2010 Abstracts Stage 2

Sex for Sale: an Investigation into the Ethics of Prostitution

Josephine Smith, 2010, Stage 2

Known as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution has always been present in society. However, the moral viewpoint regarding prostitution is not so consistent, the act being legal and regularised within some countries and punishable by death in others.

The aim of my project is to therefore attempt to find an answer to the ambiguity which surrounds the morality of prostitution. Looking only at a case of prostitution between two consensual agents – as any other example would clearly involve an inherently wrong violation of freedom – I will examine prostitution in the light of three prominent moral philosophical theories:

• Utilitarianism
• Kantian Ethics
• Hegelian Ethics

The choice of these particular theories is not only because they are notable moral arguments but also because they are very diverse theories.

This diversity consequently allows a balanced and thorough investigation into the morality of prostitution.
With regards to Utilitarianism, I will study Bentham’s ‘hedonistic calculus’ and Mill’s ‘greatest happiness’ and ‘harm principle’.

The application of Kant’s ethics means a study of prostitution under the categorical imperative.

Finally, prostitution in relation to Hegelian ethics involves an exploration into freedom and the societal values which can uphold this freedom.

Ultimately, I hope to reach a credible conclusion as to the morality of prostitution answering pertinent questions such as, does sex have an inherent special quality which should disallow it to be used as a commodity? And can the legalisation of prostitution ever be considered worthwhile for society?

‘Prostitution testifies to the amoral power struggle of sex…. Prostitutes, pornographers, and their patrons are marauders in the forest of archaic night.’ – Camille Paglia.

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