Why Some Jobs Are Illegal

May 15th, 2018 Barry Posted in Labor rights & Unions | No Comments »


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Sex work is, for me, in the same category as smoking pot or (until recently) not legally recognizing same-sex marriages, a category I’d describe as “there’s just no logical reason this should be illegal.”

This cartoon focuses on how little sense the arguments against legalization make. But the most important line, for me, is in panel 2: “Wouldn’t that make things worse for maids?” It seems clear that 1) no law will ever succeed in wiping out sex work, and 2) laws making sex work illegal inevitably hurt the sex workers themselves.

When the government outlaws something, it’s going to lead to people being hurt.

And sometimes it’s worth it. Lowering the speed limit to 20mph in a residential zone will harm some people. Some people will be made late, some people will have to pay speeding tickets, etc. But in exchange for that, we get a big gain – pedestrians hit by cars will have a much higher chance of surviving. The gain, in this case, seems worth the loss.

But outlawing selling sex makes it much more likely that sex workers will be assaulted, hurt, even killed, and makes it much harder for them to go to police for help. And the more marginalized a sex worker is (for instance, because of race, or because of being trans) the more endangered they are. This doesn’t seem to be a case where the gains justify the losses.

Artwise, this strip looks good to me, although I wish I had inked with bigger, meatier lines – the lines in this one look a bit too thin and controlled to my eyes. But that’s the sort of thing I notice a lot more than readers do, I think.

There are a bunch of things I think came out well. The clothing is better than usual for me this strip. The hardest thing to draw here was the maid’s cart, but I think it came out well (by which I mean, I think readers will immediately recognize what it is without having to think about it). And I think some of the body language looks good (especially the woman in the plaid shirt in panels 3 and 4).


Transcript of cartoon

Panel 1
In the foreground, a young woman with her head shaved on the sides and sunglasses is walking three dogs. In the background, standing on a grassy hillside, two women, one in a polo shirt, the other in a plaid shirt, are talking.
POLO: No one could want to be a dog-walker. It shouldn’t be legal.
PLAID: Some people like it.

Panel 2
In a hotel hallway, in the foreground, a maid pushes a cleaning cart. In the background, the same two women are talking.
POLO: Many maids are exploited or even trafficked. We should outlaw being a maid!
PLAID: Wouldn’t that make things worse for maids?

Panel 3
A hilly park again. In the foreground, a man with a knit cap and one of those orange “I work for the city” vests is picking up trash off the ground with a trash-picking stick. In the background, the same two women talk; Polo looks disgusted, and Plaid is facepalming.
POLO: Picking up trash for a living is gross. It shouldn’t be allowed.
PLAID: You’re being ridiculous.

Panel 4
In the final panel, we see only Polo and Plaid, talking to each other. Polo has a forefinger pointing up, making a point, and Plaid responds fervantly, leaning forward and smacking her fist into the palm of her other hand.
POLO: And for the exact same reasons, we should outlaw prostitution!
PLAID: YES!