Harry Reid: Right on Prostitution, Yet Wrong

December 28, 2012

Storey County (Nevada) commissioner Lance Gilman was elected this November 6 (with 62% of the vote). He is a businessman who owns, among other things, a brothel.

The AP reports:

Gilman maintains illegal prostitution is rampant across the country, and it makes more sense to legalize and regulate it. He said bordellos pay significant taxes to rural counties and the women are regularly checked by doctors. “I use the term caregivers for our industry,” Gilman said. “The public has no idea, but so many of the men we deal with are damaged or widowed or in need of kindness. The industry is so much more about providing care and human nurturing than anything else.”

Harry Reid made news in Feb 2011 when he suggested it was time to make prostitution illegal in Nevada. News reports suggest he had little to no support. His reasoning? Prostitution hurts economic development. I agree prostitution should be illegal, but Reid’s reason is poor. Ban one business because other businesses don’t want to move in next door? Liberalism tends to be willing to sacrifice individual freedom for whatever it thinks is the good of society: if brothels harm local economies, then ban brothels. At the same time, liberalism tends to refuse to prohibit actions on moral grounds, as long as the action can be portrayed as not hurting anyone.  Nevada should outlaw prostitution not because it harms economic development (though it may), and perhaps not even because it is immoral (though it is).  Nevada should outlaw prostitution because it does harm others.  Prostitution exploits the vulnerable in our society and giving it legal sanction makes such exploitation easier.

We should note that there is a grain of truth to Gilman’s claim that prostitution is about human nurturing.  He is right, I think, that prostitution is not simply about men getting sexual pleasure.  It is about what sex promises: an intimate union with another person. Love. The irony in Gilman’s argument is that while his customers’ deepest desires may indeed be for the caring touch of a woman, for some human nurturing – indeed, for love – that isn’t what he is selling!  His customers are deceived, perhaps even self-deceived. They are buying into a lie. Love cannot be purchased. The prostitutes will indiscriminately lavish their attention on any paying customer.  They are not making a commitment to the kind of intimacy that the human soul hungers for – that these men hunger for – and which finds its deepest physical expression in sexual intercourse.  She does not nurture him, helping him to flourish as a human being.  She doesn’t value him and he doesn’t value her.

Also, notice Gilman’s emphasis on the needs of men.  He claims his prostitutes are “caregivers” who “care” for men that are “damaged” or “in need of kindness”.  As I have already noted, the that claim these women truly care for those men is dubious at best, but what about the needs of these women?  What about the women who are reduced to selling themselves, to being indiscriminately intimate with any John with a few dollars in his pocket?  What about the damaged women who are in need of kindness?  Who is caring for them?  Gilman’s statement is a heinous, disgusting twisting of good and evil.

First, prostitution is not about care-giving.  It does not equally treat both parties as humans for it does not equally regard the honor, integrity, and wholeness – the human flourishing – of both parties.  Second, prostitution is an offense against women. It turns them into nothing but pleasure machines for men. It has no place in a society that respects and values women.  Third, brothel owners are enriched by taking advantage of poor and vulnerable women.  It is a classic case of the wealthy and powerful abusing the weak and poor.  Prostitution has no place in a just society.  Fourth, prostitution is a road to destruction.  It ruins families and it compromises the integrity of individuals as they deceive others to protect their secrets.  It has no place in a society that would have its citizens listen to their better natures.  Fifth, prostitution is the opposite of freedom. Women who depend on it for their income cannot easily walk away. They are no longer free to choose their sexual partners. They are not enjoying sexual freedom, as some may suppose, but rather sexual enslavement.  Prostitution has no place in a free society.

The people of Storey County, Nevada should be ashamed to have chosen such a leader, but the people of Nevada as a whole should be even more ashamed for giving legal sanction to such a demeaning, unjust, destructive, debasing, and enslaving act.


%d bloggers like this: