A very thorough article, Meredith. I’ve been an advocate of total decriminalization of all forms of sex-work for decades now. One fact that I initially thought was odd, but then later understood in the context of evolutionary psychology, is how it’s very often women who are most ardently opposed to decriminalization. This is explicable when we realize that women are in competition with other women (albeit usually unconsciously) just as men are in competition with other men. Sex workers represent a threat to a comfortable middle-class woman’s call on her husband’s assets (and yes, I know this is a stereotype but we’re hardwired for certain behaviors and our instincts haven’t in any way caught up with modern circumstances) and so naturally she’s going to do whatever it takes to defend her favorable position. Decrying prostitution helps reduce the competition.
I don’t think there’s much we can do about hardwired behavior; there are reasons less successful males likewise want to keep sex workers in a vulnerable and inferior position (far easier to exploit them at lower over all cost). New Zealand offers one hopeful path forward but it’s difficult to be optimistic about other nations heading in that direction, especially as we’re now falling into a period of mindless populism during which rational and progressive policies will stand even less chance of surfacing than usual.
But, keep on fighting!