Some really interesting and surprises viewpoints on this. I've already said I think prostitution should be legal. Let me explain a bit more why I believe this.
First and foremost, prostitution has always been around and always will be around. Throughout the ages, up to and including the nineteenth century, prostitution has been legal and socially accepted. That's not to say that prostitutes were not considered second-class. Then, as now, there were various "classes" of prostitutes, from poverty-ridden prostitutes begging alms from peasants, to brothels serving the middle-class customers, to high-end escorts who served lords and the ruling class.
Only during America's prudish turn of the century did prostitution become illegal in this country. That did not have a positive effect on society, nor on the women who supported themselves as prostitutes. Oh, men still used prostitutes, but because it now was illegal, prostitution moved out of controlled brothels and into back alleys.
Alone on the streets, women were vulnerable prey, so other men used the opportunity to offer protection in return for a percentage of the take. Thus, the first pimps were born. Prostitutes were no longer a tolerated or accepted facet of society. They were now criminals, and... as always when dealing with prohibition laws... a new criminal syndicate was created. We no longer have brothels, but we have streets teeming with desperate prostitutes and vicious pimps. We've also created a ready-made market for human trafficking, as vulnerable foreign girls are brought to the USA under false pretenses, then whored out against their will.
Men are still using prostitutes, only now there are basically only two kinds from which to choose: Poor, skanked street walkers controlled by pimps and fear, and high-priced escorts favored by politicians and rich executives. There are no medical exams for STDS, no routine lab tests for HIV, no oversight into the use of condoms and other hygiene/safety measures. It's every John and prostitute for himself/herself in a very dangerous underbelly of illegal sex.
Males will not stop using prostitutes. Women who use prostitution to support themselves will not stop supporting themselves using the world's oldest profession. Law enforcement vice squads will continue to waste human assets and taxpayers money to prevent two consenting adults from entering into what should be a perfectly legal service contract.
If it was legalized, government could then control where the brothels can conduct business, license the brothers, require regular medical exams and lab tests, and basically leave people the heck alone would wish to either conduct their business or partake of said business. Government gets money. Prostitutes get clean. Johns would be less likely to bring home the gift that keeps on giving to wifey after his drunken fling in the back seat of the family suburban.
Oh, and the best news yet! Women who do not wish to have sex for money don't have to do so, and men who do not wish to pay prostitutes for sex do not have to do so either! It's just that they can no longer codify their personal agendas into law and push them on the rest of society.
It's a win-win situation. There are damned few of those nowadays. We should take every opportunity to jump the bones of those that do exist.
Read about half the thread before I felt compelled to respond. As a libertarian it's probably no surprise I favor legalizing prostitution. And I can give several reasons ...
1.) It's a victimless "crime". As long as all parties are consenting, who is hurt? In an ideal situation we have a voluntary seller offering a service that a voluntary buy wishes to purchase. If my neighbor wants to buy some nookie tonight, it doesn't affect me one iota. Same is true if my other neighbor wants to sell her "services". As others have said, the difference between being a porn star and being a prostitute is a fine line at best. One being legal and the other not is a bit perplexing. And is there really much of a difference between a gold digging wife (think Anna Nicole Smith) and a whore? Hell, at least the whore is honest about only being interested in a guy's money. Can't say the same for the legions of beautiful women who fall in love with old geezers who just happen to be filthy rich.
2.) I know some folks say laws are in place to protect women from sex slavery, human trafficing, and that sort of thing. But do these laws really protect those women? Or do they help keep them in the illegal shadows of society with little to no legal recourse to help themselves? I think often, just like drug prohibition primarily helps the drug dealer, the illegal prostitution primarily helps the pimps and human trafficers. Getting prostitution out of the shadows and into the open is going to make it harder for abuses to occur.
3.) And the argument about "selling one's body" is patently stupid. The prostitute is selling a service which she performs with her body. Same as a waitress, laborer, or almost any other worker. Buying a prostitute's services doesn't mean a person owns her, it means the two people have reached an agreement on both the services provided and the compensation for said services.
Slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison - Unknown.
It's none of the states business what two consenting adults do when no rights are being violated.
Jackboots always come in matched pairs, a left boot and a right boot.
If you fail to pay a prostitute...is it rape or theft?