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Thread: Study: Rhode Island Accidentally Decriminalized Prostitution, and Good Things Happened

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    Administrator Reliable Person mdemaz's Avatar
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    Study: Rhode Island Accidentally Decriminalized Prostitution, and Good Things Happened


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    In 2003, Rhode Island unintentionally decriminalized indoor prostitution.

    The state's legislature amended a law in 1980, believing that the law inadvertently outlawed some forms of consensual sex between adults. That amendment created a legal loophole — one that sat unnoticed until 2003, when a District Court judge interpreted it to mean that paying for consensual sex was not a criminal offense in Rhode Island, not if it took place privately indoors. It took the state until 2009 to close the loophole.

    The state's little legal accident was a bit embarrassing. But it did have a silver lining: it could serve as a "natural experiment," allowing researchers to estimate causal effects of decriminalizing sex work.

    In a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah look at the six years when residents knew prostitution in Rhode Island wasn't a crime. And they show evidence that Rhode Island's decriminalization caused a steep decline in both forcible rape offenses and the incidence of gonorrhea.

    What happened when Rhode Island decriminalized indoor prostitution?
    "Indoor" prostitution refers to sex work that takes place through massage parlors, escort agencies, and most of the online market, compared to outdoor street-based prostitution.

    The authors found evidence that, after decriminaliztion, the size of the indoor sex market increased — as expected — and prices commensurately fell.

    More surprising was the finding that forcible rape offenses fell by 31 percent in Rhode Island from 2004 to 2009, as decriminalized indoor sex work scaled up in the state. This translates to 824 fewer reported rapes. The majority of the reduction in rapes came from Providence, where the state's sex work is concentrated.

    The chart below depicts reported rape offenses (per 100,000 people) in Rhode Island (the black line) compared to similar control states. The red line demarcates 2003, when decriminalization took place — and only Rhode Island's offenses drop off steeply after that.

    No other crimes — robbery, murder, assault, burglary, or motor vehicle theft — experienced a sharp decline after 2003 like rape did. This suggests that the decline was not associated with an increase in policing, because had that been the case, we would expect rates to fall for other types of criminal activity.

    Using CDC data, the authors were able to determine that cases of female gonorrhea fell by 39 percent over the same time period. The sexually transmitted disease disproportionately affects prostitutes — 23% of women who engage in sex work report ever contracting gonorrhea, compared to 5% of the general female population.

    The reduction in gonorrhea among men was less significant, which may be due in part to the science of STDs — a woman who has sex with an infected man faces a 60 to 80 percent risk of contracting gonorrhea while the female-to-male transmission rate is only about 20 percent.

    Why did it happen?
    The authors are honest in their paper: they're not quite sure.

    "While we would like to say something conclusive about the mechanisms post-decriminalization which led to the observed decreases in rape offenses and gonorrhea incidence, we are careful to note that this discussion on pathways is merely suggestive," the authors write. "We are not claiming to have identified the causal channels which link the change in decriminalization to the behavioral outcomes of interest."

    They do serve up some hypotheses, though.

    Decriminalizing indoor prostitution could improve the bargaining position of female sex workers relative to clients, leading to lower rates of victimization. Research from the late 1990s found that indoor sex workers are victimized considerably less than outdoor street walkers. The legal quirk in Rhode Island only applied to indoor sex work, which could have resulted in some prostitutes abandoning outdoor business for its decriminalized — and safer — counterpart.

    DECRIMINALIZING PROSTITUTION COULD IMPROVE THE BARGAINING POSITION OF FEMALE SEX WORKERS.

    It's also possible that decriminalizing sex work allows firms to invest more money in security (locks, security cameras, security guards), increases cooperation with police, and decreases the potential for police corruption — all things that could lower the incidence of rape.

    The authors offer a third, uncomfortable hypothesis: it's possible that violent males consider prostitution and rape as "substitutes". With prostitution legally acceptable and cheaper than when it was a criminal offense, would-be rapists might shift away from violence toward women, opting to purchase sex instead.

    "While speculative, there is anecdotal evidence for this," the authors write. "In the 2010 documentary Happy Endings, which is about the efforts of Rhode Island to re-criminalize indoor sex work, there is a scene where a sex worker claims that she believes the men she services would have raped other women had they not come to see her."

    It's a bit easier to understand why decriminalizing indoor sex work might've reduced gonorrhea rates. The authors' analysis found that higher-risk sex acts (like fellatio without a condom, or anal sex) decreased markedly following decriminalization. This finding is consistent with past work suggesting that prostitutes who work indoors are less likely to contract and transmit sexually-transmitted diseases.

    Why is this research important?
    ALMOST EVERYTHING WE KNOW IS ROOTED IN SPECULATION, RATHER THAN GOOD DATA.

    According to a 2013 estimate, prostitution is an industry that generates over $14 billion annually in the United States. That's despite the fact that it's almost universally illegal across the country, save for some regulated brothels in some parts of Nevada. (Recall that Rhode Island recriminalized sex work in 2009.)

    Despite the industry being huge and persistent, almost everything we know about decriminalizing prostitution is rooted in speculation, rather than good data.

    Prior research has been plagued by problems, like relying on small sample sizes that aren't necessarily representative of the industry. According to the authors, most of the studies that exist examine street prostitution, even though 85 percent of all sex-work activity is considered part of the indoor market.

    Sex work is a predictably fraught policy issue, because it gets entangled in matters of morality. But this study adds to a body of research that suggests criminalizing prostitution causes higher rates of victimization and unsafe practices.
    Source

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    Administrator King Pin HomieOC's Avatar
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    i say legalize it its our bodies let us do what we want with it as long as its consensual sex.

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    Administrator Reliable Person mdemaz's Avatar
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    I don't see a problem with it, to be honest. For people that are unfortunate enough to be single, it's a good self-esteem booster.

    A good fuck can change your life.

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    Senior Member Groupie Gelsemium's Avatar
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    LOL, a good fuck can change your life true, even more if you get well paid by doing it? :D

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    Ha, government can never seem to get anything right. Here in Florida they passed a bill in an effort to limit online gambling and they accidentally ended up banning all computers. Here Rhode Island accidentally legalized prostitution, it turns out it works, and then they decide to not do it anymore. Incredible. Even when they're accidentally right they manage to mess things up .

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    How the hell do you delegalize something like that?! I swear I can never put anything past this country.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hellonamesdana View Post
    How the hell do you delegalize something like that?! I swear I can never put anything past this country.
    I know, right?

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    Member Roadie ReinbachThe3rd's Avatar
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    Interesting at least to see it in action. Personally I don't really have an issue with it. It's going to happen legal or not legal, might as well have some guidelines to make it as safe as possible for the buyer and the seller. I would never do it but that's because paying for it feels odd to me but if you can work it, work it.

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    Honestly I am not surprised by this. Generally when something is legal or decriminalized it reduces the number of sharp practices and reduces the number of shady characters. I can imagine that rape would increase because I strongly believe that streetwalkers get raped a lot. When you think about it, it makes sense- if a rapist is going to rape people it makes sense to rape people who are less likely to go to the police or who will not be taken seriously. Combine that with the fact that these ladies often do stuff in cars or in other harder to monitor places and you see that they are easy targets.

    I have always believed that prostitution should be legalized because people have the right to do anything they want with their bodies. I mean, producing porn is legal, so why should paying someone to have sex without a camera rolling be illegal. It doesn't make sense. In Germany prostitution is legal and the country still functions pretty well so why should it be illegal here in the States. Its also legal in some parts of Australia and I read that because the girls use protection all the time, the sex workers there actually have LOWER rates of STI infection than the rest of the population. In other words its safer to go and meet them than it is to hook up with someone at a bar!

    Its nuts how Rhode Island decided to re criminalize sex work even with information like this available. Its crazy. It really is.

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    Member Roadie caparica007's Avatar
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    It's a little insane how these things happen, what are legislators doing not paying attention to the laws they create?

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    I think it's clearly a case of availability, that indoor prostitution became more available therefore there was no need to find means of having sex illegally. I guess it's just a matter of opinion. I personally don't agree with it but it should remain legal allowing women to earn from it and allow certain members of society to relieve their wants.

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    Senior Member Groupie Gelsemium's Avatar
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    That can be true also zenchit, no one noticed it until it turned big, than they made it illegal again.

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    Member Gang Member May102014's Avatar
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    Hahahahaha! Good things always happen when illegal activities suddenly becomes legal. I don't see anything wrong. It's only sex and hopefully people are being safe. After all our politicians are engaging in this activity everyday with their high price prostitutes.

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    I am sure that good things did happen. I cannot understand why it is illegal in the first place. As long as a minor is not involved there is nothing wrong with it. If a person has an AGREEMENT with another person that sex will be exchanged for money. Nothing is wrong with that if both parties agree and are fully aware of the terms. I believe that if it is legalized and controlled the right way it could help the world.

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    I really think that there should be a movement that informs sex workers and their patrons of loopholes that can be used to avoid arrest. Maybe someone should invent a cheap camera that the sex workers can claim they use to film reality porn or something. Since shooting porn is legal, they can't be arrested.

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