Unethical Quote of the Month: Washington Post Book Reviewer Patrick Anderson

The_Best_Little_Whorehouse_in_Texas?????????????????????????

“The moral I draw from this richly detailed, terribly sad book is that, since prostitution will never be eliminated, it should be legalized.”

—-Washington Post book reviewer (and former Jimmy Carter speechwriter) Patrick Anderson, in the conclusion of his positive review of “Lost Girls,” a non-fiction about a series of prostitute killings.

Read that quote over and over again, as I have, and if you can tell me how an intelligent human being reaches the point where he (or she) considers such a statement logical, rational, responsible or ethical, please enlighten me.

I know there are people who think like this and applaud such sentiments, though on its face the position is utter nonsense. Substitute murder, or child porn, or incest, or wife-beating…official corruption, bribery, kick-backs…drunk driving, water pollution, cruelty to animals…any persistent blight on society and human interaction, and Anderson’s idiotic formula applies as well to it as it does to prostitution.

In context, his statement is even more shocking. The book he calls so sad is about young girls who stumble into prostitution out of desperation and lose their lives as a direct result. So, Anderson concludes, let’s add the government’s moral weight to the lure of prostitution! Let’s make it legal; let say it’s OK, which is to say, good enough to be endorsed by society. Does he really think we will then see less of it?

Later, he says:

“If people who work as prostitutes were employed by well-regulated brothels, like those that exist in Nevada, they would be far safer, sexual diseases would be minimized and taxes would be paid. But our puritanical, hypocritical society — acting through lawmakers who proclaim “family values” but are not infrequently caught with their pants down — chooses to keep the oldest profession in the shadows, where predatory men kill foolish, often troubled women, often with impunity.”

Note that the book is about how the internet has made prostitution an increasingly independent, free-lance business, but Anderson appears to believe that the magic of legalization will suddenly send the profession back to those cute bordellos with player pianos and Dolly Parton playing madam. Naturally, all lawmakers who oppose prostitution are secretly Johns—if you can’t make a logical argument, Patrick, by all means resort to outrageous generalization and ad hominem attacks.

The truly frightening aspect of this review and reviewer is that Anderson’s ideological clones, many of them, at least, are currently working the levers of policy in Washington, D.C. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews last week, in rare moment of honesty, admitted that from what he could see, Democrats liked illegal immigration, and saw nothing wrong with it.

After all, since it will never be eliminated, it should be legalized.

___________________________

Source: Washington Post

Graphic: Collider

40 Comments

Filed under Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

40 responses to “Unethical Quote of the Month: Washington Post Book Reviewer Patrick Anderson

  1. Luke G

    Gah! I’m enough of a libertarian to think that many if not most things should be legal and as lightly regulated as possible, but not just because “People will do them anyway so why bother?” That is absolute insanity, and I feel dumber for knowing somebody actually said it.

  2. Eric Monkman

    I don’t see what is wrong with weighing the harms of making an undesirable activity illegal and making that same activity legal and deciding to legalize the activity because the harm of prohibition outweighs the harm of legalization. I would think this sort of thinking would apply to prostitution, illegal immigration, illegal drugs, etc. I would think that the harm caused by allowing intentional killings, official corruption, child pornography and drunk driving outweighs the harm caused by making these activities illegal. I am not so sure about prostitution.

    • Michael Ejercito

      There is nothing wrong with .”weighing the harms of making an undesirable activity illegal and making that same activity legal and deciding to legalize the activity because the harm of prohibition outweighs the harm of legalization”. This applies to prostitution, and I have heard substantial arguments that the criminalization of prostitution causes harm above and beyond that caused by prostitution itself.

      “People will do it anyway”, however, is not a rebuttal to arguments in favor of criminalizing an act, whether it be drug use, prostitution, buggery, or idolatry.

    • Yes, and justifying it that way shows you are trying to balance all the factors and considerations.

      However, Jack’s main point is that you can’t *ethically* justify something by saying “well, people are going to do it anyway”

    • Eric Monkman

      I agree with both of you. If the only reason Patrick Anderson provides for allowing prostitution is that people will do it anyway, then his argument is without merit. I presume, however, that his argument is deeper, given that he discusses the harms that befall prostitutes in the unregulated black market.

      • Why do you presume that? Nothing in his review states or suggests it. If he has a substantive reason to support legalization, what is it?

        • Eric Monkman

          I presumed that based on the reviewer’s statement “If people who work as prostitutes were employed by well-regulated brothels, like those that exist in Nevada, they would be far safer, sexual diseases would be minimized and taxes would be paid.” He thinks that if prostitution is legalized, it will be safer for all concerned. I therefore drew the inference that the author thinks that because prostitution will never go away and because legalizing prostitution will make it safer for the prostitutes, he thinks that prostitution should be legalized.

          • Why do you presume that? Nothing in the author’s review suggests it. He makes the point that prostitution has moved to the internet because the prostitutes get to keep all their hard-earned money, and that having a pimp is safer. OK, having a legal bordello to work out of is also safer—and the prostitute loses money. Why would the situation change? The trade is now internet based.

            There is no nexus between legalization and eliminating what the author himself identifies as a primary danger of the profession. There is a nexus between criminalization and safety, however: the risk of arrest keeps some women out of the profession—women who don’t want to be criminals.

            • Eric Monkman

              The author suggests that people who work in well-regulated brothels are safer. The prohibition of prostitution makes well-regulated brothels impossible, so prostitutes are less safe. “We can’t stop it, so it should be legal” is, by itself, a terrible argument. I presume that the author’s argument is not that shallow.

              Much prostitution is internet based, but that could be because alternative methods of organizing prostitution are made impossible by laws against prostitution. Police can shut down a brothel, but it is much harder to police activity on the internet. The argument is akin to saying that, during prohibition, the alcohol trade was done by bootleggers and criminals, and that the trade would still be performed by gangsters if alcohol was legalized. While some people still sell bootleg alcohol (and cigarettes) to avoid taxation, many distributors of legal drugs have decided that operating in a safer, regulated, legal environment is a better way to do business.

              Of course, some prostitutes will continue to freelance on the internet if prostitution is legalized. At least they would have the option of choosing a safer method of being prostitutes, at the expense of keeping some of their earnings. Furthermore, making prostitution legal would probably make even the freelancers safer because they would have an easier time going to the police if their clients beat them up. The fact that clients know that, if the abuse prostitutes, those prostitutes can go to the police will also likely have a deterrent effect on client misconduct.

              • The point that you keep missing, Eric, is that they have safer options now, and don’t take it. Women go into the trade for money, period. They will use what they can to maximize profit, and that means being self-employed. Presumably the number of prostitutes will increase, perhaps exponentially, under legalization. There will not be nearly enough brothels to house all or even most of them, unless you want the whole country to look like “Pottersville” in George Bailey’s nightmare reality….even if prostitutes chose to forgo the web, which I doubt.

                He didn’t try to make a legitimate argument, because there isn’t one. One you read is all he has—can’t stop it, so legalize it: Marion Barry’s murder theory.

                • Errol

                  New Zealand legalised prostitution in 2003 and the numbers have not increased so why would they increase in the USA?

                  From the summary of the New Zealand Ministry of Justice a report “Estimation of numbers” of prostitutes says;
                  “This estimation, therefore, would indicate that the Prostitution Reform Act (2003) has had little impact on the number of people working in the sex industry.”

                • Eric Monkman

                  What are these safer options? Why wouldn’t internet based prostitution become safer in the legalization scenario (for the reasons I mentioned)?

  3. Jj

    Even communist East Germany had legalized prostitution… And they had lousy cars, lousy food and that lousy wall…

  4. Sex work – as tightly regulated as health care – is legal in my jurisdiction.
    So is legal practice.

    There are also needle exchange programs. It’s looked on as a public health issue.

    We consider the inevitable, inescapable consequences of fanatic prohibition to be worse from a moral standpoint than any arguable harm from drug abuse or sex work – though the former is blatantly physically harmful to nearly all, the latter psychologically harmful to many.

    I’ve had some interesting and educational talks with the head of the Sydney Sex Workers’ collective on how to keep those unsuited for it out of the industry, as well as providing a positive, healthy career path for those suited to it who’d gain from it.

    Different cultures, different society, I doubt that this would work in most of the US. Any more than “a gun in every home” would work here.

    We’re a very conservative, traditionalist society in most ways. Sex work is not “respectable” nor encouraged. Tolerated though, yes, with strict safeguards against health problems and exploitation. We’d never tolerate situations as you have in the US where low-paid workers have to get “government nutritional supplements”, and don’t get sick leave. That’s both exploitation and a public health problem.

    • “We consider the inevitable, inescapable consequences of fanatic prohibition to be worse from a moral standpoint than any arguable harm from drug abuse or sex work – though the former is blatantly physically harmful to nearly all, the latter psychologically harmful to many.”

      And “you” are wrong, that’s all. The “solution” is driven by expediency and in my opinion, moral cowardice. Bottom line: government, the secular expression of a society’s values, has an obligation to condemn that which is harmful and encourage that which is healthy for society. Prostitution ruins marriages, warps emotional health, risks the lives of women and degrades both man and woman…and no culture that encourages women to be prostitutes will ever have gender equality.

      • “…no culture that encourages women to be prostitutes will ever have gender equality.”

        Jack, that is where I am most with you on this. I don’t understand why the same forces that fight so determinedly (and successfully) against ignorance, bullying, smoking etc. choose to simply surrender on such a major battlefield of a war on women.

        I guess the surrender is consistent with a surrender in what may be perceived as a “war on sex” (or sexuality), and consistent with support for nanny-state (non-)solutions that are, at best, effective only on the margins. With all the emphasis on early education to prevent young people from bullying; smoking; harassing minorities; failing to use birth control, and on and on, why are the same who support such emphasis so resigned to the inevitability of prostitution that they take the, “We can’t beat it, so let’s just treat it” low ground? Is there fear that teaching young people about prostitution, as part of sex education, will boost sex trade?

        I drop the “moral” as you have opined, and just call it cowardice.

      • Eric Monkman

        Must a government make something illegal to condemn it? For example, many governments condemn smoking because it is harmful, but most governments have not made smoking illegal.

        I suppose a better comparison to prostitution would be adultery. Most states no longer (or maybe never had) laws against adultery. Does this mean that these states encourage adultery?

          • Eric Monkman

            Good find. If the original statement from the review were changed to “The moral I draw from this richly detailed, terribly sad book is that, since prostitution will never be eliminated, [laws against prostitution should not be enforced]“, would it be a more ethical statement? This way, prostitutes would be safer but the government would not be “encouraging” prostitution.

      • “Prostitution ruins marriages, warps emotional health, risks the lives of women and degrades both man and woman…”

        Evidence please, that it’s Sex Work per se, and not the involvement of organised crime, and the exploitation of the desperate that causes the bad effects?

        You seem to be coming from the direction where Sex Work is assumed to be immoral by its very nature, then find reasons for why it’s a Bad Thing. If the reasons didn’t exist, would it still be immoral?

        The experience in Victoria would seem to indicate that untangling Sex Work from Prostitution – the exploitation by organised crime, most of whom are politicians – is not easy. The experience in the ACT is that it can be done. There may be a scaling issue here – one is a jurisdiction of 4 million, the other 300,000.

        As regards gender equality – it’s not just women who are in the industry. The important thing is that it’s their choice. That choice has to be free though, not a faux “choice” caused by economic destitution or bullying that’s not a choice at all. An informed choice by consenting adults.

        It’s ironic that my own personal set of mores involves no sex outside betrothal. But unless you’re willing to say that any sex outside marriage is immoral and should be subject to legal sanctions, I don’t see the difference here. It seems to me to be massively hypocritical.

    • Isaac

      What’s the evidence that this works at all in “your jurisdiction?” The parts of Australia that have legalized and regulated prostitution have attracted a sex-trade culture and appear to have become even more in-demand sex-trafficking hot spots…

      http://www.bridgew.edu/SoAS/jiws/May08/BookReview6.pdf

      So besides setting back feminism some more and bringing in multi-million dollar massive brothels…how exactly is this working for your culture? I’m accustomed to praise for something being accompanied by some evidence that said thing deserves praise.

    • Isaac

      “We’re a very conservative, traditionalist society in most ways…Sex work is not “respectable” nor encouraged…”

      That appears to be changing in Australia. But I’m sure that as always, the destroyers of culture will deny any responsibility. No single raindrop thinks it is to blame for the flood:

      “People are less likely to marry and more people are living alone. With relationship breakdown more common, people are more likely to experience changes to who they live with over time…
      One in five families is a stepfamily or blended family, with experts predicting this statistic will rise as divorce rates increase and people re-partner later in life.”

      http://spinneypress.com.au/books/changing-family-trends/

      • “But I’m sure that as always, the destroyers of culture will deny any responsibility.”

        I love that line. It’s excellent. To which I woul add “…after denying responsibility, the destroyers culture are always quick to come up with even more culture destroying ‘solutions’, the effects of which they can deny responsibility for even later.”

  5. Beth

    I am, and will continue to be, torn on this issue. I don’t buy the “everyone is doing it anyway” argument, but I do think we have to think about the way that legalization would improve women’s lives. Certainly, I am a feminist and I wouldn’t encourage any woman or young girl to aspire to a career in the sex trade – just like I would never encourage them to become a pornographer. But here’s the thing – pornography is legal and prostitution is not. If it is legal for a woman to have sex on camera for money (with whichever actor is assigned to her), why isn’t it legal for that same woman to have sex in another safe environment with a man for money?

    • You can’t compare pornography, which is art and thus protected speech, and prostitution, which is conduct. Speech of all kinds (with content) is protected, even though some is harmful or worthless, because only a near absolute right of expression prevents legitimate and valuable expression to avoid being sucked into censorship. Sex, on the other hand, is hardly endangered or repressed by a ban on unhealthy, dangerous, degrading, marriage and relationship-destroying sex trade.

      • Beth

        All prositutes should video their sexual encounters and post on the internet. Problem solved.

        As for your last point, LOTS of marriages are being destroyed by porn addictions.

        • That’s not responsive. The point is that unfettered speech has enough vital benefits in a democracy to justify putting up with the dark side. Prostitution has no such vital benefits.

          And I think prostitution clients would have a little problem with that YouTube plan, no?

          • Beth

            Of course free speech has tremendous benefits. But have you seen porn? I’m no expert, but the “artistic” elements are laughable. It’s sex for money — period. And porn addictions ruin huge percentages of relationships these days. I would bet my next paycheck that more marriages are ruined by porn addictions than prostitute addictions.

            As for the prostitution clients — maybe they wouldn’t object and/or they could wear masks to obscure their identity? Have you ever stumbled across that HBO show that films encounters in Las Vegas? Your concern is solved with a legal waiver and most clients (who are committing a crime right now anyway) would probably happily sign a contract if it meant that they couldn’t get arrested and their identity could be obscured. Hmmm … I may have a new business idea. (A loathsome one, but I wonder if it would pass legal muster?)

            Mind you, I am not supporting the legalization of prostitution here. I just think it laughable that we distinguish legal sex for money vs. illegal sex for money based on whether or not there is a camera present. Both enterprises are selling orgasms and both involve women working in degrading professions.

            • “But have you seen porn? I’m no expert, but the “artistic” elements are laughable.”

              So is the Jimmy Kimmel Show. It’s still speech.

            • “I just think it laughable that we distinguish legal sex for money vs. illegal sex for money based on whether or not there is a camera present.”

              Exactly. I think a case could be made that a pornographic film industry is even more “harmful to society” than anything consenting adults do in private.

              It’s f*cked up hypocrisy.

      • Eric Monkman

        Huh? I don’t understand your argument. Are you saying that, because pornography is constitutionally protected, it is okay, but prostitution lacks constitutional protection so it is not?

        • Double huh. I am saying that we have no choice but to allow pornography, for good reasons that have nothing to do with its intrinsic value. We do have a choice with prostitution, because it is not protected,and it’s a pretty obvious one.

          • Eric Monkman

            But the government does prohibit outright some forms of pornography, and quite rightly at that. These prohibitions generally do not pose the threat of “sucking us into censorship”. If paying for sex is wrong and illegal, then why should paying someone to have sex in a pornographic video be any more protected as art than performing other illegal acts on film to be sold as art?

          • Question – why is not Sex Work also Free Speech?

            If one was to say “Obama is a bad president” on camera – how would that differ in terms of “Freedom of Speech” from whispering the same thing in an empty room? Would the first be protected, the second not?

  6. Valid points all in the attempts to make analogous prostitution and pornography. The line I think is very fine.

    But I think the distinguishing factor is not that because a camera happens to be present, pornography gets a pass on paying for sex. The camera isn’t just some peripheral item that happens to be there. The porn-stars are actors who are engaging in the act for the sole purpose of being filmed. This makes its a form of acting, which makes it a form of art, which is Speech and therefore protected.

    The prostitute, even if a camera were involved, is not engaging in the act for the sole purpose of being filmed, but in order to sell her physical pleasures. Even though Beth’s hypothetical above seems to create a scenario that makes an exception, in practice her hypothetical would demand so much effort towards the filming and production and business side of the act that it ultimately becomes pornography anyway and no longer prostitution.

    And yes, pornography I think is just as harmful to society, primarily in the realm of marriage, as prostitution is. However, as Jack points out, since it is a Speech issue, and IF Freedom of Speech must be held as an ABSOLUTE (as he asserts), then Pornography (regardless of its harm), as an artistic expression (and therefore Speech) gets protected.

    Of course, yelling fire in a crowded theater is frowned on because of it’s obvious harm.

  7. Gregg

    Prostitution isn’t a form of speech, but it’s a trade. Banning a form of trade outright (slavery, say) is hefty business, and requires that the trade’s ill effects (ownership of a person, say) outweigh the freedom to engage in it.

    What are the ill effects of prostitution? The list isn’t very impressive to me. It ruins marriages? (Maybe some marriages. But more than, say, alcohol?) Warps emotional health? (Please. An hour of Chris Matthews warps my emotional health.) Risks the lives of women? (OK, but what aspects of that risk are rooted in its illegality?) Degrades both man and woman? (See above re: Matthews.) These arguments point towards regulating it, not banning it.

    I agree that “everybody’s going to do it anyway” isn’t a sensible argument, though I agree that the ill-written review points towards a more complicated argument.

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