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(Anthony Jenkins / The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail)
(Anthony Jenkins / The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail)

Singer/songwriter Carole Pope on legalizing prostitution Add to ...

Singer/songwriter Carole Pope was co-founder of Rough Trade.

Should prostitution be legalized and regulated?

Yeah. Like in Holland. We will promote safe sex and stop the spread of disease. I’m all for that. Will the government make money?

Well, yes. I’d imagine there would be licensing fees, taxes.

So the government is going to be like a pimp. Sure!

So you support legalized prostitution. On your street?

Ah … you know, I’m sure that’s happened. I was a kid and not paying a lot of rent in Toronto. Prostitution was all over.

I think I was in a building with a prostitute. When I was a teenager, I lived in a rooming house where there were prostitutes across the street. I was so naive. It would be scary. I think the johns would be scary. I’m sure it would upset some people.

Not you?

If it was regulated and the police were watching, I’d be fine with it. I don’t have children. I’m living in the East Village (New York City) where people are lying in the street, picking through garbage. I don’t think it would bother me that much.

That’s your situation. What of solid citizens with mortgages, families and a Montessori school up the street?

I’m sure they’d be much more concerned. But maybe the dad goes to a prostitute. Who knows? I’m for legalization. I want people to have safe sex.

Paid safe sex?

Guys have needs! Don’t ask …

Is the term “sex worker” a valid one, or an over-sanitization of an unsavoury “profession”?

I think it’s a good term. That’s what they are doing. Let’s call them sex workers and regulate that.

Simply workers to be regulated and taxed like any other?

They should be. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works in Holland.

Legalizing prostitution is being viewed as liberating for some. For others, drawn to a free and easy lifestyle, might rules and regulation drive them to the backstreets? Is that a price they should pay?

I’m more concerned for women getting beaten up, robbed and spreading disease. I think regulation is a good thing.

Could there be a public backlash – protests, blockades, harassment of brothels and johns?

I can see a backlash, sure. A lot of people, a lot of men, are hypocritical about the whole thing. I think most men have visited a prostitute maybe once in their lives.

Prostitution is an emotional issue. Can it be dealt with dispassionately as a “worker safety” issue?

Yes. I think it can. Y’know marriage is sometimes a form of prostitution. Some women marry for money and are basically paid for sex. Not all women. Some, sure. Some men, too.

Advocates for legalized prostitution foresee a situation where issues and problems are worked out in consultation among police, prostitutes, citizens and religious groups. Is that rose-tinted dreamland?

I can see it being a problem. The media will be all over it because that’s the media. Then people will get over it like anything else. It works in other countries. Why not in Canada, which is a pretty progressive country?

In a generation, a brothel on every corner? As ubiquitous as Starbucks?

It’s life. People have needs.

People need lattes and frappuccinos …

And men need hos! That’s the way it is. It’s a business.

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