The Florida Story Teetering on the Edge


Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The legalization of sex work is one of those interesting issues where legalization proponents and opponents exist on the same side of the aisle.

    I think that using a sex worker is still largely seen as pathetic. I also expect it is much more common than people think. But no one really talks about it. I have had a few gut friends say they lost their virginity to a sex worker in confidence. Others have talked about their friends using sex worker’s usually in a funny context of their gut friend not lasting too long. I’ve also heard women say something like “if I were braver, I would use sex work/escorting to discharge my student loans.”

    But there is still a strong stigma against needing to pay for it among men and women. It is seen as a sigh being undesirable and/or sketchy/untrustworthy.

    It is no secret that the alt-weeklies earned their income from sex work ads. But if you listen to the people who read the articles and reviews, it sounds like they pushed this fact to a deep corner of their mind.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Joining to what Saul said, there are many people on the Left that, at least in terms of heterosexual sex work, sees every man that hires a sex worker for any reason as an enemy of all women. In the recent piece about robot cats, there was a link that showed a group of Swedish feminists wanted sex bots to be declared illegal because sex bots could never refuse consent and are therefore bad.

    There are too many conflicting emotions regarding sex work. There are people who profess to have nothing against sex workers but can’t really stand any of the patrons. There are people who loath the sex workers and the patrols. There are people that do not care. As long as a stigma exists about the customers of sex workers, which can range from they are pathetic people that can’t get laid to they are vile scum exploiters of women, there is not going to be legalized sex work.Report

  3. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    I agree with everything you wrote here. But I’m interested in what the practical distinction is, if any, between legalization and decriminalization.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I always understand decriminalization as turning into something more like a parking citation. No jail time, maybe no court appearances, just pay the fine.Report

    • Legalization is where all sex work would be licensed and unlicensed sex work would be illegal. This is basically the system they have in parts of Nevada. But most sex workers oppose it because it creates a de facto cartel that controls the sex industry.

      Decriminalization means that sex for money is legal under all circumstances as long as it involves consenting adults. There are simply no laws against it. This is what Amnesty and other orgs are pushing for.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I’m not exactly sure that decriminalization means laissez-faire legalization. I think Saul has the better definition. Decriminalization usually means that something is still formerly illegal but the government doesn’t really enforce it but at the same time doesn’t give its blessing to the activity either. So in places where you couldn’t get full marijuana legalization, the more liberal leaning cities would decriminalize by not really enforcing the laws against possession except in the most egregious circumstances. Legalization is when you get the government actively permitting something.Report

        • Here’s my friend Maggie explaining the difference:

          “Under this system, sex work is recognized as a form of work like any other, and therefore not subject to any laws that do not bind other businesses. For example, brothels are regulated by zoning laws and the like rather than subjected to special criminal laws; sex workers are responsible for taxes and covered by workers’ compensation programs, and so forth.”

          What you’re talking is a kind of benign neglect. What I’m talking about is something more akin to the legal marijuana businesses. Sex workers would comply with regulations, pay taxes, could unionize, etc.Report

      • Avatar James K says:


        This is at odds with the way those terms are used in other contexts. Decriminalising something usually means it is illegal, but only minorly so, like speeding or legal parking. Legalisation means that it is entirely legal.Report

        • I don’t want to get bogged down in the nomenclature. The important thing to understand is that the difference between the legal regimes. In sex worker rights circles, these are called criminalization, legalization and decriminalization. Whatever you choose to call them, they refer to, respectively:

          a) a legal regime where all sex work is illegal and punished (most of the world)

          b) a legal regime where sex work is tightly regulated and confined to specific businesses (e.g., Nevada)

          c) a legal regime where sex work is legal. It can be done freelance between two people. It can involve a business regulated like any other business. But the important thing is that is neither illegal nor punished nor confined to approved business interests.Report

  4. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Good post. I’ve got questions. Suppose that the coercion existed one step removed from (say) forced sexual slavery, and rather, that these women were compelled to have sex with message-seeking men *if* those men wanted a happy ending, or else their employer would rescind their visas/work permits. Is that view consistent with the facts as you understand them?Report

    • Great question. We don’t know enough at this time. Based on the charges being filed, however, I would guess that was not the case because te women are being charged.

      In a legal or decriminalized system, workers can reject a client for any reason or refuse to perform an act they don’t want to do.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        If the women are being charged who are supposed victims of trafficking, then either they aren’t being trafficked, or the law has moved beyond being simply an ass.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          From an NPR interview with Sheriff Snyder who oversaw the investigation:

          SNYDER: Well, that’s one of the reasons why this sex trafficking continues at such a pace. Invariably, our methodology has been up until we did this here – send a couple of undercover detectives in. They’ll be solicited for sex, will arrest the workers and shut the place down. And the problem goes away, but not really goes away.

          And so when this came in, I made the decision that we would treat this differently and that we would go after the traffickers and the men, the end users. And that’s why we were so successful, and we have over 300 arrest warrants.

          KELLY: What happens to the women now, do you know?

          SNYDER: Well, as you and I speak, one of the women that’s here, we’re treating her as a victim. She’s in protective custody. She said that she was offered a job making a lot of money in America in a nail salon. And before she knew it, she came here and found herself in the sex trafficking industry in massage parlors.

          I’m as confused as you are. I guess it’s possible that Snyder over-sold the sex trafficking angle to gain exposure for pretty huge take down of johns. Or … what? He lied about the whole thing?Report

  5. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I don’t think there ever can be a “good” answer for prostitution.

    The idea that sex can just be a consumer commodity like physical therapy runs counter to every other way we think about sexuality and human intimacy.

    Yet it is obviously never going to be suppressed, so maybe the best we can hope for is some sort of tolerance with a slight social stigmaReport

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      Maybe it would help if we stop treating highly intimate physical modes of healing (like physical therapy or nonsexual massage) as if they’re “just a consumer commodity”. I mean, I can’t even picture what that would look like, socially, but it’s always weirded me out that we do that.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      In tort law, there is a concept called an ultra-hazardous activity. This is an activity that the law sees as so inherently dangerous, the classic example is using explosives, that no amount of safety precautions reduces or eliminates liability if something goes wrong. IMO sex is something of an ultra-hazardous activity, something that can’t be made safe despite precautions. We aren’t going to reach the level where we decouple sex and love, where sex is seen as something like going to the movies. It is always going to be very tricky.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “We aren’t going to reach the level where we decouple sex and love, where sex is seen as something like going to the movies.”

        I have some friends whose marriages might benefit from that.Report

  6. Avatar InMD says:

    I’m glad you posted this. I hadn’t been closely following the story except for some mentions here and there on sports talk radio, where of course the most lurid allegations were all being taken at face value. The moral panic continues.Report