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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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The ‘body’ and capitalism

Under a capitalist system, the majority of jobs are in essence selling the body through the sale of labour.

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Context

Workers are compelled to sell their labour in exchange for capital worth less than the goods they create.[1] This systematic exploitation is the underpinning of the capitalist system.

The Argument

As we are all compelled to sell our labour within a capitalist system, there is no reason the sale of sex is inherently different from any other service job. The issues with prostitution exist in many of the labour options poor women are offered. For instance, both prostitution and factory work have high health risks, both prostitutes and domestic servants are hired to ‘serve’ in a way they themselves do not get to dictate, and both a prostitute and a masseuse use skill and direct bodily contact with clients for their pleasure.[2] Arguments that separate prostitution from other lines of work are therefore intrinsically moralistic, rather than convincingly prioritising the rights of sex workers. The problem with our system is the exploitation of all workers, rather than there being an issue with prostitution in particular. Instead of prostitution being illegal, we should fight for the rights of all workers.

Counter arguments

Including prostitution as an acceptable profession alongside any other is, in reality, a product of a neoliberal system in which everything is considered acceptable for an avenue for product.[3] Prostitution fundamentally differs from other forms of selling labour as it is tied to repressive views on gender and marginalisation, and signals that women are sexual products for male consumption. Decriminalising prostitution perpetuates the idea that the oppression of women is acceptable. Additionally, unlike other professions people cannot freely ‘choose’ to enter prostitution; rather, they are forced to by circumstance. The state sanctioning of this industry is comparable to the state sanctioning of slavery.[4]

Premises

[P1] Under capitalism, all workers have to sell their labour to be exploited. [P2] Therefore, all workers are selling their body in some form or another. [P3] Prostitution is not distinct or ‘bad’ due to involving the sale of the body.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] Prostitution is distinct from other labour

References

  1. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/exploitation/
  2. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/sex-and-social-justice-9780195110326?cc=ro&lang=en&
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/30/new-zealand-sex-work-prostitution-migrants-julie-bindel
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/jan/18/ukcrime.prisonsandprobation

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 14:13 UTC