Sex is the gateway to life. – Frank Harris
It’s easy to tell when a lawhead can see no valid reason for a law restricting some consensual activity: he declares that it tends to lead to some other activity which is unambiguously bad. For those who haven’t encountered the word in my writings before, “lawhead” is my term for those strange (but alas, all too common) individuals who believe that legal declarations have existence in objective fact; to a lawhead someone 17 years and 364 days old is a bona fide child, just as much as a toddler is, because the law declares it so. And if a law declares something wrong it MUST be wrong for some reason, even if the lawhead cannot himself discern that reason. For example, lawheads counter scientific and anecdotal evidence that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol by declaring it a “gateway drug” which inevitably leads to more serious, harmful drugs like heroin. The lawhead cannot accept that marijuana prohibition could possibly be wrong, so he must invent a lie to justify that prohibition: “It may be that marijuana is harmless,” he thinks, “but since it leads to things that aren’t the State is justified in banning it.”
The “gateway” argument is also commonly used to justify the prohibition of prostitution, as in this February 23rd article from WMC-TV in Southaven, Mississippi (thanks, Joyce!):
An undercover prostitution sting operation in Southaven, Mississippi busted five suspected prostitutes and six men. Police Chief Tom Long hopes to send the message that Southaven will not tolerate prostitution. “We are going to make these arrests,” said Long. “We’re not going to write them a citation and cut them loose. We’re going to arrest them, book them, and process them and put them through our court.”
Over the weekend undercover police officers used classified ads posted on backpage.com to invite suspected prostitutes and customers into Southaven…Long said the prostitution sting is an effort to scare the illegal activity out of Southaven. “We have no street walking [sic] section,” said Long. “We don’t have people walking up and down the streets and its [sic] never been a problem for us.”
And Long hopes to keep it that way. “Anywhere you have prostitution you have drugs, you have theft, you have other crimes constantly being committed,” said Long. A proactive approach, according to the chief, keeps the trouble elsewhere…
It should be obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that this is a bogus argument; how could escorts coming into town for one hour and then leaving again somehow magically lead to drug dealing and theft? Perhaps he believes that those invisible “sex rays” which destroy the “innocence” of children have a similar effect on adults? Is Chief Long trying to convince people that the “sex rays” from a hooker’s body radiate out through the windows of her car, causing moral degeneracy in everyone they strike? Or maybe he believes that we “traffick” in drug dealers and thieves and then leave them behind when we go like irresponsible urbanites abandoning unwanted dogs in rural areas? And then there’s the obvious contradiction inherent in his talk about streetwalkers even though his sting was directed toward escorts, and the fact that if he actually believes any of the filth he’s spouting then he is guilty of inviting crime into Southaven himself by luring hookers from outside to enter the city!
However, I don’t believe for one second that Chief Long, or the majority of the thousands of other cops who mouth this same nonsense all over the United States on a daily basis, actually believe a word of it deep down. Those promoting these ridiculous arguments are either lawheads themselves or they’re trying to justify their tyranny to lawheads. Because it’s pretty obvious to sensible people (i.e. those whose brains haven’t rotted from long immersion in fundamentalism or neofeminism) that prostitution is a victimless crime, a justification is needed for the laws prohibiting it or the lawhead’s entire world view is in jeopardy; so, otherwise-harmless prostitution is painted as the “gateway” to theft and other real crimes, thus inventing a reason for prohibiting it and circumventing the obvious fact that such laws are an egregious violation of women’s rights.
The “prostitution attracts crime” myth is a pretty old one; nowadays it’s largely been replaced outside of the minds of small-town cops by the “all prostitution is coerced” mythology and by fanciful claims that our private activities somehow magically “demean” all other women even if they don’t know we exist. But in the final analysis, those aren’t very different from it, are they? Both of those beliefs (and others like them) really proceed from the same need to recast the innocuous as harmful, not for itself but for its fancied consequences.