Is Prostitution a Freely Chosen Profession?

PRO (yes)

Julian Marlowe, author and escort, wrote the chapter "It's Different for Boys" in the 1997 book Whores and Other Feminists which said:

"[T]o suggest that prostitutes who do not see themselves as victims just don't know any better is patronizing and contradicts the very essence of feminism -- the freedom to make one's own choices."

1997 - Julian Marlowe 

Kathleen Peratis, JD, Chair of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, on July 17, 2000 wrote in Insight on the News that:

"They are the grown-up women, otherwise regarded as competent to make their own decisions, who choose to migrate for reasons connected to all kinds of labor, including sex work. They have not been abducted or coerced or enslaved. Sometimes they are full-fledged members of the community. Some entered the sex industry as a part of an economic strategy for supporting themselves and their families, getting by in lean economic times or realizing other economic goals. Many have children, partners and parents whom they support through their work. They share households and enjoy a kind of family status amongst those with whom they are socially intimate and interdependent.

One need not romanticize prostitution to distinguish between prostitution as coercion or slavery and prostitution as an economic choice. Lament them both from a moral standpoint if that is your disposition, but save your outrage for one only, for the one that involves not merely error but force.

We have, broadly, two choices: We can embark on the fool's errand of eradicating commercial sex, whether by punishing the suppliers and/or the users, making no distinction whatever regarding the circumstances or we can search out and punish coercion, while seeing to it that our response to those who choose 'the life' is humane and that we do not add to their calamities."

July 17, 2000 - Kathleen Peratis, JD 

Veronica Monet, prostitute and author, wrote in the 1994 Gauntlet article "Sex Worker and Incest Survivor: A Healthy Choice?" that:

"I'm complicated and defy the stereotypes about whores, as do most whores. We are a misunderstood and much maligned group of people (women, men and transgendered). Recent research has shown that many of us are extremely educated and experienced in the straight business world. We chose sex work after we did a lot of things we couldn't stand. Sex work is better. For me, sex work isn't my first choice of paying work. It just happens to be the best alternative available. It's better than being president of someone else's corporation. It's better than being a secretary. It is the most honest work I know of."

1994 - Veronica Monet 

Eddie Tabash, JD, former General Counsel to Call Off Your Tired Ethics (COYOTE) chapter in Los Angeles, wrote in the Aug. 11, 1993 LA Times that:

"If we, as a society, really care about women, we will not only provide them with equal rights and opportunity, but we will stop turning some of them into criminals merely because they have chosen to exchange sex for money. Women, who, for whatever reason, choose to engage in prostitution, do not need to be incarcerated for their own good."

Aug. 11, 1993 - Edward Tabash, JD 

CON (no)

Diane Post, JD, in the July 1999 off our backs article "Legalizing Prostitution: A Systematic Rebuttal," wrote:

"The ILO [International Labour Organization] report admits that most women 'choose' prostitution for economic reasons. Surely no one can argue that this is free choice any more than the cattle in the squeeze chute choose to go to their death."

July 1999 - Diane Post, JD 

Gunilla S. Ekberg, Special Advisor on issues of prostitution and trafficking in women at the Swedish Division for Gender Equality, at the Nov. 5-6 2002 Seminar on the Effects of Legalisation of Prostitution Activities in Stockholm, said:

"A common argument by prostitution advocates is that women and girls make informed and calculated choices about entering into prostitution. They say that the ones who have so chosen should be free to pursue their choice in the name of self-determination and integrity, over their lives and their bodies.

The prostitution lobby wants us to believe that prostitution is female sexual liberation and a way for women to give full expression to their deepest sexual fantasies. These ideas are based on an uncritical acceptance of the old libertarian concept of individual free choice and completely lack a critique of society and an analysis of male power. What they also care to ignore is that the concept of free will requires the existence of several possible options to choose from and the control of the person in making a choice...

To talk about choice in this context becomes both cruel and meaningless. When we allow the prostitution defenders to blame the victims of prostitution for their victimization, we collaborate with them. Male violence is thus obscured and focus is off the perpetrators.

Instead of talking about prostitution as a choice, we must ask ourselves: If prostitution is a free choice, why is it that it is always the women and girls who have the fewest alternatives who are the ones who end up in prostitution?"

Nov. 5-6, 2002 - Gunilla Ekberg 

Cecilia Hofmann, Secretary of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women - Asia Pacific, wrote in the April-June 1999 Solidarity Philippines Australia Network (SPAN) newsletter KASAMA that:

"Prostitution pre-exists as a system and an institution that patriarchy has a stake in and will maintain, with or without women's consent. If women and girls are not persuaded by the big money which is sometimes offered, or the survival possibility for women or their families, then they will simply be tricked or trafficked. Either way, the supply of bodies must be ensured. No client asks women whether or not they are there with their full consent - that is immaterial to what prostitution is all about: the exercise of a certain conception of masculinity that identifies with power, sexual privilege and gratification. The apparent and in some cases, real consent of some women to do prostitution is held up by some as proof that self-determined choice can exist. The angle of women's accommodation to and conditioning by patriarchy is dismissed. The contradiction between individual will and common good is dismissed. Because the fact remains that the institution of prostitution is one of, if not the most blatant form of subordination of women's bodies and personhood to men's interests. The consent of some, condemns all women as a group, to continue to be defined as possible providers of sex or sexual merchandise."

Apr.-June 1999 - Cecilia Hoffman