There are currently two bills in Massachusetts aimed at legalizing prostitution, both of which are sponsored by the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.
One bill, called “An Act decriminalizing prostitution,” decriminalizes sex work for the “commercial sexual exploitation victim,” while retaining legal penalties for the john. Presented by State Representative Kay Khan (D-11 Middlesex District), this bill was referred to the state’s Judiciary Committee on January 23, 2017, and hasn’t been addressed since.
The second bill, dubbed, “An Act to promote the health and safety of people in the sex trade,” legalizes prostitution for both prostitutes and johns, striking out the words “common night walkers and common street walkers” from Massachusetts law and expunging all records of prostitution-related arrests. Presented by Lindsay Sabadosa (D- 1st Hampshire District), this bill was was referred to the committee on The Judiciary on March 29, 2021.
So, where do people stand with respect to the “world’s oldest profession?”
Proponents of legalizing sex work say that criminalizing prostitution brings unnecessary harm to already vulnerable populations and legalizing prostitution will not only lower crime rates, but also improve public health, increase tax revenue and allow consenting adults to make their own decisions.
It may also decrease the number of men who sexually coerce women or lie about their intentions in order to have sex with those seeking relationships on the dating scene.
Examples of sexual coercion include asking a partner for sex repeatedly in order to wear them down and acquiesce, plying an otherwise unwilling partner with alcohol or threatening to spread rumors for not having sex on demand.
Legalizing sex work may also decrease the highly stigmatized nature of the profession, which has been known to permanently tarnish the personal and professional lives of those who enter into it, even for a short time.
Meanwhile, opponents of decriminalizing prostitution feel it’s immoral and may even increase sex trafficking.
One proponent of legalizing sex work is Silfy Star, an adult content creator popular on the streaming platform Twitch. (Her stage name is being used to protect her identity).
“I do think it should be decriminalized because in my mind it is simply moronic,” she said. “So, you can have sex with somebody and they give you a gift. I can have sex with random strangers and it is not a problem. The issue comes if they give me money, which makes no sense, why does that matter?”
Based in Texas and in her early 30s, Star began working in the adult industry as soon as it was legal for her to do so.
“I started off in the adult industry when I was 18. I was a dancer, a sugar baby, and then ultimately ended up doing online content creation,” she said.
But that isn’t all she did professionally.
Star, who has multiple advanced degrees and ended up marrying her high school sweet heart, also worked as a nutrition director for a Texas school district. When she became fed up with that job, she decided to work in the adult industry full time.
“I was very unhappy in my role, I got tired of the brown nosing, the red tape, some of the shady things that happen on the back end and decided to say, ‘forget that’ and resigned,” she said.
Star doesn’t agree that people are drawn to purchasing sex acts because it’s illegal and therefore taboo. As a matter of fact, she thinks more people would be purchasing sex if it were legalized.
“I think that if it were decriminalized more people would do it,” she said. “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean all your business is out there. When you go to a strip club do you have to show the stripper your ID?”
She added that regulations would make the adult industry safer for everyone involved and allow those performing sex work to take more control of how they conduct business.
“It would empower women, you don’t need a pimp, you have the ability to make that choice yourself,” she said. “If that’s the life you want to get into, then there are safer ways to go about it.”