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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?
Sex work is inherently harmful and should be banned.
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Sale of the body is immoral

By selling their bodies, sex workers are losing part of themselves.

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Context

The concept of the ‘self’ is one that is consistently debated without a consistent definition. Whether the body is inherently part of the ‘self’ is therefore also disputed.

The Argument

We encounter the world through our body and are linked to the experiences attached to it. Therefore, the sale of sex is inherently different from the sale of other goods. Sex is tied to the very nature of ourselves, and to sell it is an extreme version of alienation.[1] For a sex worker to participate in prostitution, it is necessary to distance themselves from their bodies in order to cope with their work.[2] By placing something on the market we commodify it, making it external to us. To sell the body is to reduce the self to a ‘thing’.[1] This is inherently harmful to sex workers. Sex is irreversibly linked to the ‘self’, and to sell it is therefore to sell part of the self.

Counter arguments

We all sell the use of our body in a sense; the difference in professions relate to whether and how they are stigmatised.[3] When one takes a job under a capitalist system they are contracting out their body for certain periods of time. This is more visible in jobs involving manual labour. The distinction when condemning prostitution, therefore, is constructed on prejudice against jobs involving female sexuality, rather than an issue contracting out the body as a whole. Our bodies do not wholly make up our ‘selves’; there is far more to a person than their capacity as a sexual being.[4] Additionally, if we see the sale of sex as inherently negative as it is part of the ‘self’, we then have an obligation to also see profit from creative endeavours as negative, for instance, given that they represent the artist's self. Additionally, sex workers sell sexual services rather than their bodies themselves.[5]

Premises

[P1] Sex and the body is inextricably linked to a person’s sense of self. [P2] Sale of sex and the body is inherently wrong as it compromises the self.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] There is no inherent link between sex, the body and one’s sense of self. [Rejecting P2] Sale of things relating to one’s sense of self is not inherently impermissible.

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2382005?seq=1
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0090591711419322
  3. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/sex-and-social-justice-9780195110326?cc=ro&lang=en&
  4. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0199289999.001.0001/acprof-9780199289998
  5. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2380575?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 14:07 UTC