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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?
There should be no laws around prostitution that separate it from any other profession.
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Personal agency

Sex workers should be allowed to make the choice to work in prostitution.

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There is a marked difference, particularly in feminist communities, between the proponents of advocating freedom for women to make whatever choices they want and those advocating for outcomes for women that are considered consistent with liberal ideas of autonomy. If someone chooses to do something that may be considered oppressive, are they oppressed?

The Argument

The idea that people in sex work are incapable of choosing to be there is belittling. People should have the autonomy to choose what profession they work in. As long as both parties are consenting adults, there is no reason that sex workers should not have the freedom to do the work they want to do. Sex workers derive various benefits from prostitution. For many marginalised women, sex work may be the best option given their circumstances, given the amount of money it is possible to make and the fact that hours are relatively flexible. Sex workers cite making friends, making money, and even building people skills as some of the benefits of working in prostitution, and very few want to leave the lifestyle. [1] The concern regarding prostitution should centre on whether women entering prostitution have ample choices. Avenues for choice should not be taken away, but measures should instead be taken to ensure the most marginalised have more choices so are not forced into any one profession.[2]

Counter arguments

The majority of women in prostitution do not want to be there.[3] To say that sex workers are making a choice is to ignore the constraints within which these choices are being made. Additionally, many sex workers come from backgrounds of abuse or poverty, making the concept of ‘choice’ for them meaningless.[4] Prostitution cannot be seen as a legitimate choice because it inherently involves exploitation, which cannot be consented to.[5]


[P1] People have the right to choose what industry they work in. [P2] Many people in sex work enjoy the benefits that they may not get in another job.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] People cannot ‘choose’ to work in an exploitative system.




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This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 14:25 UTC