Stripping Down Proposition K – Why San Francisco Should Decriminalize Prostitution

Published October 30, 2008 @ 10:41AM PST

Editor’s note: I’d like to welcome Karly Kirchner as a guest blogger. She has worked for eight years in San Francisco’s sex industry, and argues below in favor of passing Proposition K, a ballot measure up for vote on Nov. 4 that would decriminalize prostitution in the city. Tomorrow, I’ll post some views from the other side of the debate.


Supporting Prop K does not mean that you advocate prostitution. Prop K is about supporting the rights and health of all San Francisco residents, including prostitutes. Prop K asks San Franciscans to look past their socially-conditioned attitudes about prostitution to the human lives that are impacted by prohibition.

Prop K decriminalizes the act of exchanging sex for money.  Prop K does not hinder the ability of law enforcement to investigate any crime that is related to trafficking, child abuse or sexual assault.

Decriminalization does not mean that there are no regulations.  For example, a carpenter is not ‘legalized’ but simply is not a criminal. There are plenty of regulations in place that protect the carpenter as a worker, the community in which the carpenter is working (such as materials, zoning, noise, etc) and a carpenter can apprentice, be trained or join a union. Under decriminalization, sex workers would have similar rights, but also have civil, labor and social guidelines to follow.

Prop K will reduce violence. Predators target sex workers because they believe that nobody cares about this criminal class of women. Both legal and social alienation of sex workers makes them easy targets for those who wish to do harm.  More often than not, violence is committed against sex workers by those who do not want to pay them and/or those who want to take money away from them, including law enforcement officers. Prop K allows for safer communication between workers and safe clients, minimizing exposure to danger.

San Francisco spends over $11 million a year to arrest adults who are exchanging money for sex. This money would be better spent assisting women and families with housing, health care and education, reducing the need to do prostitution to make ends meet.  After arrest women are forced into shame-based diversion programs and fined. This does nothing to eliminate the need to do prostitution for money, it actually increases need and reduces a worker’s ability to stay safe. By passing Prop K San Francisco will actually reduce the amount of people working in prostitution.

San Franciscans do not have to fear an influx of prostitutes working in the city, the market will not sustain it. I speak from personal experience. San Francisco is not a top city to travel to. Because living expenses are so high in the Bay Area and few jobs are available that actually pay the full amount of one’s rent, many people are moonlighting as prostitutes, causing market saturation.

Prop K will not defund social service projects. Proponents of Prop K support keeping services open and available to sex workers. Prop K opposes forcing sex workers into these programs. The current policies make it more difficult for women to find adequate work and housing by giving them a criminal record. This creates a cyclical problem that puts women in the hands of a criminal justice system that breaks down families and prays on the poor by fining, incarcerating and tracking a disproportionate number of people of color, especially women. If prop K passes, social service groups can be more efficient at addressing core issues for people in sex work.

Laws exist that outlaw sex with minors, forced or coerced sex of any kind and labor abuses. These laws would remain intact, giving SFPD all the power necessary to investigate and take appropriate action against violent criminals. Prop K makes it safer for workers and their clients to expose and testify against traffickers and abusers without fear of being targeted as criminals themselves. Prop K is a move in the right direction for San Francisco.

Karly is a feminist and sex worker living in San Francisco. She’s been in the sex industry for over 8 years working as a dancer, model, escort and Dominatrix.



  1. […] Prop K didn’t Proposition K an important step for workers rights Stripping Down Proposition K – Why San Francisco Should Decriminalize Prostitution […]

  2. […] Prop K didn’t Proposition K an important step for workers rights Stripping Down Proposition K – Why San Francisco Should Decriminalize Prostitution […]

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