The Superbowl will come to Arizona in February 2015, but decriminalized brothels will most likely not. At least, that is what politicians across Arizona are saying after brothel expert, Dennis Hof owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, proposed the idea of setting up a brothel in Arizona before the Super Bowl.
Hof’s a businessman, who is an interested party to be sure, motivated in part by money. But there is some altruism to what he is proposing.
Opening up brothels would allow Arizona to regulate the business in several aspects. The state could require condoms usage and STD tests in brothels that would arguably lower the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. The state would know who voluntarily entered into an agreement for sex for money, and who did not, a step toward rooting out human sex trafficking in Arizona. The state would be able to regulate that all sex workers are of age, and better prohibit minors from participating. Registered sex workers would not fear going to the police if they are physically assaulted, raped, or stiffed (these are real secondary effects of illegal prostitution that often go unreported).
In this article I will look at what it would take to fulfill Hof’s idea of opening up a legal brothels in Arizona. I have analyzed what constitutes a brothel in Arizona in a previous post.
Prostitution in Arizona
I probably have to state the obvious: prostitution occurs in Arizona even though it is currently illegal. Yep. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but prostitution still occurs despite it’s illegality.
- A two day sting in Tempe netted 16 arrests for prostitution and crimes related to sex trafficking in July 2014. AzCentral
- A Glendale police officer was arrested in a prostitution sting in June 2014. AzCentral
- A sweep of Arizona’s truck stops led to the recovery of five children and 52 adults, all of whom were victims of commercial sex trafficking, June 2014. AzCentral
- Mesa Police arrested four men in an undercover child prostitution sting. AzCentral
- Police alleged a gentleman’s club in west Phoenix was a front for prostitution, May 2014. MyFoxPhoenix
- Six men were arrested in a Tempe underage prostitution sting, April 2014. MyFoxPhoenix
- Tempe police posing as 15 and 16 year-old girls arrested 30 people in a prostitution sting, April 2014. AzFamily
Okay, these were the stories in the news that are recent, and I could quickly find. All of these stories were reported within the last couple of months, so I think it is fair to say that prostitution, especially child prostitution is still a large problem in Arizona.
The Super Bowl will most likely make human smuggling, and child prostitution worse, exponentially worse. According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.
Arizona has prostitution industry whether it is legal or illegal.
Human trafficking v. Prostitution
“Human trafficking is a modern-day manifestation of the slave trade,” said then U.S. Attorney, Daniel G. Knauss in a report on human trafficking in the greater phoenix area published in 2007.
First, human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling. Human trafficking is an offense against a person and does not require the crossing of international borders. Human smuggling is transporting individuals across the United States border to enter the country illegally.
Human sex trafficking is simply the act of forcibly moving an individual to a location for the purpose for involuntary sexual acts. An example of human trafficking could be, a person from Nebraska may be forcibly transported to Arizona for the Super Bowl to perform sex work. Human trafficking can occur completely within the borders of the United States. However, individuals can be smuggled into the United States and then be trafficked.
Second, for the purposes of the discussion in this blog post, prostitution is the performance of sexual acts for money between consenting adults. It is really important to note when I say prostitution I am talking about a voluntary act between two adults who knowingly and voluntarily agree to have sex for money. Minors cannot consent to have sex for money — it is that simple. Any sort of force or coercion used to gain the consent of an individual to have sexy for money also is not prostitution.
Historical fact: when Arizona entered statehood in 1912 one of the original laws on its books prohibited human trafficking for sex work. Unfortunately, it is still a problem in Arizona today, more than 100 years later.
Options to Decriminalize Prostitution/Brothels in Arizona
The first and easiest way to decriminalize prostitution/brothels, would be to legislatively modify or repeal all laws criminalizing prostitution. Instead of going through the legislature, if Hof or some other well-funded person or organization mobilized a movement they could potentially pass a citizen referendum. That is what happened with the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.
Either way, here is a start of the laws that would need work:
Many of the statutes in Chapter 32 Prostitution, of Title 13 of the Arizona Criminal Code would have to be repealed, including but not limited to:
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3203 – Procuring or placing persons in a house of prostitution.
- This would have to be narrowed to include only those who are forcibly placed in a house of prostitution.
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3204 – Receiving earnings of a prostitute.
- This would have to be repealed entirely. Prostitute’s earnings would not only be legal, but perhaps even taxable.
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3208 – Keeping or residing in house of prostitution; employment in prostitution.
- The repeal of this statute would decriminalize brothels.
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3209 – Pandering; methods; classification
- This would have to be repealed entirely to allow for prostitution and brothels.
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3211 – Definitions
- Would have to repeal the following definitions: prostitution, prostitution enterprise, and probably sadomasochistic abuse, just to be on the safe side.
- Sadomasochistic abuse – “means flagellation or torture by or on a person who is nude or clad in undergarments or in revealing or bizarre costume or the condition of being fettered, bound or otherwise physically restrained on the part of one so clothed.”
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3214 – Prostitution; classification
- Would have to repeal most of the statute. Some of it deals with sex trafficking which could remain in tact.
Also the definition of racketeering would need to be changed.
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3214(D)(4)(b)(xxi),(xxiii) – includes both obscenity and prostitution as offenses chargeable under racketeering.
- The racketeering statute could remain in tact. The subsections XXI relating to obscenity and XXIII relating to prostitution could easily be removed and the rest of the statute would be able to continue to function as normal.
In addition to repealing and modifying the laws, new laws should be enacted to regulate and tax the industry. This isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Some of the framework is already in place. The city of Phoenix already licenses escort businesses. An escort is defined by the city as:
Any person who for monetary consideration in the form of a fee, commission or salary, is held out to the public as available for hire to consort with or to accompany another or others to social affairs, places of amusement or entertainment, within any place of public resort, or within any private quarters. It shall be unlawful for any person to work or perform services as a sexually oriented escort.
— Phoenix Mun. Code § 10-87(E).
The second option would be to challenge the laws judicially. This would be an enormous uphill battle, but perhaps there is some hope. In a future post, I will look at what it would take to challenge the Arizona prostitution and brothel laws through the state courts.