People v. Warren: Can It Be Prostitution Without Sex?

The Michigan Supreme Court in People v. Brown answered a pressing question: Is it prostitution if it was only hands?

In this case, defendants owned a massage parlor where nude female employees provided manual stimulation to nude male customers.

The defendants argued that this was not prostitution because the definition of prostitution only applies to sexual intercourse.

What Happened in the Case

Defendants were charged with several crimes, including accepting the earnings of prostitutes, conspiracy to accept the earnings of prostitutes, maintaining a house of prostitution, and conspiracy to keep a house of prostitution.

Following a preliminary examination, defendants filed a motion in circuit court to quash the bindover. The circuit court originally denied the motion, but reversed itself after the wonderfully named case of Michigan ex rel Wayne Co Prosecutor v. Dizzy Duck came out.

Dizzy Duck held that prostitution only involves sexual intercourse for hire. The defendants had argued that manual stimulation isn’t included in the definition of prostitution, and Dizzy Duck came along and provided legal support for that notion. Therefore, the circuit court reversed itself, saying manual stimulation cannot be prostitution. The prosecution appealed.

The Law

The Court first cautioned that it is prudent to only decide the case before it, and not attempt to catalog the whole universe of sex acts encompassed by statutes. Therefore, the Court said, the only issue before it is whether manual stimulation of the penis by someone for money is prostitution.

The Court said this was prostitution. The Court’s reasoning is that cases have long held any sexual activity performed for money is prostitution. This comes from the case of State ex rel Macomb Co Prosecutor v. Mesk. The ordinary meaning of “prostitution” also supports this definition. The Court observed that many cases finding sexual intercourse to be prostitution did not mean to preclude any other sex acts from the definition of prostitution. The Court also looked at an Illinois Supreme Court case that found a “masturbatory massage parlor” where sexual gratification is in the hands of another is clearly prostitution.

The Takeaway from the Case

Manual stimulation is included in the definition of prostitution. In addition, the this case makes it more likely the Court will have an expansive view of prostitution, finding that it involves any sexual activity for money.

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Sam Bernstein is an Criminal Attorney in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 2750 Carpenter Rd #2, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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