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Opening Arguments

Vices and lies

The fall from grace in Washington of one of Indiana's own raises an interesting issue:

The resignation of Randall Tobias, the chief of the Bush administration's foreign aid programs, for "personal reasons" following the revelation that he had engaged the services of two escort-service workers has provided rich grist for amusement on the punditry circuit. There was indeed plenty of material for humor in the situation, from Tobias's strong stand in favor of abstinence teaching in AIDS prevention programs to his "I didn't inhale"-style assertion that he never had sex with the women. But the predictable laughs have obscured a much larger issue than hypocrisy in the ranks of social conservatives. The reason Tobias's call-girl adventures became public is that the owner of the Washington, DC-based service, Pamela Martin, is facing prosecution and has turned her records over to news organizations to help pay for her legal defense.

Even those who feel a certain schadenfreude at Tobias's downfall should be asking the question: should there have been a criminal case in the first place?

Prostitution is currently legal in virtually all developed nations, though often surrounded by restrictions and regulations. It is illegal everywhere in the United States except Nevada and, by a legal quirk, in Rhode Island if all transactions are conducted in a private residence.

Yet prostitution is perhaps the ultimate victimless crime: a consensual transaction in which both parties are supposedly committing a crime, and the person most likely to be charged—the one selling sex—is also the one most likely to be viewed as the victim.

If prostitution were legalized and taxed, the state could reap enormous economic benefits and, through regulation, reduce the sordid and dangerous elements associated with its illegality. Does anyone see any moral distinction between that and the state's approach to gambling? Just wondering.

Prostitution, like most other vices, involves the lies people tell themselves. Gamblers chase the illusion that luck will bless them with unearned wealth. Drunks and drug addicts think the harshness of reality can be diffused, if not ignored. Those who frequent prostitutes are not, as many believe, merely seeking physical pleasure as a substitute for real intimacy. They desperately want that intimacy, but don't know how to achieve it. When I was in Vietnam, I lost track of the number of fellow soliders who boasted that certain prostitutes they had been patronizing liked them so much that, "You know what -- they don't even charge me anymore." That may not be the saddest lie I ever heard, but it comes pretty close.


tim zank
Wed, 05/09/2007 - 8:59am

Prostitution is one of those crimes that both sides of the political spectrum seem to pretty much agree is a victimless crime and should probably be ignored or even legalized, until they find out their sister or mom is one.

Wed, 05/09/2007 - 10:42am

so whats wrong with legalizing something that the government has been doing to us for years?
For a single man, its a lot less expensive, and directly to the point to just go out and "buy it". When you're done, she goes away, and you can roll over, and sleep in peace. And she does all those things that a wife or girlfriend doenst like, or refuses to do.
after all, all women sell it, for whatever their own going rate is that particular day- whether its for free drinks at the corner bar; or their own satisfaction, all the way to marrying that Mail-Order Minister, with the Mansion, and Mercedes, and a Million Bucks.
Joke- a man walks up to a woman and asks her- would you sleep with me for a million dollars. she says , "of course". guy retorts
"wil you sleep with me for 20 bucks? woman slaps him, and says " he*l no! You think I'm some kind of prostitute?". Man gets in last word "we've already established that fact. now we're just negotiating..."
which is my point.

Tom Alciere
Wed, 05/09/2007 - 11:14am

Here's the solution: Members of the state legislature need to urge their daughters to organize with other women at the college, to don cheerleader uniforms and roam the red light district to greet the men, "I'm free tonight."
Most guys would rather spend a good long time with a pretty college woman than spend good money for a rush job by an ugly hooker, who might be getting forced into it.

The uniforms could even be color-coded, so women in red uniforms would offer a full range of treats while the more timid women in white uniforms would satisfy the men with a more limited reportoire.

Schoolmates who are in the National Guard or Reserve might escort them, because some pimps will get very angry about being run out of business, and some Tennessee atheletes will be equally angry about the new meaning being given to "Lady Volunteers."

Republicans should especially approve of this solution because it will lead to a kinder, gentler nation.

Anybody objecting to this solution has no business complaining about men buying prostitutes.