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December 18, 2006



Furthermore, making it illegal to buy sex is likely to lead to an increase in violence towards prostitutes. Men who use prostitutes are likely to be nervous and anxious, and would want to pick up women in even darker more dangerous areas. It would drive the trade even more underground.

Mark Wadsworth

Your answers seem fair enough to me, but then again I could never be bothered with authoritarian value judgmental solutions. That never work anyway.


The strength of that repugnance, though, means prostitution entails substantial social cost e.g. to those living near red-light zones. At the very least this is justification for regulation of the trade, the extreme of which is criminalisation.


You forget that Employees also "exploit" their empoyers to get money.


Yes, however, if the oldest profession were legal and people had greater access to sex and close human contact, there would be less sexual frustration. Folks might be a lot less inclined to respond to the subliminal sexual invitations succussfully used by the advertising industry. Might mess up the economy. You think?

Rachel North

Thank you for the link. A hard-headed, non-histrionic argument at last

Marcin Tustin

The question is what is the difference between repugnance and symbolic rationality? If you can posit that it is reasonable to choose to support minimum wages and similar measures because of the symbolic value of doing that, then why does that not apply here?


I'm not sure "repugnance" quite covers it. Which other relationships would you pay for? Would you pay someone else to love your children (not care for, mark you, but such that the kids transfered their affection from you to a 3rd party)? Would you buy someone else's parent's love? If you could or would, wouldn't that be the ne plus ultra of asymmetrical information?

james higham

...not only should buying sex not be illegal, but prostitution should be much less restricted than it currently is...

And it should be cheaper.

Daily Referendum

Prostitution has saved marriages, prevented rapes and allowed men who for social reasons may die virgins to have some happiness. On the other hand it has provided an income to people in desperate situations. Prostitution is not all good, there is danger for the people involved but their situation could be improved by legalisation. Prostitution will always be part of our society, it's about time we made it safe for those involved.

Not Saussure

'The strength of that repugnance, though, means prostitution entails substantial social cost e.g. to those living near red-light zones'

Does it, though? As I mentioned in my piece (thanks for the link), my late wife and I lived for several years bang in the middle of one of London's more notorious red-light zones; no one seemed to feel any particular repugnance that I noticed. The kerb-crawlers were a bit of nuisance, but girls working on the street and in the massage parlours were no problem at all.

If you feel particularly strongly about it, you live somewhere else -- but, as a survey of London property prices will soon show, there are plenty of people who don't have a problem with living near brothels and street prostitutes (particularly if they can obtain housing at a discount because of what some people regard as a disadvantage of living in the area).

Chris P

Presumably Harriet is unfamiliar with Balzac & therefore can only knee jerk to a current opportunity in her Deputy Leadership bid. Prostitution as a career, very richly rewarded for some has a normal profile. The narrow minded and simple view of society is classic Labour. Liberalise both prositution and drug laws and therefore de-criminalise was the instant police response in Ipswich & follows ACPO thinking. But it is too non-repressive & non New Labour.


I'm German and prostitution back home is legal and taxed. Over the years,due to a number of friendships with prostitutes (and being sorely tempted to also take up the job) I observed the following:

1. Prostitutes sometimes do enjoy their jobs and pride themselves on doing them well.

2. Older prostitutes often make a heap of money too. Looks isn't everything, and many guys feel more comfy with a mature lady.

3. Paraplegics or people so disfigured that they find it hard to find a partner find their services invaluable, and most girls will take those jobs willingly.

4. Legal prostitution pushes out illegal sex-slave trade, and all the nasty hassles that go with it.

5. Often men hire a prostitute to simply talk to -- marriage problems or just human company are the most cited reasons.

There are many more good reasons but the margin of the blog comment is too small to fit it.

Eric H

2. "Prostitution exploits women."

What is the difference between a prostitute and a stripper? I'd say there is damn little. I was struck by the hyper-cynicism of strippers interviewed on HBO shows on them. The women effectively regarded the men as (and this is as near a quote as I can recall), "meat with wallets". When Kant warned against viewing others as means rather than ends, this is exactly the kind of attitude I think he may have had in mind.

So, who is exploiting whom?

Admittedly, I have offered a misdirection (prostitutes and strippers are somewhat different, not much if you consider lap dances. It's basically the difference between penetration and not, but little or no emotional difference), and glossed over actual exploitation of some women (runaways, etc.), but I think the basic thrust holds. After all, one of those HBO shows featured a peek show club run for and by women, mostly unionized lesbians as I recall, so it's hard to argue that they are all exploitive.


You're missing (6), though (5) is a kind of front for it:

"Sex between consenting adults is essentially undesirable except for the purpose of procreation, and even then only if both are married, and preferably leading good Christian lives".

I think you'll find that's the actual gut objection. Plus the belief that prostitutes create a market, rather than they are a response to an existing demands. The usual woman=temptress=Eve=entirely responsible for any mistakes a poor innocent male might make.

Mark Seecof

Listening to women carp about "problems" with prostitution is like listening to taxicab operators denounce jitney drivers.

To a wife (or a proto-wife girlfriend), prostitutes are a great nuisance. They reduce the scarcity value of female sexual services, and they compete for mens' cash resources.

From a strictly economic point of view, most women trade time, sexual, and other services to men. They may take payment in cash or barter. But most women sell large amounts of time/ service to few men. Prostitutes sell small amounts to many men. Competition from prostitutes reduces the marginal value of other womens' time/services, so naturally women form cartels to seek rents in the form of legal restrictions on prostitution.


This website has very good facts that counter most of these arguments.



The arguments posted on this website are very good, until you consider the fact that they are simply theories. The idea of someone trading sex for money seems fine - one gets sex, the other gets money, they both leave happy.

The reality of it is brutal. I am sure you know the stories, if not you can do a google search and find hundreds.

I am concerned, however, that increased regulation would drive it more underground (street prostitution would go away, but it makes up only a small percentage of the rest of the sex trade), and don't have a good answer for that. Decreased regulation has been shown to increase trafficking and child prostitution, and increase a government's econimic reliance on the sex trade... so that's not the answer.

Would love to find a real solution, any ideas?



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