Thursday, May 14, 2009

Craigslist's Shell Game


Read further down. In reality, they are replacing "Erotic Services" with "Adult Services" under stricter guidelines.

Remember the old shell game? Put the pea under one of three shells, move them around, make it look like the pea disappeared? But really, it's still around -- you just had to look more carefully, and see that the fellow with the shells palmed it.

It's clear that Craigslist is the winner here. They look good in the eyes of the public, and can make more money by requiring a ten dollar charge for every adult services ad.

And that would make erotic -- sorry, adult service providers the losers, right?

Yup. But not because of the ten bucks, or because Craigslist can screen and reject certain ads. The service providers lose by being driven further underground, which predictably heightens the risks they have to face.

And that's the real irony here. All of these moves to rein in erotic professionals is being done ostensibly to "protect" them. Look at the reason Rhode Island politicians are giving for passing stricter laws -- to prevent trafficking.

Uh huh. Trafficking, both sexual and non-sexual, is an underground industry. So how is driving sex work further underground supposed to protect people from being forced into it by threats or lies? Doesn't it make more sense to treat sex work like all other forms of work, and bring it into the light of day?

Look at how the trade is done in countries like Germany and the Netherlands -- above ground, with the government able to set standards for safe and fair working conditions, and potential clients knowing they needn't go sneaking around to find what they are looking for. No, the Dutch and German models aren't perfect, but compare them with the shoddy and hypocritical way that sex workers are handled in Poland, the Czech Republic, and other countries.

Let's face it, outlawing sex-for-hire has never worked. Excessive regulation has not fared much better. It's only served to deprive those who work in the trade with the tools to better their circumstances. So let's give them a real chance to do so, by treating their work the same as other forms of work.

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