boy like this end up in the dark seed-filled underbelly of Hollywood, Chicken takes the reader on a walk along the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss.

An excerpt from Chicken:/p>

I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman's Chinese Theater: past turistas snapping shots; wanna-be starlets sparkling by in mini-skirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell's Angels hogs. It's a sick twisted Wonderland, and I am Alice.

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