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Moral Reflections on Prostitution

1 June 2001


Many “liberal,” or libertarian, accounts of prostitution assert that prostitution is no more intrinsically wrong or harmful than any other type of service work.1 I believe that prostitution violates the Kantian “principle of humanity,” because it reflects a disrespectful attitude, which is expressed in the nonchalant use of the human body as a mere means to achieve some goal.2 I hope to convince my readers, who may not share my moral presuppositions, that prostitution defies the limits of respectful sexual relations, because it proffers a monetary substitute for mutual desire and concern and, hence, that it is a morally questionable and harmful activity.3 In support of these claims, I offer: 1) a discussion of Kantian morality and sexual ethics, 2) an explanation of the minimum criteria for respectful sexual relations, 3) a description of the general dynamic of prostitution, 4) an analysis of the client’s objective, and 5) a phenomenology of prostituted sex.


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