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Is prostitution harmful?
  1. Ole Martin Moen
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ole Martin Moen, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo, Box 1020 Blindern, 0315 Oslo, Norway; o.m.moen{at}ifikk.uio.no

Abstract

A common argument against prostitution states that selling sex is harmful because it involves selling something deeply personal and emotional. More and more of us, however, believe that sexual encounters need not be deeply personal and emotional in order to be acceptable—we believe in the acceptability of casual sex. In this paper I argue that if casual sex is acceptable, then we have few or no reasons to reject prostitution. I do so by first examining nine influential arguments to the contrary. These arguments purport to pin down the alleged additional harm brought about by prostitution (compared to just casual sex) by appealing to various aspects of its practice, such as its psychology, physiology, economics and social meaning. For each argument I explain why it is unconvincing. I then weight the costs against the benefits of prostitution, and argue that, in sum, prostitution is no more harmful than a long line of occupations that we commonly accept without hesitation.

  • Occupational Health
  • Public Policy
  • Social Aspects
  • Applied and Professional Ethics
  • Sexuality/Gender
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