Is Prostitution Really a Victimless Crime?

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.

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2 thoughts on “Is Prostitution Really a Victimless Crime?

  1. Though some prostitutes may have emotional problems, it is silly to make a blanket statement and say that all do. All humans, or most normal humans have sex. Many even have one night stands which is basically prostitution for free. It is better to give it up for free? What difference does that make in determining a persons emotional stability? Adding compensation into the equation does not necessarily imply emotional trauma, just as having sex only for free does not even remotely imply emotional health. Sex is intrinsically objective seeing as it is just physical. If you see emotional significance of it, that is something your mind conjured up with the help of societal views and institutions, and it is a personal preference at most. Everything depends on the person involved, and many prostitutes are happy with their lives and their work, also largely depending on variables like how safe their agency and whether or not they are morally or religiously opposed to casual sex. If you are doing something you are comfortable with, why the hell not get paid for it IF you want? If you do are doing something you DON’T want to do, then we may assume, to a certain extent, does this person not respect themselves enough not to do what they want and not do what they don’t want? SEX IS GOOD and it is also very repressed in this society. Its regulation and criminalization in many cases is what builds the stigma and causes self-esteem problems for people who would otherwise be okay with it, and who have no reason not to as long as they are taking safety precautions.

    • I totally agree with you, and should not have made any assumptions about the emotional aspect of it. Indeed, there are other reasons why women go into prostitution other than past emotional trauma. I also agree with you, from a sociological point of view, that sex is socially constructed by people, as with everything we see in the world. Thanks for commenting and please do tell me if I interpreted your point wrong. Have a great day!!!

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