Friday, 30 March 2012

Getting Medieval About Sex

I was reading the Globe and Mail and I found an article by Jacqueline Murray, a professor of history at Guelph University, talking about how the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision to decriminalize brothels actually puts us more in line with a medieval attitude towards prostitution and sex.  How could I resist commenting on such an article?

She says that in medieval times, prostitutes were organized into guilds just like any other craftsperson.  Reading between the lines of what she says, I suspect it’s somewhat the same view our society takes of strippers.  It’s legal, but not respected.  For the most part, people don’t talk about it in respectable society and there’s a certain amount of social ostracism directed at those who dance naked (or nearly so) for money.

Personally, I think the time is well past to legalize prostitution.  It’s safer for the women (and some men) who otherwise become easy prey for the darker side of society.  I’m not a huge fan of the idea of paying for sex but several thousand years of recorded history proves the futility of trying to eliminate it.  Since it’s going to be with us no matter what, let’s make it safer for both the workers and the customers.

The argument I’ve most often heard against legalization is “Would you want your daughter to be a prostitute?”  The answer (if I had daughters) would be “Of course not” but would have to continue “but if that’s what it comes to, I’d want her to be safe and have rights.” 

Every prostitute out there is someone’s daughter (or son).  There was a point where all sorts of hopes were cherished for that child.  And then things went wrong.  How much do they have to be punished for the bad choices they or others made about their lives?  I believe that we have an obligation as civilized human beings to try and cushion the most vulnerable sectors of our society.

Here’s my argument for legalization.  If prostitution was legalized and they could band together to protect themselves in the equivalent of a sex workers union, then sickos like Robert Pickton and other assorted serial killers would stop having a readily available pool of anonymous victims to hone their murderous skills on.  They would be noticed and caught significantly earlier in their careers.

Other benefits just keep on coming.  The government can collect taxes on it (and if they don’t have a moral issue collecting on tobacco, then sex really shouldn’t fall under a different category).  Standards of health and lack of drug use can be established.  Programs to help those who want to get out of the industry would be much easier and cheaper to run.  I’m honestly surprised it’s taken this long.

Imagine if it was food instead of sex.  Can you imagine restaurants and the sale of food for consumption being illegal?  Black market serving houses where the desperate go to earn their living by giving plates of food to anonymous customers.  It’s ridiculous and yet the act of sex is just as natural as the act of eating.

Maybe it really is time to go medieval.

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