Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bad Law! Bad!

There are some stupid laws out there. Most of them are of the "it's illegal to carry an open umbrella in Hot Springs" or "it's illegal to have sex with your socks on in Virginia" variety - ridiculous, but generally harmless. After all, who's going to enforce those laws?

Then there are laws like this. Apparently in DC, New York, and San Francisco, if you're a woman and you're carrying three or more condoms, you'll be thrown in jail for prostitution.

Now forget whether or not you think prostitution should be illegal. Most people do, and that's fine. Even so, the stupidity involved here is all but impossible to fathom. Do they think that only prostitutes go out thinking they might get laid that night? Three condoms is a pretty good number to have on you, and while one would expect most men to have condoms on them when they go out, it's generally foolish to rely on others for that sort of thing. Most women who carry condoms on them when they go out aren't prostitutes - they're responsible adults.

So what are the effects of this law? One is to hassle sexually active young women and reinforce goofy gender norms - one can't help but note that men can presumably carry an entire case of condoms around and not be arrested for solicitation. The second is to encourage unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs - after all, you're not going to stop people from having sex (paid or unpaid) just by outlawing excessive condom carrying. Third is that the burden of the DC law at least is going to fall mostly on poor women. The DC law can only be enforced within "Prostitution Free Zones," which are delineated by the DC police. The last one was in Near Northeast, which, while gentrifying, is mostly a working-class neighborhood. Any chance one of these gets declared in Georgetown or Cleveland Park? No. So while middle-class and wealthy women can go out responsibly in Georgetown with no fear of police harassment, working-class women in an arbitrarily defined "Prostitution-Free Zone" in a poor neighborhood cannot.

Anyway, it's stupid, and proof that people who make laws often do so out of panic. There's no way this policy was well-thought-out before it was passed.

Update: Apparently New York City, despite their anti-condom law, passes out free official condoms. The foolishness of lawmakers never ceases to amaze.


Mike said...

What about a woman who carries around three diaphragms? Sorry, first question that came to my mind.

Anonymous said...

There's also the woman who just buys a box of condoms (which certainly has more than 3 condoms inside) while groccery shopping and is just going home...