Amber Atalaya Evans Pinel
When it comes to prostitution, our society only has two types: “low class” minors and women smuggled or coerced into the business by pimps, or “high class” escorts (consenting adults) who accompany the social elite. But even the escorts on the arms of politicians are highly taboo. It’s considered a scandal to be caught with a sex worker, and it’s even more of a scandal to be a sex worker.
I reckon this is the reason we have such a problem with human trafficking (the kidnapping and smuggling of women from other countries into the U.S.) and domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) in the United States. In this country we treat every sex worker as scum. And, if they don’t live in certain counties in Nevada, we treat them as criminals.
DMST is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act “where the person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under age 18.”” The average age for victims of DMST is 12-14, and they are often runaway or throwaway children. Even though these victims are minors, they are often arrested for prostitution and tried as adults.
Science fiction almost always has a way of looking at social situations in a different light. In the popular SciFi television series Firefly, a mismatched crew of civilians and former soldiers travel around on a Firefly-class spaceship named Serenity. The crew bounces between different planets and moons on the outer rim of civilization in order to find work, legal or not. However, one occupant of Serenity not only has legal work, but she is a revered member of society. Her name is Inara Serra and she is a registered companion–a sex worker.
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As a companion, Inara was formally educated and trained at an academy in a variety of subjects including fencing, dancing, hand to hand martial arts, psychology, music, and languages. In the universe of Firefly, companions are not just legal, they are respected and revered as members of the social elite. Companions select their own clients and provide sexual services as well as emotional companionship and sometimes psychological care. There is a great deal of ceremony that goes into a meeting with a companion, including tea ceremonies. Disrespectful clients are blacklisted and refused service from all companions, and they may also face punishment under the law.
If the United States had a system for sex work similar to Firefly’s companions, I believe we would see a decrease in the illegal forms of prostitution and the negative impacts those forms have. We would see a decrease in sexually transmitted infections and diseases (STIs and STDs). We would see a decrease in domestic minor sex trafficking and the human trafficking of foreign citizens. We would also be able to ensure that sex workers were educated on safe, sane, and consensual sex with an emphasis on thorough sexual education. Sex work is one of the oldest professions known to humans, and when practiced by knowledgeable, consenting adults it does no harm to our society.
Prohibition does not work for many things—alcohol for starters. When the United States passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcohol, there was a significant rise in illegal alcohol trafficking and related gang activity. The prohibition of sex work in the United States has had similar results; it has not prevented illegal prostitution, and it has encouraged gangs and criminal organizations to take over the market.
By legalizing sex work and enforcing sex education and safety regulations on the profession, the United States could reduce illegal activity and decrease the amount of trafficking victims. Sex workers who were consenting, sex-educated adults would be able to legally provide their services. All in all, our country would benefit from a companion system like the one in Firefly.