I’ve said before that we seem to be very picky-and-choosy about the concept of “victimless crimes,” which some people think we should eliminate from the books and merely “regulate.” We have schizophrenia on the matter, which is to be expected. Here’s a case reported in the online New York Law Journal (subscription required) where two favorite varieties of victimless crime — pornographic cinema, protected as free “speech” — and prostitution, unprotected in most states as just two people engaged only in personal “conversation” — have slammed into each other:
A Manhattan judge has enunciated the legal distinction between prostitution and paying someone to participate in sexual activity to make a p0rnographic film.
Prostitution, as traditionally defined, requires person A paying person B for sexual activity to be performed on A, Supreme Court Justice Budd G. Goodman wrote in People v. Paulino, 6687/04.
The decision will be published Thursday.
P0rnography, on the other hand, involves person C paying B for sexual activity performed on A.
“In other words, prostitution is and has always been intuitively defined as a bilateral exchange between a prostitute and client,” Justice Goodman opined.
(No lawyer wisecracks, please. I have enough problems cleaning up my trackbacks!) That’s a heck of a moral distinction, isn’t it?
The issue came up because one of the ladies-who-lunch on the Upper East Side was apparently paying for all those cucumber sandwiches by the labor of a stable of bilateral fee-collectors. Her lawyer opined differently, not surprisingly, and made this rather cogent point after the decision, denying his motion to dismiss for “selective prosecution” (always a loser anyway) came down:
“Certainly p0rnography [promotes prostitution] in that people are paid to have sex and not only paid to have sex between them, but then it’s shown to millions of people for phenomenal profits,” he said. “It’s ludicrous to simply pick out someone who’s simply running an escort service, to introduce person A to person B, for whatever purpose. This is a victimless crime that shouldn’t be subject to the whim of a prosecutor.”
He’s half right, I’d say.
UPDATE: Others, more than half wrong.