Prostitution and Freedom. (Religion & Philosophy)

The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Prostitution and Freedom. (Religion & Philosophy)


"Prostitution and Sexual Autonomy: Making Sense of the Prohibition of Prostitution" by Scott A. Anderson, in Ethics (July 2002), Department of Philosophy, Northwestern University, 1818 Hinman Ave., Evanston, Ill. 60208-1315.

Is prostitution "just another recreation-oriented service industry?" Proponents of legalizing sex-work in the United States say it is. Working outside the law, prostitutes have few legal protections and no right to unionize. Making sex-work criminal reinforces what philosopher Martha Nussbaum, of the University of Chicago, believes to be "an unjust prejudice of the sort that once denigrated the activities of women actors, dancers, and singers."

Allowing prostitution might even be a social good, advocates contend. The freedom to use one's body as one wishes seems a basic right. And it gives everyone at least some fall-back employment. Prostitution might gain public esteem as what City University of New York philosopher Sybil Schwarzenbach calls "erotic therapy," and allow the sex worker to "be respected for her wealth of sexual and emotional knowledge."

Three kinds of arguments are usually made against legalization. One is based on traditional morality. A second asserts that prostitution spawns crime and disease. Finally, many feminists argue that prostitution furthers the degradation and subordination of women. …

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