Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I've been loving the Letters to the Editor lately

The whole Spitzer thing through prostitution into the front pages of papers all over (it came to my sleepy burb's paper Saturday, glad to see they're paying attention). And with it people debating legalisation, calling it "victimless" and assorted other comments that show the complete ignorance most people have towards the horror that is prostitution. Not only have there been Op-Eds by prostitution researcher Melissa Farley, but also a very good one talking about how legalisation has increased child prostitution, violence, and trafficking into the Netherlands since they enacted the law while Sweden has seen a decrease since they made selling sex legal and buying sex illegal. You can read this Op-Ed here.

I want to point out some of the best comments (in order of publication):

To the Editor:

I believe that the comments by Prof. Alan M. Dershowitz of Harvard Law School about prostitution were irresponsible and insensitive.

As a second-year student at Harvard Law School, I have been taught by my professors that making hyperbolic, unlikely and unsupported statements, such as Mr. Dershowitz’s assertion that “prostitutes aren’t victims — they’re getting paid a thousand dollars an hour” is irresponsible generally and particularly so when speaking with the press.

Through my Harvard Law seminar on women’s human rights, I have read empirical studies that document that murder, sexual assault and post-traumatic stress disorder rates among prostitutes are much higher than among the general female population, belying the accuracy of Mr. Dershowitz’s avowal that prostitutes are not victims.

Finally, Mr. Dershowitz’s admonishment that resources devoted to ending prostitution should be apportioned to fighting terrorism is insensitive because it ignores the continued economic, racial and sexual exploitation of women and children the world over and seeks to distract us by generating fear.

As such, Mr. Dershowitz’s statements are a disservice to gender equality and the fight to end violence against women and children. Jessica Corsi

Cambridge, Mass., March 11, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “The Myth of the Victimless Crime,” by Melissa Farley and Victor Malarek (Op-Ed, March 12):

In the various political roundtables this week, everyone seemed to agree, at least, on the “victimless crime” argument. I am shocked that the thoughtful, intelligent people (mostly men) on these shows are so comfortable with the idea that a woman would choose to have sex for money.

Do these people know any women? Can they really believe that this is a choice?

We have programs in place to reach out to people who “choose” to use drugs or “choose” to live on the streets, so why do we view prostitution, high-priced though it may be, as just another comfortable, middle-class career choice?

Yes, Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute probably drank fine wine. That doesn’t change the fact that she engaged in a psychologically damaging transaction every day.

I applaud Melissa Farley and Victor Malarek for calling our attention to the one neglected and yet terribly important issue of the Spitzer scandal.

Kathleen Reeves
New York, March 12, 2008

To the Editor:

Melissa Farley and Victor Malarek are correct. I would like to add that seeing Silda Wall Spitzer’s stricken face on TV — not to mention pondering what the Spitzer daughters must be going through — shows prostitution to be far from “victimless.”

Patty Quinn
Elkins Park, Pa., March 12, 2008

Here's the latest one that reminded me that I had a lot I wanted to say about this, but unfortunately it's finals and I'm short on time, so I'll let these people (many of whom have raised points I would have) speak for me, and many women who know the horrors that prostitution brings.

To the Editor:

Re “Do as He Said,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, March 13):

In the coverage of Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution patronage there has been scant recognition that the exertion of the worst sort of power over a vulnerable person is the fundamental basis of prostitution and its close cousins rape, sexual assault and torture. While sexual acts are indeed often the vehicle, subjugation is the essence. If this were more widely understood, there would be less tolerance of these crimes and less tendency to blame or punish the already victimized.

I am grateful for Mr. Kristof’s continuing attention to these issues in our country and around the world.

Irisita Azary
Glendora, Calif., March 13, 2008

If these arguments don't convince you, take a look at Melissa Farley's studies in prostitution, which can all be found here. I'll leave you with a snippet of her study from 5 countries:
Here is what 475 prostitutes from 5 countries said:

United States: 56% don't want it legal, 88% want out now.

South Africa: 62% don't want it legal, 89% want out now

Thailand: 72% don't want it legal, 94% want out now

Turkey: 96% don't want it legal, 90% want out now

Zambia: 92% don't want it legal, 99% want out now


Anonymous said...

great! thanks for sharing!

Chiroptera said...

Irisita Azary's letter is great!