Decriminalizing prostitution

Note: The following link is an op-ed titled “Decriminalizing prostitution” by Patty Kelly, PhD in anthropology at George Washington University. Dr. Kelly’s essay first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 13, 2008. The second item is my emailed response to her. Article URL:,0,6258489.story

March 16, 2008

To: Patty Kelly, PhD

Re: Decriminalizing prostitution

In today’s (Mobile, AL) Press-Register appeared your op-ed on decriminalizing prostitution. While I found your article interesting I believe your premise is totally wrong. Your essay could have easily been written about legalizing the sale of alcohol once more at bars and in grocery stores during the days of Prohibition. Are you not pointing a finger at the role of prostitution in our society and slapping a label on it as the problem? Isn’t illegal prostitution tantamount to calling the bootlegging of alcohol and many speakeasies – the problem?

Do we not live in an insane and unhealthy society? Shouldn’t you recognize that reality before determining whether prostitutes and their johns are a real social issue and not merely another symptom of a sick organism? Isn’t there a total absence of maturity and wisdom in our twenty-something, celebrity-struck culture? We are very childish in our thinking and behavior, but not child-like.

Don’t you have to acknowledge that our society is indeed very dysfunctional? Is this dysfunction, this illness not the root cause to the breakdown of society and prostitution, along with alcoholism and drug addiction, gambling, Internet pornography… are simply more signs of a greater problem?

Are we not just using these symptoms to escape from daily life and not much else? Isn’t the real solution for living life to develop better coping skills including seeking a spiritual solution to the emptiness that aches the human soul? Won’t legalizing prostitution only led to more social decay and not less? Certainly, prostitution cannot be a long-term solution for men and women using this unhealthy crutch for facing life.

I would argue that behaviors like these are not even called living because one has actually suspend life whether their engaged in a lifetime of drinking in the barroom, constantly working out for hours at the gym or trying to fix the life of another person instead of living out one’s own. Prostitution is simply an escape from life. The fact that it currently exists shouldn’t be the grounds to legalizing something so destructive to both parties involved.

I see no healthy signs of self-esteem and self-worth developing in, either, the addicts or their enablers. What is the redeeming value of this activity, legal or otherwise, to an already troubled society? If you personally believe in God, certainly you can’t believe our Heavenly Fatherly would create a human being for the purposes of freely engaging in this unemotional and unspiritual profession – using their bodies in the sacred act of sex.

Ted Burnett

I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: