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Sex sells: why America’s most provocative profession needs to be decriminalized

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Fifty-three countries across the globe have legalized prostitution and sex workers in the U.S. are waiting for the same legitimacy.

Opinion by Sarah Best, News Editor

Photo by wearedancers.usa/Instagram

Women in the sex industry are pushing for the legalization of their controversial and unconventional 9-5 job while attempting to sever close-minded public stigmas about the validity of their work.

Prostitution, strip dancing, adult film-making and platforms like OnlyFans, where nude photos can be sold, are among just a few of the fields that fall under the umbrella of sex work. Despite society constantly presenting an undeniable hyper-sexualized idea of women in ads, movies and music, distaste and judgment of the legitimacy of the sex industry as a whole is still prevalent.

In an attempt to seize the public’s interest, fast food companies commercialize objectively attractive women in minimal clothing while teasingly eating the promoted product. So why is the concept of selling sex for capital gain widely accepted, but the actual act of selling it is disgraced? Because intolerance and ignorance to anything that derives from traditional values seems to be our country’s brand.

“I think society itself wants to preserve a certain attitude or a certain value system about family and committed relationships,” explained Valley College professor and sociologist Darby Southgate. “But I think across time we are seeing really dynamic shifts in all of those institutions.”

Progressive countries like Spain, Switzerland, Germany, India, Spain and many in South America are among the 53 that have legalized prostitution according to The necessary validity has been brought to working in the sex industry through intention of reducing violent crime and the forcing of trafficking into prostitution by means of a “pimp” has, in turn, become illegal in these legitimizing countries.

However, data suggests that countries with legal prostitution like South Africa are the exception to the statistic, as they have the highest statistic of rape cases in the world per 100,000 people according to Ultimately, the intention of reducing violent crime by means of legalizing prostitution sounds better in theory but does not always transpire accordingly, as represented by the data.

By contrast, the Netherlands, another country with legal sex work, has experienced a substantial decrease in violent crime numbers — concerning sexual assault specifically — in all cities that have initiated the concept of “trippelzones” (areas specifically designated for street prostitution). The U.S. has purposefully refrained from replicating the same methodologies of their foreign counterparts when it comes to the sex industry in order to uphold outdated and narrow-minded views of sex as a whole.

“Here in America, we were dominated by a Calvinist-Protestant group. When the charters — the pilgrims, as we call them — came in and eradicated indigenous cultures, they supplanted it with very conservative Calvinism, which is a form of Protestantism and a literal interpretation of the Bible,” Southgate commented. “There is still that value system that is inherent in our culture and I think we can see that. We are a really uptight culture.”

The 22-year-old strip dancer from Red Tie Gentlemen’s Club in Van Nuys that goes by the name of “Opal” said, “I know girls that work at the ranch houses out there [in Nevada] that get paid to have sex with people. Honestly, I’m all for it. I think California should do it too.”

Misconceptions and judgments flood the industry and the idea of sex in general. The negative connotations that society correlates with both of these concepts are not accurate or encompassing of everyone within it. The U.S. encourages traditional, Christian ideas from the outside looking in while acting superior to those who potentially make more money in one night than most Americans do in a regular two-week paycheck. Though drugs and crime are an unavoidable component of the complex equation that defines the sex industry, strip dancing specifically proves to be a powerful and positive outlet for self-expression for women like Opal.

“All my life I’ve had to deal with abuse,” Opal disclosed. “For me to come in here, I’ve kind of found my voice. I can tell you what you’re allowed to do and you have to listen to me, so for me, it was empowering.” In a concluding statement, she remarked, “Strippers are just humans. We’re just normal human beings that have regular lives and they need to stop shaming us.”

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