Last week we had an, um, robust discussion here (“Hookers For The Handicapped”) about whether or not it was, or ought to be, morally licit to provide prostitutes for the disabled. Everything turned on whether or not sexual pleasure was a right, and whether or not it was moral to pay for, or to sell, sexual services.

That debate came to mind just now when, via David Frum, I read a Spectator report on how the famously permissive Dutch have been mugged by reality with regard to legalized prostitution. Excerpts:

The Dutch government hoped to play the role of the honourable pimp, taking its share in the proceeds of prostitution through taxation. But only 5 per cent of the women registered for tax, because no one wants to be known as a whore — however legal it may be. Illegality has simply taken a new form, with an increase in trafficking, unlicensed brothels and pimping; with policing completely out of the picture, it was easier to break the laws that remained. To pimp out women from non-EU countries, desperate for a new life, remains illegal. But it’s never been easier.

Legalisation has imposed brothels on areas all over Holland, whether they want them or not. Even if a city or town opposes establishing a brothel, it must allow at least one — not doing so is contrary to the basic federal right to work. To many Dutch, legality and decency have been irreconcilably divorced. It has been a social, legal and economic failure — and the madness, finally, is coming to an end.

The brothel boom is over. A third of Amsterdam’s bordellos have been closed due to the involvement of organised criminals and drug dealers and the increase in trafficking of women. Police now acknowledge that the red-light district has mutated into a global hub for human trafficking and money laundering. The streets have been infiltrated by grooming gangs seeking out young, vulnerable girls and marketing them to men as virgins who will do whatever they are told. Many of those involved in Amsterdam’s regular tourist trade — the museums and canals — fear that their visitors are vanishing along with the city’s reputation.

More:

Legalisation has not been emancipation. It has instead resulted in the appalling, inhuman, degrading treatment of women, because it declares the buying and selling of human flesh acceptable.

We will always, in some form or fashion, have prostitution with us. But it must never be acceptable, because to do so invites a deeper corruption. There’s a reason they call it vice, people. And if sex-for-sale leads to this kind of public sewer, maybe we should consider that there’s more to sex and sexuality than the satisfaction of desire.