In her comment to my post on Spitzer’s apology, LB mentions Catherine MacKinnon’s position on prostitution and the law, which, according to this article in Slate by Emily Bazelon, is that selling should be legal, but buying illegal.
As opposed to Martha Nussbaum, who, according to Bazelon, says that legalizing prostitution “is likely to make things a little better for women who have too few options to begin with.”
But wait . . . here’s more from Nussbaum (or at least a summary of her views), from a nifty little article, Feminist Perspectives on Sex Markets, from the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (what will they think of next?)
Martha Nussbaum questions whether the sale of sexual services genuinely damages the persons who provide them or women as a whole. Nussbaum points out that, two centuries ago, the use of one’s artistic talents for pay, such as singing or acting, was regarded as a form of prostitution (Nussbaum 1999, 277). Nussbaum acknowledges that sex workers are currently stigmatized for their profession, but questions whether the stigma that attaches to their work is justified. By tracing this stigma both to aristocratic prejudice toward waged laborers and to moralistic attitudes and anxieties regarding female sexual expression, Nussbaum challenges the rational basis of the stigma (Nussbaum 1999, 278-79, 286-88). She concludes that feminists should oppose the stigmatization of sex work rather than oppose sex work for its contribution to the stigmatization of women. Nussbaum also questions seven common claims against prostitution: it involves excessive risks, the prostitute has little autonomy, it violates the prostitute’s bodily integrity, prostitution has a destructive effect on non-commercial intimate relationships, prostitution violates a person’s inalienable right to her sexuality, it contributes to a male-dominated social order, and it relies on the economic coercion of workers. Nussbaum argues that the problems associated with prostitution are components of many other kinds of work and social practices, such as marriage, and that these problems are not inherent to the work but are often a function of the prostitute’s working conditions and treatment by others (Nussbaum 1999, 288-97).