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What should the legal status of prostitution be? Show more Show less

Sometimes called ‘the world’s oldest profession’, prostitution holds a complex cultural place. While it is underpinned by gender norms and has been linked to violence, it also represents a source of agency for some and a viable career option for many. Should it be treated like any other job by the state? And if the state wishes to curtail prostitution, is making it illegal the best option?

Prostitution should be decriminalised Show more Show less

There should be no laws around prostitution that separate it from any other profession.
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The sale of sex is not inherently impermissible

There is no inherent reason that the sale of sex is different to the sale of any good.
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- The Body is separate from the Self. - Sex is not in itself a sacred act.

The Argument

When prostitution is a transaction between two consenting adults, there is no reason it should be treated separately from any other contract or service.[1] There is an assumption that women who are in sex work always want to escape it, when this is not the case. Many sex workers prefer prostitution over the alternatives, which often offer much less money and flexibility without necessarily being less exploitative.[2] The idea that sex should not be for sale is tied to traditional ideas about when sex is and is not permissible (for instance, ideas about premarital sex) and the purity of women. While anti-prostitution advocates argue that prostitution is not like other jobs as there are no qualifications needed and it is not considered aspirational,[3] the same could be said of many other professions considered to be menial, such as cleaning, fruit picking or waste disposal. A profession being considered unskilled or undesirable does not mean it should be outlawed.

Counter arguments

Prostitution actually reflects old morals - ones in which women are owned by men. It is not moralistic to be against the oppression of women, and prostitution plays directly into systems of inequality. The sale of sex directly opposes the changes that feminists are attempting to make elsewhere by making sexuality of women a product offered ‘for sale’.[4]



[P1] The sale of sex is not fundamentally different to the sale of any other service. [P2] Sex work is not inherently worse than other professions, and may in some circumstances be more desirable.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The sale of sex fundamentally differs from other industries, as it rests on the inequality of women.


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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 21 Jan 2020 at 11:28 UTC