Women selling sex are arrested and jailed, but the buyers go free?

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That’s how I interpret what this article is saying when it reports:

… The November raid came after a six-week surveillance of the house on Round Hill Road. The dwelling’s owner, Stephen A. Clark, was arrested Nov. 26 and pleaded no contest to charges of promoting prostitution and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 5 to 23 months in jail….

… Clark’s codefendants – Cara Martin, 32, and Lacy Welsh, 20 – also have been prosecuted in the case.

Welsh pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution and conspiracy, and is awaiting sentencing. Martin, who has a history of arrests on prostitution and other charges in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution and received an 8-to-23-month jail term.

Sargent paid Martin $170 for 35 minutes of sexual contact between noon and 1 p.m. on Nov. 25, according to the police report. Sargent said he saw an ad on Craigslist, “got curious,” and responded to it, the report said.

Not only was the john (a long time law school dean who is the subject of the article)   not charged, but according to the convicted pimp:

“If you watch the taped interview, the police are almost apologetic with this guy,” Clark said of Sargent. “They told him, ‘You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ and they agreed to contact him at his office, not his home.”

Happily for the john, Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll said that at least in his part of Pennsylvania, “Customers are not charged or identified in prostitution busts.” But the   women selling the sex (who probably had to perform degrading sex acts Sargent was unable to obtain elsewhere per this study and then turn most of the money received in exchange to their pimp) are deemed by law enforcement to deserve jail time and public shaming.   It would be nice to see these folks praying for them too. Chances are the referenced women   have had pretty difficult, unprivileged lives so far [“According to our estimates, a woman working as a prostitute would expect an annual average of a dozen incidents of violence and 300 instances of unprotected sex,” see also “High rates of drug abuse and the exchange of sex for drugs has been widely documented.   In turn, it has been found that this relationship between drug use and sex work plays a critical role in women’s subjection to physical violence and arrest,”] and their unfortunate contacts with Sargent have only brought them additional trouble. Sargent may have been   humiliated, but they are going to jail.

Wondering why police like to have the power to arrest women for selling sex?   Could it be so that they can extort sex from them? This study reports:

… But perhaps more striking is the rate at which a police officer can extort free sex from a prostitute. Levitt and Venkatesh found that about one in 30 tricks performed by a prostitute is a freebie to the police in return for avoiding arrest. In other words, a prostitute is more likely to have sex with an on-duty police officer than to be arrested by one.

If the police wanted to have coerced sex with the johns, maybe the pertinent laws and/or enforcement practices   would change, but apparently the police and district attorney like the system just as it is.


–Ann Bartow

This entry was posted in Academia, Coerced Sex, Feminism and Law, Justice?, Law Schools. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Women selling sex are arrested and jailed, but the buyers go free?

  1. Pingback: Don’t snitch, especially on your victims. | People v. State

  2. Thanks for bringing this to light. It does seem quite illogical to go after the woman and not the men who paid.

  3. Pingback: Bloggerheads » How to Stop Indoor Prostitution? Ask a Law School Dean

  4. Stephen P says:

    The study referred to is a study of STREET sex workers in Chicago, not the INDOOR industry in Pennsylvania, which was the locale of the Stephen Clarke case. I’m in the UK, and I know not the differences between Chicago and Chester (though I suspect they’re profound). I do know enough, however, to be aware that only a small minority (variously estimated at between 8 percent and 20 percent) of prostitutes are street sex workers in developed countries.

    High levels of drug addiction and of violence are primarily associated with street sex work. Studies here indicate that much of the violence comes from persons other than clients, such as strangers, family members, pimps, and the state. Strangers frequently present as clients.

    Studies also indicate that, whilst a much lower incidence of violence takes place in brothels, that which does occur is generally much less reported, due to brothel law.

    Who dials the cops?

  5. Ann Bartow says:

    If you read the study you will see that the definition of street prostitution was very broad, and the data analyzed by the study authors was “newly available incident level data from the Chicago Police Department which includes details of every prostitution-related arrest in the city over the period August 19, 2005 to May 1, 2007.” Street prostitution doesn’t mean the sex acts took place in the street.

    Additionally, there are two studies linked above, one in which prostitution in Chicago was studied, the other a study of prostitution in NYC. To see that one click on the words “High rate of drug abuse… ” or go here: http://www.sociology.columbia.edu/pdf-files/murphyvenkarticle.pdf
    As you can see from the abstract, indoor prostitution was the subject of that study.

    I have no idea what the “Stephen Clarke” case is that you reference. The john in the post referenced above is Mark A. Sargent, the former dean of Villanova Law School. Nor do I have any idea what you mean when you say “brothel law.”

    You make references to “studies” completely without links or any identifying information. There is therefore no reason to accord any weight to your words on this subject.

  6. Stephen P says:

    Stephen Clark (sorry, no ‘e’) appears in the first para of the story.

    Brothel law is the law relating to brothels.

    For comparative studies of indoor and street sex work (in the UK), try here:


  7. Ann Bartow says:

    Okay, Clark is the pimp.

    “Brothel law” has no consistent meaning in the U.S. and no legal meaning in Pennsylvania as far as I can tell. See: http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2003/10/10-07-03tdc/10-07-03dnews-01.asp
    See also http://cornellsun.com/node/29771
    and this account at Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/college/halls/brothel.asp

    Thanks for the links to the studies, though I do not think they refute the assertion that prostitutes suffer from violence and drug addictions at high rates, even if they work “indoors.”

  8. maggie says:

    Twas ever thus! Long have I railed against the criminalisation of women trying to earn a living while the recipients of the service go free!

    What is going on here? Why have middle class feminists not supported the women subjected to this discriminatory and hypocritical practice?

    The situation is more complex than seeing women in the sex industry as victims. Obviously they do not like to see themselves this way. But the history of the regulation of prostitution internationally has seen an entrenchment of male domination . While here in OZ the women have also been sent inside, and are arguably safer from assault by clients, they earn less and are more dependant on ( usually male) businessmen who own the brothels.

  9. Ann Bartow says:

    Middle class feminists do support women victimized by prostitution, I assure you. It’s the people, mostly men, in control of the criminal justice systems who create and perpetuate the problems.

  10. Stephen P says:

    Over here there is much evidence of high and increasing addiction to heroin and crack among street sex workers. Off-street, use of drugs is much lower and such use as there is tends to be of less addictive, less dangerous drugs.

    This increasing percentage among street sex workers (now showing approaching 90 percent in some inner cities) may well be accounted for in whole of in part by an emigration of non-addicted street workers to the net.

    The three cities study – the first link I sent – shows differing levels of client violence to sex workers indoors and outdoors. Bare in mind, firstly, that ‘client’ is defined here as someone who presents as a client. not necessarily someone who actually does, or intends to do, business.

    On top of client violence, street sex workers are also frequently subjected to violence from strangers, their families, pimps and the state. In the UK, street sex workers’ children are frequently removed by social services departments, for example.

    The UK expert on violence to sex workers is Hilary Kinnell. Here’s a piece she wrote a year back for the Guardian following the conviction of Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright:

    Sorry, Ann, for my somewhat abrupt initial response to your post, but those of us trying to fight for sex workers’ rights constantly battle with figures taken out of context.

    Coming back to your post, certainly the concensus among US sexworkers on the international list I belong to is that the criminal justice system in the states enforces laws more on the sex workers than on their clients.

    Firstly this is inequitable, but there again it may be pragmatic. I don’t know the US figure, but in the UK approximately a tenth of the adult male popilation is believed to have availed themselves of the services of a prostitute at one time or another.

    Those suffering form the delusion that they can “eradicate” prostitution, if trying to deal with clients, can find themselves like those sitting in their gardens on a hot day trying to keep the wasps off the jam by setting out to eliminate the world’s wasp population.

    In the end, the most equitable thing would be to prosecute neither the sex worker nor the client, in which case you could work to reduce violence, reduce STI risks, gain tax income, redeploy the opportunity cost in terms of the criminal justice system, and minimise trafficking by creating a more transparent society.

    Fairly good discussion of this here:

    And as lawyers, I’m sure you’ll find this US site interesting on the ups and downs of policing street prostitution in the USA over to the Center for Problem Oriented Policing (interestingly, they only dismiss decriminalisation on the grounds of political feasibility):

  11. Ann Bartow says:

    We agree that selling sex should be decriminalized. We probably agree on little else, except possibly that people who want to exit prostitution should be given the help they need to do so.

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