In a free society, prostitution should be legal—perhaps up for a morality debate or even discouraged—but certainly not criminalized. Therefore, while not casting judgment on the specifics of their case, I have to applaud the chutzpah and media savvy of a quartet of Denver “making-it-rain” strippers, predominately white, who created an online petition defending their lifestyle and companion, alleged pimp, Germaine “Jell-O” Wallace, black of Denver.
Though we are supposedly all Shangri-La post-racial, the investigation into the alleged Denver prostitution ring oozes with sexual and racial tension, raising the specter of the prison industrial complex that seems to collar a disproportionate number of black men, while touching upon the taboo of bondage and S&M the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey, a sex-abundant New York Times bestseller. Is the commanding Jell-O an Othello-style Christian Grey funding the opulent lifestyles and fulfilling the sexual desires of his many Ana Steeles, as the young “dancers” would have you believe through their “Prejudice Justice against Jermaine Wallace” petition? Perhaps their candor is his best line of defense.
Sex and prostitution, submission and domination, and its place with the modern woman and even with the modern (married) man, has burst upon the national scene through a cornucopia of sexual entanglements, e.g., the Secret Service prostitution scandal and the John Edwards’ trial for alleged election law violations stemming from hush money furnished to an impregnated mistress. With the popularity of E.L. James’ piquant “Fifty Shades” and other high-profile prostitution arrests like that of Anna Gristina, the tony Manhattan madam and soccer mom —unseemly and steamy, taboo sex is headlining everywhere.
Given that the threat of prosecution, disease and public humiliation has not slowed the world’s oldest profession, arcane property law analogies through a retrospective lens of Victorian moral hypocrisy, can provide the most compelling arguments against prohibition.
For women, political, economic and social equality vests with her absolute domain and sovereignty over a unique and coveted feminine form—over mammary glands, female sex organs and her right to choose. Feminine anatomical dominion, which has historically been denied, relies upon society’s ability to unconditionally respect female sexual freedom and reproductive rights.
Long ago, but not so long ago, and still today depending upon geography, women were denied the right to own property, sovereignty rights, authority over financial assets, as well as complete control of their bodies and sexuality. Yet like property, women were bartered and exploited paternalistically through matrimony by their families for strategic, social and financial advantage.
The full right of return to control women’s most valuable property—their bodies—through complete sexual and reproductive self-determination, is radically and organically feminist, humane and modern. As an adult, in the pile of sticks liberty represents, the individual right to full and free sexual determination, as well as the right to marry regardless of gender and sexual orientation, represents a big stick of liberty. The ability to etch out the contours of one’s sexual identity—to experience the realm of infinite sexuality possibilities if so chosen and to be what authors Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt termed an “Ethical Slut”—even if that allows for the consensual sale of affection—is a highly sophisticated and feminist understanding of freedom and liberty. And one does not have to be a member of the female gender to be a feminist or ascribe to the tenants of feminism. Likewise, there are prostitutes of all genders, male, female trans, who warrant protection rather than dehumanization.
To criminalize prostitution is antifeminist, in that it ascribes to the prostitute the assumed misogyny and shame of the institution as it is today, while presuming that women are incapable of balancing sexual power relations. Legalization, or at least decriminalization, would allow for a more comprehensive sex and public health education for sex workers and even the johns. As in Nevada, legalization would allow prostitution to be taxed and regulated, which would encourage further public safety and disease prevention.
Making it rain and getting it rained on is not necessarily shameful or dirty, and certainly should not be criminalized, which is at the heart of the Denver quartet’s plaintive petition. In their public plea, the “dancers” represent that they have made a deliberate and independent, lifestyle choice, which they enjoy and find highly rewarding. And their right to privacy and sexual freedom, even if it includes the alleged monetization, should be respected as long as children or third parties are not harmed.
Likewise, criminalizing and humiliating consenting adults entering into un-coerced sex-for-sale relations, while driving the behavior dangerously underground and reaffirming a misogynistic sexual paradigm, is absolutely shameful and as antiquated as the mythically pure and chaste, and very much oppressed, Victorian-era woman.