I tend to think that moderate Democrats make the best executives, but one trait they do not have, as a rule, is boldness. A moderate Democrat is not going to be the first person to jump into the pool; they aren’t going to lead any sort of charge or take on a controversial subject until it’s been polled and surveyed and focus-grouped to death first. So I’m not surprised that Janet Mills vetoed LD 1590, which would have partially decriminalized sex work. But I’m still disappointed.

It just doesn’t make sense, arresting people for sex work. If your goal is to end sex work, how does giving someone a criminal record help them? Employers can and will discriminate against hiring someone who has been to jail. And even if charges aren’t filed – well, how many times have you seen a newspaper print the names and mug shots of people arrested in “prostitution rings?” That’s on the internet forever, waiting for a potential employer to do a quick google search. That sort of thing can ruin a person’s chance at a good job. And being unable to find a good job will just lead folks right back to doing sex work, on account of we need money to live.

Eliminating sex work from our society is a hubristic act on the same level as calling the Titanic “unsinkable.” Humans have been trading sexual services for objects of value since the literal beginning of civilization. We have records from ancient Sumer dating from nearly 5,000 years ago that are the first written (well, carved into clay tablets) record of prostitution as an occupation. There’s a reason it’s called “the world’s oldest profession.” We are a horny species that has an intense drive to collect and hoard resources. Add in the struggles of capitalism and these two traits frequently collide with one very obvious outcome.

Gov. Mills talked a lot about trafficking in her veto message. Obviously, human trafficking would still be illegal even if we stopped arresting adults who traded sex for currency. In fact, LD 1590 would have increased penalties for people buying sex work. It’s still currently quite illegal to traffic humans, whether for sex or farm work or housecleaning.

She also said she vetoed it because she was worried that decriminalization would “entice more people” into the “trade.” Oh, please. Working a crappy retail job is enticement enough. I’ve never engaged in sex work but I used to work at Target, where they don’t let cashiers sit down unless they have a doctor’s note, and at around hour 6 of an 8 hour shift on your feet, let me tell you, sex work starts looking a lot more appealing, because at least you can lie down once in awhile.

My personal theory is that, for most of us, work is a series of tasks that take up our time that we do fairly begrudgingly in order to afford the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, video games, medical treatment), and sex is one of the few freely available joyful escapes we humans have left. Sex is sacred, and so dirtying it with the muddy waters of commerce rubs people the wrong way.

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Arresting and punishing people for selling sexual services clearly isn’t working, because the sex trade is still alive and well. So opposition to decriminalization is a moral opposition, and not based in logic. Perhaps it’s based in a desire to punish women for having sex, which is something our society absolutely loves to do. America started out its life as a bunch of Puritan colonies out in the woods and we haven’t moved as far from those roots as we would like to pretend.

But lots of people do jobs that other people consider to be morally wrong. Pharmaceutical executives, fossil fuel executives, time-share salesmen – but we’re all just trying to live our lives and get by. It’s my opinion that if two consenting adults want to participate in a transaction wherein one party gets laid and the other party gets paid, that should be their right as free Americans.

I hope that the Legislature will take up this issue in the future, and I hope the governor at the time, whomever it may be, won’t veto it. Of course, under a Mills administration, we’ll have to wait for another state to try it first.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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