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In terms of philosophy, prostitution is defined as a means for a person to amplify their financial consumption or in additional terminologies ‘benefits’ by trading something that they have easily available, in this case, their bodies. It is often commonly recognized that prostitution is immoral, however, this topic is one of the least debated of most moral situations. Limited fundamental philosophical handlings of the matter have been mentioned.
Out of these, specifically, Lars Ericsson’s ‘Defense of Prostitution’ increases the substantial principles of individuality, equal opportunity, and the unrestricted market to sexual life. The actual dilemma with prostitution, Ericsson states, is the insincerity, bias, and disciplinary outlooks that surround it. Ericsson justifies that if we remove these relations from prostitution, with some alterations, an ethically appropriate, or ‘sound’, prostitution can possibly exist.
On the other hand, according to British philosopher Carole Pateman, the main feminist debate declares that prostitution continues to be ethically unfavourable, regardless of what alterations are completed, due to it being one of the most explicit instances of men’s domination of women. In this case, prostitution signifies a predominantly appalling example of patriarchy. Since patriarchy is cruel, prostitution is also equally as cruel. One may well agree with Pateman’s statement and it is in fact such a position which will be discussed in this paper.
Lars Ericsson claims that if we adopt the principles of individuality, equal opportunity, and an unrestricted market, then prostitution should be seen as any other trade of goods or services in an open society. Conquering such preconceptions would permit a morally suitable or ‘sound’ prostitution to come into existence. That is incorrect as Lars has reached nowhere close to visualising a ‘morally sound prostitution’, and his attempt displays a stubborn ignorance or carelessness to the patriarchal aspect of our humanity.
Erricson also declares that prostitutes do not sell themselves, they sell their sexual services. He defends this by affirming that any person whose job it is to sell a particular service, is not condensed to a piece of merchandise, and therefore, prostitutes are not condensed to a piece of merchandise. Pateman does not consider prostitution as simple, as Ericsson claims, the sale of sexual services.
‘Services and labor power are inseparable connected to the body and the body is, in turn, inseparably connected to the sense of self. Neither the labor power nor services can in reality be separated from the person offering them for sale.” ‘Ericsson, Charges Against Prostitution’. Ericsson disproves of the Feminist Charge of Prostitution, which is centred solely on the objectification of woman and the dominance of men over women in the industry.
Furthermore, there are very few male prostitutes in the industry, as ninety-nine percent of all prostitutes are women, and moreover the number of women clients is almost insignificant. Therefore, the Feminist Charge also focuses on the actuality that prostitutes advances the discrimination between the sexes, as it permits women to be bought by anyone who can afford them. Ericsson tests this theory by linking the sale of sex to the sale of other services. For example, we do not symbolise a masseuse for offering us with the service of a massage, so why not consider a prostitute as a masseuse?
A motive for denying Ericcson’s argument above is that prostitutes do not sell simply a sexual service, they do indeed sell themselves. Sex is a private and intimate act, and I believe it is not likely for us to separate our feelings, persona, and other qualities that are part of our identity, from the act. Throughout the act, a prostitute is obligated to use her body for the buyer’s pleasure. Her womanliness and individualism are partially shown from her body, which all, as well, add to the making of her self-identity. Consequently, if our identity is so thoroughly connected to sex, then exchanging sex for money certainly leads to exchanging ourselves for money, which marks prostitution as immoral.
A case of this situation is the slave trade. Slaves are sold for their services, such as farming, cleaning, cooking, etc. Yet, slaves do not have freedom, as they do not have free will. Independence and free will are all qualities of individualism and character. When a master directs their movements and therefore retains their body for a price, they are purchasing more than just the individuals’ services.
A counterargument to the objection is to declare that there is a difference between a prostitute selling herself and selling her body or identity. The point that a prostitute can have sex due to her own free will and permission, sets her apart from a sex slave who is obligated into offering sexual services. As previously conversed in the slave trade example, free will is part of self-identity, and hence the prostitute herself.
Therefore, she is not selling herself, but her body and services. It is obvious that there is a clash in whether feelings, personality, and femininity do in fact term the prostitute’s body, or sexual organs, as part of the prostitute herself. An instance, in which people commonly agree that there is a dissimilarity, is in the sale of other bodily organs or blood. Most people do not believe a donor selling his or her blood or organs is comparable to the donor selling him or herself.
Another illogical accusation of Ericsson is that human beings’ need for sex is as plain and vital as their need for food, therefore, prostitutes offer a valued service to humanity. Surely sexual desire is plain to human nature, though it increases and decreases throughout a period. However, people die if they endure being unfed, no one has died from a deprivation of sex. Occasionally food and drink are difficult to attain, but every individual has the means to sexual release at hand.
This ‘crucial need for sex’ signifies an abnormally masculine point of view. However burning their desire, it is not the entire story behind men’s request for prostitutes. As Ericsson himself mentions, 75% of men who regularly buy prostitutes are married. In opposing, Pateman affirms ‘any change in attitudes would have to be sufficient to make it acceptable that wives could spend what they have from housekeeping money, or spend part of their own earnings, on prostitutes.’
Seemingly a decent percentage of these men are not ravenous for sex. The request of paying for sex with women is entrenched in men’s desires to sustain their masculine power over women. Due to prostitution allocating benefits and afflictions inequitably and Ericsson’s language of discrimination, prostitution is hence the public acknowledgement of male sexual privileges to women’s bodies.
After investigating the true and false phases to the premises of Ericsson’s arguments, it seems that the norms Ericsson creates about prostitution are in fact the faults in his philosophy, which counteracts his arguments from being sound. He draws his assumptions from the standard procedure of the sex trade industry, in keeping with a rather unlikely idea of the world.
He asserts that his concept of prostitution is founded after seeing the given flaws in the world, but the actuality of prostitution, given these faults, is much more multifaceted and severe than he identifies it to be. It is this reality of the industry that the numerous charges address, and not the standard situation. Henceforth, Ericsson’s theory is not very substantial when observed in the same light as the differing concepts.
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