I’m a big fan of Last Week Tonight and the various topics that John Oliver covers because every week there’s something to have a deep conversation about and reflect on. This week he tackled “Sex Workers”, figuratively, of course, and it got me thinking about other issues society has problems with, like drugs and abortion. As subjective as morality is, as a humanist, I just want people to do these things safely and have safe access to them if they’re going to do it. Regardless if something is against your moral compass, you’ll never get people to stop, but you can restrict safe access. Safe access means knowing you’re not going to contract something from a client or customer because there’s regulations in place for being tested, being paid a fair wage that allows workers to take care of themselves, knowing that if there are violations, like the one mentioned in the video where a man was convicted of rape because he took of his condom without consent, there’s no negative consequence for trying to obtain legal protection, and that safeguards can be put in place for location and security. This is not a comprehensive list, but I feel that it’s some common sense stuff when looked at objectively.
When I think of the people making the rules, my first thought is usually of Mark Twain; “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it”. I doubt governments think that just criminalizing things will make them go away. The reality is that politicians know that it makes them look good, particularly in conservative places, by taking a strong stance against these things. If they focused less on imposing their beliefs on others, we could create and enforce rules that would actually benefit society. I don’t doubt that some people feel that criminalizing sex work saves some people, but it actually does quite the opposite. If they’re so conerned about them selling their bodies, why aren’t their social programs in place to help them? It’s easy just to tell people not to do something, but the trouble comes when you have to help them become financially viable another way. The US does the same thing with criminalizing the homeless. You can’t loiter, you can’t sleep under the bridge because we built spikes, you can’t sleep on the bench because we’ve built a divider to make it impossible, you can’t spend time inside a homeless shelter because there’s limited beds and severe time restrictions, and when you have nowhere else to go, it’s off to prison. If you’re a sex worker that’s ever been to jail, it’s extremely difficult to find work if you have to report your criminal record. People like to talk about second chances, but it scarcely exists in the US. Having a lack of opportunity, mostly from restricted access to social programs, after getting out of prison is also a main reason for recidivism.
Sex workers should have a right to sell their labor like anyone else. Why can we legally put it on camera or on OnlyFans and it’s ok, but if we do it without a camera, then it’s a crime? George Carlin had once joked, “selling things is legal, having sex is legal, so why is selling sex not legal?” Maybe the government will always worry about saving face and trying to appear a “Christian nation”, but it could learn something from the states that legalized marijuana. If you don’t care about the safety of the workers, then think about the tax revenue it could bring in.
After watching the episode, I just had a mental overload of connecting many problems I have with laws and regulations in the US and how it mishandles its citizens. Thanks for reading!