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Why Technology is Not Empowering Prostitutes

Last spring, a start-up company in Germany announced a new app that promises to simplify a growing aspect of urban German life: legalized prostitution.


The app operates on the same principles as those that recommend restaurants or help you find live music: you tell it what you’re in the mood for and it uses your smartphone’s location services to tell you what’s available nearby.


The app was one of the examples cited in the August 9 cover story of The Economist about “how technology is transforming the world’s oldest profession.”


The Economist waxes enthusiastic over the ways that “specialist websites and apps are allowing information to flow between buyer and seller, making it easier to strike mutually satisfactory deals.”


Now, “prostitutes can warn each other about violent clients, and do background and health checks before taking a booking,” and customers can “proceed with confidence.”


Well, if that makes hiring a prostitute a lot like hiring a plumber, that’s exactly how The Economist sees it. Its analysis of what it calls the “wealth of data available online” leads it to conclude that most prostitution is “surprisingly similar to other service industries.”


While there was a lot of talk about prices, there was scant mention of exploitation, sexual trafficking, and the other dangers faced by women who prostitute themselves.


A similar blind eye was employed in an accompanying editorial that called on governments to stop trying to ban prostitution. The magazine actually said that pimps will be less likely to be abusive if prostitutes have “an alternative route to market.”


Similarly, the publication denounced the idea of “all prostitutes as victims forced into the trade,” as if the fact that some viewed themselves as service providers cancelled the misery and exploitation of the rest.


And there’s plenty of misery and exploitation to go around. Last year, the German magazine Der Spiegel ran an expose of conditions among prostitutes a decade after Germany legalized the practice.


As the report tells us, expectations that legalization would make life better for sex workers has not panned out. An estimated 65-80 percent of them are poor women from Eastern Europe who are regularly beaten, cheated, and exploited.


Der Spiegel calls the rosy scenario of the “empowered” prostitute a “web of lies.” It tells readers that “many police officers, women's organizations and politicians familiar with prostitution are convinced that the well-meaning law … makes the market more attractive to human traffickers.”


The kind of disconnect from reality on display in The Economist is to be expected when you apply the same economic calculus that governs the buying and selling of cars to the buying and selling of human beings.


It comes down to a question of worldview. Are human beings merely a happy but random collection of atoms and cells? An accidental “product” of the cosmos and evolution? If so, then fine. Find better ways to bring sex workers to market, or end the lives of the infirm who are costing society too much money. And then go ahead and genetically modify embryos to create the perfect baby.


But we know better. As Scripture tells us, human beings are sacred, made in the image of God, designed for fellowship with the Almighty. And instead of legalizing activities that destroy the dignity of human beings, we work instead to promote the redemption, health, and well-being of every person: young or old, in utero or in prison, and even those walking the streets.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: August 27, 2014

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