In his Aug. 10 op-ed, “Making D.C. a ‘sex tourist destination’?,” Colbert I. King criticized a D.C. Council bill that would decriminalize prostitution in the District.

Mr. King seems to believe that victimization is inherent in sexual commerce. The individuals quoted in the column view sex work monolithically, and their opinions are contested by a large body of research that points to tremendous variation in sex workers’ biographies and work experiences across time, place and type of prostitution.

Some are trafficked or coerced into this work or have mostly bad experiences, while others (such as many escorts) benefit from and exercise quite a lot of control over their working conditions. We should distinguish street and indoor prostitution, because the problems associated with prostitution are most severe on the streets. Mr. King’s column mentioned only outdoor locations.

Mr. King seemed to advocate criminalizing customers and decriminalizing sex workers. This has been a failed policy wherever it has been tried — Sweden, France, Canada — because criminalizing one party involved in a mutual economic exchange indirectly impacts the other party as well: Both operate in a clandestine, risky way. Imagine applying this policy to marijuana: Selling weed would be allowed, but buying it would be prohibited.

We know that criminalizing prostitution, like criminalizing marijuana, is a failure. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) and his colleagues should be praised for boldly proposing an alternative that has been instituted in Nevada and elsewhere.

Ronald Weitzer, Arlington

The writer is the author of “Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business.”