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Intrinsic versus contingent claims about the harmfulness of prostitution
  1. Rosalind J McDougall
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rosalind McDougall, Centre for Health and Society, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia;rmcdo{at}

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Moen targets a view about the intrinsic harmfulness of prostitution that he sees as widespread in healthcare, academia and public policy.1 He argues that the exchange of sex for money is not intrinsically harmful by systematically rejecting various possible proposed harms. He further suggests that it is the social context of discriminating laws and stigma that accounts for the harms experienced by prostitutes, rather than any intrinsic feature of exchanging sex for money.

One striking aspect of his argument is the particular way in which he characterises the common view about the harmfulness of prostitution. Consider the following two possible versions of the claim that prostitution is harmful: The intrinsic claim: The exchange of sex for money is intrinsically harmful to the seller. The contingent claim: Prostitutes are currently likely to experience significant harm.

The intrinsic claim is …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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