A victimless crime is defined by Dr. Carol A. Veneziano, Ph.D., a professor at Southeast Missouri State University, as “an illegal act that involves consenting adults and lacks a complaining participant (Schur, 1965). Such acts have been defined as illegal, but there is no victim that claims to have been harmed; either no harm has occurred, or if harm has occurred to those involved, it is negated because its willing participants have given informed consent to the activity” (Stitt, 1988). In layman terms, victimless crimes are illegal, but no one is harmed; it doesn’t matter if one of the people involved is harmed because the participants have given consent to commit the act. Diana Kendall, professor from Baylor University, as well as, journalist John Stosell, believe prostitution is a victimless crime (Kendall, 2013: 199 and Holman, 2008: 117). In fact, Mr. Stosell asserted, “Don’t prostitutes own their own bodies? Shouldn’t they be freely contract to use their body as they wish? Who was hurt here? This is a victimless crime” (Holman, 2008: 117). Unfortunately, Stosell and Kendall are very wrong.
I believe that prostitution is not a victimless crime. Though I do concede to Stosell, that the prostitutes have a choice whether or not they want to have sex, in other words, they do have agency over their bodies. However, I believe they were victims of an external factor(s) that contributed to them going into this occupation. In fact many social scientists have discovered that “parental substance abuse, early experiences of sexual debasement.” Some were even exposed to “violence and abuse and family dysfunction” (Arnold, 2001: 146). They were victims in their own families, being treated as objects to be toyed with. All of these dehumanizing acts toward women when they were young contributed to prostitution because they were traumatized and thus have depression or lower levels of physical and cognitive function (Arnold, 2001: 147). Thus, they are not able to function properly in mainstream society.
Furthermore, they are a victim of the system or the structure (structure vs. agency). A concept of the Strain Theory, called innovation, developed by sociologist Robert Merton in the mid 1900’s, everyone wants to have the same societal goals, but some don’t have the approved means of achieving it (Kendall, 2013: 189). This explains why women who are physically or mentally incapable go into prostitution. People all want to make money and support themselves in adulthood or their families, however women who are physically or mentally incapable do not have access to the culturally approved method, or legal method, of obtaining money. Thus they resort to prostitution to support themselves. However, if the the system worked toward their advantage, for example, providing affordable rehab centers or affordable vocational facilities they may be able to get out of the problems they were put into and lead a healthy life.