Archive for May 25th, 2011

I am not interested in women just because they’re women.  I am interested, however, in seeing that they are no longer classed with children and minors.  –  Crystal Eastman

Even when one already knows something, it’s good to get validation from others.  And when one is beset by enemies on all sides, particularly ruthless enemies who are willing not only to lie but to distort or completely fabricate bogus “research” to support their lies, every extra bit of academic research which soundly supports one’s position is another arrow in one’s quiver.  But given the current anti-prostitution political climate it takes guts and an unwavering respect for the truth to dare to publish an academic paper which refutes the government’s position, so I was very pleased when Dave Krueger sent me this link to the University of Arkansas Newswire last Tuesday (as it turns out Brandy Devereaux had already posted about it two days earlier, but I was busy when I got the notice and forgot to check it later when I had time).  In any case, an economist at the University of Arkansas has shown on paper what we’ve been saying for decades:  most women who enter prostitution choose the work for the same reasons people choose any other job.

…A new study by an economics researcher at the University of Arkansas analyzes the U.S. prostitution market and provides policy recommendations to increase safety for women and communities…Contrary to assumptions that women enter the prostitution market only because they are desperate – that they need money to pay bills or buy drugs – the study indicates that many women, especially educated, affluent women, are making a rational decision to enter certain segments of the prostitution market…“Our model demonstrated that the prostitution market may be pulling educated women – these so-called ‘high-opportunity-cost’ women – out of the conventional labor market and the marriage market, in many cases,” said Jennifer Hafer, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Arkansas.  “The findings suggest that these women are not forced into the prostitution market but rather choose to enter it for many of the same reasons that people enter the conventional job market – money, stability, autonomy and even job satisfaction”…Hafer…examined high- and low-quality markets within the various types of legal and illegal prostitution, which includes high-end escorts, call girls, brothel prostitutes, streetwalkers and women who advertise prostitution on the Internet.  The model allowed her to examine the type of market a woman would enter and how variables such as morals, effort, health risks, stigma, earnings and the probability of getting caught in an illegal activity influence a woman’s decision.

…opportunity cost refers to what is lost by choosing one out of two or more alternatives.  It refers to the benefits one could have received by taking an alternative action.  For this study, factors that influenced opportunity cost for a woman were education, training, access to both physical and social resources, access to the marriage market and family background variables such as type of household, the neighborhood one grew up in and education level of parents.  So, women with high-opportunity cost had greater access to or benefited from these variables.  The model revealed that high-opportunity-cost women – affluent and educated women with strong family backgrounds and access to resources – may be choosing to enter the high-quality illegal prostitution market, via a high-end escort service or through the Internet.  These women would not enter the legal prostitution market, according to the model.  Women with low-opportunity costs – that is, women with less education and economic opportunities – choose to enter the low-quality legal market – the brothels in the Nevada counties…Considering the finding that low-opportunity-cost women chose the legal market, Hafer pondered reasons for the existence of the illegal market for these women.  There are significant entry barriers to legal brothel prostitution, such as licensing, which might include background and health checks, house rules that the women must follow, such as prohibition of drugs, and, perhaps most significantly, the fact that brothels are located only in Nevada, many miles away from a woman’s support network…Based purely on the outcomes of the model, brothel prostitution should be legalized and regulated in expanded locations.  Her policy attention to escort and Internet prostitution focused on regulation, such as licensing, health testing and possibly taxation, as a means to ensure safety and security for both the prostitute and the consumer.  For the escort and Internet markets to be regulated, they must be legalized…

The one major flaw in Hafer’s conclusions (which should be readily apparent) is that legalization would still create a black market for the exact same reasons 70% of Nevada prostitutes prefer to work illegally:  namely, the onerous requirements imposed by legalization, which as Hafer demonstrates make it unappealing for women who have other choices.  But this is a minor detail, especially considering that laws in this country are never based on scholarly recommendations.  What’s important is that yet another source (besides the testimony of thousands of escorts) has refuted the oft-repeated prohibitionist claim that “no woman would voluntarily choose prostitution.”

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