Gee and Ursula debate legalizing prostitution as western states start to consider the idea

Jul 29, 2022, 1:28 PM
(KIRO 7)...
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Last week, Seattle City Council unanimously approved a pair of bills repealing prostitution loitering and drug traffic loitering laws after dozens of sex workers and allies gave testimonies in support.

This follows California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to sign a new state law that stops police from arresting people for loitering for prostitution, sparking a debate throughout the West Coast over future legislation involving persecuting prostitution.

“There were dozens of prostitutes, both sides of the street, walking up and down, cell phones out, practically getting into traffic,” Ursula said on the Gee and Ursula Show. “In fact, one woman slowly sauntered across all the busy lanes of traffic, right in front of me, and Gee, I reached out to you and told you, I can’t believe what I’m seeing right now.”

Study says Seattle’s deadliest street is Aurora Avenue North

Prostitution on Aurora Ave. has become so severe, it became the subject of a documentary, released this year, called “Sweetheart Deal,” where co-directors Elisa Levine and Gabriel Miller follow four sex workers along the infamous road.

The film tells the stories of Tammy, Sara, Kristine, and Amy and their battles with drug addiction, dangerous circumstances, and a man called Laughn Elliot Doescher, the self-described “Mayor of Aurora.”

“If you were to legalize it, you would reduce crime, you’d improve public health, you would increase in opportunity, tax revenue, you will also help people get out of poverty, and you’ll help prostitutes get off the street because now you allow consenting adults to do things,” said Gee in response. “Now, if you want to talk about the angle of human trafficking, I think that is awful. You want to help with human trafficking, make it legal, so then sex workers are able to work with law enforcement and tell them about the people that are doing the bad.”

For more than a decade, Seattle has adopted a partial decriminalization ideology regarding prostitution. While still illegal, the focus is on arresting and prosecuting those purchasing a prostitute’s services and those enforcing the business, a sentiment Ursula agrees with.

“The focus for me should be on the pimps and the Johns,” Ursula said. “There are young, young women and if you say, ‘well they want to and they should have a right to do what they want with their bodies,’ in a lot of cases, they fear being harmed by the men who are selling them for sex.”

“If you legalize sex workers working, there is no need for the pimp. The pimp is there to protect the woman for crimes they cannot report to the police,” Gee said. “So you want to get rid of the pimps, Ursula, make it legal.”

In regards to legalized prostitution leads to reduced crime, studies have shown primarily inconclusive results. In a study published by George Mason University, there is evidence that legalized prostitution reduces crime in more impoverished areas, while the opposite takes effect in wealthier areas.

“You ever heard of Lyon County? Churchill County? How about Esmerelda County? There are 10 counties in the state of Nevada where sex work is legal,” Gee said. “How come we don’t hear about all the crime there? Why is it that 10 counties in the state of Nevada are not in the news all the time when it comes to crime?”

Violent crime has dropped more significantly in Nevada counties with legalized prostitution compared to counties where it is still a crime year over year, according to Nevada Crime Stats.

“I just think the focus needs to be on the women, and I think many of them are likely in danger. What I saw there was just heartbreaking. I can’t describe it any other way,” Ursula said. “It truly looked like a scene out of Hollywood nights. And I actually talked to someone who had worked in this for SPD, and he said the vast majority don’t want to do it. It is like modern-day slavery.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gee and Ursula debate legalizing prostitution as western states start to consider the idea