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It's Wrong To Pay For Sex

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Often called the world’s oldest profession, prostitution sparks intense debate in social and political arenas around the world. While proponents of sex for sale argue that individuals have the right to monetize their bodies in any way they see fit, others cite potential for abuse and moral decay as opposition to legalization. Is it wrong to pay for sex? 

The Debaters

For the motion

Melissa Farley

Clinical and Research Psychologist with San Francisco based Nonprofit Prostitution Research & Education and an Associate Scholar with the Center for World Indigenous Studies

Melissa wrote Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections (2007) and Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress (2003). She... Read More

Catharine MacKinnon

Specialist in Sex Equality Issues under International and Constitutional Law

Catharine specializes in sex equality issues under international and constitutional law. She pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment and,... Read More

Wendy Shalit


Wendy received her BA in philosophy from Williams College in 1997. Her first book, A Return to Modesty: Discovering The Lost Virtue (1999) argues... Read More

Against the motion

Sydney Barrows

Author of Mayflower Madam

Sydney is perhaps better known to millions as the "Mayflower Madam," found herself moonlighting as a phone girl at an escort service after having... Read More

Tyler Cowen

Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Director of the Mercatus Center

Tyler has written numerous books on the relationship between commerce, the arts, and morality, including In Praise of Commercial Culture and most... Read More

Lionel Tiger

Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University

Among Tiger's books are Men in Groups (1969, 1987), which introduced and developed the concept of male bonding, The Imperial Animal (1971,1989), The... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • The sex industry, which includes clothing, strip clubs, and film, is well established; paying for sex is simply a continuation of an already entrenched social and economic practice.
  • Sex crimes often associated with prostitution, such as rape, human trafficking and underage sexual activity, should not be conflated with the legitimate sale of sex between consenting adults that possess the agency to make informed and meaningful decisions for themselves.
  • Just as individuals have the right to decide to use their bodies in laborious careers such as construction, they also have the right to employ their bodies for financial gain.
  • Prostitution is a historically prevalent practice and, if society accepted its role in social and economic life, could be better regulated to prevent abuse and exploitation.
Against The Motion
  • Prostitution offends the basic moral structure of a society and perpetuates a sexually exploitative culture in which traditional values are undermined for the sake of lust and commerce. 
  • Because a legal market drives demand, the sale of sex accommodates illicit trafficking of underage girls, particularly in impoverished countries.
  • Prostitution perpetuates sex-inequality and violence against women as it coerces low-income women, who often are financially responsible for children or siblings, into sex against their will.
  • Research on the long-term effects of prostitution shows that women who engage in sex acts for money face long-term psychological consequences.

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The Research

The Research

54 Countries and Their Prostitution Policies November 4
March 1, 2016

Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution and a Legal Response to the Demand for Prostitution.

Janice G. Raymond February
March 1, 2016

The Myth of a 'Victimless' Crime

Caille Millner March 24
March 1, 2016
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