A Feminist's Argument On How Sex Work Can Benefit Women

By Kelly J. Bell
2009, Vol. 1 No. 11 | pg. 2/2 |

Sex work would not need to conform to the heteronormative, sometimes oppressive model of men paying women for sex. Men and women could hire sex workers of either sex to help fulfill their sexual desires. In this society, sex work could surely be a good career for women and men, as they would be highly respected in society and compensated appropriately for their work. The existence of such a sex work industry would benefit not only those working in the industry, however, but society as a whole. The existence of open and available commercial sex would allow individuals to express and explore more fully their and sexual desires. As religious and patriarchal beliefs have historically denied women these opportunities, women especially could benefit from the existence of a sex work industry, as it would finally be acceptable for them to embrace and explore their own sexuality.

Apparently, there are many ways in which sex work can be beneficial to women. There is no logical basis for the argument against sex work or the criminalization of the field. I have proven that sex work is not necessarily exploitative of women. Sex workers face a danger of exploitation today only because of the criminalization and stigmatization of sex work in our society. Laws that criminalize prostitution and other forms of sex work are outdated, impractical, and harmful. Laws governing sex work deny women control over their own bodies in the same way that laws governing reproductive rights do. As stated by Riddler & Woll, "When we talk about , we can get all the rights in the world- the right to vote, the right to go to school- and none of them means a doggone thing if we don't own the flesh we stand in” (Chandrachud, 2006). Priscilla Alexander echoes this sentiment: “I believe that as long as women are arrested for the of being sexually assertive, for standing on the street without a socially acceptable purpose or a male chaperone, I am not free” (Alexander, 1997, p. 84).

The right to control our sexuality is as essential to as the right to control our reproduction. Any law that denies a women’s control over her body is a law that labels women as second-class citizens and places them under the control of men. Counter to Carole Pateman’s argument that prostitution allows men control of women, I argue that it is not prostitution itself that allows men control of women, but prostitution laws. Were these laws to be eliminated, and sex work placed under the control of those who work in the industry, women could finally begin to claim their sexuality, express and explore their sexual desires, and work legitimately in a field that offers great pay and flexible hours. It is time for feminists everywhere to recognize the potential value in sex work, and to lobby for change in the way sex work is currently perceived in society.


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Leigh, C. (1997). Inventing sex work. In J. Nagel (Ed.), Whores and other feminists (pp. 226-231). New York: Routledge.

Pateman, C. (2006). What's wrong with prositution? In J. Spector (Ed.), Prostitution and pornography: Philosophical debate about the sex industry (pp. 50-79). CA: Stanford University Press.

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