Monday, August 24, 2009

Should Prostitution Be Illegal?

We can legally contract away our bodies for use in manual labor that picks strawberries or cleans hotel rooms. We can agree to use our bodies in ways that are physically dangerous and potentially harmful through exposure to various chemicals and repetitive motions. There is no problem with boxers agreeing to step in a ring and assault each other, some dying as a result. Is there something inherently different about sexuality?

Or is the case in favor of legalizing prostitution another example of a libertarian argument failing to account for the realities of the context. When there is a power differential in society, would this lead to the strong being able to further prey upon the weak? This would not be a choice made by most women, generally only those on the bottom rung of the social ladder who then have little choice but to fulfill the desires of those in a stronger social position to be able to feed their families.

Or is the problem that sexuality should not be seen as a commodity? There are certain things that are not things and this would be one. (Health care, of course, would be another...but that's a different post.)

Is it a public health matter? Is it like gambling where a prohibition helps maintain the neighborhoods?

Is the illegality of prostitution a leftover of our puritanical past or is there good reason for it?