Guest post: How the Nordic model protects the prostitute

Originally a comment by Freemage on Stop the woman who is speaking.


August 1, 2018 at 12:56 am


As you explain the Nordic Model, my understanding of it, goes a bit as follows. The prostitute is allowed to accept money, and is allowed to let that influence her in being seduced by the person who tries to win her favors. However there isn’t any contract (not even a verbal one) involved, so he can’t buy her favors. She is never under any kind of legal obligation to perform any sexual service.

Also the handing over money to the prostitute is not illegal. It just doesn’t buy anything. (except maybe some good will)

Is this more or less correct?

Not quite. Under the Nordic model, classic prostitution still occurs. Clients (virtually all men) still give prostitutes (the vast majority of them women) money in exchange for sex. However, under the Nordic model, the prostitute has committed no crime–the procurer, and the pimp, if any, have. Now, as a practical matter, the prostitute usually makes no waves–the economic need to satisfy the customer still exists, as she most typically wishes to retain his custom in the future. But, if some cause arises that she does not wish to perform, then he has no legal claim against her, and indeed, cannot pursue her legally, since the initial transaction was not a legally binding contract. Furthermore, if he attempts to use force or other illegal means of coercion against her, she can go to the cops, say plainly what has occurred, and get the man arrested. She also has the right of self-defense.

Compare this to the effects of such a change of course under either prohibition or decriminalization:

Prohibition: While the man is just as confined in his response to her refusal (she cannot be taken to court for the money), he can escalate the encounter with threats of violence, without fear that she will alert the authorities, because to do so, she must first admit her own crime. Furthermore, since he is likely to be a first-time offender, while many prostitutes are arrested multiple times, it may very well be that she is sentenced under repeat-offender statutes, and end up facing a higher penalty than her attacker.

Decriminalization: Here, the prostitute is arguably unrestricted from seeking relief from the police if her attacker turns violent–but the customer’s ability to bring the force of the legal system against her is enshrined in standard contract law. In short, he can force her into court under suit for fraud, breach of contract, etc. In some cases, he might even be able to justify use-of-force in attempting to regain his money, on the grounds that the breach of contract is tantamount to theft. (As a point of reference, de facto decriminalization is the norm in many American cities–the cops only use laws against prostitution in cases where they are looking for an excuse to bust someone. In at least one case, the scenario I describe above led to the acquittal of the man who shot the escort in the back as she left with his money, because it was considered ‘robbery’, and thus self-defense. Weirdly, the defense centered around the fact that the incident occurred at night–under Texas law, that meant that her attempt to leave with his money constituted robbery, a crime that is considered justification of lethal force.)

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