A Philosopher's Blog

The Ethics of Prostitution

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Relationships/Dating by Michael LaBossiere on May 13, 2008

Prostitution is often described as the oldest profession. Not surprisingly, the ethics of prostitution have often been debated. In general, most people claim that it is morally unacceptable. Yet, like all such practices, it continues to thrive-as recent headlines will attest. For example, the young woman pictured below was catapulted from obscurity to infamy for being the prostitute “visited” by formed NY Governor Spitzer.

Ms. Dupre

However, as a philosopher, what interests me is not the last media frenzy about prostitution, but the ethics of the practice itself. Rather than take the usual approach of simply asserting it is immoral, I will consider the various plausible reasons as to why it should be considered immoral and also argue that, under certain conditions, it can be just as morally acceptable as other forms of work.

One reason often given as to why prostitution is immoral is that it tends to involve coercion. In most cases, people do not freely decide to become prostitutes. In some cases, they are driven to the profession by desperation and a lack of other opportunities for employment. In other cases, they are forced into prostitution by others. In some cases, people are enslaved and forced to be prostitutes. For those who are unaware of this fact, slavery (both relating to prostitution and other forms) is alive and well around the world today.

Such coercion is clearly immoral, especially the sort that involves slavery. I agree with John Locke’s view of the matter. Roughly put, Locke argues that a person who would enslave another person should be regarded as a potential threat to the life and liberty of all. Hence, it is right and just to kill slavers. My own addition to this is that the death should be both cruel and unusual, perhaps involving a wood chipper. As you might imagine, there is little that I hate more than slavery and slavers. In light of this, prostitution that involves this sort of coercion must be considered immoral.

However, some people freely and knowingly chose to be prostitutes. In these cases, the coercion argument obviously fails.

It might be argued that no one would freely chose to be a prostitute and that all people are coerced into doing so. For example, feminists often refer to the coercive power of the patriarchy that is so powerful and subtle that women often do not even know they are being coerced. If these feminists are right, then all (or almost all) prostitution in a patriarchal society would be immoral.

Of course, if we accept this sort of view, then it would entail that almost all jobs are immoral. After all, everyone who is not the top of the power and economic hierarchy will be coerced into working by those above them and by the very nature of capitalism. This view has, of course, been argued for by communists, anarchists and others. It seems reasonable, but also shows that certain types of prostitution are just as moral (or immoral) as most other jobs. So, a prostitute who is no more coerced than a professor is thus morally on par in this regards.

If we accept that such coercion is morally acceptable, which is a common view in capitalism, then freely chosen prostitution would be morally acceptable on these grounds. This is, of course, what one would expect from capitalism.

The second main moral concern about prostitution is that it is exploitive. As presented stereotypically in movies, prostitutes typically work for a pimp or a madam who takes a sizable cut of their income. This is exploitive because the prostitute is doing the hard work while the pimp/madam is taking an unfair share of the proceeds.

Of course, almost all other jobs are exploitive in this fashion. Think, for example, of how much the typical worker gets paid and how much profits the industry in question makes. Profit, as Marx argues, typically requires that the worker is paid less than the value she adds. Of course, profit can also be made by exploiting the customer or the supplier of raw materials. But, profit by its very nature seems to require exploitation-someone has to be getting less than what they deserve.

It can be replied that such exploitation is acceptable when it is withing a certain degree. So, for example, the exploitation of the prostitutes by their pimps is exploitive because he takes far too much. The exploitation of the workers by Burger King is acceptable, because they do not exploit their workers as badly (and rarely, if ever, pimp slap them).

Now, if a degree of exploitation is acceptable, then prostitution that involves exploitation in this range would be acceptable. For example, working for a generous pimp or madam would be a morally acceptable job, on par with working for Starbucks. Once again, capitalism and prostitution can be bedfellows (and so often are).

Of course, if all exploitation is wrong, then almost all jobs would be immoral. This seems true-especially on Monday mornings.

A third reason that prostitution is regarded as immoral is that it is supposed to be degrading to the prostitute In most cases, this is true. To treat someone as mere sexual object is to fail to respect their worth as human being. Kant makes a good case for this as do numerous feminists, so I won’t rehash their arguments here.

Of course, many jobs are degrading and are still considered morally acceptable. For example, cleaning people’s toilets or working as a servant can be regarded as degrading. Working in a sweatshop is also degrading. In fact, a case could be made that most employment involves some attack on human dignity. Of course, the degree of degradation varies widely. But, if some degradation is morally acceptable, then prostitution that falls within that range would also be acceptable.

This, obviously enough, raises the question as to whether prostitution can be non-degrading or at least acceptably degrading.

it has been claimed that there are historical precedents for prostitution as a profession that is not degrading. One example is that of the dancers in Medieval Japan. Perhaps the most famous example is that of the hetaera of ancient Greece. These women were typically well educated and apparently enjoyed higher status than most women of the time (of course, women generally had very little status in that time). Based on what I have seen on the news, various “escort” services seem to strive to replicate the myth of the hetaera. For example, the service that provided women to Spitzer claimed to have highly educated and refined “companions.” The unfortunate DC Madam (Ms. Deborah Jane Palfrey) apparently strove to create a high class business: “the women had to be older than 23 with two to four years of college. ‘I was not interested in jaded, hard-core girls of any caliber,’ she said. ‘I wanted women who were strong and independent, who wanted to go on with their lives but they couldn’t get into grad school.’” (Newsweek) According to reports from the women who worked for her, Ms. Palfrey treated the women well and the women themselves certainly seemed to believe they were not being degraded.

It might be argued that having sex with people for money is inherently degrading. There are two replies to this.

First, there is the fact that all jobs involve a person selling himself/herself. A person who does manual labor is selling her body. A person who writes for a living is selling her mind. A person who performs is selling his talent. And so on.

Of course, one might reply, these people are doing something less intimate. Hence, the difference.

An easy reply to this is that people sell very intimate things. A writer sells her intimate thoughts. A therapist is being paid to be a friend (of sorts). If these sorts of jobs are acceptable, then so to is prostitution.

Second, it has long been argued that marriage is long term prostitution. The noted thinker Mary Wollstonecraft made this point. The idea is that women are trading sex for economic security. Dating can be, as the comedians do, looked at the same way:

Q: What’s the difference between going on a date and seeing a prostitute?
A: On a date, you spend money and hope for sex. When you see a prostitute, you spend money and know you’ll get sex.

Crude, yet informative. Many feminists thinkers have, as noted above, taken this view. If dating and marriage are 1) economic & sexual relationships and 2) acceptable, then prostitution would also seem to be acceptable. But, it also follows that if prostitution is unacceptable, then marriage and dating of this sort would also be immoral

Given the above discussion, it seems reasonable to accept that in our current society prostitution can be morally on par with acceptable professions. This says a great deal about our society.

About these ads

183 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. ubuntucat said, on May 13, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    I like your post. It really breaks down the arguments one by one. What you’ve done is essentially argued that just because prostitution is currently poorly implemented in practice doesn’t mean prostitution must in theory always be morally repugnant.

    It is a good thing to recognize, though, that prostitution in most instances is instituted badly.

  2. Michael LaBossiere said, on May 13, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Very badly indeed.

    Robert Heinlein’s work Time Enough For Love includes (in the far future) a culture in which prostitution is considered an honorable profession. Naturally, it is radically different from the prostitution of today. The work is, of course, science fiction.

  3. Sophie said, on May 14, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I agree with the logic.
    Then, I think one reason that the prostitution has been seem as immoral is because it’s just too “obvious”. For example, many feminists argue that marriage is a form of long-term sexual trade. But marriage itself has culture packing. The couples might do the trade indeed, but it looks very cultural. Or, the dating, men are just hoping gently.
    But the prostitution is an obvious trade of sex and money/economical support. It looks too rough and primitive. Therefore, many people can not tolerant/accept prostitution.

    This article reminds me a news that there’s a severe physically handicapped young man who lives in the home for most of his life. He said to a Sister that his biggest hope is having sex. The Sister helped him with connecting a prostitute who specially works for handicapped people. The young man was satisfied with the service though he added that if it was possible he would rather to fall in love and have it with his girl friend. When I read the news, I was so surprised that there’re prostitutes specially work for special population! I never thought about it.

  4. nikki starr said, on February 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    hi, i’m a prostitute, and (as much as i like your conclusion that it’s a viable form of work) i have some problems with your arguments.
    to begin with, the “visible” element of prostitution, street-based sex work, employs a very small minority of workers, who are mostly engaging in survival sex. depending on laws and zoning, many women who would work indoors by free choice are pushed outdoors by governments (as in edmonton, ab, where a record for prostitution-related charges prohibits people from working as licenced outcall escorts). furthermore, no one has a free choice about work, or nobody wuld have a job, so failing to give sex workers credit for making their own decisions is prejudice, not logic. that’s not to say that people engaging in survival sex have many options, or that they don’t deserve assistance to find a safer way of living/working, just that they make tough decisions to keep themselves alive and deserve to be treated like competent adults.
    while child prostitution and human traficking do exist, they are extremely rare, especially compared to the slave labour force found in prisons and free trade zones, and are universally condemned by sex workers and our employers. most sex worker is undertaken by mutual consent. the average worker is a young woman, working from her home or a rented hotel room, sometimes with a colleague or for an agency (competitive agency cuts are 20-40% of the client’s fee). many women don’t find advertising, booking or screening very cumbersome and choose to work for themselves.
    as far as being sex objects goes, that is a prejudice of abolitionists. we don’t see ourselves that way. like any paid labourer, we need our bodies to do our jobs, and we get to keep them at the end of the day. our clients are held to strict rules of hygiene and safety, and most sex workers employ security personnel. we know the value of sexuality and intimacy, and we charge for services, as do massage therapists, exotic dancers and therapists.
    some people believe in practicing monogamy in marriage. others don’t. since prostitutes discourage emotional attachments and overly personal relationships, we tend to be far less taxing on a marriage than an affair is. furthermore, we live in a society in which sexual behaviour, as long as there is mutual consent between adults, can’t be regulated for religious reasons.
    and finally, the pimps. anti-pimping laws are used to isolate and marginalize prostitutes, not to protect us. some men do abuse and exploit women, confine them illegally and even rape them. fortunately, all of these actions are punishable by law. most of the people who legally qualify as pimps (anyone who lives, in whole or in part, on the income of a prostitute) are our husbands, boyfriends, employers and employees, children, parents, siblings and friends.

  5. Michael LaBossiere said, on February 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Nikki, good to hear from you. One problem that academic philosophers face is that we generally write from the “ivory tower” on most subjects. While having some emotional distance from a subject has its advantages, it is also important to see things from the perspective of someone who is “out of the tower”, so to speak.

  6. kernunos said, on February 16, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Well, Helloooo Nikki. It is funny that our country fights for a Woman’s right to ‘choose’ with here body when it comes to giving birth to a child but fights against a woman’s right to choose to sell a service with her body. I think there are more important fights and our country’s stance on ethics and morality can be found on how well they can regulate and tax because it isn’t based on religion. How do you stop the oldest profession anyway?

  7. Michael said, on March 16, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    The other question is whether the use of prostitutes is moral or ethical. Given many are forced by circumstances or people into the trade should I refuse to have anything to do with them or should I pay the price and allow them to feed their children or meet whatever needs they may have.
    It is harder to find rational discussion about the prostitutes customers than it is to find ideas about the prostitutes themselves.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 9, 2013 at 1:51 am

      I have found that you are also correct. To pay for a prostitute supports the industry as a whole and contributes to keeping the demand in tact. The question is are you okay with supporting a system wherein you have very little to gain and they have so much to lose? Furthermore, are you also okay with taking advantage of a person due to the negative circumstances that put them there? Keep in mind this is not paying for cheap landscaping at your house. It is having an orgasm inside someone else’s body.

      I wish there was more rational discussion about this as well. I really do. I do not respect those that pay for prostitutes. I can’t.

    • Kayla said, on January 14, 2013 at 2:26 am

      Is giving charitably to a woman in need not an option?

      • WTP said, on January 14, 2013 at 9:49 am

        Nor the woman instead choosing to get a legitimate job?

  8. magus71 said, on March 17, 2009 at 4:41 am

    That’s a new argument:

    “Honey, I was getting serviced by the local prostitute because she has kids to feeed.”

    Sure, and strippers are just working their way through college.

  9. magus71 said, on March 17, 2009 at 5:05 am

    Oh and by the way guys, I have a built-in bullshit detector, as Hemmingway would put it. It works pretty well and I can smell a sham a mile away.

    Am I the only one that’s suspicious of “Nikki Starr”. She’s the most literate prostitute on earth, it seems…

    Prostitution, like drugs, is as much a symptom as a cause of moral decay.

    You’ll never hear me say that sex isn’t a great thing, but there’s something just wrong about having sex with someone that 15 other guys have had there way with–THAT DAY. Tell me I’m wrong. Am I the only one that can say it?

    Nikki says: “since prostitutes discourage emotional attachments and overly personal relationships, we tend to be far less taxing on a marriage than an affair is.”

    Sex without emotion and attachment. One wonders if this is possible with men. I think men are looking for the attachemnt. A part of them believes that the prostitute really “loves” them. This is studied and documented regarding pornography. Many men believe at some level that the women in the magazines and movies really want THEM.

    Don’t buy the sex without emotion stuff. Sex is powerful, no matter how much we try to make it a tame beast in order to justify our feeding the animals.

    And sorry–there’s far too many women that’ll give it away for free.

    Hey, maybe I’m wrong about “Nikki”. I bet I’m not. She’s probably an academic majoring in gender studies.

    • elsecretocero said, on July 19, 2009 at 12:09 pm

      Look up “Nikki Starr” on a Google search.
      You’d be surprised.

    • Mark said, on August 13, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      “Moral Decay”… decay suggests a change over time, specifically a destructive change. Because we know that prostitution has been around for a very long time, permeating every sector and class of our society, I don’t see how there is a “decay”. If anything, our laws and general morality have greatly improved the way we treat women and work toward reducing slavery and violence. It is denial to say things are getting worse.

      I don’t disagree with you when you say we should trust our moral instincts. We instinctively know its wrong to murder or rape or torture. Most of would have a hard time describing exactly why those things are wrong and our social contracts are often based on these instincts.

      I think this essay and Starrs response ask us to identify where those moral infractions are actually occurring. Not to throw the baby out with the bath-water.

      We have a system that prevents employers from making employees scrub toilets 24 hours a day without a food break, for pennies. Obviously without those regulations, the toilet cleaning profession could be described as morally bankrupt.

      Lets bring regulation and respect to the sex work.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 14, 2010 at 10:40 am

        I think a compelling case can be made for legalized and properly regulated (health checks, etc.) prostitution. After all, if it is acceptable for people to sell other personal services, the bias against selling sex seems to be just that-a bias. My main moral concern with prostitution is not with the selling of sex but with the actual conditions faced by most prostitutes (such as being forced into it and subject to abuse). If a brothel were run like a “proper business” with good working conditions, benefits and the employees were properly treated (and free to leave) then that would seem to be morally acceptable.

        • WTP said, on January 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

          After all, if it is acceptable for people to sell other personal services, the bias against selling sex seems to be just that-a bias.

          Really? And just what “personal services” do you consider on par with prostitution?

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 9, 2013 at 2:40 am

        “moral decay” may suggest what you speak of, however, over time, the game has changed. Back in the day people were more ignorant, naive, and prejudiced. If that is true, and we are more informed than we were as a whole 40 years ago, then why is it that sex slavery has increased, not the contrary? Why is it that the sex industry has only gown, not shrunk? I know, I know, there are many factors. It isn’t due to population increase either, because the percentages are up. It doesn’t change the fact that things are getting worse. Legislation will never be a good indicator of such a thing– What the majority of people and society embraces IS. As best as I can tell, our society resoundingly illustrates that knowledge and awareness do nothing change their behaviors as a whole. I think people have “acceptance” and being less “judgmental” confused with moral fortitude. I disagree man, it’s getting worse.

        Regulations are necessary, true, but if equality for all types of employment and opportunity were more prevalent, I think we’d see a dramatic drop in prostitution and especially violence.

        “Moral infractions” are certainly up to the individual to commit for themselves if they so choose based on “how bad it is” every day. The instinct to survive typically outweighs that of doing “wrong.” If we are talking about a non survival circumstance, however, we must assume the decision to do this work is not just about money. Moral instincts can change with negative conditioning, and that is was has happened to most prostitutes who have the opportunity to make money doing other things. Those instincts were lost somewhere, most often during childhood.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 7, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      What a pointless comparison; “less taxing on a marriage than an affair is.” Cheating isn’t okay is it? Silly. Aside from that, she is only strengthening the point that sex workers become experts at the removal of emotional attachment, particularly in their own personal lives. Dissociation from sex, love, and emotion are more than common attributes to character, and consistently bleed into their own relationships. It’s not something to be proud of dear Nikki. Nor is being a prostitute. Regardless of how articulate she may sound, I wouldn’t call her a fake, but I would say she’s recycling what many somewhat educated prostitutes say. They must protect themselves and they’re decisions at all costs. Any detour from that would mean they couldn’t do what they do.

      • thoughtfulhumans said, on January 26, 2014 at 4:52 am

        Her comparison is not at all pointless.

        Prostitution, in general, represents less of a threat to a marriage than an affair would. This is because prostitution is primarily based upon sex and money rather than emotional attachment and love like a marriage. As a result, there is less chance of a longer-term, emotionally-driven relationship developing that might rival the marriage. I am not sure you read Nikki’s post in its entirety or just missed this point, because the sentence right before the one you quote she highlights that some people believe in practicing monogamy in marriage while others do not. This is fact. Can you not imagine a scenario in which a committed, loving, and married couple wishes to incorporate someone else into their sex life or mutually agree to allow each other to have sex with others so long as they are open and honest about it? And can you not see how in both these scenarios the married couple might prefer a prostitute because it represents less of a threat to their marriage?

        Obviously both prostitution and cheating under the wrong circumstances can be awful, immoral acts, but I think most people understood that when they arrived to the discussion. The goal of the discussion is to deepen our ethical understanding of prostitution and whether it is immoral under all circumstances or just some. And you stray way too far from this goal with such blanket statements as, “It’s not something to be proud of dear Nikki. Nor is being a prostitute.” You do not know her, you do not know the specifics of her circumstances, and such condescending comments are not only unhelpful to the discussion, but ignorant.

        • shenonymous said, on January 26, 2014 at 10:31 am

          This thread seems to assume prostitutes are women. But there are men prostitutes not only for other men, but for women, married women. What if, in the case of the hypothetical couple who agrees to an open marriage that the husband has female prostitutes and the wife male prostitutes? Does the dynamic change in any way?

          • thoughtfulhumans said, on January 27, 2014 at 8:43 am

            That is an interesting consideration. I intentionally worked to keep the gender of the prostitute ambiguous in the hypothetical example (because I think this is a valid consideration), but you are right that the very word prostitute itself connotes a woman (from the New Oxford American Dictionary: “A person, typically a woman, who engages in sexual activity for payment.”). Perhaps “sex worker” is the better word choice? And while we’re pointing out assumptions, let’s also remember that not all marriages are husband and wife (some are husband and husband or wife and wife). But, to get to your question, I do feel that — in most instances — either a husband or wife would find it less taxing to their marriage if their partner used a sex worker as opposed to a friend or acquaintance because in either case there is less threat of a relationship developing that might rival the marriage. What do you think?

            Also, because I just re-read one, I feel compelled to point how weak and unhelpful I find arguments based upon character attacks (that is, arguments that seek to discredit the source of an argument rather than engage with the argument directly). Specifically, after questioning Nikki’s authenticity responsiblehumans goes on to make a character attack against all sex workers, “They must protect themselves and they’re (sic) decisions at all costs. Any detour from that would mean they couldn’t do what they do.” These types of arguments discourage others from genuinely considering what someone else has to say, have little to no substance related to the issue itself, and are often petty. It would be like me saying, “You’re just afraid to admit that I am right, responsiblehumans. Doing so would force you to acknowledge your own prejudices, and you are a coward.” See? I feel gross just writing that. It’s best to avoid these types of arguments altogether.

    • prethicsandissues said, on November 28, 2013 at 8:44 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Someone very close to me went to Amsterdam and rented a prostitute. He was longtime without sex and he stated himself “I needed a girl to tell me she liked me, I just needed to feel it.” One of the girls in the window started showing some interest, she was beautiful and he was so happy! He also pre-payed so they could talk. While smoking a joint of hashish she told him she is just earning for her university and she told him he was very handsome and other nice things. He was desperate and he got what he wanted. Did it make him feel better at the end? Yes. Does he think after 3 years he would do it again? NO.
      I also have a friend who was forced to be a prostitute by her own mother because they did not have money. She ended up doing horrible things on a request of different men who had very sick imagination and requests many times. She ended up addicted to drugs. She got lucky and rescued by one of the customers who happened to like her and wanted to help her. She moved to another country and she hasn’t had a man in 7 years now. She is scared and really depressed even now.
      I have read about a girl who became a prostitute when she was 16. Now she is around 40. She stated that it was her choice. When she was 16? I just find this unbelievable. Why would you want as a child to sleep with more than 5 men a day?

      • shenonymous said, on November 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

        The more pertinent question is, why would 5 or more men a day want to sleep with a 16 year-old child?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

          Because they are bad men, presumably.

          • shenonymous said, on November 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm

            What do you think society ought to do about these kind of “bad” men?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 2, 2013 at 2:40 pm

              Having sex with children (who cannot give consent) is rape, so they should be treated as rapists.

            • shenonymous said, on December 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm

              And how ought rapist to be treated? When 50 states have 50 different views of what constitutes crime and 50 different views of punishment, as a society, punishment for crimes is 10,000 shades of gray.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm

              Well, the usual basis for just punishment includes deterrence and proportionality to the harm inflicted. So, rapists should be punished to the degree that would deter the crime and in proportion to the damage done to the victim.

            • shenonymous said, on December 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm

              An interesting and noncommittal reply. What “just” punishment would deter the crime of rape? And by what proportional measurement can damage inflicted on a victim be determined? Is there an index of punishments that aligns with a list of damages?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

              To be honest, I do not have a specific answer. In general, punishments often seem to be based on irrational factors such as how people feel about a crime, who are the sorts of people who are perceived as committing the crime, and so on. So, for example, penalties for crack tend to be much harsher than penalties for “normal” cocaine because crack is associated with minorities and it is perceived as worse than coke by many.

              Punishment should be based on a rational assessment of what degree and sort of punishment would deter people. However, there is the obvious problem: punishments seem to fail to deter since we have to apply them so often (prisons are full of people who were not deterred).

              In terms of damages, that is also a tough call. After all, what sort of measure would be used in the case of crimes that do not involve a clear monetary damage (which would be available for theft and property damage)? Do we use an index of physical pain? Humiliation? Psychological damage? Also, we presumably also want to not just inflict an eye for an eye, but also try to rehabilitate people so they are less likely to commit the crime again.

              So, I have no good answer.

            • shenonymous said, on December 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm

              That is about as honest an answer I’ve ever seen on any blogsite! It is appreciated. Really. But if what you say is typical, and I suspect it is since you’ve covered the ground fairly well, then it is no wonder our legal system does not have a reasonable handle on what is or is not justice. Don’t you agree? So for women who are raped, or anyone for that matter who are victimized, as you tried to expand into a ways, we have to start asking ourselves what really is our view of justice and fairness? What do we consider criminal or crimes against humanity? We don’t really give it all that much thought until something happens…to us. Then we often don’t know what to think except for retaliation or reciprocation. We sometimes give abstract philosophical thought when trying to fit crimes into our sense of morality, or moral codes but that is a very fuzzy area as well and there is no consensus what is meant. I think we humans must start giving these human behaviors serious thought and have public dialogue so that we can come to some common concordance of what we ought to do, what would be considered moral, just, and ethical response to crimes such as rape?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm

              It is often the case that punishments are forged in the fires of fresh anger and not tempered in the cool waters of reason. In other cases, punishments are created in indifferent or biased hearts and are thus too light.

              Then there is punishment by slogan, such as 10, 20, life.

              Overall, punishment tends to not be given careful thought. Part of the problem is that the sciences that relate to human behavior tend to be just barely sciences (at best).

  10. kernunos said, on March 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Hey, I was dating a stripper and she said she loved me and only me! Woot!

  11. caca said, on May 27, 2009 at 10:05 pm


  12. SH said, on June 22, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Hi I am a gay. I am going to volunteer as a GoGo-boy for 4 weeks(kinda my summer project lol). I wanna experience the psychology of people who engaged in sexual industry; also challenge myself.

    Any good suggestions to obeserve? For the past week, I have been thinking about ethics and philosophy …

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      To be honest, I have no idea about who to observe.

      For ethics, I’d suggest Aristotle, Mill, and Kant as a good starting point.

  13. magus71 said, on June 22, 2009 at 5:12 am

    yeah, Mike. what do you have to say to someone who’s been thinking about ethics and philosophy for a WHOLE WEEK?

  14. kernunos said, on June 22, 2009 at 11:24 am

    A week straight of thinking about philosophy is the question. Broken up it may not be that tough but straight could be a marathon.

  15. magus71 said, on June 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Hopefully the marathons are kept to a minimum on the go-go stage…

  16. Rolando said, on July 18, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    The article is very well-written and has a good discussion with itself regarding prostitution — it’s a well-elaborated dialogue, you might say. Yet it seems to me that the error in the article lies in the fact that it disregards the entire meaning behind the sexual act.
    There are a series of deep connotations for the two people involved in the sexual act. One might say that, in fact, there is a certain “violence” or (literal) “penetration” in the sexual act which is not present, say, in a book (the person’s thoughts) or at factory labor. The article, in many of its points, puts prostitution on par with many other professions. It says that not only is prostitution similar to professions in general, but that it is almost identical (“all professions involve some sort of exploitation,” etc.) with them. And I’m not saying this isn’t true — in fact, the pointing-out of the similarities was very insightful. But the article doesn’t seem to take into account the meaning of the sexual act, except at one point, when it says that there is a certain “intimacy” in prostitution, comparing it then to the intimacy of a book or a therapist. I think this factor was treated too briefly, and could’ve perhaps been more elaborated. For it seems to me that not only is the sexual act “more intimate” than therapy or books — it is, in fact, far, far more intimate. I mean… this person is inside your body. The sexual act has many psychological consequences and, as I said repeatedly before, a meaning, that must be taken into account when talking about prostitution — it is at the core of the prostitution debate. It seems to me that this meaning must be fully elucidated, then analyzed under the light of prostitution, before making a judgment — which is what, for me, this article failed to do. Catholicism, for example, by making the sexual act sacred, declares prostitution immoral because it serves merely to egotistical purposes. I am not saying they are right or that the sexual act is sacred (I am not writing from the standpoint of religion but from that of philosophy) — I am just pointing out that in many ethical systems this is a major contributing factor into declaring the immorality of prostitution. Despite these objections, the article was a worthy read. Thank you for posting it.

    note: I have taken into account that, for example, escorts (a ‘type’ of prostitute) don’t necessarily have sex with their customers — theirs is a more “personal” (yet still pre-fabricated) relationship with the customer. Escorts, by definition, offer companionship, warmth, and even friendship — or at least, the illusion of such. They cater to the customer’s loneliness, for a price. Is this morally wrong? That is a debate for another discussion. In any case, my comment applied to the purely sexual aspect of prostitution.

    another note: Magus71 said he thought Nikki was “too literate” to be a prostitute. Well, that seems purely prejudicial. Whether Nikki is, in fact, a real or fake prostitute is of course as debatable as if magus71 is magus71 or just Nikki posing as magus71…. but to consider her fake on the grounds of education is to me just plain prejudice. I have met prostitutes, magus, and believe me, they know very well how to write. Some of them maybe write even better than you.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 19, 2009 at 10:46 am


      Thanks for the insightful comment. You are quite right-much more could and should be said about the unique aspects of physical sex that could be quite relevant to the ethics of prostitution. Intuitively, there does seem to be an important difference between talking about one’s thoughts with another person and having sex with that person. Of course, it could also be argued that emotional exchanges are more intimate as purely physical sex is just the interaction of bodies and not of persons.

      Interesting point about the escort services. In some ways, I might be inclined to think that the escort is somewhat worse than an “honest” prostitute (that is, one who just has sex without any pretension of emotional interest in the client), at least when the escort is pretending to be the client’s “friend.” Such deceit for money is, at the very least, morally dubious.

      Oddly enough, I knew (not in the biblical sense) a woman who had worked as a prostitute (high end) and then went to graduate school. She is a very good writer-her graduate degree is in English. Of course, her story is hardly a common one.

      • elsecretocero said, on July 19, 2009 at 12:03 pm

        (I am the same person as “Rolando,” only that I just created a blog and it’s called “elsecretocero.” Anyway, my reply:)

        I found this part of your reply very interesting:

        “Of course, it could also be argued that emotional exchanges are more intimate as purely physical sex is just the interaction of bodies and not of persons.”

        It’s the last part of this sentence which intrigues me the most — the one about “purely physical sex” maybe being an interaction of bodies and not of persons. The distinction is noteworthy, yet it still makes me think: is there such a thing as non-personal sexual intercourse? Even when two people agree (as in prostitution) to have sex on a “purely physical” level, is there absolutely no consequence on the personal level for either one? For that matter, what constitutes a “physical” act (the act of a body), and what constitutes a “personal” act (the act of a person)? I think that what you mean by ‘purely physical’ is that, in a positive sense, it involves an immediate physical need (as does eating, breathing, etc.) and, in a negative sense, that it does NOT involve, say, “metaphysical” needs — like poetry, thought, love… needs of the “soul,” so to speak. I am aware that Daniel Dennett would spit at such a comment, saying there is no such thing as soul and that every single human action is, in fact, physical — corresponding to an animal/biological need… even art (for more on this, visit: http://richarddawkins.net/article,2089,n,n — I have not read the article, but it seems to point towards what I was saying earlier). But this is irrelevant here since you yourself made the distinction between the “personal” act and the “physical” act.
        Anyway, as I was saying earlier: is there absolutely no personal consequence during the act of sex, in itself? You could say that it depends upon what meaning the people involved give to it, so that if a prostitute and the customer agree to have ‘purely physical’ sex then there is no consequence. But what if the sexual act, in itself, carries personal consequences for the people involved, say, without them even realizing it? And you spoke of emotions — are there not emotions even in the most impersonal instances of sexual acts? And how can the prostitute deal with the duality of her nature — is she able to have intimate (personal) sex with her boyfriend, say, when during that day so many men have been inside of her in the same way? … I’m talking about sex here, not anything else.
        I think we would benefit, once again, from the words of an actual prostitute — or maybe interviews from many prostitutes. But not just that — after that, a thorough examination…
        Of course, maybe if I had been raised in a country where prostitution is legal I wouldn’t be having so many questions … I would just take it for granted. Which is interesting.

        As for the morality of escorts, if it is a lie that both people are agreeing to — is it immoral? It is liable to become addictive to the client — which is, of course, profitable to the escort. One could say, hey, it’s the same thing as entering a disney ride — it is no more than an elaborated lie. But we’re not talking about a thrill of the senses here — we’re talking about friendship, and on a deeper level, love.

        And for educated prostitutes, look no further than now-starlett Sasha Grey. She did “The Girlfriend Experience,” which I haven’t seen yet, but it has gotten great reviews.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 19, 2009 at 7:11 pm

          You raise an excellent question: ” is there such a thing as non-personal sexual intercourse?” On one hand, I have heard people claim that this is possible. For example, some claim that the typical guy will have “meaningless” sex and some claim that prostitutes just do it as part of their job (so it is as personal as any job). On the other hand, any interaction between persons seems to be personal. But, much depends on how it is defined. My thought is that it is a matter of degree. It is hard to imagine a person who is so completely detached that they can have sex without it having even the slightest personal aspect (but not impossible to do so). But, clearly when a prostitute is working her (or his) involvement is not on par with the sort of personal intimacy that occurs in the case of a loving (or just liking) couple.

          I’m using “physical” here in a sloppy, non-physical sense. To be more precise, I would distinguish between sex that involves a significant emotional connection between the participants and sex that does not.

          To be honest, I’m not sure how prostitutes feel about the matter. I’ve never availed myself of such services and have never asked one about the matter. On a related note, I do recall a study done on “hooking up” in which it was found (as you suggest) that people generally do not just have casual sex without any strings-it often seems to always come with some sort of consequence or impact. Of course, this is mostly for women.

          Hmm, I suppose a shared lie would either be twice as bad…or not bad at all. :)

          As for the morality of escorts, if it is a lie that both people are agreeing to — is it immoral? It is liable to become addictive to the client — which is, of course, profitable to the escort. One could say, hey, it’s the same thing as entering a disney ride — it is no more than an elaborated lie. But we’re not talking about a thrill of the senses here — we’re talking about friendship, and on a deeper level, love.

          And for educated prostitutes, look no further than now-starlett Sasha Grey. She did “The Girlfriend Experience,” which I haven’t seen yet, but it has gotten great review

        • responsiblehumans said, on January 9, 2013 at 3:45 am

          I appreciate the way you think. Thanks for the breath of fresh air! I always leaned towards the belief you can’t separate the physical from the personal completely… the whole “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” thing resonates with me. Consequently, our bodies have a relationship to the rest of us. A conduit for feelings, emotions, and expression, if you will. The numbing ability (or characteristic) of found in workers in multiple forms of prostitution can’t possible be seen as a “good” thing. It’s a dense mechanism that makes them less capable of feeling, thus being able to move forward with the “job” at hand. Even so, rarely do most sex workers communicate with their clients on a physical level only. Take a dominatrix for instance. The substance in a session is often saturated with verbal communication, role-play, and empathy for their clients fetishes and desires etc. Many sex workers will argue that it is not actually them doing the job, but rather it is their “alias.” It’s dangerous line for most to walk because it further strengthens this duality that you spoke of. The line is obscured for most of them, however. After all, they are practicing many of the intimate things that they may be a part of their personal lives.

          Another detrimental thing I have consistently seen is that with this separation they’ve created something have been removed from her being. She (or he) may be in freshly bowled-over happy with a new love interest. That has to be completely removed during these sessions. I can’t think of many jobs in existence that you must remove everyone who you truly love to accomplish the task at hand. It creates undeniable distance from those they care about those that care about them. Completely separating the two worlds is impossible. Even the direction that one takes to keep focus away from a boyfriend (for example) would have required the awareness and inherent “need” to put their mind somewhere else. This “awareness” means the two worlds are intertwined before a session even starts.

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm

        Morally dubious? Yes. Absolutely.

    • Ben said, on May 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      Sadly, I know a couple of prostitutes too. And their story isn’t one of these “shiny, happy girl freely chooses prostitution, is proud and we should all respect and value her choice” sorts of stories (those are a tiny minority, perhaps a myth; of course pride causes many to claim it was a free choice in their case). Both these women’s stories are similar. Both came from very poor areas, had parents with very low expectations and effectively absent fathers. They we’re allowed to roam the streets at night in the CBD and “red-light” districts. They hung out with some exciting and much older guys who gave them free drugs; once they were hooked on heroine they were used for sex while intoxicated (passed around, even to strangers) and then introduced to stripping (under-age), pimped out on the street (under age) and paid either in cash or heroine. One of these girls claims to have slept with several hundred men by 18 and to have been raped on a number of occasions, but did nothing about it, either blaming themselves or convincing themselves the blokes who did it were really either too nice or too frightening to challenge. Prostitution, like drugs, will always be around. What we need to do is manage it, and minimise harm. Just like other workers have rights and regulations and unions to protect them from greedy employers or “pimps”, so too do prostitutes deserve these protections. That said, those who groom teenage women into prostitution with drugs most certainly ought to be locked away.

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm

        You have an important point with what led these girls there. It IS THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that is not being mentioned in these debates in 99 percent of anything you will ever read. Anything to the converse is usually written purely from an academic standpoint, with little to no life experience on the subject.

  17. Anonymous said, on August 2, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    i think prostitution is GOOD!!

  18. Lexxus said, on August 19, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Very interesting, I work in the sex industry as a PA for an escort agency, I don’t see it as degrading in any way. The women are actually becoming empowered by achieving financially security and independence, I know everyone may not agree. There is a place for escorts and prostitutes. As long as it is their choice good luck to them

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 21, 2009 at 1:27 pm

      I would agree that an escort service is as morally acceptable as almost any service business. The women are getting paid to be companions, which seems to be morally on par with paying a therapist to listen to one’s problems. While people should be able to get their own friends and companions, I suppose that some folks have to pay. This seems to be on par with how some folks can do their own home repairs while other folks have to hire strangers.

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 9, 2013 at 3:55 am

        Also, I think it is common misconception that “escorts” don’t have sex with their clients. They do. Maybe not all of them, but more do than don’t. It’s like saying that Dommes don’t have sex with clients. Another common misconception. Not intercourse wherein they are penetrated them selves, but a very large percentage penetrate their clients with sex toys, strap-ons, fingers, or whatever they may be into. They also give hand-jobs to completion. This is very, very common although they’d like everyone to think otherwise.

        • Former 'sex worker' said, on February 24, 2014 at 8:15 am

          You wouldn’t last very long in the job if you were not sexually involved with clients. Escorting is, plain and simple, prostitution where the pro goes to the client, instead of the other way around. It has jack-all to do with companionship!!

          • WTP said, on February 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

            Mike lives in a fantasy world where there is no slippery slope where being paid to go on a date with someone should not necessarily lead to committing a sexual act with them. Such is phallacious thinking.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      You are misinformed Lexxus. Financial security doesn’t equal becoming empowered. Sex work is not liberating. It is worn as a badge for a short time, then turns routine, and then what? They eventually want to be valued as more. ANY value is good enough? Wrong.

  19. anon said, on December 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    i have fairly clear feelings about prostitution. i am more on the liberal side in that i believe that people should be free to choose their sexual behaviours and partners as long as there is not harm to others.

    sometimes, but not always, prostitution is harmful to others. it can be exploitative and psychologically damaging re. views of women or men as sex objects only.

    personally though, i don’t pay for sex – or charge for it. i don’t want to date a man who has done this either. it would trigger a lot of questions about compatibility of ethics which are important in your significant relationship.

    taking a woman out for dinner and hoping for sex is weird in my books too. reduces the relationship to a monetary exchange from the get go. hopefully a date would be a chance to determine whether there is going to be intimacy based on mutual attraction and the money should not be the issue. if you are really worried about the money do something less expensive at first!

    i like to save sex for someone i am attracted to on more than just a physical level. not for everyone maybe but this makes me feel fantastic in bed and allows me to live with myself happily on this topic.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 9, 2013 at 4:03 am

      Common argument for many women and it’s comparison to other parts of life somehow being a “transaction.” That, “They pay for it one way or another.”

      Thank you for saying you think it’s weird to have such expectations. It is.

  20. [...] attityder. Dessutom skulle jag vilja ha en diskussion om rimligheten i en sådan lag, dels på rent principiella grunder och dels utifrån ett undersökningsresultat som åtminstone har en tolerabel bekantskap med [...]

  21. munira's bubble said, on September 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I couldn’t have expressed myself better i think, though I did attempt it in ‘Of those who sell love and save dreams’


    Wish you could get your hands on this book called ‘The Dancing girls of Lahore’. It’s a truly amazing book on the anthropology of prostitution in Pakistan….

  22. enleuk said, on September 26, 2010 at 6:51 am

    “the article lies in the fact that it disregards the entire meaning behind the sexual act.”
    The actual meaning is not emotional, it is reproductive. The emotions are not relevant to the meaning of sex.

    “how can the prostitute deal with the duality of her nature”
    Well, if you don’t believe in a soul, then there is no duality.

    “Such deceit for money is, at the very least, morally dubious.”
    Strippers sell a fantasy, the false promise of sex, and costumers buy it, knowing full well it’s a fantasy.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 7, 2013 at 11:52 pm

      He was talking about escorts, not “strippers.” Even so, you would be giving the majority of strippers too much philosophical credit.

      • enleuk said, on January 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

        That comment was made over 2 years ago, so I’m not sure what you’re trying say. In general though, I’d group escorts and strippers and prostitutes together and you don’t need to be a philosopher to realize any truths about something you do for a living on a daily basis. However, I have no clue what you’re talking about.

        • responsiblehumans said, on January 9, 2013 at 5:39 am

          I’m not sure what time has to do with it, unless of course, your views have changed. I’m deeply saddened by your original post enleuk. It sounds like you are quite hardened and possibly calloused in your approach towards the essay. Am I inaccurately extracting that you are referring to yourself when you say “you don’t have to be a philosopher to realize any truths about something you do for a living on a daily basis.” ?

          I’ll clarify and elaborate on what I said. Michael was referring to an escort who is acting as a “friend” or someone who genuinely cares. If they are disingenuous, especially in a long-term client relationship, then it may be fair to say that someone could be partaking in “morally dubious” behavior. Especially since it is based more specifically on a client’s emotional needs rather than sexual desires.

          I, too, group escorts, strippers and prostitutes together. I just think that was important distinction to make when talking about morality. Lying or allowing someone to believe that you give a shit when you clearly don’t isn’t a valuable service one is providing. It’s a hustle.

          Strippers sell more than just a fantasy or false promise of sex. I don’t think most know what they are selling. It could be that in which you speak of, sure, that’s one thing to mention. They are also selling their bodies, the view of them, perhaps physical contact with them (in the way of lap dances and/or “private” dances), and of course, much of one’s personal sexuality. False and insincere companionship may also be sold, (such as that of an escort) but is a lot easier to discern the lack of earnest intentions from a stripper with her clothes off in a room full of men that is exhibiting the same behaviors to everyone else versus a one on one situation that isn’t completely shrouded in sexual outwardness.

          There is duality, regardless of whether you believe in “souls” or not. Hence the aliases, and all the other separations that exists from the “work place” to that of one’s “personal life” who chooses sex work as their profession. Why must they remain so separate? Do they not cross paths or share things in common? “Duality of her nature” I guess, would require more elaboration from the writer to accurately talk about it. “Nature” is pretty subjective, especially if are including conditioned behavior.

          Has the “act of sex” never been emotional for you? Furthermore, isn’t the only time that “sex” is reproductive when there is intercourse between an male and female? There are so many variations of sex, and I would argue that very few are for the sake of reproduction, at least with humans. Biologically, we are wired for such things, but we, along with a few species have sex purely for pleasure most of the time. I agree that emotions are not relevant to the “meaning” of sex, yet it can be just an important component for it to be enjoyable for many people as the physical act itself. Most consider the “meaning” to be more intimate than sex workers do.

          • enleuk said, on January 10, 2013 at 3:39 am

            Time is a factor, because I had forgotten what had been written.

            If you’re extracting that I am a sex worker, then yes, you’re wrong.

            I don’t think it’s morally dubious if the contract between escort and client is honest, and I’m guessing most escorts who survive in the business have pretty well-defined rules for how close and in what way a client can get. Obviously the client can be duped or allow himself/herself to be duped, but that can happen in any business and as in any business a bad reputation can kill your business. Sex slaves and trafficking are a separate issue, just as slavery and labour are separate.

            It’s not the sole case where emotions cost money either; it can be compared to a comedy show, a pet or even a date.

            I think most strippers are well aware of the fact that they are selling the fantasy of sex. How could they not be? Do you think they’re not aware of their own bodies and how the sight of them affects the onlookers? Do you think they’re not aware of the stiff cocks in the audience? Strippers are humans, they have brains and sex isn’t exactly rocket science.

            “Has the “act of sex” never been emotional for you”

            You’re asking the wrong question and the wrong person. You should ask “Is it possible to have sex without emotions?” And the answer is yes. You could also ask “Is it possible to date without emotions, is it possible to strip without emotions, is it possible to role-play as a Dominatrix without emotions?” The answer to all these questions is yes. And because it is possible, it is up to each individual to choose for themselves and not for others to make moral judgements.

            Sex workers have a long history of being enslaved, abused and despised by society, and that’s a troublesome legacy and many are still suffering from this, either from trafficking or from prejudice from the general public.

            The only reason sex work is considered different from other work is because most people have a strange relationship with sex, mostly because of culture, not the least the Abrahamic religions which describe the body as a corrupt shell. Had the idea of a perfect, divine, magical soul not been invented we might not even have had this debate. Instead, we have confused discussions about the difference between physical and emotional acts (emotions are physical processes in the brain), between love and lust, and prejudice assumptions about the act of sex itself depicting it as holy, divine, magical, special et cetera, something you need God’s permission to do. If we had had a warped view of hair instead of sex, then we would’ve been talking about hairdressers instead of strippers.

            • responsiblehumans said, on January 12, 2013 at 2:59 am

              I would agree that many have a strange relationship with sex. I would also agree that most religion has bastardized the meaning of it and only contributed to what is an already confusing thing for a lot of people. Though religion has done many things to isolate and place absolutes on issues such as sex, I believe it’s relevance to morality comes from a good place a lot of time.

              I certainly understand that “love” and “lust” can exist completely separately from sex, or the emotional from the physical. On the other extreme, sometimes sex is completely emotional and the physical matters very little. Simply because these things “can be” separate, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy if done that way on a consistent basis.

              All this aside, the heart of the debate really stems from the fact that, more often than not, sex work has more of a negative impact on themselves than a positive one. It’s pretty simple really. The con list is huge, while the benefits are few. Deeper than that is what you would call a “warped view.” I’ll agree with you on the religious aspect as it relates to being warped, but I would also put sex workers in that category, albeit on the opposite spectrum. How so? Just as religion has had an adverse affect on sexuality in individuals, so have the awful things that most sex workers have endured prior this “choice.” You may know some very well adjusted and “seemingly” victimless sex workers. I, however, do not. Nor have I ever, and I’ve known a lot in almost every aspect of the industry. I’m only talking about those who made that “choice” on their own.

              We must not forget that we are talking about sex. Sex and it’s relationship to one’s mind and body, emotion, self-esteem, and confidence. Child abuse or neglect in any of it’s many forms are more responsible for the fucked up way people view sex (especially sex workers and sex offenders) more than any other thing in western societies. Religion would be a close second. After that, my guess would be the society that feels it needs to embrace one side or the other further perpetuates one’s inability to object to both and think for themselves.

  23. david said, on November 9, 2010 at 3:35 am

    I think as long as both parties are truly consenting, well, it’s no one else’s business. Certainly not the state’s.

    I also feel that for people who cannot find or maintain relationships for whatever reason, prostitutes are a godsend and provide a truly valuable service. The whole business should be accorded respect and take place in a safe place where workers have security, respect, are well-paid and have benefits.

  24. Nelson said, on December 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for this post, very illuminating, as well as some of its comments. I came here on an online research motivated by a dear friend’s idea of possibly start working as a prostitute, not because she’s in dire material need but out of curiosity about a very profitable profession that is supposedly enjoyable (yet, I’m not sure she’s for real on this; maybe she just wants to provoke an ethical debate or test my limits).

    After reading this I’d like to say a couple things: Fist, it is clear for me that prostitution legal and social persecution is clearly much worse than prostitution itself.

    As for prostitution, I tend to feel that although it is very far from being a crime, it neither represents an ethical ideal for a way of life, at least not in the real, current world. And this goes not just for the prostitute but also for the solicitor, as candidly sums up Anon on this forum.

    But I see this in the realm of personal ethics, because, then again, who can blame on others this less than perfect conduct in a society where much worse behaviors (think consumerism, pollution, labor exploitation, etc.) are seen as normal or in some cases even as admirable?

    I hope this discussion continues because I’d really would like to dig deeper on the subject.

    (By the way, sorry for my so-so English; it is not my first language).

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      I wouldn’t recommend prostitution as a career path. However, it does seem that under the proper conditions it could be as ethical as many other legitimate professions.

    • truth said, on May 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Ask your friend: “would you like your daughter OR son to be a prostitute?”

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 19, 2012 at 10:50 am

        I would not.

        • michael my family name is in the royal golden crown of her majesty on every red telephone box
          around the world communication and darwins theory of evolution has a lot to what men desire men love good healthy aesthetically attractive females for the exercise of copulation leading to orgasm
          its a natural inbuilt desire to have fit healthy future a family though with 99.9999999999999%
          of sex with p ro st y tuition it is for p lea s u re

          ask yourself as i have been deported twice would you want your son or daughter to be forced into a situation by the legal authorities and be sold as police arrest people the solicitors and lawers pro se cu t e people and the peole are sold the information and court systems make prostiutes along with the land lords asking for so much money every night to sleep somewhere a basic and human right
          if rents mortgages and living costs power control was not so high there would not be so many p ro st i t u tes and there would be more pleasure seekers

          immigration around the world the right to enter a cunt try are kidnapping holding and selling people worldwide the geneva convention 1923 25 th of september outlaws all the united nations against capturing holding kidnapp and selling people the magna carta which is still in law today with the senate of the us as DUE PRO CE SS 5th and 14th amendments it has something to do with
          the mascochistic fat ugly men that demand the right of having money in order to have sex with a women of their choice and vice versa have a p 5 % Q V in la T in

        • shenonymous said, on June 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

          Why not?

  25. :( said, on December 25, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I don’t think this is as well thought out as it could be. You basically go down a list of straw man arguments, refute them, and then say you’re right. I don’t think that the arguments against prostitution are that weak, however.

    As far as coercion goes, you miss a lot of things. First of all, prostitution supports human trafficking, this is simply a fact. As such, the less prostitution, the less human trafficking. Encouraging prostitution means encouraging human trafficking, which is wrong. Similarly, many prostitutes are coerced into the sex trade, and you can’t really ignore that fact — in our society, coercion is always going to be a reality for sex workers.

    Your straw man argument about the patriarchy was dumb, so obviously it was easy to refute. A better argument is that woman are unnecessarily coerced into something degrading. You raise examples like sewer cleaners as degrading jobs. First, they aren’t as degrading. Second, those jobs are actually necessary for our society to function — prostitution isn’t. We can go without hookers, but not without a sewer system. If we can remove an industry which is usually harmful and exploitative, and thus prevent women from being forced into it, we ought to.

    Moreover, you have the issue of the state coercing people into the sex trade, which most definitely happens. In order to receive unemployment benefits you have to prove that you are looking for work, and not turning down legit job offers. This lead one woman in Germany to lose her unemployment benefits after she turned down a job at a brothel. Clearly immoral. And the fact that we see this as immoral, but we don’t see it as immoral when people are forced to work in a burger king, illustrates that prostitution is fundamentally different, and more harmful to the individual, then other jobs.

    And regardless of whether or not prostitutes are coerced into the sex trade, the job itself is harmful to them. There isn’t just the very high chance of physical violence, rape, or the like, there is also the psychological trauma of prostituting yourself. Study after study has shown that prostitutes have considerably higher rates of mental illness than the average population, or even the prison population. Clearly, it is a harmful job and regardless of whether people are coerced into it we ought to stop them from entering it, just like we try to stop people from committing suicide or cutting themselves.

    In terms of your whole “prostitution isn’t degrading” spiel.

    First, I think you’re missing some big issues, like legalized prostitution probably fucking up our society’s ideas of sex. When sex is viewed as a commodity which can be bought and sold it is certainly going to change interpersonal relationships for the worse. You raised that comedians joke, but honestly no one normal sees dates that way now. With prostitution legalized, they just might. Also, it’s probably going to hurt society’s view of women.

    Second, and I hate to appeal to this, but look at our moral intuitions. We consider prostitution worse then all those other examples of selling ourselves that you provided. there’s probably a reason for this.

    Third, your response to the intimacy rebuttal was utterly inadequate. First, many writers don’t write down their most intimate thoughts, in fact, I would bet almost every writer shares more private thoughts with their spouse or close friends then they do with their readers. You don’t seem to know what therapy is. Sex is more intimate. It is more physically intimate. It is this way both due to society and how we view sex, and because biologically sex makes you more attached to people — it’s a chemical fact. You can’t conflate it with all those little analogies.

    Marriage isn’t prostitution. Mary wolfstonecraft wrote a long fucking time ago. I’m fairly sure almost any married couple would be insulted by this assertion. Almost no one marries just for sex, and asserting that they do seems to imply that women can never enjoy sex, also a stupid thing to say. Apply the same logic to dating. Your entire argument is based on an idiotic assumption.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      Interestingly, you are making a straw man of my post. Either that or you are simply missing my actual points.

      • :( said, on December 27, 2010 at 6:02 am

        Point out where or how I’ve done that and I’d love to reply to any criticisms you have. Until you explain where and how I’m “making a straw man” of your post I’ll just go ahead and assume that you jus don’t have a response. Notice how I called your post a straw man and then explained why you were wrong? Try doing that.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 27, 2010 at 7:34 pm

          >As far as coercion goes, you miss a lot of things. First of all, prostitution supports human trafficking, this is simply a fact.<

          I do not deny that. In fact, I say that people are sometimes enslaved and forced to work as prostitutes. That seems to show that I did not miss human trafficking.

          As such, the less prostitution, the less human trafficking. Encouraging prostitution means encouraging human trafficking, which is wrong. Similarly, many prostitutes are coerced into the sex trade, and you can’t really ignore that fact — in our society, coercion is always going to be a reality for sex workers.M

          The thing is, I say that people are coerced into this. I never deny that.

          Your straw man argument about the patriarchy was dumb, so obviously it was easy to refute.<

          This is just name calling.

          A better argument is that woman are unnecessarily coerced into something degrading. You raise examples like sewer cleaners as degrading jobs. First, they aren’t as degrading. Second, those jobs are actually necessary for our society to function — prostitution isn’t. We can go without hookers, but not without a sewer system. If we can remove an industry which is usually harmful and exploitative, and thus prevent women from being forced into it, we ought to.<

          Well, I address your first point "It can be replied that such exploitation is acceptable when it is withing a certain degree. So, for example, the exploitation of the prostitutes by their pimps is exploitive because he takes far too much. The exploitation of the workers by Burger King is acceptable, because they do not exploit their workers as badly (and rarely, if ever, pimp slap them)."

          Also, I do not defend prostitution that is degrading. As noted above, my argument is highly conditional: If prostitution were not degrading, coercive and so on.

          And regardless of whether or not prostitutes are coerced into the sex trade, the job itself is harmful to them. There isn’t just the very high chance of physical violence, rape, or the like, there is also the psychological trauma of prostituting yourself. Study after study has shown that prostitutes have considerably higher rates of mental illness than the average population, or even the prison population. Clearly, it is a harmful job and regardless of whether people are coerced into it we ought to stop them from entering it, just like we try to stop people from committing suicide or cutting themselves.<

          I consider that as well. Again, I am not defending a form of prostitution that is coercive, harmful and degrading. Once again, it is a highly conditional argument.

          In terms of your whole “prostitution isn’t degrading” spiel.<

          I do not make that claim. Rather, the point I make is that if it were somehow not degrading, then… As such, you are bashing a position I never took.

          You raised that comedians joke, but honestly no one normal sees dates that way now. With prostitution legalized, they just might. Also, it’s probably going to hurt society’s view of women.<

          I suspect you didn't notice that I was being critical of this.

          Third, your response to the intimacy rebuttal was utterly inadequate. First, many writers don’t write down their most intimate thoughts, in fact, I would bet almost every writer shares more private thoughts with their spouse or close friends then they do with their readers.<

          Perhaps. However, some artists seem intent to pour their souls out. This is, of course, a matter of fact that could be tested, if someone cared enough to do so.

          You don’t seem to know what therapy is.<

          Not to a great extent. Not really my sort of thing.

          Sex is more intimate. It is more physically intimate. It is this way both due to society and how we view sex, and because biologically sex makes you more attached to people — it’s a chemical fact. You can’t conflate it with all those little analogies.<

          Well, presumably people can have sex without true intimacy. But, if it is true (as a matter of fact), that sex with a prostitution create an intimacy that exceeds all these other types of alleged intimacy to the required degree, then this point would be refuted.

          Marriage isn’t prostitution.<

          In some cases, no. In others…well, perhaps so.

          Mary wolfstonecraft wrote a long fucking time ago.<

          So? Genetic fallacies don't really work well as arguments.

          I’m fairly sure almost any married couple would be insulted by this assertion<


          . Almost no one marries just for sex, <


          and asserting that they do seems to imply that women can never enjoy sex,<

          What? How so?

          also a stupid thing to say. Apply the same logic to dating. Your entire argument is based on an idiotic assumption.<

          Again, name calling is not argumentation.

          You might wish to reread the post. However, if the failure to communicate my actual view is my fault, then I apologize.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 12:39 am

      You are on the right track. Negate the negative name calling stuff and stay with your true focus. Challenge it as you should. Your heart is in the right place and so is your passion. I’m going down this entire post and it’s responses…. this is the first thing I read that had any real merit. Keep it up! Fuck the straw man approach. This is not a philosophical topic. It’s just going to take a while for people to understand it and change it. Errors in thought everywhere need to be corrected.

  26. :( said, on December 27, 2010 at 6:05 am

    PS look at what actually happens in most prostitution cases before you try to start talking about ethics or morality. Eg a prostitute whose pimp had his dog rape her, took pictures, and then blackmailed her into staying a prostitute by threatening to send the pictures to her family.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

      While I do not address the specific horrors you mention, you’ll notice that any moral acceptability I ascribe to prostitution is highly conditional: it has to be non-coercive, non-degrading and so on. Also, I do get that prostitution as it is most generally practiced is a horrible thing. I never deny that.

      • shenonymous said, on June 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

        There is always that slippery slope problem.

  27. litlbitznpieces said, on January 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    The article is interesting and not purported by the author to be all inclusive. Several points I would like to get feedback on, which I will try to state simply and not address every component, include:
    - humans are innately sexual, simply from a biological perspective this is logical, yet we struggle with an issue of morality which some imply is also innate. I wonder if it is innate or simply the way it’s been for so long that we simply accept that it is true. Of course, repetition alone doesn’t make something true.
    - social acceptance of prostitution will follow the way of online porn, because the more we see something, the less we respond to it. As a result of this exposure, coupled with the “that’s the way it’s always been logic”, today’s youth will likely not adhere to our puritanical views of prostitution.
    - the impact of the economic downturn in America, especially as it impacts single mothers, must have some women considering this profession who one time might not have. Desperation, real or perceived, can change what one views as acceptable. This doesn’t necessarily imply low socioeconomic status
    - the psychological implications for the prostitute: must they be devastating? What relationship exists between the ramifications and the reason for it; ie, a woman who enters into the profession to maintain a drug habit might be initially of a different emotional, psychological and physical health than a woman who views it as a last choice means to pay rent or provide basic necessities for her family. What of the woman who prostitutes to maintain a luxurious lifestyle? Is prostitution any more or less morally acceptable?
    - do men disrespect women who prostitute, would it change your opinion of someone if you learned they were a prostitute? If so, how can reconcile our social moral code with a social structure built upon capitalism?
    - can a man and a woman enter into such a relationship and both of them profit financially, psychologically, etc? If yes, do such relationships start out contracted as sex for money or does it develop over time…not unlike how a marriage might be viewed by some?
    - what, if any, effect does the age of the parties have on any of this?

    Because this is a non-academic forum, for the basis of my discussion, my statements reflect certain assumptions, but I do not maintain that they are absolute truths.

    Love the respectful tone of (most of) the contributors!

  28. Desmond Ravenstone said, on April 4, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Thank you for a concise, well-thought essay. One point that seems to be missed here, and that is the effect of criminalizing and stigmatizing sex work.

    Consider how using law and social disapproval to keep prostitution underground means that those engaged in the work are hampered from improving the conditions of their work and life. Now compare when sex work is given legal and social recognition, opening the door for sex workers to form unions or professional associations, insist on reasonable health and safety regulations, engage in dialogue with community members so they can establish safe workplaces, and so forth.

    That being said, it’s also important to make the distinction between legalization and decriminalization. The former means simply replacing police control with bureaucratic control. Decriminalization, on the other hand, opens the door for professionals to assert more control over their own lives, and thus more effectively deal with the negative issues which you address in your piece.

  29. [...] A blog looking at the ethics of prostitution. [...]

  30. andy ng said, on November 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I have one question to all, may find it offensive, but try to take it objectively:

    Put reasons, circumstances and consequences aside, is it ok for YOUR daughters/sons, sisters/brothers, mother/father to be a prostitute?

    we can say a lot, talk a lot, study a lot, read a lot, think a lot about it, reason about it, analyse, test, etc, whatever. but a simple “yes/no” answer to my question above will say the most, i think…

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      I would prefer that no one be a prostitute, regardless of their relationship to me (well, I certainly would not want my girlfriend or wife to be one). However, in a system in which prostitution was a legal profession with safeguards, rights and so on-then I suppose I would be okay with a relative making that career choice. It is not something I would do-but there are plenty of professions I would not pursue.

      • truth said, on May 19, 2012 at 10:40 am

        Would you want your daughter or SON ( male-on-male prostitution exist) to be a prostitute?
        Yes or No.
        Whatever your answer, will turn out true for your children.

      • shenonymous said, on June 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

        In light of your interesting and well-spoken essay, and all of your responses, why would you not want your girlfriend or wife to be one. I am assuming you would include your daughters, nieces, sisters, and mother, grandmother, aunts, and mother’s best girlfriend.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

          As far as my girlfriend or wife, I would not want her to be a prostitute because of that fidelity thing. That is, my problem would be with her not being faithful. As far as other women in my life, my main reasons would be (as a I argued) that the reality of prostitution is that it is demeaning and dangerous. I would not want my female relatives to be working in any excessively dangerous or demeaning occupation. Now, if the world were different and prostitution was a safe and non-demeaning profession in the United States, then my view would be different.

    • Anonymous said, on March 13, 2012 at 11:40 am

      A person may not want their friends and family to be prostitutes, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Some people don’t want their children to grow up to become all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean the professions should be outlawed. Generally, I wouldn’t date a man who had been paid for sex, but there are a lot of things a guy could have done that I wouldn’t find attractive either but are still culturally acceptable. I don’t think a simple yes or no could answer your question and most certainly can’t say the most. It’s such a complex issue there’s almost no question attached to it that could be that simple.

      • truth said, on May 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

        Would you prefer your daughter or SON to flip burgers , or be a cleaner or would you prefer them to be a prostitute? Would you prefer to tell all your freinds, colleagues and boss that your daughter or son is a prostitute rather than a cleaner or a burger flipper?

  31. SexAndWaffles said, on November 25, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I would like to respond to this post from a woman’s perspective. I sincerely appreciate the well-thought-out argument, and I believe that all of the logic presented was sound. Unfortunately, however, our country (and most of the world) is hung up on “romantic” love, and has accepted that as the gold standard for interpersonal, physical relationships. We can choose to blame Westernization, the spread of Christianity, or any other number of things, but that is the truth of it. We just can’t accept, can’t comprehend, sex without emotion or love. I consider that a tragedy for mankind.
    Now, to the heart of the matter. Female degradation. The idea of a woman giving up her dignity for money. I’m sure that, for many prostitutes, this is certainly the case. But most definitely not all. For one thing–as one person pointed out–men can get sex free, so if he is going to pay for it, it better be quality, which means that if a “pimp” (I am generalizing here to refer to an employer of prostitutes) wants to stay in business, he/she is going to ensure that the prostitute is on the top of her game. Beating the shit out of her and blackmailing her usually won’t get those results. That’s speaking from a business point of view.
    From a personal point of view–some women like what they do. Don’t look so shocked. Guys, imagine if someone told you that they would give you a fistful of cash, right now, to walk into a room and have sex with a girl. How long would it take you to consider the offer? Many women feel the same way about sex.
    Which leads me to the emotionless sex debate. Yes, it is possible. Your genitalia are in no way connected to your emotions. If yours are, it’s only because they have been programmed that way by your ex-girlfriends. Or your mother. Sex is a physical act. If it was emotional, you could make babies by staring into a girl’s eyes. Thank goodness that isn’t true.
    So yes, it is possible for a woman to have casual sex with multiple men and not be affected by it. In fact, in my experience, casual sex is much, much less emotionnally damaging than a long-term relationship. And it is cheaper too. Hell, if prostitution were legal, I would be set for life.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 25, 2011 at 10:09 am

      True, people can certainly engage in sex without emotional involvement and, presumably, without experiencing emotional damage. In any case, people do work jobs (such as being combat soldiers) that expose them to situations that would be far more damaging than casual sex for money. Crudely put, if it is okay to pay people to kill, then paying people for sex would also seem to be okay (being, at the very least, less bad than killing).

      • SexAndWaffles said, on November 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm

        Great point.

      • magus71 said, on November 25, 2011 at 8:59 pm

        “Crudely put, if it is okay to pay people to kill”

        Yeah–I’d say that was crude. It’s kind of like saying that cops are paid to kill. Or that soldiers are like prostitutes in some way. It depends entirely which nation the soldier defends. No real soldier would say he is merely paid to kill. He kills for specific reasons, and real soldiers kill for good reasons. I’ll also point out that sometimes when two nations have grievences with each other, they may both be right.

        The possible damage that soldiers expose themselves to is the trade-off for defending a nation. What is the higher good that comes from being a prostitute?

        SexandWaffles said: “We just can’t accept, can’t comprehend, sex without emotion or love. I consider that a tragedy for mankind.”

        Well, there was a time not so long ago when women weren’t prowling around in bars with a purse full of contraceptives and a head full of Gloria Steinem. Having sex was akin to having babies and having babies meant a family unit which included a man. But now I guess it’s different. It’s all about the woman. Actually–perhaps you can answer a question for me, SexandWaffles. Why do more and more women seem to have such serious issues with men? I mean, they really don’t like them. I’m thinking one reason is that lots of random, casual sex is doing more damage than they know. I would say that if their are no emotions involved in sex and the person does not want emotions to be involved, perhaps that is evidence in and of itself that damage has been done, since it is essentially an intentional numbing of one’s mind.

        • SexAndWaffles said, on November 26, 2011 at 4:07 am

          Firstly, I certainly think that soldiers are a type of prostitute, regardless of which nation they fight for or why they believe they are killing/supporting the killing. I believe I have every right to this opinion, because I was one. I sold my body to Uncle Sam for five years, and he got to do whatever he wanted with me. He bent me over, he shamed me, he degraded me, he got to dictate every move I made, because he is the one that put food on the table and a roof over my head. Not to mention that if I tried to run away, he would have hunted me down and locked my ass up. Or killed me.
          The higher good that comes from being a prostitute is the same one that comes from every profession, including politics. Security. Security for her family. Food. Shelter. Maybe a small nest egg for her childrens’ education? We all have that prerogative, and if that isn’t something worth respecting, then you might as well quit your job today because it is just too degrading and there is no purpose to it.
          As for the question that you posed me directly–I by no means hate men. I am not trying to cut them out of my life. In fact, my life is all about men. I do not understand women, and I can barely tolerate their company. I think men are great and I respect them. However, I have discovered that my life is less stressful–happier, easier to manage, more successful (translation, I am not a complete bitch) when I am not attempting to juggle another person’s emotions that do not make sense to me. Sex makes sense. Love does not. I agree with you, it is likely that damage has been done–but the damage occurred during relationships, not casual sex. I have never been happier than when I am having sex with a man, and then can send him on his way and have peace in my home. No arguments, no drama, no tears, no fighting over the sheets. Life is simple. I do not understand your confusion with this desire.

          • magus71 said, on November 26, 2011 at 6:38 am

            The nature of sex has changed since the nature of sex changed in America. The disintigration of the family unit is the basis for America’s societal and cultural breakdown. No society could survive if (and they do–which is why Europe and America are doomed), it held your sexual mores. But your views represent the majority, mine a small minority.

            “I have never been happier than when I am having sex with a man, and then can send him on his way and have peace in my home.”

            So you’re incabable of anything more? Again, seems the damage has been done and casual sex has brought what our society now endorses: Lowered expectations.

            Also, casual sex is something women control, not men. A woman can have sex on most days of the week if she’s single. A man can’t.

            As for your views on being a soldier, it is just like the relationships you find so difficult: It requires a level of submission and compromise, something the modern woman has been taught is degrading.

            “I do not understand women, and I can barely tolerate their company.”

            and..”I think men are great and I respect them.”

            but..”but the damage occurred during relationships”

            Relationships with men, I assume. Not trying to be you psychiatrist here, but the problem may not be everyone else.

            You could always move to Las Vegas and fulfill your higher calling.

            • magus71 said, on November 26, 2011 at 6:40 am

              I said: “The nature of sex has changed since the nature of sex changed in America”

              I meant: The nature of relationships has changed since the nature of sex has changed in America.

          • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 1:11 am

            That makes a lot of sense. “I have never been happier…” The thing is, don’t you think you can be?

            • SexAndWaffles said, on January 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm

              Possibly, eventually…but that will involve quite a lot of courage on my part, and a hell of a lot of patience and understanding on theirs, since they will be walking into a relationship with a woman who has probably slept with more people than they have in the first few branches of their family tree.

        • Anonymous said, on June 6, 2012 at 5:59 am

          I´m sorry, but the soldier knows he has to kill others eventually. so in fact he is payed to kill. one may believe it are good reasons or that it is nessecary but becoming a soldier and killing are linked inevitably.

    • shenonymous said, on June 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      It is not the case that one’s genitalia is not connected to one’s emotions. It is completely connected, physically and emotionally. One can mentally detach oneself from sexual activity, just as one can detach themselves from anything, say love, or friendship, or caring about one’s children, or killing pigs for their bacon, but the entire mechanism for sex is based on its nervous connection to emotional motivation to physically engage in sex acts and sex only evolved for its reproduction facility. Notice that snails do not have to have sex to reproduce as they are asexual and can reproduce at will. Having money is an emotional motivation, and those who engage in sex for money are involved in it emotionally for the sake of money.

      If dignity is the question, then it is dignity that needs to be defined and defined for each person as it will be different for each individual. But we are here speaking about general practice and in that practice are more occasions for abuse and harm than some want to admit. Particularly for sexually exploited children. Only the very prudish are shocked that some women like being prostitutes. Some like to work in sewers too! There’s nothing like it for them than getting down into the filth and mud. Of course it is possible to have casual sex but is it a good thing or not is the question. Not much has been discussed here about the good of it other than reproductivity. There is much to consider when thinking about morality for oneself but also for a society.

    • Nina said, on March 26, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      Your genitalia are VERY connected to your emotions.
      And sex is absolutely NOT only physical.
      Physical arousal comes from your MIND (fantasy, brain, call it as you please) being aroused. If sex was just physical, you would be able to get aroused and have sex with anybody, no difference. But in reality, looks, attitude, intelligence, emotional attachment, gesture and movement are just a small share of what could influence yuor attraction – and sexual desire – for someone. And you perceive them through your senses, and elaborate the whole thing via your brain, which will send hormones accordingly.
      I think what makes your point invalid is “emotion”=”romantic”. Having loveless sex is possible. Having “emotionless” sex is biologically impossible. Even non-sentimentally involved sex always has an impact – it is demonstrated that men that pay for sex delude themselves that the prostitute loves them, needs them, or like them. The escorts that actually chose their job and enjoy it, regularly mention their feeling of power. They take pleasure in manipulating men and being needed, worshipped and desired by them. Having someone working for your pleasure is a powerful satifaction for your mind, and that’s one of the main reasons your body responds that way.
      I’m not a native English speaker, but I hope I made my point clear anyway.

  32. SexAndWaffles said, on November 26, 2011 at 7:27 am

    I might be breaking away from the original issue a bit here, but I would like to address something that you are overlooking, and that is the gender double standard. I am not a feminist by any means, believe me. However, men have been having casual sex since before history was first written, and yet only now that women have decided to join the game, suddenly the “family unit” is under attack. A family unit is whatever you want it to be. If I decide that I want three husbands, two wives, and four children, that is my family. If we adults raise our children with respect for their elders, an understanding of equality, and a desire to make a positive impact on society, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that picture. I see a healthy home.
    Imagine, for a moment, what society would be like if men were paid to have sex with women? I’m not referring to the rare case of gigolos who only receive money from desperate, overweight, or unattractive women. I am referring to average women who, if they really felt compelled, could probably go out on the town to pick somebody up for the night. But instead they want to pay a man to come over to their house to have sex with them. How many men, do you think, would enlist themselves in this business? Do you think it would be degrading to them? Do you think it would be emotionally damaging, for men to have sex with women so casually? All of those one-night stands, it must be so hard on them. They will probably scarred for life, don’t you think? What do you think they will do with the money? Do you think they will feel guilty about how they got it? Or will they spend it on beer and brag to their friends that they just got PAID to have SEX? Think about it.

    • magus71 said, on November 26, 2011 at 8:59 am

      “But instead they want to pay a man to come over to their house to have sex with them. How many men, do you think, would enlist themselves in this business? Do you think it would be degrading to them? Do you think it would be emotionally damaging, for men to have sex with women so casually? All of those one-night stands, it must be so hard on them. They will probably scarred for life, don’t you think?”

      Yes, I do. But scars can heal over time. Psychological ones can heal when we change the way we think. But changing the way we think requires submission, because we have to admit our thinking is wrong. The is no gender double-standard, at least with me. People can function at a fairly high level with all kinds of internal problems, and yet they still aren’t reaching their highest potential.

      I’ve gained some wisdom as I’ve grown older. As the apostle Paul said: “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive”~1 Corinthians 10:23

      I’ve made my mistakes and much of what I’ve learned comes down to this: There is power in self control.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      Interestingly, or boringly, we might see a shift in gender roles. Women are now the majority in colleges (and in most majors) and in some cities young women make more than young men. What might occur is a shift in economic power. Since gender roles are shaped by economic factors (see, for example, the radical changes in the role of women since WWII) we should expect to see new changes in the gender roles. This might include women paying men for sex, etc. Or not-maybe the basic biology is such that this will not become a significant change.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 1:32 am

      You would not be able to have that family dynamic. You could try, best selfish intentions or not, but according to what you’ve written so far, I would beg to differ. Your children would be dramatically confused, as probably would you. The last sentence of that paragraph holds wonderful sentiment, however, the previous on is something anyone would be capable of. Especially, someone who does not believe in love, or how it only complicates a relationship. My dear, what in the hell happened to you? This is not about men vs women. It is prostitution, regardless of gender. I know plenty of males who have prostituted themselves as escorts and/or pornography. Most share similar common threads with why they’ve made the choice to do so. This is not gender specific. Most will never brag, because it is dangerous and usually gay.

      • SexAndWaffles said, on January 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

        My example of a scenario involving men in the same position as female prostitutes in no way aligns with your rebuttal of existing male prostitutes–the majority of them cater to unattractive women or, more likely, men. Of course it is not the kind of thing to mention over a beer during the football game. I was referring to the simple act of man-woman intercourse that most female prostitutes engage in, that the general population considers to be a degrading act. If we were to look at the EXACT same scenario–the same two people, in the same bed, but with the man getting paid for it instead…would we still assume the same distaste? Or would we champion him for “getting paid to do what he loves” or some other such accomplishment? I was only pointing out the double standard as a way to highlight the fact that it isn’t necessarily the humiliating, horrifying, scarring, disgraceful life that most assume it is. Sure, it can be–but it doesn’t have to be.

        As for your comment about me not believing in love, I’ve never anywhere said that or alluded to that fact. I believe in love more than most, as I’ve seen it quite often. I’ve been love–sincere, life-altering love, not whimsical puppy love–five different times in my life. I have been married, and I have been in two other lengthy serious relationships besides. I thoroughly understand the dynamics of romantic and social connections that form family bonds. These kinds of connections, if maintained, can only strengthen a home–regardless of the lifestyles chosen by those involved.

  33. SexAndWaffles said, on November 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I believe in moderation as well, but you say that as if it only applies to sexual appetites. Shouldn’t it apply to emotional ones as well? Isn’t emotional irresponsibility just as bad as sexual irresponsibility? Isn’t it just as bad for a person to rush into love out of a desperate need for validation as it is for a person to rush into bed out of desperate need for satisfaction? I have my own demons to battle, I won’t deny that, but you cannot pretend that it is healthy to become an emotional leech, feeding off of your partner in order to gratify your own sense of self worth, either.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 26, 2011 at 6:46 pm

      Good point. While emotional irresponsibility does not come with its own viruses and bacteria, it can cause emotional harms that are quite serious.

      • magus71 said, on November 27, 2011 at 6:35 am

        My theory is that social, moral and familial bonds have broken to such an extent that people don’t realize how damaged they are. They have nothing to compare it to. It’s now perfectly normal to want to act like Snookie, and for wives to text old lovers while hubby is on business. When I was growing up, it was unthinkable. I was actually taught the rules of society in CCD; now, kids are thrown to the world completely unarmed. It should be expected that kids will make mistakes, but our society’s unwillingness to give any moral training to kids has brought on the fairly new phenomena of the adolescent 35 year old man. So many 30+ men act like children. They are no longer the protectors of their families and culture in many cases. In my case, while my childhood was a disaster, once I reached a certain age I was able to look back at the training I’d received and say: “They were right and their way is better than what I’ve been doing–time to change myself.”

        It is no longer the Age of Aquarius, it is the age of Utter Emptiness–no God, no country, no family, no honor, that’s all so droll. Just give us Jersey Shore and tell us why all things are permissable.

        • dhammett said, on November 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

          Jerry Sandusky’s mother was “Evelyn Mae (née Lee) an Irish Catholic homemaker . . ..and Arthur Sandusky whose parents immigrated from Poland. . . .Arthur served in the field of youth service programs for over 30 years” (There’s a certain sick irony in the “children services” link there, isn’t there?)

          What do you suppose Jerry Sandusky ignored from his CCD experience—assuming he attended CCD?

          “In addition to matters regarding priests, the Boston Globe also reported in 2002 on matters with church staff, including a pastoral care and CCD worker, Paul Merullo, and a teenager, in Woburn, Massachusetts, which had occurred in 2000 but only made public in 2001. Merullo was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.”

          • magus71 said, on November 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

            Are you saying Catholics teach their children that sexual abuse is fine, or that nothing we teach kids matters?

            • dhammett said, on November 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm

              As a matter of fact,I said neither.

  34. Anonymous said, on November 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I don’t know about other families, but I was raised in a traditional Christian home with a mother, a stable father who maintained firm discipline, and strict morals. I will always be grateful for the wholesome environment that I grew up in, but it does not change my views on relationships and the fact that each individual has the right to choose which relationship style is appropriate for them, and if they want to be a part of a family as an adult. Although the one man one woman-handful of children household is the traditonal one, it is by no means the only one. That does not mean that society is falling apart, it means that we are losing the chains of prejudice and small-mindedness. We are growing.

    • magus71 said, on November 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      I don’t think you’re completely convinced of your own arguments. I think your arguments are meant to try to convince yourself. At least from what I read on your blog.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 2:04 am

      One part is growth, I agree. The other is part of the “whatever” generation. That everything is acceptable. That can’t be true. Right? There is a line. Where is it? I’m happy people are thinking for themselves, if they truly are. I’m more concerned with the fact that they aren’t. They aren’t doing what is in their best interest. Their influences are suspect at best, and most expect that people will make good decisions and choices for themselves because “they know what’s right for themselves better than anyone else.” Right? No, it’s getting worse and worse and worse. One’s childhood is the best indicator and proof that will never be true. Until someone is told that something is not “okay” they will never question it. Perhaps even have everyone else convinced in their life that they are correct. It only takes one person with guts to say it is not. I’m not talking about a “general society” view or “religious” view, or even “moral” view. One just has to look at that person’s life and say: “Hey, your life is a fucking mess and you seem to be making the same fucking mistakes over and over again. You’re really good at pretending you’re happy when it’s obvious that you aren’t. So… hey, have you ever considered moving this one variable from your life that is potentially damaging and hindering any real growth in your life?” Stop protecting something that NEVER is something beneficial. It’s not about survival. Trust me. No one has ever died, nor have their children because they just didn’t have any other option. That is bullshit. It shouldn’t be an option. That’s the point.

  35. SexAndWaffles said, on November 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    The previous comment was from me.

  36. palko said, on January 22, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Hi All.
    Very interesting post, and interesting comments.
    I am a family man, and a more or less regular client of prostitutes. Having been married for a decade, I first tried this genre 4 years ago, and since then, I visited more than 50 prostitutes. That is to say, with some of them we became even friends, with full of emotions — we communicate regularly via e-mail or SMS, sometimes I call them etc.
    In the first one or two years, I felt guilty. Now I do not feel any shame at all. I do not claim that my relationship to prostitutes does not impact our love with my wife, but the current situation is way better, as if I felt in love with a girlfriend and left my wife.
    In fact, I admit, I try to be as monogamous as I can. But I am surely not that type. I simply need strong emotions, the game of bodies, the joy and enjoyment of sexual games. I think it is a type of communication.
    I know a lot of girls working in this industry. I am the client of the mid-level players. Most of them are college students whose parents cannot afford their college. Others are not students, but poor girls from the country-side who did not have any idea how to get (a lot of) money. Some of them are working for pimps or houses, others are simply working alone in a rented flat, while their parents think their daughter is studying diligently at the college. (By the way, they do!)
    I even know some of them, whose mother of father learned that their daughter is a prostitute… it is a very hard test of parental love. Some of these girls were disowned, others were accepted, as is.
    In the last year I tried to stop visiting prostitutes. I have not met any of them for six months now. Visiting prostitutes, being in this community (we have a well working website) is a type of addiction. It is similar to drugs. You just start it for any reasons, get addicted, and it is really hard to stop.
    I think I have managed.
    But it hurts a lot. I miss these tiny girls and I think that some of them misses me, too. I was even invited by one of them for lunch, without any sex or business.
    So, philosophically, I think that this issue will be reconsidered even by theologians in the future. By excluding infections and violence from the story, this relation just becomes a kind of communication between men and women (or women and women, just to be politically correct), and prohibiting prostitution will no longer have a moral basis.

  37. Kinky Agile Sex « Think Different said, on April 1, 2012 at 6:45 am

    [...] This post lays out the whole thorny question quite well, I think. [...]

    • shenonymous said, on June 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Don’t you mean horny question? Yeah, that must be it.

  38. truth said, on May 19, 2012 at 9:49 am


    Has it ever occured to you, you married the wrong woman?
    And thus you needed a way to compensate ?

    This is another good example of what happens when one marries the wrong woman.

    • shenonymous said, on June 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Or more accurately, when a woman marries the wrong man. This man obviously loves his penis more than his wife.

  39. Moki Barros said, on May 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I think this argument has many holes. You keep equating prostitution with other forms of work. Do you not see a difference? There is something considered to be sacred in our society: love, family, intimacy. Our relationships with other human beings are the core of society. When love, intimacy, sex become commodified, then they lost their value, and relationships lose their value. With the loss of closeness, people become distanced from each other, and society becomes weaker and more fragmented.

    Prostitution is a mockery of intimacy. It is taking that which expresses our emotional connection with another person and cheapening it. Intimacy becomes reduced to solely physical closeness. And it becomes hard, one these actions and words are debased, to reclaim them for any true emotional expression. People from both the viewpoint of the john and that of the prostitute become commodities and love becomes transactional.

    There is a reason why people who come from good families where they felt loved and appreciated do not turn to escorting or prostitution, unless they are in truly desperate and dire situations: once they know the true meaning of love–sacrifice, caring, responsibility–they cannot cheapen it in faux intimacy.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      “You keep equating prostitution with other forms of work. Do you not see a difference?”

      The analogy could be defective. However, I did undertake to address likely concerns that might break the analogy. Naturally, if prostitution is relevantly different from other forms of work that are considered acceptable, then this would weaken the analogy.

      “There is something considered to be sacred in our society: love, family, intimacy. Our relationships with other human beings are the core of society.”

      I agree. Sadly, the alleged sacredness of these goods is routinely violated.

      “When love, intimacy, sex become commodified, then they lost their value, and relationships lose their value. With the loss of closeness, people become distanced from each other, and society becomes weaker and more fragmented.”

      True. But I would say that they were converted to commodities long ago, at least by some folks. I do agree that love should not be treated as a commodity. I am unsure about sex, however. My own view is that it should not be bought and sold, but I think that the same is true of other things that are routinely bought and sold. Take, for example, being a therapist: one engages in intimate issues for money. Interestingly, many philosophical critics have attacked the entire capitalist system on the grounds that it makes commodities out of everything. Some even make the analogy to how it turns all workers into prostitutes because they sell themselves for money.

      “There is a reason why people who come from good families where they felt loved and appreciated do not turn to escorting or prostitution, unless they are in truly desperate and dire situations: once they know the true meaning of love–sacrifice, caring, responsibility–they cannot cheapen it in faux intimacy.”

      I’m not an expert on the makeup of the ranks of prostitution, but I do recall from the Spitzer case and others that the “top shelf” escorts were often college educated and from “good” families. However, it is reasonable to accept that the typical prostitute is from a not-so-great background.

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 3:07 am

        “Take, for example, being a therapist: one engages in intimate issues for money. Interestingly, many philosophical critics have attacked the entire capitalist system on the grounds that it makes commodities out of everything. Some even make the analogy to how it turns all workers into prostitutes because they sell themselves for money.”

        Okay. Most therapist suck and should NEVER have been allowed such an opportunity. For discussion sake, can we just say we are talking about a therapist is doing it for the right reasons and is good at it? If so, then we can also probably say that those certainly aren’t involved in that process because of money. They do it because they want to help people. That is an awful analogy. In fact, many people who have been involved in sex work would be extremely valuable therapist (and some are), excluding the fact that they are emotionally and mentally exhausted from dealing with their own shit and simply want to move on and away from such difficult things. Those who are really good at human services with the right intentions will most likely make a fraction of what a high class hooker makes in year. That includes many “massage” therapists, dommes, and “escorts.”

        I’ve heard too many times the “top shelf” “good family” “only have to do it a few times a year” bullshit. You either do that shit or you don’t. Something happened somewhere in your life that told you it was okay. “Top shelf” or not. No one should care. Something made it okay for it to happen for THEM. Whatever that was – IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. If the circumstance that created any level of prostitution for any one person is to be acceptable, then dismissed and we simply focus on the comparisons, and everything else void of these people’s entire lives and their make-up, then we have all done an awful job at thinking about the bigger picture and certainly about human emotion and feelings.

      • Nina said, on March 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm

        Therapists do not engage in intimate issues because they’re nosey, nor because clients need a new “friend”. A therapist helped me out of a dire situation involving the fear of swallowing, which can end seriously BAD, unless you can figure out a way to live without eating. Or plan on taking 2 hours per meal and only be able to eat stuff thas has gone though a blender for the rest of your life.
        Therapists will use their knowledge and experience (for money, granted) to help you overcome phobias, traumas, psychological issues of any kind that you and your dear ones just CAN’T solve on your own. If the therapy goes well and you’re cooperative, they can change, improve, even save your life. Some people NEEDS therapy, in some situations, for their well-being, or even for their survival. I think studying a bit about therapy would make your point a lot less shallow on this matter.

        On the other hand, having a body to fuck whenever you have an itch to scratch won’t make your life all that better. Having that itch to scratch isn’t such a dangerous problem in the first place, when you compare it to social phobia, or to pretty much any psychological issue. And after you paid and got sex, the core problem still stands: you have no fuckbuddy. One could even argue that masturbation is good enough to take care of that, and that neither that nor hookers can fulfill your emotional needs. But we’re moving out of sex-related territory.

    • Abandon TV said, on May 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      “….When love, intimacy, sex become commodified, then they lost their value, and relationships lose their value. …”

      Your objection to prostitution assumes that love, intimacy and relationships CAN be bought and sold between ‘strangers in the night’. Is that true? Do you really believe that?

      If these things are sacred wouldn’t that imply they *can’t* in fact be sold? (Just as, say, ‘spirituality’ can’t be sold).

      Do prostitutes sell really love, or do they just sell sex?

      Do you also accuse nurses of cheapening ‘care’ by commodifying it?

      Of course love and intimacy may also enter the equation too for a prostitute and her (or his) client, but only as much as it might in ANY transaction or working relationship (such as in the office, or between customer and barista, or just two people meeting in the world).

      “…Prostitution is a mockery of intimacy”

      Then doctors, nurses and surgeons are a mockery of ‘care’, too. After all, they get PAID to provide diagnosis, healthcare and nursing.

      Does the fact you are paying to see your doctor mean s/he is giving you any less of a caring, human, sympathetic (etc) examination and diagnosis? Would it be somehow better if they worked for free? If so how?

      Have you considered that prostitution allows human beings to engage in sex (and intimacy) is ways which PREVENT pain, heartache and the cheapening of human relationships?

      Is it perhaps more respectful for a man to have sex with a prostitute in an honest transaction (everyone knows where they stand), than it is to deceive a, say, a young, naive woman employee and lead her up the garden path with deceitful promises (or insinuations) of romance and a relationship and possibly even marriage – purely to have sex with her.

      In this sense can you see how prostitution might actually *preserve* relationships, intimacy and love for when they really do mean something (ie mean more than just sex)?

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 3:14 am

        You don’t actually believe any of what you wrote do you?

        • Abandon TV said, on January 8, 2013 at 7:15 am

          What I wrote is not a matter of ‘belief’, it’s a matter of morality, compassion and logic.

          We are brought up to believe in this black and white division between ‘romantic’ sexual relationships/ encounters and straight up payed-for sex. But in reality ALL sexual relationships and encounters are transactions of some kind or another (or many kinds of transaction combined).

          Some sexual transactions are simple and basically involve giving cash to the man/ woman before he/ she leaves your hotel room, while others involve complex payments which may not include money, and may not always be payed on a per-intercourse basis. For example, think of the stereotypical scenario of a trophy wife married to some rich old git. There are some very obvious transactions going on and money is a significant one. She might call it ‘security’ but that’s basically a euphemism for his cash. Obviously there are many other transactions occurring (in both directions) and not all of them are directly related to sexual intercourse.

          Most long term sexual relationships are also partnerships of convenience, friendship or even business too. Very few sexual relationships are JUST about transacting love for love ……. and there’s nothing wrong with that.

          What’s most destructive is DECEIT. Prostitution is not immoral but deceit is. Deceit is what breaks hearts and destroys lives. People paying for sex only causes harm if deceit is involved (or violence obviously).

          Of course with so much deceit around (deceit of others as well as self deceit), and with such dysfunctional attitudes towards sex (not least by governments who violently outlaw paying for it) it is no surprise that prostitution has been driven underground and generally become synonymous with depravity and abuse.

          FWIW I am not a prostitute, nor have I ever used one. My views stem from an adherence to the non aggression principle as well as good old fashioned basic morality ie live and let live :)

    • Anonymous said, on July 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      “There is a reason why people who come from good families where they felt loved and appreciated do not turn to escorting or prostitution, unless they are in truly desperate and dire situations: once they know the true meaning of love–sacrifice, caring, responsibility–they cannot cheapen it in faux intimacy”

      Wrong. I came from a good family, where my parents sacrificed themselves for me to have an amazing life. I also graduated with a Philosophy degree. I wasn’t a prostitute, but I did “massages with happy endings”. With a few times of getting paid for sex, maybe that makes me a prostitute. It was a lot of money.

      I’ve had everything I’ve ever needed. All the resources in the world, but I turned to the sex profession. Why? I just don’t care – one way or the other…

      • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 3:41 am

        Exactly. Something happened that made you not care. Compartmentalized or suppressed, you definitely got a case of the “fuck – its!” somewhere. It MADE you a prostitute then. It doesn’t mean that’s your identity. As long as you choose to say that it’s not okay and wouldn’t be okay for your child or others. If you can’t bottom out with it, then what is the point? Much like serving a country that is putting you in a position to DIE to make someone else a lot of money and based on something that never actually happened. United States involvement in war has been mythical and based on a bullshit monetary system rather than security ever since we gained independence. I’m so sorry for whatever happened that warped your mind. I am. You’ve been lied to by a lot of people. Religion and military…. you’ve said enough.

  40. Abandon TV said, on May 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

    If a woman is not allowed by law (ie by force) to sell her sexuality (either as a performance or a sexual service) then that means the state is using force to assert its authority or its ‘claim’ over her body.

    In other words, the state is literally using force or the threat of force (kidnapping, court proceedings, fines, imprisonment etc) against the woman and/ or her customers in order to deter/ prevent her from selling her body, or to ‘punish’ her (or her clients) if the transaction has already been made (the punishment also acting as a deterrent obviously).

    If we accept that the woman owns her own body and the effects of her actions, then laws (initiation of force) against prostitution can be seen for what they are: a blatant (and immoral) violation of her property rights.

    All excuses used to justify such laws (force) against prostitution can be reduced to a more fundamental level.

    For example: “Prostitutes are often tricked or forced to become prostitutes”

    Then the problem here is fraud / force and not prostitution. The problem of being tricked or forced to take out expensive volcano insurance is not a problem to do with insurance (or even volcano insurance specifically), but with the low life salesman who is tricking or forcing people to buy it against their better judgement.

    (One might suggest the problem is also one of education – learning about pushy and fraudulent insurance salesmen would help to solve this problem too…… note that no force is required in this case).

    Banning insurance (or volcano insurance specifically) would NOT solve this problem. And what happens to the people who really DO want to take out (volcano) insurance …… or sell it?

    “Prostitutes are forced into it through poverty”

    Again the problem which needs solving here is poverty and not prostitution. People are forced into all sorts of horrible jobs thanks to poverty. Why are these jobs not ALSO made illegal?

    And let’s face it, people are enticed into all sorts of REALLY immoral jobs thanks to greed as well (more on that in a moment). Again, why are these jobs not ALSO made illegal if they are also immoral? Why single out prostitution?

    Perhaps (gasp!) prostitution is NOT one of the most degrading or immoral jobs in the world – perhaps it is a lot better than a lot of other jobs. After all, many women who are not poor and who are very well educated CHOOSE to be prostitutes (far more than most people imagine). I don’t know of any women who would CHOOSE to search through bins, scavenge rubbish tips, steal or beg to earn a living. For those living in poverty prostitution might be the only acceptable and safe way to make a living – and perhaps pay for an education or some smart clothes and accommodation and eventually escape poverty.

    “It’s immoral etc etc”

    Usually these arguments refer to some other (unrelated) immoral behaviour. When a man cheats on his wife with a prostitute, it is the man’s lying, cheating behaviour which is immoral. If one blames the prostitute one might as well blame the cab driver that drove him to the prostitute’s hotel, the hotel staff and the manufacturers of the kinky sex toys used – all of whom also helped this man to cheat on his wife.

    If we want to talk about morality then what of the soldier who accepts money in return for murdering men, women and children in an illegal war?

    Surely a million dead Iraqis makes being a soldier more of an immoral and degrading occupation than being a prostitute? Yet soldiers are usually celebrated as heros rather than being charged with murder. Why?

    What about bankers enslaving third world countries (and now first and second world countries) with debts and funding (and profiting from) both sides of most major conflicts of the last century including the two world wars? . That’s a rather immoral occupation.

    When examining moral rules one must look not just at the rule itself, but who is exempt from that moral rule. Only by examining who has made them selves exempt from moral rules can we begin understand why so many moral rules are enforced so eagerly and with the use of so much force! (laws)

    And so to illustrate how laws against prostitution are (1) impractical (2) hypocritical (3) immoral and (4) completely ridiculous we can imagine a scenario where one day a woman decides of her own free will to start selling her body, which of course she owns and is therefore hers to sell if she decides to.

    A month after she is has set herself up as a prostitute, a man voluntarily pays her £500 for her to turn him on by dressing up in a red dress and blonde curly wig and to then humiliating him by handcuffing him, roughly throwing him in a cage and locking him up saying “You’ve been a very naughty boy haven’t you!”

    During that same month an agency calling itself ‘the government’ was busy extracting money from the public’s earnings by force. AT the end of this month they used some of this money to pay for men dressed in special blue costumes and armed with clubs and tasers to break down the woman’s door and storm into her apartment at the precise moment she has just locked the (by now very excited) man in the cage.

    These men in their special blue costumes immediately start shouting “You’ve been a very naughty boy, you’re under arrest!” And with that they break open the cage, drag him out, take off the handcuffs, put their own handcuffs onto him and drag him out of the building and into the back of their special van in full view of everyone passing by in the street, humiliating him greatly in the process (by this time he is no longer excited though, in fact he is feeling deeply traumatised by the sudden and unexpected turn of events).

    Once they have kidnapped him, they drive him to a special fortified building (also paid for by money taken from the public by force) and they drag him out of the van, confiscate his wallet and phone and throw into another cage. The next day he is dragged out of this cage and into a special wood panelled room (also paid for by money taken from the public by force) where a man dressed in a bright red robe and a white curly wig forces him to hand over £500 to this agency called ‘the government’ for doing something which this agency called ‘the government’ says it doesn’t approve of. He is also threatened with being put back in the government’s special cage for a whole year if he is ever caught trying to pay the woman to put him in her cage again.

    “You’ve been a very naughty boy! What you did was immoral” says the man wearing the bright red costume and curly wig. And that the men dressed in the blue costumes give him back his wallet and phone and throw him out onto the street.

    Who is acting immorally in this tale? …and somebody remind me, what century are we living in again?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

      That is an interesting argument. If we take the stock arguments used often in the States that the state should stay out of the business of business, then a woman should thus have the liberty to profit from her body, just as any worker does. In fact, she could be praised as a job creator as she would be creating at least one job while providing others.

      • Abandon TV said, on May 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

        Being free to make a profit and create a job (and boost the economy) is certainly one part of the argument against making laws against prostitution. But I was suggesting it goes a lot deeper than that.

        If someone tied me to a tree I would not shout “Help! Someone’s preventing me from earning a living and making a profit today!”

        I would shout, “Help! Someone’s violated my basic self ownership rights!” (or words to that effect).

        As I said, if a woman is not allowed by law (ie by force) to sell her sexuality (either as a performance or a sexual service) then that means the state is using force to assert its authority or its ‘claim’ over her body.

        A rapist, wife beater or mugger also asserts his authority or its ‘claim’ over a woman’s body.

        The crux of the issue here is consistency. Universal morality (such as self ownership/ property rights) becomes meaningless (and dangerous) if we apply it universally.

        • Abandon TV said, on May 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

          Sorry, there’s a ‘DON’T’ missing in the last sentence!

          It should read:

          The crux of the issue here is consistency. Universal morality (such as self ownership/ property rights) becomes meaningless (and dangerous) if we DON’T apply it universally.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

          Reasonable points. Locke does argued that each person owns him/herself (well God owns us all, but He is cool about it). Accepting that sort of notion does allow for such personal liberty. John Stuart Mill’s view of liberty would also allow prostitution-provided it is not coerced and does not harm others.

          • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 4:01 am

            Isn’t prostitution harmful if it’s existence and demand is affecting and harming others, and contributes to (in any way) to the worst of the worst. You cannot support this argument. Yes you own your body. True. Many do not though. This environment is one in the same. Whether you are bound by the chains of your childhood, circumstance, perpetrator, or pimp: you are a victim. Simple. It is not your fault. Take your life back. Anyone who supports this bullshit argument of personal liberty isn’t asking the right questions.

            • ron mortimer said, on February 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

              Just stumbled across this site and this interesting discussion.


              “Isn’t prostitution harmful if it’s existence and demand is affecting and harming others, and contributes to (in any way) to the worst of the worst.”
              What is this “worst of the worst”? Perhaps you might specify how prostitution harms others and contributes to the worst of the worst. I think that you are way overdramatising things, the world is full of much worse problems than paying for a bit of sex, and as noted above somewhere, men are going to pay for it one way or another anyhow(and have been forever).
              “You cannot support this argument.”
              I would be interested in seeing you support your argument rather than just continually assert your position as if its truth is self evident.
              “Yes you own your body. True. Many do not though. ”

              Please explain how that works. How does one distinguish between those that do own their bodies and those that don’t? Are you talking about sex slavery as being an example of those that don’t own their bodies?That is a separate issue to prostitution per se. And are you saying that prostitution is OK for those that do own their bodies but not for those that don’t? you sidestepped that issue, but sidestepping won’t make the point go away….
              ” Whether you are bound by the chains of your childhood, circumstance, perpetrator, or pimp: you are a victim.”
              Perhaps you are only saying that because you don’t like people making choices that you disapprove of, so therefore they must be victims?
              “Anyone who supports this bullshit argument of personal liberty isn’t asking the right questions”
              Why don’t you tell us what the right questions are then? .If personal liberty isn’t respected in this case then what cases should it be respected ? Isn’t this the same reasoning that gave the US its Prohibition Era? People enjoy a drink, others didn’t and tried to force them to abstain from a substance that has been used for 5000years by passing a law to force others to do what a relative few wanted. Didn’t turn out too well, did it?Made the Mafia rich, corrupted the cops and the judges and caused the people to hold that law in contempt(and rightly so). Then same again for for the manufactured drug problem.Prostitution falls in there somewhere,having been around forever and it seems that some people think that by passing a law then people have to obey it.. It would be better if people would think about unintended consequences.If they did they might see the additional problems that their well intentioned desire to control others will create.


    • Ben said, on May 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      You seems to be blind to economic and cultural forces; not only are women economically coerced into prostitution by poverty, but by a perverse aspirational consumerism in which having money is more important then the means by which that money was acquired. The are speaking from a idealistic libertarian point of view, that’s founded in departures from material reality, in which people are near absolutely free actors making rational decisions based on adequate information. This is never the case outside of libertarian thought experiments as best I can tell.

      • Abandon TV said, on May 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

        “….You seems to be blind to economic and cultural forces; not only are women economically coerced into prostitution by poverty, but by a perverse aspirational consumerism in which having money is more important then the means by which that money was acquired….”

        Most of the world’s population are coerced into our jobs by poverty. Why do you single out prostitution and not the other million jobs people take (often reluctantly) on in order to pay the rent and feed themselves?

        As I asked in my recent long comment (a few comments up), surely the issue here is *poverty* and not prostitution itself?

        Poverty forces ALL of us to do things we don’t like and wouldn’t choose to do if we had more money. This may (or may not) include prostitution, working in a call centre, selling a product we consider unethical, marrying a man who beats us and cheats on us but at least provides food and a roof over our head, working in an unsafe factory full of toxic contaminants, working for a company which we know is destroying the environment for profit….etc Why single out prostitution? Many poor women (including well educated, middle class students in the west) CHOOSE prostitution over being a waitress or a toilet cleaner or a hotel maid. Not all prostitutes are shooting up heroin in the gutter in between giving blow jobs to men in raincoats. Many are studying hard to get their degrees.

        And at the other end of the scale (what you call “perverse aspirational consumerism”) surely there are far more immoral jobs than prostitution for those addicted to making oodles of money and then spending it frivolously? What about banking for a start (a vile exploitation of the third world, and let’s face it the entire planet!) or politics (inflicting policies of genocide on the world is pretty immoral), or media (helping to dumb down the next generation with corporate propaganda)…..etc

        Why do you single out women earning money by giving pleasure to men as your no.1 immoral occupation?

        Have you considered that this attitude might say more about YOU than it does about prostitution?

        Do you even realise that by condemning a women for selling her body in this way you are actually claiming a greater ownership over her body than she has? You are basically saying she can’t use her body in certain ways because YOU don’t like it. Perhaps you are jealous of the money making power of her body and femininity. When a woman charges money for the things you find desirable in a woman (her body, her sexuality, her femininity etc) she is in control. Many men find this threatening and upsetting, perhaps without realising it. This isn’t a dig at you. We are all affected by our ‘social programming’ and ‘biological drives’ …. the thing is to be aware of when they are clouding our judgements and attitudes.

        To condemn prostitution is to assert a higher claim over the bodies of those women who WANT to be prostitutes. To condemn poverty is to desire all women (and all men) have greater control over their lives, and to be able to live more freely. Whether or not they want to be prostitutes then becomes THEIR decision.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm

        I’m not blind to that. I recall from the media coverage of the various prostitution scandals involving higher end professionals that some women chose the profession because of the exceptional high pay.

  41. someonesomewhere00 said, on July 1, 2012 at 7:17 am

    As someone who uses the services of escorts I’d question your statement that “A third reason that prostitution is regarded as immoral is that it is supposed to be degrading to the prostitute In most cases, this is true. To treat someone
    as mere sexual object is to fail to respect their worth as human being”.
    When seeing an escort I do, of course want sex, however, as a single man who enjoys the company of ladies I also derive pleasure from conversing with the escorts. Often we will enjoy a bottle of wine and although sex takes place it is not the be all and end all of the encounter.
    I don’t regard working girls as mere sex objects. They have feelings and I always treat them with respect.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Did qualify my claim: “In most cases, this is true.” Presumably you’d be one of the cases in which it is not true. :)

      • John said, on September 1, 2012 at 6:37 am

        Do you have empirical evidence to support “most”? Because (admittedly anecdotal), in my conversations with prostitutes in three countries, plus interactions on internet forums, they say the overwhelming majority of their customers are respectful.

        Don’t forget there is a ‘rescue’ industry out there. It would be really interesting to explore the ethics of that!

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

          Perhaps the customers are respectful or at least not abusive. However, the general street level prostitution seems rather degrading and horrible. The upper level call girl services probably are less so.

    • responsiblehumans said, on January 8, 2013 at 4:16 am

      Have you ever asked an escort if they liked you? Did you care? Most importantly, did you ever bother to find out why they made the decision to do it? My first inclination is to think that your brain did this: ” I don’t care, that’s not what I pay them for.” My last question is this: Why do you pay an escort? Please enlighten me.

  42. John said, on September 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

    One thing I find interesting is that you argue well that prostitution is not per se unethical, however you take great pains to say that you have not partaken.

    You ‘read’ about. You ‘knew’ a prostitute (“but not in the biblical sense”)

    Why the need to inform us of this? You wouldn’t feel the need for that disclaimer if you were discussing anything else other than things you disapprove of.

    No matter how much you wash a stained shirt, the stain remains. And no matter how much logical thought is done, the stain of our Judeo Christian cultural heritage where sex is paradoxically and simultaneously sacred and profane remains.

    You felt obliged to inform us that you had never hired a prostitute because you are a respected academic, and hiring a prostitute would not be respectable.

    But that sets up a literary dissonance that clouds your argument. It is also what probably prompted your original interest.

    I think you should go out and pay for a couple of nice Girlfriend Experiences. You’ll find it does wonders for clarifying your thinking!

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 1, 2012 at 11:09 am

      As far as the need to inform people:

      1) I have a psychological prejudice against men who have to pay for sex. That is, I have a perhaps unwarranted belief that doing this is not something a proper man should be doing.

      2) It is also a matter of pride and ethics-paying for sex is rather like paying people to be your friend. It is better to earn the friendship than buy it. I also prefer having meaningful relations with people when it comes to things like friendship and sex. I don’t want these to be reduced to a matter of commerce.

      3) I consider the current system of prostitution to be unethical in general and hence do disapprove of it. A different system could be, as I argued, ethical. In that case, my view of a different system would be different.

      4) True, hiring a prostitute would not be respectable, given the current system which is exploitative and degrading. As such, I’m not inclined to go out and hire prostitutes. Plus, I don’t think my girlfriend would regard such behavior as acceptable (and rightfully so). I

      • John said, on September 2, 2012 at 12:57 am

        Thanks for your honest reply. I have a few thoughts…

        I have a psychological prejudice against men who have to pay for sex.

        1) I used to have the same point of view. And used to share the same ‘psychological prejudice’. It is funny how the butterfly effect of a small change making a huge difference comes into play

        Many years ago at university I was paired up in my class with a fellow student who I would never have normally approached as I would have considered her to be way out of my league. While we worked on a presentation together, we became friends, and when things started to become romantic, she had to tell me that she had, er, her own business.

        I was disapproving, but she was a good debater. I have to say that whenever I have had a discussion on the topic since, I have never really articulated my own original arguments, but merely re-iterated hers.

        At one point she said that I reminded her of someone standing on the beach looking at the grey ocean saying “It looks cold”. You never know how warm it is until you get in.

        It would be years of mulling before I went for a swim, but I remember a conversation I had with her when we finished school. I had big student debts. She had a fat savings account. Who’s exploiting who? she smirked.

        paying for sex is rather like paying people to be your friend

        2) This point is interesting. With all service providers you pay for an agreed upon service. But I can’t say I have developed any friendships with waitresses, or hairdressers. I have, however developed enduring friendships with CSW’s. Perhaps it is the intimacy.

        But any friendship that occurs is not paid for. As you say, it is earned. The money gets you through the door, and a minimum of service. Trust and friendship cannot be commoditized. And the friendships are interesting. Which leads me to your third point

        I consider the current system of prostitution to be unethical in general and hence do disapprove of it

        3) Because the system is unethical, it is exploitive to hire prostitutes. Sort of like refusing to take a cab because the cab companies cream too much profit. I do this for you cabbie. Feel better now?

        One of my the first service providers I met was a Vietnamese prostitute. I was on vacation, and she and her sister were working overseas and sending money home to feed the family. Their parents had encouraged them to go abroad to earn the money. She was matter of fact about it. No money at home. We need the money. Father said we have no choice. For her it was quite cut and dry.

        It wasn’t for me. I was outraged at her terrible exploitive family. I felt guilty because I had somehow participated in this travesty.

        But she didn’t share my outrage. She loved her family, and lovingly would show me their pictures on her phone. At one point she flew Mom and Dad out to visit her and give them their first ever overseas vacation.

        She has now changed occupations. She amassed enough money to go home and open a hair salon. It is a struggling business and money is tight, but so far she is keeping her head above water. We stay in touch, and I have learned a lot from her perspective.

        From her perspective she has a wonderful loving family. Her enemy is poverty, and status of women. She tells me that even women who have university degrees cannot earn enough money as employees to thrive. You have three choices, find a husband, start your own business, or become a prostitute. Starting a business requires capital, so there are only two choices.

        Should people refuse to get their hair cut at her salon, because the system has forced her to do that? You did make a similar point in your original article. Were the men that paid her when she was a prostitute and thereby funded the creation of her business acting unethically, exploiting her poverty? If so, that would result in her options being restricted to no choice. Get married.

        One final thought from her. Her brother just got married. I said to her “You next?” Her reply? “I will never marry. Men just use wives. I want control”. I sometimes wonder if her experiences warped her, or educated her. But we both value our friendship. We have each gained a window on the Earth as seen through vastly different lenses. And I felt my world view being stretched as it encompassed her belief that the institution of marriage is inherently exploitive, but prostitution is liberating.

        As I said she was one of the first CSW’s I met. And her and my student friend shaped my biases.

        I don’t think my girlfriend would regard such behavior as acceptable

        4) I don’t think that there is any defensible argument for being dishonest in a relationship or cheating on one’s spouse. But that is not really a prostitution issue, it is an honesty issue. And, she probably reads your blog

        Sorry for my long-winded reply, but I guess my point is that prostitutes and their clients are not non-humans. I know that academic discussions are restricted to theory; they need to remove the confounds that are introduced by the messy real world, but sometimes so much fidelity is removed from the inputs that the conclusions that are drawn are meaningless.

        Finally I think that media and academics dwell on the ugly street scene, simply because it is visible. I would agree, from what I see and read it is exploitive and degrading. But I am pretty sure that the street scene is a very, very small piece of the pie.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm

          I still have the psychological prejudice. I do admit that I could be in error-that is, that men who pay for sex should not be regarded in a negative manner. I suppose they could be regarded as the customer of any business. So, by analogy, if someone hires a plumber or a sex worker, they are just purchasing a service with no shame. After all, getting those pipes cleaned for free is not always an option.

          Certainly, a savvy prostitute can make a good income. However, that doesn’t impact my view of the men who purchase said services.

          True, a person could pay a prostitute for sex and earn the friendship. However, buying sexual intimacy can be seen as making something into a commodity that should not be such a thing. But, as I myself argue, people buy therapy and such. So, if that is okay, perhaps selling sex is fine. Plus, it could be argued that selling sex is not the same as selling intimacy. To use an analogy, my students pay to hear my classes, but this does not buy them access to my personal life. So, a woman could sell access to her body, but not to her emotions, thus making the act physically intimate but not emotionally so.

          I do actually make an attempt to avoid exploitative systems. However, as I argue in the post, most jobs are exploitative and many are degrading in various ways. As such, perhaps prostitution is just different in degree and not in kind. As I note in the post, non-coerced prostitution that was on par with other professions (worker’s rights, regulation, being legal and so on) would seem to be arguable as ethical as other professions. Of course, as I also note, perhaps these professions are also unethical in terms of the exploitation of workers (which would be immorality on the part of the job creators rather than the job fillers).

          I’m not sure how much of prostitution is on the street and how much is the “high class” version. Since it is illegal in most of the US, the estimates would mostly be based on arrests, anecdote and such rather than the employment stats available in other professions. When Spitzer was exposed, it did seem that the service he used had quite a sizable number of employees.

  43. inrockfordnow said, on October 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Michael LaBossiere,

    Most of the escorts I’ve seen have been sub-$100 affairs. Strangely—and this may just be the result of my limited experience discussing a such a fine-pointed subject—I don’t hear this class of girl discussed too often. For example in the above comments you deplored the horrors of “street level” prostitution, while remarking that those who perform “upper level call girl services” may fare better. But wouldn’t the majority of sex work fall between those two extremes? Most of the backpage ads I see offer services ranging from $60 to $200. I wonder, what do you think of that low-to-midrange market segment?

    As to your blog post, it seems that you demand a nontrivial justification for the immorality of prostitution. But perhaps it just is the case that prostitution is immoral, so that there need be no breakdown of prostitution into more primitive immoral components (e.g. exploitation, objectification, etc.). You have shown (or tried to show) that certain arguments for the immorality of prostitution fail. I largely agree with your assessments there. But you haven’t actually made a positive case for the morality of prostitution, even given ideal conditions. In other words, maybe prostitution is simply part of what we mean when we talk about immoral behavior. So for instance a person might return the following objection: “if you deny that prostitution is immoral, then I don’t know what you’re talking about when you use the term ‘immoral.’”

    For my own part, I’ve never been clear on what morality is in the first place, and so it’s sometimes (namely, this time) hard for me to tell whether a certain thing is moral or immoral. To be honest, though, I’m not terribly concerned about the issue, at least not in those terms. If I was to discover that prostitution indeed deserved the label “immoral,” well, that would be interesting I suppose, but it’s not going to stop me from calling escorts. Instead, I’m interested in whether my behavior is causing people to suffer, and if so, how much suffering. No doubt the girls providing their services experience some mild suffering in the form of boredom, inconvenience, perhaps occasional disgust, etc. But these services are performed willingly, in exchange for money which they presumably value more than the opportunity to avoid those otherwise unwanted experiences.

    Anyway, thanks for the interesting post.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:26 am

      As far as the mid-range segment goes, my guess would be to go with the easy and obvious answer: presumably they are better off than the street level prostitutes and worse off than the high end escorts. Naturally, individual working conditions probably vary considerably.

      The idea that prostitution is intrinsically immoral is an interesting point to consider. However, this would require some argumentation to back it up. Kant, of course, provides a moral theory that would apparently do that (the use of a person as a means seems inherent to prostitution). But, provided that the John respected the prostitute as a rational being and so on, then perhaps even Kant’s theory would allow certain forms of prostitution.

      I do tend to agree that the ethics of the matter centers on any harms being done to the prostitutes. If, as you note, they are just experiencing boredom and such, their job really differs little from that of most other people. As such, in those cases it would seem no worse than other forms of employment. If the prostitutes are enslaved or mistreated, then things would be rather different.

  44. inrockfordnow said, on October 4, 2012 at 11:37 am


    Oh, I agree that the immorality of prostitution must be positively argued. I was only noting that the same goes for denial of its immorality. Your blog post contains some effective (IMO) responses to common arguments, and for that I’m thankful. But I’m pointing out that even though it’s very tempting to do so, we’re not actually justified (yet) in concluding that prostitution is not immoral, nor even the more modest position that it need not be immoral under ideal conditions.

    Also, I think maybe I wasn’t clear about what I meant when I suggested that prostitution “just is” immoral. I didn’t mean to say that it is simply necessarily or inherently immoral. Rather, I was suggesting that maybe it is immoral not because of something involved with it (like the use of a person), but rather because prostitution itself is part of what we mean when we talk about immorality.

    So here is an attempt at an argument. Please understand, I am not a trained philosopher, so if I miss something obvious, just let me know. But here goes.

    The argument comes in two steps, the first of which is, I freely admit, quite precarious: My conception of morality is poorly grounded, but as best I can tell, it appears to be based on a laundry list of what you might call defining examples. I grow up being told that this or that thing is moral or immoral, and this is what shapes my understanding of what the terms “moral” and “immoral” actually mean. These defining examples are what I use to develop a sense of those other, non-defining examples which will also count as being moral or immoral. So, for instance, maybe I’ve never heard of somebody shaking a baby, but when I think about that happening, I cannot help but liken it to some of those other things (defining examples) which I have learned deserve the label “immoral.” In this way, my moral judgments seem to depend on those defining examples which have been hammered into me during my formative years.

    The next step in the argument seems more acceptable: Given we have established in step one that the meaning of the terms “moral” and “immoral” are determined by this laundry list of defining examples, then perhaps prostitution is just an item on the “immoral” list. This seems fairly reasonable. Growing up, I saw prostitution almost always given labels such as “immoral,” “evil,” “sinful,” etc. Likely you had similar experiences. So if we assume that there are such things as defining examples of immorality, then prostitution looks like it fits the bill. We are told time and again during our childhood and adolescence that prostitution is “immoral.” In my case at least, this example seems to have been simply absorbed into the meaning of the term.

    To put it another way, maybe morality is not based on general principles such as the categorical imperative or the balance of human well-being. Maybe instead we just accumulate experiences of labeling this or that thing as moral/immoral, and we use these past labeling experiences to guide future labeling experiences. And maybe if we go far back enough into our formative years, we will find that we cannot simply re-label certain things without upsetting the sense of meaning we have in the terms. And finally, maybe prostitution is one of those things we find we cannot relabel while still preserving that meaning.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      The idea that moral knowledge (or any knowledge) is built from empirical observations of examples that lead to a general concept does have an excellent pedigree in philosophy. Aquinas, for example, has a view somewhat like this: God creates the world using His ideas as a template, we then observe particulars and “reconstruct” a lesser version of God’s idea in our limited minds.

      It could be, of course, that morality is as you say-essentially an “empirical socialization” process in which the youth are trained to apply words to types of actions. This would seem to render ethics largely a matter of tradition and semantics, so saying “prostitution is wrong” would amount to meaning “I was conditioned/trained to apply the word ‘wrong’ to acts of prostitution.”

      In any case, interesting points.

  45. Anonymous said, on October 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    You lost me at the wood-chipper. If you want to talk philosophy and ethics than you should at least know the unethical nature of torture. You should know that free-will is simply an illusion.

  46. drewdog2060drewdog2060 said, on February 11, 2013 at 2:23 am

    Prostitution existed prior to the development of capitalism. It existed in feudal societies and despite the protestations of Marxists to the contrary the selling of sex took place in Communist socities. I’d challenge your view that capitalism is necessarily exploititive. Unfettered capitalism undoubtedly leads to exploition, however a market economy constrained by regulations to protect workers by, for example setting minimum wages and hours of work works well and has promoted more personal and economic freedom than any other system. I agree with your contention that prostitution does not have to be exploititive. In my short story, The First Time Becky, a young graduate takes the decision to become an escort in order to clear her credit card debt. One could argue that economic circircumstances compel her to enter the world’s oldest profession, however many other young women (and some men) who are in debt do not become prostitutes, they take other routes to earn money. Consequently Becky is not being forced to become a sex worker, she chooses the profession of escort of her own free will. Whether her decision is good or bad is a different issue.

  47. Ben said, on April 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Well done, I don’t normally reply to threads but this article impressed me. I’m doing basically this for my dissertation and agree with most if not all of what you said.. may shamelessly steal a few of your references :)

  48. Vishal said, on April 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    what about SEX TOURISM? whats morally right or wrong about it?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on April 13, 2013 at 5:38 am

      I don’t know very much about sex tourism. However, what I have read about it seems to indicate that it often involves people from the US and Europe traveling to countries to sexually exploit those who are forced into the sex trade. That sort of exploitation would be wrong.

      But, I suppose that if all participants are involved freely with no physical or economic coercion, then this would be morally tolerable.

      It is still creepy, though.

  49. Anonymous said, on April 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    “…the coercion argument obviously fails.”
    Does it?

    It seems to be a rather simplistic argument. The following if-then statement is easy to understand. Perhaps there are more aspects of coercion which remains unknown? There is a critical absence in your reasoning. Coercion is subjective. IF people freely and knowingly chose to be prostitutes THEN the coercion argument obviously fails BECAUSE certain types of prostitution are just as moral (or immoral) as most other jobs. The logic is impeccable. However, coercion may be facilitated in other ways which you have not considered. Those who are deemed to have freely and knowingly choose prostitution may have therefore been coerced in some manner. For instance, coercion could take the form of a mental illness brought on by severe childhood neglect and abuse. The descriptive features of this mental illness includes an almost neurotic drive behind attention-seeking behaviors including seductive actions. I am of course alluding to cluster b personality disorders such as histrionic and borderline personality disorder. Although such an individual would not have been coerced in the traditional manner, the poor decisions of a few would then led to it’s inevitable conclusion; an individual with a deficit of cognitive capabilities who would deliberately place itself in situations such as prostitution.

    I ask you; What is prostitution? If you entertain the notion of prostitution defined by individuals who are directly, or indirectly coerced, I could create an equally persuasive argument contrary to your own. Unlike almost all other jobs which imply coercion, instances of coercion in a field predominantly dominated by those with mental illness, is a very unique situation which is unlike other jobs. I am of course relying on conjuncture. The scientific investment into this question has not been pursued. Should this matter be further investigated, I believe there will be a whole new dynamic of both exploitation, and coercion to explore. Nevertheless, freedom of will and coercion remain subjective. One could still argue the ethics of prostitution being synopsis to other criminal elements.

    To reiterate-
    Ben doesn’t need to directly steal your work in order to create his dissertation.

  50. Anonymous said, on April 30, 2013 at 6:52 am

    It is natural to argue that prostitution undermines the humanity of a prostitute (i.e. he/she is being treated as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves) and is therefore an immoral act. That is, there seems to be something intrinsically wrong about paying a person only to use their body for sex. In these cases, it seems that we begin viewing prostitutes as nothing more than a pieces of meat and consequently fail to recognize their status as an autonomous agent (or a person who is worthy of respect and admiration). It is for this reason that Kant, like many others argued that prostitution was an immoral act – specifically, because it is an act that fails to respect the dignity of autonomous beings. Given the compatibility of this argument with folk intuitions on the moral status of prostitution, many do find this argument plausible.

    Though after further examination, I feel a counterintuitive problem arises from this same argument. When we examine what prostitution really is, it is not only limited to exchanging money for sex. Bartering, or the act of exchanging goods and/or services for other goods and/or services could also fall under the category of prostitution (e.g. sex for money, food, clothing, et cetera). Having provided this clarification, let’s now suppose that two acquaintances have recently broken up with their significant others. Feeling down and depressed, they both agree to start regularly having sex with one another. Other than for purposes of having sex, they agree to not care for one another and consequently, they are each treated as being only as valuable as any other sexual object. Given this, the following question arises: what’s the difference between the acquaintances’ arrangement and the arrangement of a prostitute and his or her client? Since a person who has sex for services is still considered a prostitute (e.g. the person who has sex with their mechanic to have their car fixed for free), then are the two acquaintances also considered prostitutes since they are having sex with one another in return for sex? To me it seems so. In this way, the two acquaintances seem to be practicing the same activity as a prostitute. Given this symmetry, it now seems that if we consider prostitution to be immoral for the reasons proposed by Kant, then we also must consider the mutual arrangement of these two friends immoral even though they both want to have sex with one another for the sake of having sex. To me at least, this seems unintuitive (i.e. it doesn’t seem like the arrangement of these two friends should be considered immoral when they are both consenting to have sex for the sake of having sex). For this reason, it seems that even drawing a clear line between prostitution and cases of consensual sex can be problematic.

    Definitely a problem I could never get a proper grasp on. Personally, I feel that prostituition is highly immoral. Though, I could never figure the specific reasons that make it so.

  51. Aphrodite said, on May 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Michael, I just discoverd this article (and your blog).
    I agree with most things you write in the article.
    I am an escort and occasionally philosopher, (and blogger by the way). I don’t consider myself as extremely intelligent, but I like to ask myself these questions most people never ask. The decision to become an escort (or prostitute, whatever you call me) was completely mine. To me, prostitution is amoral, meaning nor good nor bad. In some cases it can be good, in other cases bad.
    I am a highly sexual person myself, and I started having casual sex with strange men. Then I thought; ‘Why don’t ask money for it?’ That’s why I ‘enrolled’ in prostitution.
    It’s a solution for men who can’t get their sex in a normal way, but it’s also a solution to me.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      You should write a book. Really. :)

      • Aphrodite said, on May 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm

        well…..hmmm thanks :) . I never received a comment like this before.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

          You should definitely write the book. I looked at your blog and you certainly could use that as a starting point.

          I publish through Kindle, Nook and Create Space. These are relatively easy to use and the royalties are rather good. Or you could go with a traditional publisher.

          Every life is a story, the challenge is making it a story worth reading. :)

        • T. J. Babson said, on May 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm


          I’m curious what you think about women who use sex as a weapon such as wives who “punish” their husbands by not sleeping with them for a week, etc.

          This sort of behavior is celebrated in female-centric TV shows like “Desperate Housewives,” but I do not regard this behavior as something positive or to be celebrated. Why do you think women seem to applaud this sort of thing?

          • Aphrodite said, on May 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm

            Well, I think denial is a very effective weapon, a very effective sort of manipulation.
            It makes people feel angry and helpless.
            F.ex. If a woman keeps arguing with her husband, he will always find a counter argument.
            But, if a woman refuses to have sex as a punishment, she’s always the winner. Because a man who tries to convince his wife into having sex, is considered abusive.
            And if she plays it really nasty, she will make up whole lies about abuse, deception etc..
            Thus, there is nothing he can do, except admitting his failure, mistake, deception (…..), even if he did nothing wrong.
            Why this kind of punishment is applauded?
            Hmm, tricky question. I think because of the feminist realm that encourages women to stand their ground.
            Wich is a good thing of course. I need to stand my ground too, otherwise I would have been abused too.
            But manipulation is not a good thing. Certainly not if it causes harm.
            In short, I think these women are hypocritical bitches (sorry for the language).
            Also, sex is a very loaded topic, certainly in Hollywood.
            People are experimenting with it, but at the same time, a deep rooted taboo is lingering.
            Women still aren’t supposed to give in to feelings of passion.
            A woman who can say no to sex, is a strong woman. That’s a prominent message women receive every day.
            In books, magazines, on the tv….
            To most women, guilt towards sex is a common feeling. They’re like; ‘what have I done?’
            I noticed that in most films.
            Women who passionately give in to sex with their husband , or other men, are often depicted as damaged, naive, and helpless, and they need to be saved. (think James Bond)
            And these are the images that are sent to us, on a daily basis.

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm

              “Women still aren’t supposed to give in to feelings of passion.”

              Very good point.

              I think men may have mixed feelings about this. In the abstract I think men are turned on by passionate women. On the other hand, if a man feels he cannot satisfy his wife or girlfriend it makes him feel inadequate.

  52. Anonymous said, on June 13, 2013 at 6:07 am

    I think you have forgotten to consider prostitution from the view of sexual ethics. I strongly believe that reducing sex and sexual relationship to a form of entertainment or pleasure seeking is immoral. A person pursuing such pleasure and a person providing such pleasure are both at fault. Sex should be enjoyed within a relationship that is meaningful in the sense that it considers the emotional needs of the people involved and accepts the longterm responsibilities of having a family with them (a.k.a. marriage). Prostitution is immoral according to me because it provides sexual pleasures to men, and can take them away from their wives who deserve the sex and the love and attention that they are giving prostitutes.

  53. Karan said, on July 9, 2013 at 2:16 am

    You are looking at prostitution from a relativistic perspective. And from this point of view, i agree with most of what you have said. I came to the same conclusion. This is the link for it. http://fooledbyideology.blogspot.com/2013/07/legalize-prostitution-on-ethical-grounds.html

    But if you look at it from an absolutist perspective the results are different. That is, intercourse can be viewed as either a higher order need (expression of love) or as a physiological (basal) need. If it is viewed as a higher order need then naturally it would be wrong to exchange it for money. And if it is a basal need what is its purpose? The need for sex or hunger comes from the need to preserve the genetic pool or for the survival of the species. The pleasure that is derived from it is an inducement to engage in it. So then would it not be unethical to subvert from the true purpose of procreation to seeking pleasure.

  54. Prostitution | Ray winn said, on October 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    […] LaBossiere, M. (2008). The Ethics of Prostitution. Retrieved Semptember 23, 2013, from A Philosopher’s Blog: http://aphilosopher.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/the-ethics-of-prostitution/ […]

  55. WG said, on October 29, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Among many other things, I am a prostitute. And besides many other things that I do, I sleep with men for money. This particular aspect of my life takes place in a ‘Gentleman’s Club’, i.e. a brothel, in a country where prostitution is legal.

    I’m in my twenties and have been travelling for some time and decided I wanted to earn a decent sum of money to help fund the next leg of my trip. I chose the rather left-field, to say the least, avenue of prostitution for a number of factors including it’s legal status in the country I’m currently in, and also because I just don’t seem to have the same emotional reaction to the subject that many, many others do. I’ve always been one to have my own view on things and I can’t help but think that the opinion of the masses – is that. A collective opinion of the masses, not the indivudal, passed down and germinated from generation to generation. Of course, I’m sure there are those who oppose prostitution, who have come to their conclusions based on their own original thoughts too. We are all entitled to our opinions. But ultimately – as emotive a subject it is, our/your/everybody’s opinions on the subject simply…don’t…REALLY…matter. Or make much of a difference – to whether it exists or not. To hope for otherwise is a complete waste of time, as it has always existed, and always will. The only thing that all of these opinions has an impact on, is how these women are treated by society, or, more specifically in most cases, how she WOULD be treated in society if she was able to tell others what she did as her profession, like most people can without being alienated and judged. Yawn! Of course, views on prostitution are a fluid and ever changing thing. At times in history, prostitution has been highly respected and valued.

    It strikes me, but doesn’t surprise me on further thought, that the subject always revolves around those that are receiving the money for sex. Not those that are offering the money. Those offering the money are the instigators. Shouldn’t the fullest, most comprehensive and honest arguements begin THERE? It seems to me to be a wasted opportunity for insight and understanding. It’s too easy to ‘blame’ it on the women. Or on the other end of the scale ‘victimise’ them.

    Ultimately, I don’t think prostitutes (I certainly don’t) worry too much about outside opinions anyway. They don’t effect us too much on a day to day basis (apart from the being careful who you ‘tell’, if anyone at all) and we don’t go about our work with a nagging sense of shame, or self-hatred, or anything like that. I wonder if it’s the masses who are projecting their own feelings of shame and self-hatred onto this ‘taboo’ of prostitution because they aren’t reconciled, in themselves, with the powers and urges and instincts that prostitution summons in our minds. All the while, we, who are actually doing the job, are quite comfortable and familar with these themes hence the lack of shame and the ability to just ‘get on with it’ (and even enjoy it).

    Anyway, I’m rambling (there’s so much to say on the topic, so much so that it’s difficult to be discpilined and stay succinct and structured! Every point leads onto five other ones to be made, etc etc). So I’ll just briefly conclude with what my daily perceptions and experiences are in the profession.

    I see a wide variety of kinds of men, from varying ages (from very young to pretty damn old!), from different ethnicities, and from different walks of life and all levels of income. There is not a ‘type’ of man who visits prostitues. My job is to guage what the man wants from the session (because often they will be too shy to ask, and often I don’t think they are even sure themselves!) and to give that to him, whether it be a ‘to the point’, twenty minute ‘session’, or an hour long, passionate, ‘girlfriend’ experience. More often than not, my clients want affection, and to show affection, as much as to have physical sex. 99% say thank you, and even compliment you, in ways that recognize you as a human being and not just a sex object. A sign they respect and value the service you have provided. So the men who use prostitutes also don’t deserve the reputation that they are often branded with, just as we as prostitutes don’t deserve ours.

    I can’t claim to be a psychologist of the male psyche, but it often feels like I am as I work with and see an aspect of it, intimiately on a regular basis, from an objective point of view, where my perception of it is not skewed by my own needs and neurosies (as it may be if I were in a relationship with that man).

    The fact is I like it when my clients walk out the door happy. When they’ve had a bit of nurturing. Or, because they are men after all, when they have just had a much needed ‘release’.

    What more can I say. Is it really that big a deal? I think not. But that’s just my opinion. But at least it’s completely my own!

  56. cjm141 said, on March 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    To me, I think the idea of prostitution involving ‘two consenting adults’ is completely false. If there was no payment involved, the prostitute would not even entertain the idea of having sex with that individual.

    Money is the binding attraction. No love, connection or meaningful intimacy. Everything else is fake. The only thing that is being ‘consented’ to is being paid.

    So, you are going against your body and your feelings constantly in a way that affects the very core of your being. If you say it is just ‘a job’, then fine. If that is how you cope, so be it- but- switching off emotionally like that on a long term basis is not healthy.

    Emotional and physical intimacy are not mutually exclusive – no matter how hard you try to disconnect them, the effects will catch up with you one day when you least expect it.

    Prostitution is a symptom of the problem only. A lot of men and women today simply cannot emotionally relate to each other….or themselves. So thrives paying for sex….

    • cjm141 said, on March 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      If you have a high sex drive and enjoy sex, and you have the absolute freedom to choose prostitution without being trafficked or coerced into it by poverty, then fine. If that is your choice, then, ok.

      I would be concerned at how some men react to paying prostitutes for sex…what if they are serial womanisers, closet rapists and simply hate woman for whatever reason?

      What is prostitution cementing in their minds as to how they see woman in general? To a sex worker, he is just another client…a not so good experience that you’ll forget about soon perhaps. To a bad client, you are a slut, filthy whore, worthless….able to treat you like dirt because he ‘owns’ you for the session….

      and you’re not worthy of being treated so badly…that’s what concerns me.

      There is a lot at risk….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,915 other followers

%d bloggers like this: