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Farley / HARMS OF PROSTITUTION

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the Netherlands, the sex industry constitutes 5% of the GDP (Daley, 2001). Women in Dutch prostitution tell us that although legalization of prostitution was promoted as a way to improve their lives, they view it primarily as a way for the State to tax their earnings (Schippers, 2002). Often they do not think that their health has benefited or that they are offered more protection under legalized or decriminalized prostitution.

Some social scientists define the predatory behaviors of men buying women in prostitution as normal, maintaining that prosti- tution is simply part of human nature (Ahmad, 2001; Fisher, 1992; Masters & Johnson, 1973; Pheterson, 1996; Scambler & Scambler, 1995). This definition of normalcy is then reflected in public policy that defines prostitution as a form of labor (sex work), where pros- titution is considered an unpleasant job but not different from other kinds of unpleasant jobs, such as factory work. From this perspective, prostituted women are viewed as simply another category of workers with special problems and needs (Bullough & Bullough, 1996; Kinnell, 2001; Nairne, 2000). The World Health Organization (WHO) defined prostitution as a dynamic and adaptive process that involves a transaction between seller and buyer of a sexual service (World Health Organization, 1988). WHO has since recommended decriminalization of prostitution (Ahmad, 2001). Much of the health sciences literature has viewed prostitution as a job choice (Deren et al., 1996; Farr, Castro, DiSantostefano, Claassen, & Olguin, 1996; Green et al., 1993; Romans, Potter, Martin, & Herbison, 2001; UN/AIDS, 2002). Yet the notion that prostitution is work tends to make its harm invisible.

Where did the idea that prostitution is work originate? In 1973, the U.S. organization COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) declared that prostitution was legitimate service work. In the 1980s, COYOTE capitalized on the AIDS epidemic as a health cri- sis, keeping its organizational focus on increasing its customer base but shifting its strategy to educational outreach in addition to advocacy of decriminalization of prostitution (Jenness, 1993). These goals are reflected in the activities of the New Zealand Pros- titutes’ Collective (NZPC), one of many COYOTE offshoots that provide union-style organizing for those in prostitution. When prostitution is understood as violence, however, unionizing pros- tituted women makes as little sense as unionizing battered women.

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