Cops in Hawaii Are Allowed to Have Sex with Prostitutes Before Busting Them. Which Is Crazy.

What Women Really Think
March 21 2014 11:16 AM

Hawaii Debates Whether to Let Cops Have Sex With Prostitutes in Order to Bust Them

132193633-honolulu-police-guard-road-closures-around-the
Cops in Hawaii would like to retain the right to have sex with prostitutes, if you don't mind.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Right now, it's legal in Hawaii for an undercover police officer to pretend to be a john, have sex with a prostitute, and then arrest her after the fact. Some legislators in Hawaii are not too happy about this and, in a new bill aimed at cracking down on prostitution, have attempted to get rid of the provision that allowed for it. But police leadership in the state is fighting back. The Associated Press reports

Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it's unnecessary and could further victimize sex workers, many of whom have been forced into the trade.
Police haven't said how often — or even if — they use the provision. And when they asked legislators to preserve it, they made assurances that internal policies and procedures are in place to prevent officers from taking advantage of it.
Advertisement

In other words, they are asking legislators to preserve their ability to have sex with prostitutes because, hey, they do it responsibly. But the police department can't give too many details because "if prostitution suspects, pimps and other people are privy to that information, they're going to know exactly how far the undercover officer can and cannot go," Honolulu Police Maj. Jerry Inouye explained in his House testimony.

Of course, undercover cops sometimes do have to partake in criminal activity. But, as Lauren Hersh, who runs the global trafficking program of the women's advocacy group Equality Now, told the AP: "I can understand you're in a drug den, and you have a gun to your head and someone says 'snort this,' " But, she continues, police officers having sex with prostitutes is "so dissimilar from that circumstance on so many levels."

There's a heated debate in feminist circles about how best to deal with the issue of sex work. Some feminists support sex work and want to decriminalize it, while others see sex workers as victims but want to focus criminal penalties on the pimps and johns who exploit vulnerable women. These two camps fight a lot, but they do tend to agree on one thing: that prostitutes are too often abused by the police. This bill, which increases penalties for johns and pimps while keeping the selling of sex at a misdemeanor level, suggests the influence of the latter group, but all that could be dramatically undermined if the state continues to give police the authority to have sex with prostitutes and then turn around and cuff them.

Unfortunately, the state House has caved to police pressure and passed a new bill that preserves, and I can't believe I'm writing this, the right of cops to have sex with prostitutes without getting in trouble for it. Let's hope that the state Senate balks.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 1:11 PM This Company Wants to Fight World Hunger With Flies 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 1:01 PM Can Activists Save Reyhaneh Jabbari?  
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 1:13 PM The Essence of Gender Roles in Action Movies, in One Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.