Does Individual Economic Opportunity Justify Legalizing Prostitution?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Lena Edlund, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics at Columbia University, and Evelyn Korn, PhD, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at University of Marburg in Germany, in the Feb. 2002 Journal of Political Economy article "A Theory of Prostitution," wrote:

"Prostitution has an unusual feature: it is well paid despite being low-skill, labor intensive and, one might add, female dominated. Earnings even in the worst paid type, streetwalking, may be several multiples of full time earnings in professions with comparable skill requirements."

Feb. 2002 - Lena Edlund, PhD 
Evelyn Korn, PhD 



PRO (yes)

Wendy McElroy, Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, wrote the Feb. 13, 2001 "'Solutions' to Prostitution" on the Ifeminists website that:

"Prostitution is not merely an exchange of sexual favors; it is a financial exchange. At this point, individualist feminists rise to defend the free market as well as a woman's self-ownership. This is expressed by the question: 'Prostitution is a combination of sex and the free market. Which one are you against?'

Feminists of all stripes should speak with one voice to demand the safety of these women by granting them the same protection as any other woman can expect. Only decriminalization can provide this."

Feb. 13, 2001 - Wendy McElroy 



Jessi Winchester, former legal prostitute and political candidate, wrote in From Bordello to Ballot Box 2000 that:

"Prostitutes have always been an easy target for those who see themselves as champions of family values, but the definition of good family values depends on the person. The motive for many of the women is to earn a wage that supports their children well and allows them to be able to spend more time with them than most working mothers. I find this logic hard to fault."

2000 - Jessi Winchester 



John Allen Paulos, PhD, Professor of Mathematics at Temple University, wrote "Who's Counting: Sexonomics" on May 7, 2006 on ABCnews.com that:

"Most women enter prostitution for the money.

This being so, legalizing it, regulating it (strictly enforcing laws against pimping, child prostitution, public nuisance and so forth) and improving the economic prospects for women seem to me a greatly preferable approach to it than moralistic denunciation."

May 7, 2006 - John Allen Paulos, PhD 



Jo Bindman, Former Information Officer with End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), wrote "An International Perspective on Slavery in the Sex Industry" in the 1998 book Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition, which stated:

"Many women all over the world go to courageous lengths to enter the sex industry. In our world today, people in general and women in particular are often faced with limited opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. These are women considering all the dangers to which social exclusion will expose them, and the economic exploitation that they may face, and still calculating that this is their best available option...

Can we tell them that we would take away their power to choose this occupation, maybe condemning them to worse conditions in another field?...Let us fight laws which exclude women in the sex industry from society and which deprive them of the rights that everyone else enjoys."

1998 - Jo Bindman 



Valerie Scott, Executive Director of Sex Professionals of Canada, was quoted in the Nov. 10, 2004 issue of The Manitoban as having said:

"Nothing is inherently dangerous about this business. It’s the way we're forced to work that makes it dangerous. If prostitution was decriminalized, like it is in Australia and South Wales, there would be fewer bad dates occurring and the escort agencies would be more likely to protect their workers.

Compared with other jobs, sex work pays quite well for the amount of time you spend. It's a great job for students because you work on your own schedule."

Nov. 10, 2004 - Valerie Scott 



CON (no)

Sr. Clare Nolan, MSW, NGO representative of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to the United Nations's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), wrote in a Dec. 18, 2006 e-mail to ProCon.org that:

"[W]hen the prostitution of women is accepted as a legally and socially accepted activity, it decreases any incentive for the government to develop real employment opportunities and educational and skills development projects for women - 'Oh, well, those poor women can always survive by giving themselves over to being prostituted' – and it begins a circular belief that they actually enjoy being prostituted, which leads to normalizing this human rights abuse…on and on… with very little social analysis that links the prostitution of women with the current economic status of women or the social status with in patriarchal cultures.

Thus the government becomes more and more embedded in the status quo inequality of women and the systems that support such inequality."

Dec. 18, 2006 - Clare Nolan 



Gunilla S. Ekberg, Special Advisor on issues of prostitution and trafficking in women at the Swedish Division for Gender Equality, at the Nov. 2002 Seminar on the Effects of Legalisation of Prostitution Activities in Stockholm said:

"Some prostitution defenders argue that prostitution is an acceptable solution to poverty. They assert that prostitution is a legitimate and rational choice for poor, uneducated and unskilled women for whom other kinds of work alternatives are hard to come by.

What they mean, but do not say, is that prostitution is an acceptable solution for women living in poverty. Seldom do we see proposals that poor men should make their way out of poverty by welcoming the insertion of penises and other objects into them on a regular basis or dance naked on a stage in front of ogling and masturbating males.

The prostitution industry exploits to its advantage the fact that most women and children who are in prostitution come from the most oppressed and vulnerable groups in society."

Nov. 2002 - Gunilla Ekberg 



Wendy Wright, former President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), was quoted in the Mar. 5, 2003 CWA report entitled "Legalizing Prostitution at the U.N." as having said:

"Anyone who considers legalizing prostitution as a solution to sexual trafficking or poverty should be required to learn what prostitutes endure. No one wants their daughter to grow up to be sexually abused, so we shouldn't legitimize the abuse of other people's daughters."

Mar. 5, 2003 - Wendy Wright 



Janice Raymond, PhD, former Co-Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), wrote in the Oct. 1, 2004 Violence Against Women journal that:

"Rather than economic opportunity for women, state-sponsored prostitution is economic opportunism. The most glaring evidence of women's economic marginalization and social inequality is the rampant commodification of women in prostitution, sex trafficking, sex tourism, and mail-order-bride industries. In a context of severe global economic decline, it seems the height of economic opportunism to argue for the recognition of the sex industry based on transforming women's sexual and economic exploitation into legitimate work. Actual unemployment of women is disguised by the fact that large numbers of women are limited to the 'employment' of prostitution and other 'jobs' in the sex industry."

Oct. 1, 2005 - Janice Raymond, PhD