The Youngest Workers in the Oldest Profession:
Libertarians — By Joe Carter on June 3, 2004 at 4:09 pm
Is Teen Prostitution a “Victimless Crime“?
Authorities in Brockton, MA are probing an alleged junior high prostitution racket run by a 13-year-old girl. The accused teen is even suspected of pressuring her mentally impaired friend into turning tricks for as little as $5. According to sources quoted in the Boston Herald, the trysts had been going on for weeks and involve as many as 20 boys from the local junior high and high school. The case came to the attention of the authorities when two girls told school officials they were solicited by the accused junior high madame to join the upstart sex ring. A third girl also came forward later to corroborate the claim.
Many people will read this story and assume it is further evidence that the our sex-soaked culture is trickling down and infecting our youth. While there is a great deal of merit in that view, I think that we shouldn’t read too much into this one incident. Teen prostitution has been around as long as their have been teens and prostitutes. That is to say, for as long as mankind has been on the earth.
The only reason I mention the story is that it provides a prime opportunity to explore the differences between libertarian and conservative political philosophies. The two are so often lumped together that we often need remind ourselves just how distinct, and often incompatible, the ideologies truly are. By focusing on this nexus of teen sex and prostitution, I think we have a clear dividing line to help sharpen our focus.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found any libertarians who have commented on the story, so Ive decided to construct their side of the argument myself using previous commentary on the relevant topics. Naturally, there’s a danger in assuming what others would say and I want to avoid, as far as possible, constructing a straw man argument. In order to do that, I’ve decided to base my claims on previous remarks made by Will Baude of Cresent Sententia. Though I don’t know Mr. Baude all that well, we’ve discussed issues of sex before when he brought up the advantages of pre-sexual marriage. Since he’s unfailing polite, a rigorous thinker, and takes unflinchingly libertarian positions, I think he’ll make a quite adequate choice for a resource. (Naturally, I could just ask him what he thinks. But what would the fun be in that?)
Baude has three distinct positions that I think are relevant to the issue. The first is his view of sex, in which he advocates that, in his words, “consensual-sex-is-always-fine.” The second is his view of prostitution. Like most libertarians he considers it a “victim-less” crime and should not be illegal. Baude takes it a step further, however, by stating that he is “pro-vice” and that a certain amount of vice is beneficial. The final relevant position is the issue of consent. Baude and Sara Butler from Diotima have been discussing the topic of child consent in the context of the Little Miss Hooters incident. His primary argument on that issue is that parents can’t give consent for sexual acts and that the LMH contest bordered on such an act. But he does think that the degree of consent that a child is able to give shifts with age (“…it’s absolutely nuts to give parents the same control over a 3 year old as a 10 year old as a 17 year old.).
Rather than belabor the point, I will simply assume the following:
From this I presume that Baude would agree that a 13 year old madam turning tricks for money to buy Britney Spears CDs would be acceptable under the tenets of libertarian philosophy. Like all adult prostitution, it would essentially be a “victimless crime.” Upon hearing this claim they typical conservative would — after being revived with smelling salts — vehemently disagree. But before I build the conservative case against teen prostitution, I will pause and allow the libertarians (including Baude, who I am essentially blind-siding with this post) a chance to comment on the libertarian argument I have built.
(Hat tip: World for the link to the story and to Diotoma for the links to Baude’s recent posts.)