Craig Gives Up

After a few months of getting shit from AGs looking to make a name for themselves, Craigslist has replaced its adult services ads with a “Censored” bar.

Until they gave up, Craigslist was the only big site hosting adult ads that made a good-faith effort to keep exploitation out of their site. eBay owned a site that also posted erotic ads, made no effort to police it, and they simply blocked access from the US when the site was criticized.

Perhaps we’ll have an honest conversation about ending the prohibition of prostitution in a few more years, but this episode shows that we’re nowhere near ready to have it now.






43 replies
  1. 1
    El Tiburon says:

    Enough whoring in Congress. But strangely it is we the people getting screwed.

  2. 2
    WereBear says:

    Should we license prostitutes, or continue our free market experiment?

  3. 3
    raholco says:

    The ‘Casual Encounters’ section is still present and active.

  4. 4
    db says:

    Well, if it weren’t for so many damn crazy churches we wouldn’t need the services of prostitutes.

  5. 5
    MikeJ says:

    @WereBear: Big media Matt will argue that licensing is just rent seeking by current sex workers to raise the barrier to entry.

  6. 6
    RSR says:

    Remember the lady in Philly who offered to swap, uh, something, for World Series tickets? We used to live next to her (before the Phillies got good).

  7. 7
    mclaren says:

    If you think America isn’t a psychotically puritanical and sadistic shithole, check out how this woman convicted of prostitution died in prison.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @mclaren: Because Maricopa County, Arizona is a microcosm of the entire US?

  9. 9
    calipygian says:

    CNN really drove this with a blonde Fox Newz style bimbette doing a Geraldo style ambush interview withCraig that got played over and over.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Superking says:

    Holy fuck, people, there’s nothing wrong with prohibiting prostitution. It’s not a good thing for the people involved. It exploits women, not to mention children, horribly. What’s to be gained from legalizing prostitution? Take a close look at what happens out at the houses in Nevada. These aren’t hookers with hearts of gold who freely chose the life. They tend to have serious substance abuse problems, but they get by because sleazy guys will do anything to get laid. Prostitution isn’t some noble enterprise that prudes are merely prohibiting out of an outdated sense of morality.

    Seriously, what the fuck?

  12. 12
    b-psycho says:

    @Superking:

    Take a close look at what happens out at the houses in Nevada. These aren’t hookers with hearts of gold who freely chose the life. They tend to have serious substance abuse problems

    Bet that makes for some interesting workplace safety issues…

  13. 13
    stuckinred says:

    @Superking: I don’t think anyone said it was good but driving underground doesn’t do shit to stop it. Never has and never will, wake up.

  14. 14
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Superking: Has any country ever successfully prohibited prostitution? How would one go about doing so? On the other hand, if it is something that cannot be successfully stamped out, does it not make more sense to legalize it under strict conditions that will reduce, if not eliminate, the problems that you mention?

    ETA: Sex workers would be in a better position to report abuse to the police if the work they were doing was not itself a crime. Regulation and licensing which required testing for diseases could reduce the spread of those diseases, etc.

  15. 15
    brent says:

    @Superking:

    Setting aside, for the moment, your rather broad characterization of individuals involved with legal prostitution, how do you think that the prohibition (in places where it is prohibited of course) has helped people with the serious substance abuse problems that you are concerned about? I mean to ask how you are logically connecting the two. Is one a result of the other? Can we address substance abuse by criminalizing the sex trade? How does that work exactly?

  16. 16
    Superking says:

    Brent, I’m not arguing that prohibiting prostitution helps people with substance abuse problems. I’m saying that the image of legalized prostitution isn’t what you think.

    Omnes, show me a country that has ever successfully prohibited murder. No legal prohibition is ever successful in fully stopping the object of its regulation. The point is to punish people for doing things that have negative social outcomes. Prostitution is one of those things.

    Stuckinred, see the above response to Omnes.

  17. 17
    brent says:

    It exploits women, not to mention children, horribly.

    Also, the entire point of the argument in favor of removing the prohibition is that the worst examples of the exploitation of women and particularly of children is most obviously a result of its criminalization. It is an unregulated underground economy and as with most such economies, there are few limiting factors which would prevent these excesses.

  18. 18
    JMC_in_the_ATL says:

    That’s unfortunate.

    And I still don’t get the following:

    If I pay you to have sex with me, that’s illegal.

    If I pay you to have sex with me while I film it and sell it to others, that’s capitalism.

  19. 19
    Corpsicle says:

    @Superking: Name a single negative social outcome of prostitution that is not the result of it being illegal, or inherent to casual fucking, which I assume you do not wish to criminalize.

  20. 20
    brent says:

    @Superking:

    I’m saying that the image of legalized prostitution isn’t what you think.

    I would say, Superking, that it isn’t what you think either but its image is really irrelevant. The only relevant question is as you suggest, whether or not the social outcomes are better or worse as a result of its criminalization. There has, of course, been a lot of research in this area comparing various results from places where prostitution is legal as opposed to illegal. I think one can come to a variety of conclusions but what is quite clear is that in fact, the worst sort of abuses that occur in contexts where prostitution is illegal occur far less often in places where it is legal. Whether or not that makes legalization a good thing is certainly open to question but the argument from social harm is not one that holds up very well in the face of the evidence.

  21. 21
    drag0n says:

    It still works in Canada.

  22. 22
    PeakVT says:

    Harm reduction. Similar to how criminalizing narcotics creates a whole host of other crimes, criminalizing prostitution has a number of negative side effects. Most importantly, it gives people who have skills in avoiding the police and enforcing business deals outside the legal system (e.g., pimps) the means to exploit sex workers. If prostitution is going to take place – and it will – then society should arrange for it to occur in a manner that causes the least amount of harm to everybody. That means legalizing it and regulating it to minimize the transmission of STDs, to reduce the chances of clients hurting sex workers, and to see to it that sex workers receive most of the revenue paid by their clients.

  23. 23
    currants says:

    I think the Swedish experiment is pretty interesting.

    Then again, socialism, also, too. Or not.

  24. 24
    Joel says:

    @Superking: Setting aside the hyperbole, legalizing prostitution appears to work in the Netherlands.

  25. 25
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Superking: You seem to be changing the terms of the discussion. You are now arguing that prostitution, like murder, is a malum in se, a thing that is bad in, and of, itself. Previously, the discussion was based around the idea that harms are associated with prostitution and that those harms could be reduced by legalization. Which discussion do you want to have?

  26. 26
    Corpsicle says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: My guess is that he wants to have a discussion in which he can present his opinions as facts, offer no evidence at all to support them, and then run away when we fail to swoon with respect and admiration for his brilliance.

  27. 27
    maus says:

    @Superking:

    the image of legalized prostitution isn’t what you think. Omnes, show me a country that has ever successfully prohibited murder. No legal prohibition is ever successful in fully stopping the object of its regulation. The point is to punish people for doing things that have negative social outcomes. Prostitution is one of those things.

    The best way for consensual “crimes” to not have negative social outcomes is to arrest people for doing them and push them further underground.

  28. 28
    Brachiator says:

    @brent:

    Also, the entire point of the argument in favor of removing the prohibition is that the worst examples of the exploitation of women and particularly of children is most obviously a result of its criminalization.

    No, the whole point of prostitution is the sexual exploitation of women and children. The profession, by definition, caters to unrestrained human desire.

    Prostitution is legal in parts of Europe and America, and yet men will fly to Asian countries for the express purpose of having sex with children. And because many of these countries are poor, it is difficult to prevent the exploitation of children. You could have a brothel on every corner of every American European city, and these people would still want to have sex with children.

    Adult prostitution is somewhat different, but maybe not as different as people might think. The problem of prostitution is not just that it is criminalized and forced underground, it is that it is extremely unacceptable socially.

    I doubt that many here who call for the legalizing of prostitution have actually used a prostitute. And if you have, I would bet that you have never had this conversation with a wife or girl friend: “Yeah, sometimes after a tough day, I just need to unwind with a little quick release, so I stop off at the massage parlor for a little happy ending. It’s got nothing to do with how I feel for you, by the way.”

    When the US had legal brothels, you still had crime, and exploitation of both the prostitutes and often their customers. And when Johns are ripped off or beat up, they are reluctant to report it, not just because prostitution is illegal, but because they don’t want anyone to know that they were trolling for hookers.

    The current LA Weekly has an interesting article about women entering the prostitution business in Nevada because of the bad economy (The Family Prostitute). But even though prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada, and is well regulated and protects the workers and customers, and would seem to be a model for what legalization should look like, it is not a huge, thriving business in Nevada (the Mustang Ranch had been seized by the IRS at one point), nor does it attract the hottest women, nor does it even much reduce prostitution in parts of Nevada where it is illegal, nor does it reduce prostitution in other parts of America.

    Even though there are tons of commercials for “Vegas, baby, Vegas!” there aren’t a lot of commercials for “Come work or play at the Sunset Ranch.” Because prostitution is socially unacceptable.

    And it America goes insane when someone wants to open up a Hooters or a strip club, good luck with getting approval for a brothel or red light district.

    Even the Netherlands is stepping back on its approval of legal prostition. Pimps, madams, panders, ultimately represent the customer. They exist to force women to do what men want to do because some men want to pay to have their desires satisfied, no questions asked. This is one of the reasons there is a flourishing market for sex trafficking, especially of Asian and Eastern European women. From a 2008 Economist article surveying prostitution:

    In Amsterdam—where the spectacle of half-naked women pouting behind shopfront windows is a city trademark—the link between prostitution and organised crime has proved durable. Efforts to break it have been a “complete failure”, says Lodewijk Asscher, a deputy mayor who has led the city hall’s effort to buy up and transform much of the red-light district.
    __
    Fresh arguments in favour of his campaign emerged from a report published in July by Dutch police and prosecutors. It drew heavily on the case of three Turkish-German vice barons who were sentenced recently to long prison terms for running a ring of 120 prostitutes in three Dutch cities. Their operation included many of the ghastly practices that the liberal law was supposed to stamp out.
    __
    Saddled with fictitious debts, the women under the barons’ control were made to take 20 clients a day, subjected to forcible breast enlargements and tattooed with the names of their “owners”. Such exploitation is not exceptional: the policemen who patrol Amsterdam’s red-light district reckon that more than half the ladies posing in windows are there against their will.

    To be fair, this same October 30 2008 Economist story (“The oldest conundrum”) does find that New Zealand, which decriminalized the sex trade in 2003 has had more success in curbing excess and exploitation:

    A study published by the government in May, measuring the impact of the new law, was encouraging. More than 60% of prostitutes felt they had more power to refuse clients than they did before. The report reckoned that only about 1% of women in the business were under the legal age of 18. And only 4% said they had been pressured into working by someone else.
    __
    The report also acknowledges one distinct advantage enjoyed by New Zealand. Although some illegal immigrants are engaged in the sex trade, the country’s isolation and robust legal system make it relatively free from the problem of trafficking, at least by European standards.
    __
    But there is also a big difference between the policy of New Zealand and that of other places where prostitution is legal. In the Netherlands and Nevada, the business is confined to brothels, which are usually run by businessmen rather than the sex workers themselves.
    __
    Clearly, the brothel-masters’ status as the sole legal providers of commercial sex enhances their grip on the women who work for them. In New Zealand, prostitutes can fend for themselves. As well as letting them keep all their earnings, this independence gives them freedom to reject nasty clients and unsafe practices. “They feel better protected by the law and much more able to stand up to clients and pushy brothel operators,” says Catherine Healy, head of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.

    Still, New Zealand doesn’t push the country as a tourist destination for people wanting to buy sex, and the social stigma remains. From a BBC news story (Selling sex legally in New Zealand)

    A sure sign that New Zealand’s sex trade has not been entirely revolutionised is that society still frowns on it. Last year a teacher was sacked when it was learnt that she occasionally – and perfectly legally – moonlighted as a prostitute. Many sex workers keep a regular part-time job to avoid leaving suspicious gaps on their CVs. They tell only trusted friends about their main activity. None of the working prostitutes and madams interviewed for this report was ready to give their real names.
    __
    Brothels may be legal but most New Zealanders prefer not to live next to one. Bon Ton never mentions an address in its adverts – only a phone number. In Christchurch operators had to fight a proposed zoning law that would have kept them out of most areas.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in 2009 Norway passed a law outlawing the buying of sex, with those prosecuted subject to a hefty fine or a six month jail sentence (a minimum of three years in the case of child prostitution).

    But no matter how you slice it, the problem with illegal prostitution is not that is an unregulated underground economy, but that the nature of business itself, and human nature, in part keeps it underground and disreputable.

  29. 29
    Lincolnshire Poacher says:

    I believe craigslist had something like this posted before entering their section?

    Unless all of the following points are true, use your “back” button to exit this part of craigslist:
    1.I am at least 18 years old.
    2.I understand “men seeking women” may include adult content.
    3.I agree to flag as “prohibited” anything illegal or in violation of the craigslist terms of use.
    4.I agree to report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.
    5.By clicking on the links below, I release craigslist from any liability that may arise from my use of this site.

    I agree it is about some equally perverted Attorney Generals trying to look “tough” on crime.

    “Let’s sue craigslist since they are the cause of human trafficking and child prostitution.” Never mind it has been going on as long as there have been humans and a desire to make some money. But let’s just eliminate craigslist and lock up those who do participate in since as someone here suggests that will solve everything. It is how the free market works right? Wrong. But keep praying for that to happen Superking. One day the floor boards might just hear you.

  30. 30
    brent says:

    The profession, by definition, caters to unrestrained human desire.

    Not sure what dictionary you are working with but that is manifestly not the definition of prostitution. In any legal and consensual context, it is like every other product, where desires are restrained by several factors including most obviously by the law and by consent. It is the illegal context in which those restraints are less rigid.

    In general, your entire argument conflates a number of different things that are really not the same. To say that the existence of some legal prostitution has not stamped out the existence of illegal prostitution in other places is a non sequitor. To say that soliciting prostitutes is considered socially unacceptable is again, irrelevant to the question of whether it should be legal. Its generally a bad idea to create laws based upon social mores.

    To say that bad practices related to prostitution still exist in places where prostitution is legal is closer to the point but as you point out, the evidence is far from conclusive that this will necessarily be the case and more to the point, criminal authorities are able to address the particular types of exploitation that still go on in a way that would have been much more difficult previously. That criminal activity still goes on is discouraging of course but not dispositive of the notion that harm can be reduced by legalization.

  31. 31
    Brachiator says:

    @brent:

    RE: The profession, by definition, caters to unrestrained human desire.

    Not sure what dictionary you are working with but that is manifestly not the definition of prostitution.

    What an odd misreading of what I wrote.

    In any legal and consensual context, it is like every other product, where desires are restrained by several factors including most obviously by the law and by consent. It is the illegal context in which those restraints are less rigid.

    You have got it backwards. Men want to fuck someone, a woman, a child, and are willing to pay for it. Pimps, panders, madams, supply the product. Consent is in the real world, often secondary, even for women who enter the profession “voluntarily.”

    You want to debate some theoretical or philosophical vision of prostitution that has little to do with the actual practice.

    In general, your entire argument conflates a number of different things that are really not the same. To say that the existence of some legal prostitution has not stamped out the existence of illegal prostitution in other places is a non sequitor.

    If legalizing prostitution does not significantly reduce illegal prostitution and the harm it causes, there is little reason to change current laws. I tend to be utilitarian, and have little interest in theoretical or libertarian or socially anarchic rationales.

    To say that soliciting prostitutes is considered socially unacceptable is again, irrelevant to the question of whether it should be legal.

    You miss my point. The social stigma attached to prostitution, as much as legal prohibition, keeps it underground and so keeps it illegal.

    Its generally a bad idea to create laws based upon social mores.

    It is generally a bad idea to make sweeping generalizations.

    To say that bad practices related to prostitution still exist in places where prostitution is legal is closer to the point but as you point out, the evidence is far from conclusive that this will necessarily be the case

    I tried to quickly find a few links related to the question. They are obviously not exhaustive, and others can do their own research, but the New Zealand example is one of the few where legalizing prostitution appeared to work out, and even here part of the reason is that the country is too small and too out of the way for pimps to import sex workers. Other countries that previously were more permissive are rethinking their laws since legalization has not reduced sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children. As it stands now, the real world evidence is against you.

    … and more to the point, criminal authorities are able to address the particular types of exploitation that still go on in a way that would have been much more difficult previously.

    Interesting assertion. I don’t know that this is borne out by available evidence.

  32. 32
    Corpsicle says:

    @Brachiator: “The profession, by definition, caters to unrestrained human desire.”

    Sorry to jump in your argument uninvited, but I just can’t let that go. Basically, exactly what Brent said. In what way is that a misreading of what you wrote? It’s exactly what you wrote. You don’t seem to understand the definition of, well, “definition” itself. You can’t say “the definition of the word is” and then just make something up that caters to your personal prejudices. Words have specific meanings for a reason. If we all start making up our own definitions communication becomes impossible.

  33. 33
    mclaren says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Because Maricopa County, Arizona is a microcosm of the entire US?

    Correctamundo. That’s what the 2010 election is all about — turning America into Maricopa County, Arizona.

    Once upon a time, the rest of America looked on in revulsion as people in Maricopa County AZ were beaten and tased and pepper-sprayed and choked to death by sadistic screaming cops for refusing to produce ID – but today, that’s gone nationwide and mainstream.

    Once upon a time, the rest of America shuddered with horror when Maricopa County prison guards tortured inmates to death and laughed and joked while they screamed and died. But today, that’s as American as apple pie, courtesy of Abu Ghraib and police doctrines of “pain compliance.”

  34. 34
    brent says:

    @Brachiator:

    What an odd misreading of what I wrote.

    I don’t think so. You are defining the prostitution industry in a specific way that supports your point but to the extent that any industry has a “definition,” it is not by the worst of what happens within it. Prostitution is the exchange of sex for money. It is not defined by the exploitation of children anymore than say, the pharmaceutical industry is defined by narcotics abuse.

    You have got it backwards. Men want to fuck someone, a woman, a child, and are willing to pay for it. Pimps, panders, madams, supply the product. Consent is in the real world, often secondary, even for women who enter the profession “voluntarily.”

    You want to debate some theoretical or philosophical vision of prostitution that has little to do with the actual practice

    Whether or not consent is “often secondary” the point is that it is also “often primary.” Thus, in “actual practice” prostitution is not defined only by its non-consensual contexts which is precisely the point I was disputing.

    If legalizing prostitution does not significantly reduce illegal prostitution and the harm it causes, there is little reason to change current laws. I tend to be utilitarian, and have little interest in theoretical or libertarian or socially anarchic rationales.

    This, of course, is a question of how you define and measure harm reduction. When I get a chance a little later I will look up some of the studies I have seen. But, in general, while there has been a lot of work on this that tries to approach the issue in more and less rigid analytical terms but none of it is what one would call conclusive. My point in response to Superking above was in opposition to the idea that to legalize prostitution was a way of legitimizing the worst excesses of illegal prostitution when, in fact, it is meant as a response to it. Whether or not it is an effective response, and I am not suggesting that one could not reasonably argue, as you have, that it is not, one doesn’t get very far by flatly ignoring the intent of legalization.

    You miss my point. The social stigma attached to prostitution, as much as legal prohibition, keeps it underground and so keeps it illegal.

    I see. Although I assume you mean that that is what keeps it underground, not what keeps it illegal.

    There is much more to be said but I have to go out for a couple hours, so here is the thing, I think that everything you are arguing here could also be very easily argued with respect to the porn industry, which as someone pointed out above is essentially a form of legalized prostitution. It carries a stigma, although perhaps not one as intense as that associated with prostitution. It has also historically involved quite a lot of abuse and exploitation of women and children. Even some of its more prevalent purveyors engage in some pretty sketchy practices involving consent. I am thinking here of the Girls Gone Wild series.

    But, the porn industry is also populated by a number of large, relatively responsible corporations that obey regulations and approach its responsibilities to both the public and its employees in an ethical way. So has legal porn reduced the harm inherent in illegal porn? Hard to know the answer to that. But what I doubt is that one can very easily argue that making porn illegal would somehow be a more effective response to such social harms.

  35. 35
    superking says:

    @Corpsicle:

    Yeah, Corpsicle, because you’re living up to that standard?
    .
    .
    .
    waiting on your facts, Corps. Any comment now.

  36. 36
    superking says:

    @maus:

    Maus, even a comprehensive regulatory scheme would involve punishment for failure to comply with the scheme. You all seem to think that when something is “legal” and regulated that those regulated choose to follow the regulations. This is not the case. See, e.g. MMS, SEC, FCC, FEC, etc.

    At the end of the day, you’re still going to have people engaging in prostitution outside the system. So, what you all are arguing for is really just a change in the form of the punishments. Do you think that all prostitutes will simply stop selling sex the first time they fail an STD test? Maybe the free market will keep people from going to the infected sex workers?

    If we have a complex regulatory scheme for prostitution, you’re going to have to track these people down, monitor their behavior and impose penalties for failure to comply. How is that going to be better than simply outlawing it?

    The only real difference between prohibition and regulation is that the johns aren’t committing a crime. I would bet that the vast majority of men who solicit prostitution are straight men. So, what you’ll end up with is a situation where female prostitutes are subject to civil/criminal penalties, but dudes are now free to engage in previously criminal behavior. It’s a win for skeezy dudes.

  37. 37
    superking says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I am in no way changing the terms of the debate. I am simply pointing out how your comment is fucking stupid. You’re saying that the law never really stops some action, therefore it is pointless to prohibit that action. My point is that this is true of all crimes. Your argument is essentially that because the prohibition has failed to stop prostitution, we should get rid of the prohibition. The same is true of murder. The prohibition on murder has failed to keep people from murdering other people. Thus, according to your argument, we should remove the prohibition on murder. This is absurd.

    But I see that I confused you with my reference to murder, so let’s change examples. People still speed, don’t they? I know I’m in the extreme minority doing 55 during my commute. If I weren’t trying to save money on gas, I’d speed to. So, the prohibition on speeding has clearly failed to prevent speeding. Should we get rid of speed limits?

  38. 38
    Nic says:

    @”superking” The laws criminalizing consentual sexual commercial transactions demonstrably hurt poor people who have few options. Equating prostitution with murder? Only a puritanical authoritarian dipshit would do that.

  39. 39
    superking says:

    @Nic:

    Nic, I see you also failed reading comprehension. Twice. The point of the comparison is not to say that prostitution is like murder but to show that the argument is illogical. Sheesh.

  40. 40
    maus says:

    @superking:

    If we have a complex regulatory scheme for prostitution, you’re going to have to track these people down, monitor their behavior and impose penalties for failure to comply. How is that going to be better than simply outlawing it?

    It is better because it doesn’t further marginalize the sex workers.

  41. 41
    maus says:

    How is the War on Drugs better for those who are casual users or junkies?

  42. 42
    Superking says:

    Maus, we can achieve the same ends by passing laws protecting sex workers who report abuse.

  43. 43
    Death Panel Truck says:

    George Carlin said it best:

    “I do not understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal?”

Comments are closed.