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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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Female sexuality

Prostitution can enable sex workers to reclaim their own sexualities.

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Context

While male sexuality is often prioritised and celebrated, women are generally expected to not express sexual desire. Female desire is culturally portrayed as subservient to male sexuality.[1]

The Argument

The stigma around sex work is inherently related to a fear of women’s sexuality or impurity.[2] By entering into sex work, women have the opportunity to express themselves as sexual beings, something not considered acceptable in wider society. By becoming more accepting as a society of prostitution, we are also becoming more accepting of seeing women as beings with sexual agency. Additionally, prostitution gives women the opportunity to utilise their sexuality for economic gain, rather than having to give it freely (e.g. as traditionally considered part of a marriage contract). The law often serves to prosecute those who practice ‘deviant’ sex (e.g. LGBT people), often reflecting power balances in wider society.[3] We should instead move towards a paradigm with celebrates sexuality, including empowering sex workers to express their sexuality through their work.

Counter arguments

Even if a woman individually feels they are reclaiming their sexuality, the act of prostitution does not exist in a vacuum. There are deep-rooted power imbalances at play through gender, racial and economic norms. Therefore prostitution cannot ever be a vehicle for women to convincingly reclaim their sexuality.[4]Rather than promoting the sexuality of the sex worker, prostitution prioritises the sexuality of the customer. When the customer is a man, as it most often the case, the industry perpetuates the idea that male sexuality must be satiated.[5] This does not prioritise or empower women’s sexuality, but the sexuality of the customer.

Premises

[P1] Women are expected not to express sexuality. [P2] By enabling women to be sexual, prostitution can be a celebration of women’s sexuality.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Prostitution celebrates and caters to male sexuality.

References

  1. http://www.femininebeauty.info/suppression.pdf
  2. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/sex-and-social-justice-9780195110326?cc=ro&lang=en&
  3. http://sites.middlebury.edu/sexandsociety/files/2015/01/Rubin-Thinking-Sex.pdf
  4. http://prostitutionresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Speaking-of-Prostitution-2013-Sweden1.pdf
  5. http://www.catwinternational.org/Content/Images/Article/234/attachment.pdf

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 14:28 UTC