On legalizing sex-work and "Would you want your kid to be a prostitute?"

On Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews, a smart, to-the-point commentary on legalizing sex-work:

And, of course, I’m open to the question of whether legalization results in more trafficking (it seems to vary by country), and so on, but I’ve never heard a decent rejoinder to the idea that men and women can decide to have sex with each other for any, any random/shitty/nice reason they want (boredom, vengeance, lust, love, can’t afford movie tickets, hatred, etc.) EXCEPT for this one: one of those people has money to offer, and the other person needs the money...

And I’m particularly aggravated, when I support legalizing sex work, and people say triumphantly: “would you want your daughter to be a sex worker?” as though that should matter. I’d rather she not be a lobbyist, or work in a sweatshop, or a coal mine, or be a malpractice lawyer, either. But it doesn’t have a lot to do with me, either way, and if she were to do any of these things, I’d like her to be able to call the cops on someone attempting to take advantage of her, and be able to use Turbo Tax at the end of the year to report her income.

There’s a Big Thing On Legalizing Sex Work


  1. I suppose all the reasons for and against would also apply to, say, bare-knuckle boxing…

    1. As the bare-knuckle campaigner Dr Alan J Ryan pointed out: “In 100 years of bare-knuckle fighting in the United States, which terminated around 1897 with a John L Sullivan heavyweight championship fight, there wasn’t a single ring fatality.” Today, there are three or four every year in the US, and around 15 per cent of professional fighters suffer some form of permanent brain damage during their career.


      1. Fair enough, but don’t fall for the distraction. If sex-work is morally, ethically, and/or legally justifiable, then that fact stands on its own, regardless of what else may be justifiable by the same logic. And if something else distasteful is justifiable by the same logic, then it’s our distaste that should be challenged, not the logic.

  2. I believe the “Do you want your daughter  to be a sex worker” comes from the assumption, that legalization would somehow force people to take up that job or they would loose unemployment benefits, for example. 

    There certainly were – mostly American – articles stating this as fact when there was a legislative reform in German in 2002. (It was legal before, btw).

    1. Well it is kinda problematic as an issue since attempts to legalize sex work has met different results ranging from more human trafficking, bigger problems for sex workers all the way to better safety for sex workers and less human trafficking.

      And here for example if you deny taking ANY legal job you will lose your welfare allowance (which is supposed to be “universal”) and considering the fact that our sexuality is considered apart and special in comparison to our lifetime, health and wellbeing (which we routinely sell to employers in ordinary jobs) it becomes even trickier.
      Now sex work here is legal, buying isn’t, and I think Germany had a similar set-up before?

      Anyway, there is a pro-sexwork argument from the left that we somehow accept horrible work conditions and selling your entire life and creativity for shit-cash – but when it comes to sex suddenly there is this wierd sensitivity about it. But on the other hand is legalization of sex work better than for example criminalization of any dehumanising work?

      (I honestly have no idea, just commenting to get answers because the subject is too damn tricky)

      1. Just wondering aloud: why is commercial sexual exploitation fundamentally different from just plain commercial exploitation? Every single one of us wakes up every morning and has to decide what part of ourselves we have to sell in order to live.

  3. Here’s a fine answer to that stupid question:

    If I had a daughter, and if she chose to be a sex worker, I’d rather she be a legitimate sex worker than work at a job that’s illegal. 

    1. Or if she has to be a sex worker. Many have to turn to survival sex at some point. Criminalizing sex workers only exposes them to violence, to the legal system, and to violence at the hands of the legal system.

      Or if she happens to be in a demographic that the cops profile as sex workers and the public sees as ‘born prostitutes.’ A poor trans womon of color doesn’t have to do sex work to be arrested for it, thrown in the men’s jail until trial, raped, and railroaded.

  4. Well, where I live, Brothels and private prostitution is legal(though there are some quirks, that mean that soliciting on the street, outcalls and the like are illegal, but that aside) presuming she wanted to take up that career and she was Smart, sane and safe about it, then sure.

    Hey, It’s a good wage, meet lots of very friendly people, plenty of spare time, enjoyable, challenging work, can’t fault her for it, I’ve gone for jobs for much the same reasons.

  5. This assumes choice of course. Do you think most sex workers make that decision because they have fantastic opportunities in front of them? If its suicide vs sex work then I’d like them alive.

    1. What assumes choice? I’m struggling to find what you’re trying to say here. I agree that most sex workers probably are left with few other choices, but I’m not sure what angle your point is coming from.

    2. Do you think most workers work because of the fantastic opportunities in front of them? They work so they can eat and house and clothe themselves.

      Edit: I’m agreeing with your post, btw.

  6. Would you like me to ask you a loaded question?

    Now let’s use reason:  Is it legal now?  Where it’s not legal, is it eradicated?
    Yeah, I thought so.  Now, IF your kid was a prostitute, would you prefer he/she practiced the profession in a legal or illegal milieu?

    Thank you.

  7. Hopefully I’m not that shitty of a dad that my daughter would want to be a prostitute. Though yes, it should be legalized, licensed, and have an entity to help them with health issues.

        1. I thought it’d be obvious I was flat-out judging Mister44.

          Maybe there’s some sort of nobility in the sentiment of “sex work is without question a demeaning livelihood only taken up by those who haven’t been brought up correctly, and by god those poor people should have all the proper protections in place.” I don’t see it. I happen to agree with the article that it’s a strange idea that people can agree to have sex for all sorts of reasons except when connected to a monetary transaction.

          There’s also the possibility I misread his statement. Feel free to correct me.

          1.  I have never met a prostitute that I know of, but every stripper I’ve known has daddy issues. My friend who used to bounce a really high dollar classy joint has the same observation (though this is far from scientific). So it’s less a proper upbringing and more me doing damage.

    1. Every single choice your child makes that you would not make is absolutely totally evidence that you’re a shitty parent.

      If you really believe that, you’re (going to be) a shitty parent.  Heh.

      1.  @Mister44:disqus  Anecdote, big ol’ offensive anecdote.  1) Many WOMEN have problems with their dads, because a lot of dads are jackasses. Some of us become sex workers and some of us become divorce lawyers. Most of us become confident women who get over that shit.  2) You and a bouncer collaborating on what you think makes women fucked up is, as you admitted, far from scientific, and ridiculous to boot. To base your ideas of sex worker on this highly biased and gendered perspective is bullshit.  3) A lot of men do sex work, too.  Daddy issues? 4) Are people with fucked up pasts not able to make decisions for themselves? Must they rescind their ability to make any choice for their career, their health, their mental well being? 

        1. Is a person not allowed to have hopes or expectations for his offspring that do not include sex work? That there are some jobs that are better than others is not a secret. I hope my daughters don’t end up working at the DMV, or as fry cooks at McDonald’s. There is nothing wrong with those jobs, or with having sex with random, paying strangers, but I don’t see any reason to withhold having a preference as to what my children end up doing to make other people feel better about their choices or opinions.

          That said, if my daughters choose any of those things and end up being happy people, then I’ve got nothing to complain about (and I won’t).

      2.  I dunno, seems like a useful illusion for parents.

        Sometimes an untrue belief (like chakras, for example) allows one to manipulate oneself psychologically for some benefit.

  8. I suspect the problem with trafficing is the issue of what happens to the person being forced once the trafficer has been put in jail. Likely the girl (or boy?) are from a poorer nation and with little grasp of the local language or skill to gain work with. As such they either become a social client or gets deported, with the latter being more likely. As such, the trafficker holds a strong card against them and so they are unlikely to go to the local police for help. And banning, like with prohibition, will just drive things underground…

    1. A lot of the “trafficking” stuff here in the States is actually a reframing by religious conservatives.  It’s not a very helpful frame in this country, and it manages to define the “problem” as young people who are forced into a terrible life, thereby making sure to erase the experiences of those who choose that life.  That way, we don’t have to talk about making sure prostitutes are safe and enjoy legal protections.  Brilliant, huh?

  9. Prostitution is Legal in the netherlands. If you live on welfare you are obliged to take any fitting job that the CWI (center for work and income) offers you. At one time it offered jobs in a brothel and a jobless nurse was told to work there. She filed a complaint and the CWI stopped offering sex jobs .
    Link, in dutch: http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/4328/Opinie/article/detail/1883210/2011/05/01/Prostituee-is-echt-geen-normaal-vak.dhtml

    1. Hi Jan, its not true that if youre on welfare in Holland you cannot refuse a job as a sexworker, and lose your pay. Government accepted a motion saying prostitution is not deemed a ‘normal’ job, so noone on welfare will get in trouble.

      1. Though the point is interesting. When is a job deemed acceptable enough for people to be required to take it in order to continue to receive welfare?

  10. I think the better question to ask conservatives is: “If you’re against legalizing sex work, are you also against the use of your taxes to fund welfare and cheap public education and subsidized housing and drug rehabilitation programs?” They seem to think outlawing something like sex work or abortion or drug use will magically make it go away without funding programs that address the socio-economic issues that contribute to these things.

    1.  Sadly a lot of those conservatives would be against all of those things, preferring that the afflicted people simply die for lack of care instead – or kill each other, rot in prison, whatever.

  11. Sex is only a big deal for religious people and virgins. Asking “Would you want your kid to become a prostitute?” is asking “Would you want your kid to be an exterminator?” they’re both not ideal jobs but somehow people find themselves doing them.

    1.  It’s a big deal for me, and I’m neither.  In fact, I’m going to go surprise my wife in the shower right now!

    2. While I can see an argument for legalizing sex work in much the same way that I can see one for legalizing heroin (that is legalization in order to care for the victims rather than treating them as criminals), comparing a useful, perfectly respectable working class job like being an exterminator to being a prostitute is pretty abhorrent. Are exterminators, plumbers, and other providers of domestic service really that shameful to you?

      1. …comparing a useful, perfectly respectable working class job like being an exterminator to being a prostitute is pretty abhorrent. Are exterminators, plumbers, and other providers of domestic service really that shameful to you?

        I have plenty of friends who have been sex workers. They’re not ashamed of it. Your shame is yours. Nobody else’s.

        1. There may be a small subset of high-price sex-workers who truly see it as an honest avocation, but are you really denying the fact that the majority of them are people trapped by poverty or drug addiction and see no other way out than turning tricks?

          1. As opposed to desperate, depressed office workers in mind-numbing cubicle jobs trapped by debt or medical conditions which make them too afraid to be off their company health care?  Work is rather often degrading.  Work is compulsory for more people than not.  Work is dangerous (canneries, mines, factories).  How is the dangerous and degrading of sex work somehow more* dangerous and degrading than cleaning behind the fryer at Arby’s? 

          2. are you really denying the fact that the majority of them are people trapped by poverty or drug addiction and see no other way out than turning tricks?

            It depends on the situation where you live. A lot of the women working in the legal prostitution industry where I live seem to be students who study during the day and support themselves working at night.

          3. Your views of sex-workers is very skewed.

            Those ‘poor addicts’ are the most visible, yes. However, all the sex workers I know, pro-dommes, girlfriends for rent, rent-boys, and regular hookers, are very discreet. Chances are, you’ve met a few of these people. Usually, you have no idea. They represent a pretty good cross-section of class and education level. They tend to be normal people, just more sex-positive.

        2. I have friends who are sex workers too, some are ashamed of their job others not. Shaming others for being a part in a social order (like our opinions on sex, gender, race and sexuality) is about as constructive as screaming “shut up” at the top of your voice. His or her shame is EVERYONES unless you live in the set of “The happiest little whore house in Texas”. 

          The idea that simple legalisation is a social panacea to this question is in itself naive as the examples of Germany and Nevada show us (two different results to a similar action). But keeping it as a crime is also sort of dual since we have different results in different countries and areas. 

          This topic is tricky enough as it is without resorting to anecdotal evidence, shaming (from both sides) or referring to yourself as the one person who speaks for all sex workers.

      2. Legal prostitution likely provides a valuable service, as well.

        Acting as a release valve on sexual urges.

        I wonder what rape statistics are like in areas that have legal prostitution…

      3. Plumbing should in no way be compared with prostitution.  As a practicing turd herder, I would kill to get into the sex industry.  
        Plumbers (and other construction workers) are exposed to constant hazards, such as extreme levels of noise, air particulate and fumes, fall hazards, power tool malfunctions, and other pleasantries.

        In comparison, sex is a walk in the park. Ok maybe Central Park NYC but still…

          1. Especially here.
            Exterminator: Where did you see the scorpions?
            Me: In that stand of cholla.

      4.  If you honestly think plumbing and extermination are equivalent, and yet prostitution is somehow “abhorrent” in comparison, I grieve for your ignorance.  And as for your allocation of respectability… I think that’s a reflection of the people you interact with, and I’m glad my friends aren’t like that.

        I’ve got some plumbing to do, so I must go.  Later I’ll visit my father, who has parkinson’s from repeated chemical exposure.

  12. Are any of you answering the question parents?  I have a 10 year old daughter and it is a hard question.  I was pro porn/prostitution/sexwork until I had a daughter.  Seeing the world looking over her shoulder is very different.  On that show about the 3 bunnies they showed parents taking kids to get the autograph of these nude model/concubines and how proud the parents of the nude model/concubines were that they was the concubines of a wealthy man. And not what? I know it is a an american puritan bias but I’m an american, not that I couldn’t be different but in any world would I want my daughter to get F***** for money.  It is easy to say I wouldn’t want her to be a republican presidential candidate but what would you say if you 10 year old told you she wanted to be a hooker when she grew up?

    1. congratulations on missing the point. the question that is asked is the red herring: “would you want your daughter to be a sex worker?” (and yes, its always about our daughters, not our sons). the point of the article cited is that we the parents may not have any choice over that, and so the real question that needs answering is if your child ends up doing sex work for whatever reason, what legal framework for their livelihood would you rather see in place?”. I’m no fan of either of my daughters ending up in sex work against their will, but if they have to (i have no idea how that could happen but i’m not omniscient with respect to their future) or if they choose to, i’d want them doing so in a situation that offered them legal protection.

      1. I think there would be less of a worry about our sons joining the sex industry as we’d be less concerned that they were being manipulated into it, abused while in the industry or stigmatized by association with it. I haven’t heard many stories of men who don’t look like Saddam Hussein being forced or manipulated into sex work.

        1. Sons being forced into prostitution usually begins with the parents discovering their offspring is gay, & then kicking him out into the street.  Then he has to start exchanging sex for money to survive (strangely, this usually means letting middleaged businessmen fellate him for money.)

    2.  Yes, I’m a parent.  I don’t want my daugther to be a sex worker when she grows up.  I don’t want her to be gay, either.  It’s not because I have anything against lesbians or hookers, it’s because those are hard furrows to hoe, and I would not wish her to struggle that hard just to be herself or to feed her family.

      I want my daughter to be the chosen one who leads all humanity to an apotheosis of wonder, fulfillment, and universal wonderfulness, and for her to be happy forever and ever and ever in a useful, universally beloved role as the greatest woman who has ever lived.  With unicorns and rainbows and glitter.

      If you try some time, you just might find… you get what you need.

      1. “I want my daughter to be the chosen one who leads all humanity to an apotheosis of wonder, fulfillment, and universal wonderfulness . .”
        Dude, only lesbians can do that these days.

      2. I don’t want her to be gay, either. It’s not because I have anything against lesbians or hookers, it’s because those are hard furrows to hoe, and I would not wish her to struggle that hard just to be herself or to feed her family.

        I guarantee you that your desire to micromanage her sexuality will decrease her likelihood of being happy and well-adjusted.

        1. I’m not sure where you got ‘micromanaging her sexuality’ from that post. You quoted it but did you even read the next sentence? If he said that he didn’t want his daughter to lose an arm in a car accident would you accuse him of trying to micromanage her limbs?

          1. “Honey, I’m not homophobic, but I don’t want you to be a lesbian because you’ll be miserable” is pretty much the polar opposite of an It Gets Better video, isn’t it? It’s homophobia and it’s frankly homicidal in its potential consequences.

  13. Loaded in the same way “have you stopped beating your wife?” is loaded. The smartest move may be not to play, i.e. not even dignify the question with a response.

    1. It looks pretty loaded from either side, it’s clear that for many of the commenters here there’s only one correct answer.

  14. America has this interesting habit of criminalizing a behavior and then believing it’s deplorable behavior because everybody who engages in the behavior is a criminal.

  15. Pornstars and prostitutes, while being technically the same thing, sometimes have differences. Prostitutes wouldn’t always have the freedom to select a different career. Anyone who’s gotten trapped in a shitty job could sympathize with a prostitute who was forced to do things with less than ideal clients because it was their job and he/she had to make the rent. That’d be a terrible situation. Would it be possible to remove the dangers of prostitution by bringing it out in the open? Maybe. Requiring sex workers to wear protection like in Nevada and bringing it out in the open as a legitimate business would eliminate most of the problems associated with it being illegal, just like other prohibited things like marijuana, where the real dangers only exist from a system that  tells you that it’s dangerous because it’ll punish you.

    1. Porn stars don’t always have the freedom to select a different career, either, especially if the desired career involves putting these indelibly stained people in charge of pure, impressionable young minds. (See the case of Stacie Halas, for one.)

    2. Prostitutes wouldn’t always have the freedom to select a different career

      Neither would pornstars. A lot of those women have been trafficked and can’t get home again. You think that mask of pleasure is genuine?

      1.  Yes.  Just as genuine as Three And A Half Men.
        I’d like to thank the humorless anti-sex feminist faction for putting in their $.02.

        1. I’d like to thank the mansplaining dudebros who think that “jokes” are more important than women’s welfare.

    3. Waitresses, truck drivers, factory workers, office drones, ___insert any job really___, don’t always have the freedom to select a different career. How is prostitution different? 

  16. Our children will choose their own morality.  Ours will be enforced within the walls of our old-folks gated communities.

  17. Talking about sex work misses the point, we need to talk about poverty, the lack of help for drug addicts, the lack of help for victims of domestic abuse which can leave them homeless and desperate for cash (especially if they have kids), and the fact that undocumented people can neither (legally) work nor claim benefits. I’m not bothered by self-confident escorts who decide for themselves when and how much they work. But the streetwalkers I’ve talked to are a million miles from that, usually addicted to crack cocaine and controlled by an abusive boyfriend/pimp, and the clients also are sometimes violently abusive. Some have learning disabilities or mental health problems that make them especially vulnerable. Outlawing or not outlawing prostitution doesn’t really address these problems.

  18. The question of “would you want your kid to be a sex worker?” is very similar to, “would you like to know all the dirty sex acts your parents did?”  The answer for both is two fold really.  I don’t belive anyone in their right mind would say “yes” to either question.  However in both it’s more the thought of the situation combined with who they are to us that makes us cringe and say no.  We don’t mind getting down and dirty sexually ourselves or perhaps even hearing about it from someone outside of our family circle.   Like it’s been said before, it’s a loaded question.

    1. I don’t belive anyone in their right mind would say “yes” to either question.

      I don’t “want” my child to be a sex-worker, but then I don’t “want” much from his career choice except that it is fulfilling and rewarding to him. If that turns out to be sex-work, more power to him.

      I don’t want to know anything about my parents’ sex-life, though. Does that make me half in my right mind?

      1. Your fully in your right mind in my book.  The point was that just because nobody “wants” to know their parents sex life or for their kid to be a sex-worker doesn’t mean it doesn’t, didn’t, or won’t happen.  At the end of the day we all do the things that make us feel fulfilled and rewarded because those things are fun for us.  Unfortunately those actions don’t always make others happy and our family members are usually the first to be offended.  I’ve always believed in the rule of thumb that says, so long as what your doing isn’t risking physical or mental harm of anyone other than yourself then do what you want.

        Overall though I’m going to take George Carlins take on this subject, “Selling is legal.  Fu**ing is legal.  Why isn’t selling fu**ing legal??”

  19. On point, we can all rest a bit easier.  Prostitution  and TurboTax are compatible.  Heck, you can probably deduct the outfits (as a uniform), birth control (personal safety devices), and other expenses as non-reimbursed business expenses.  The IRS doesn’t care.  My wife worked data entry for them and the only suspicious job title she can remember is “US Senator.”  As long as you pay your taxes, they don’t care and TurboTax doesn’t have a morality filter either.

  20. What bugs me in conversations on sex work is how no one talks about the coercion inherent in capitalism. Coercive sex is rape. So, unless you can eliminate desperate poverty from a capitalist society, there’s always some number of sex workers who are undergoing rape by capitalism.
    Also, there is undoubtedly going to be some number of sex workers who really enjoy the work, and that’s super, and society should help them do what they love.
    It’s really pretty simple.
    Stop rape; celebrate satisfying work; don’t confuse the two.

    1. The “coercion inherent in capitalism”? As opposed to coercion-free socialist or communist systems? By any reasonable definition of “coercion,” there’s less of it in a free (or freer) market system than in the alternatives.

      1. I think your premise capitalism=freemarket or capitalism=freedom is wrong. The freemarket means that people are free to engage in business however they like, including engaging in anti-capitalist business. And capitalism does not ensure freedom any more than socialism does, it certainly doesn’t ensure much positive freedom. Freedom is all about increasing empowerment and fulfillment, and democratic organizations seem to be better at increasing the number of people who are empowered to improve their lives.
        (But I’m not drawing a dichotomy here with capitalism and servitude on one side and collectivism and liberty on the other, because a dominant economic structure can influence the social order but it doesn’t determine how people act.)

    2. Coercive sex is rape. So, unless you can eliminate desperate poverty from a capitalist society, there’s always some number of sex workers who are undergoing rape by capitalism. 

      I agree that sex has a special place in the spectrum of human interaction, but can’t you make this argument about any job that a poor person takes? I mean, it’d be kidnapping and assault if I pointed a gun at you and made you flip burgers for me for eight hours, but that doesn’t make it kidnapping and assault if I open a fast food restaurant in a poor neighborhood and hire residents at minimum wage.

      1. Yes. I think an unequal and exploitative society is the problem. I don’t think criminalizing workers is the solution. I think we need to empower workers and empower the marginalized and the made-unemployable if we are going to begin to move toward a more equal and less exploitative society.

        And if we build this post-capitalist utopia [I think we need to, what with the ecocide and capitalist dystopias we will face if we don’t] maybe prostitution will still exist, and maybe it won’t, but hopefully not like most of what now exists.

      2. Only poor people, really? Who are the people who make money respectably if you discount the poor and the bankers? The middle classes, perhaps? Buying, selling and commodification are the problem. There are simply degrees of exploitation and very little free choice in a free market. I see no way of separating sexual oppression from economic systems. If even one person is sexually oppressed in a capitalist society then we all are.

      3. I think the point is that the potential emotional trauma would be much more significant and likely for the forced sex worker than the forced burger flipper.
        I am having trouble with this issue because while I believe that if someone wants to sell their body, they should be allowed to,  I don’t want prostitution  to be encouraged or described as ‘just like any other job’ because it’s a job with an uncommonly high trauma risk. Comparing it to other jobs with high trauma risks is both useful and useless- useful, because we can acknowledge that people do take jobs with full awareness of the dangers, useless, because no other job involves having sex for money (implicit cases irrelevant, being as illegal as explicit prostitution is).

        There are jobs and jobs. Prostitution is in its own particular class. Is this because human sexuality is a special thing, or is it because society frowns on prostitutes? I can’t be sure, but I’m inclined to believe the former would still be true even if the latter was done away with.

  21. There are two polar ends in the porn / sex work morality question.

    “it’s *wrong*” – with the modern twist of “ok, it’s prevalent, and many of us are weak, but it’s still wrong” you see in church anti-porn crusades recently.


    “sex positive” where all over that moral hang up – with the modern twist of “but trafficking is wrong, m’kay”

    If you believe the first then logically hell no, not my daughter, even if I or my son use porn or prostitutes.

    If you believe the second, theoretically no big deal, but it still squicks some people.

    I know some (now ex) pros, and their jobs are a little weird at some level, but not something I’d have a fit about morally in the family. It’s ok to be their friend. Otherwise it dehumanizes the people and field.

    1. An inevitable joke: What’s the difference between a prostitute and a politician? Prostitutes screw the people who give them money. Politicians screw the people who elected them on behalf of the people who give them money.

  22. I fell in love with a woman and after few months discovered that she was working as a sex worker in a spa (it is illegal). She doesn’t have a bank account and works all night long, sleeping in the mixed hang out area in the spa (jimjilbang) until her services are requested.
    The woman has serious psychological issues and, as a result, we have parted ways. Maybe her personal problems came from somewhere else but such an environment is designed to keep people like her for as long some one else profits – all at her expense.

  23. There’s no glib answer to this one. Between the pimps, rough trade johns, and drugs it’s hard to craft a happy ending. And one-answer-fits-all will never apply.

    1. That’s one kind of prostitute. There are others. Many of the women who work Craigslist are independents. I can’t speak to whether they’re addicted to drugs, though. Besides, what business is it of ours whether someone else’s life fits our description of a “happy ending” (pun intended?).

  24. The problem is exploitation of people. The problem is not the specific industry in which the exploitation is happening.

    There are factory workers all around the world who are exploited because they are desperate and poor. Many of them are virtually (if not actually) enslaved. We don’t ban factories. We don’t claim that factory work is inherently degrading. We are rational enough, in that case, to say that the situation is degrading. 

    Why isn’t it the same with sex work? 

    I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that it involves sex (which is dirty, amiright?) and women (whose sex lives are only okay if they’re having sex in the confines of monogamous marriage, and then if they don’t enjoy it too much). 

    Anybody, in any line of work, can be exploited*. Any job can be degrading and soul killing. But it’s not the job that needs banning. It’s the exploitation. 

    *The joke I made to my husband, “Content farms exploit writers! Doesn’t mean we need to ban writing.”

    1.  Sex worker advocate Audacia Ray has spoken to this. Anti-trafficking organizations, often church-sponsored, especially in Asia (I’m afraid I can’t remember the specific country), have this fun little idea that they’ll teach trades to sex workers to get them off the streets.  One of these trades is sewing.  The delightful result is these people (usually women) are pushed out of prostitution and into sweat shops.  Win one for the Lord, I suppose.

    2. Exactly this. A few years ago I worked at the UK Department for Business. As a department, our sole pupose was facilitating the theft of capital by the the super-rich. The department was founded in order to manage the colonies, when the UK made itself a super-power on the back of the slave trade. Now, it mostly exists in order to sell weapons to other countries, with complicit genocide being the order of the day.

      I worked there for a year, for lack of other options, and I still feel guilty about it. Would I rather a child of mine sold sex, in a legal and regulated industry, rather than genocide? Absolutely.

    3. I think meaningful work has to be defined as economic activity which benefits both the individual and society. Some jobs do not need to be banned so much as to be made meaningless.

      1. I think work has to be defined as meaningful economic activity

        So it’s not work if I mow my lawn or paint my house?

        1. I misplaced the word meaningful. I have corrected it now. I did not say only economic activity which benefits the individual and society is meaningful work. The problem is to distinguish work from labour. We avoid the issue by talking about sex when it is bodies which are oppressed. Redefining the argument in terms of bodies would also allow us to make meaningful economic distinctions to avoid exploitation. Definitely blame God.

    1. Hm, where’d you get that number? It’s higher than I expected. Not that I doubt you, really. I just want to verify.

        1.  Yeah, I guess anyone doing such a poll likely wouldn’t get into the gender identity of the people involved, and would just play “count the penises”.

  25. Agreed. I think prostitution is unfairly demonized. Our society has deep protestant roots that promoted the idea that sex in general is dirty and immoral. I’m sure there’s plenty of sex trade workers who enjoy their job, and that there are plenty of men and women that hire sex workers who are normal, clean, hard working people. 

  26. Pretty disappointing to read such a glib discussion of a serious global problem that manages to completely gloss over (a) how harmful the industry is and (a) Scandinavian Model which has been so successful by cracking down on the Johns and giving the sex workers resources and ways out of the life.

    Sex work is, for the vast majority of the people in the life very brutal and degrading. It is pretty close to slavery in most cases. But since this reality harshes the buzz of armchair libertarians and porn fans, it is a lot easier to pretend that everyone in the industry is there completely non-coerced and non-abused. If only.

    This also avoids dealing with how horrifying it is to commodify a part of life that is so intimate. Yikes.

  27. This entire subject is predicated on the idea that sex outside of wedlock is immoral. This line of thought also tells us we should kill homosexuals and stone women who get raped.
    In other words, this is an entirely religious issue. There is nothing inherently immoral about  having sex for money. No one gets hurt and no one is exploited. It is the states prohibition on sex for money that causes the harm and exploitation.

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