In Monday’s Washington Post, book reviewer Patrick Anderson offered a positive review of New York magazine writer Robert Kolker’s true-crime story “Lost Girls” about prostitutes that ended up dead and buried in burlap bags along the highway on Long Island.
Anderson, a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign, detailed the dangerous, addictive life the white “sex workers” had lived – one of the victims earned $4,500 a week and spent $3,500 each week on heroin – and then concluded his review by insisting that prostitution should be legalized, but America’s “puritanical, hypocritical society” will not concede:
Kolker details the changes that the Internet has brought to prostitution. Previously, escort services and pimps might have provided at least some protection for the women, although they also tended to wind up with much of the money. With the Internet, women can freelance, dealing directly with customers, but they usually have only a telephone conversation to guide them before they go alone to meet a man who may be drunk or homicidal, or both.
The moral I draw from this richly detailed, terribly sad book is that, since prostitution will never be eliminated, it should be legalized. If people who work as prostitutes were employed by well-regulated brothels, like those that exist in Nevada, they would be far safer, sexual diseases would be minimized and taxes would be paid. But our puritanical, hypocritical society - acting through lawmakers who proclaim "family values" but are not infrequently caught with their pants down - chooses to keep the oldest profession in the shadows, where predatory men kill foolish, often troubled women, often with impunity.