Arguing Against the Industry of Prostitution – Beyond the Abolitionist Versus Sex-Worker Binary

Some good points here. Submission by Finn McKay on feministcurrent:

Introduction

Prostitution has long been a contentious issue in the Women’s Liberation Movement, splitting feminist individuals and groups. This is largely because the debate is often reduced to an either/or argument between what is called ‘harm minimisation’ in a legal ‘sex industry’ – the legalisation argument – and on the other side, arguments for the abolition of prostitution. Those veering towards the latter view are often accused of moralism, conservatism and, worse, of a disregard for women’s safety. It is perhaps timely then to revisit the feminist understanding of prostitution as a cause and consequence of inequality, and this post will attempt to address some of the contemporary challenges to this political stance.

What is the abolition argument?

Abolitionists are those who believe in the criminalisation of demand for prostitution, with a view to reducing prostitution, or perhaps ending it in the future. This is not just a feminist argument, many Socialists and anti-capitalists also subscribe to this view and look towards a future without the prostitution industry. Abolitionists usually view prostitution as a cause and consequence of inequality, including gender inequality; they do not view it as work like any other[1]. This is a political stance, it is not a religious, moralistic or conservative stance.

What is the criminalisation of demand?

Many feminists, including abolitionists, are advocating what is called the Nordic approach, calling for the complete decriminalisation of all those exploited in prostitution and instead for the criminalisation of demand. In 1999 Sweden outlawed the purchase of sexual acts in prostitution, effectively criminalising punters, while decriminalising all those selling ‘sexual services’. To put it plainly – the women aren’t criminalised, but the men are. This move was in line with Sweden’s understanding of prostitution as a form of violence against women and a symptom of inequality, as well as being part of their commitment towards tackling global sex trafficking[2]. Any such legal move must go alongside a large and dedicated financial investment in both harm-minimisation and exit services, and this is no less than what those people exploited and harmed in prostitution deserve, many of whom have been let down consistently by the very state services that should have protected them. [Rest.]

Related: