Journal of Law and Policy


Carley Cooke


In recent years, New York has re-focused on the widely debated topic of how to best manage and regulate prostitution in the United States. As a state-level issue, the debate presents an invaluable opportunity to re-examine how New York as a society views sex work. The answer in New York focuses on the idea that sex work is real work, where workers should be able to carry out their profession without stigma or fear of arrest. As it stands, the proposed reform largely focuses on decriminalizing both the purchase and sale of sex. This approach contrasts with the legal structure in Sweden, which criminalizes only the purchase or the patronizing of prostitution. The New York proposal still criminalizes patronizing prostitution from a minor but offers a mistake-of-age defense thereto. New York should close this loophole with an eye toward the Swedish model and refocus on strictly enforcing the statute against patrons. Such a solution represents a compromise between legitimizing sex work as a legal avenue toward a livelihood, while simultaneously targeting those who most threaten the safety of sex workers outside of law enforcement: male patrons soliciting sex from vulnerable minors.