Intelligence Squared U.S. is hosting a debate tonight at 6:45 at the Rockefeller University right here on York Ave. on whether it is morally wrong to exchange money for sex.
This, it seems to me, is a much more tricky question than whether prostitution ought to be legal. Presumably, if a law code (to remain minimal and generally utility-enhancing) must hew to the underlying principle that people can do what they want with their own bodies and property (so long as they don’t use without permission others’ bodies or property), then prostitution must be legal.
One could consider the activity legally permissible and still think it a terrible way of life, though, even if only because it is something that arguably makes already-shallow people even more callous. On the other hand, there may be a lot of otherwise lonely men out there who would’ve committed suicide or ended up on antidepressants by now absent hired female companionship.
Arguing (perhaps along completely different lines than I have) in favor of the moral acceptability of prostitution — the “pro-ho” side, if you will — will be famous madam Sydney Barrows, anthropologist Lionel Tiger, and libertarian economist Tyler Cowen.
Arguing against prostitution — the “no-ho” side — will be authoritarian feminist (but then, “authoritarian feminist” is a bit redundant) legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, psychologist Melissa Farley, and Wendy Shalit (a self-appointed expert at a young age on matters of modesty and proper sexual behavior but also an eccentric and a deadbeat when it comes to completing writing assignments she’s been partially paid for, apparently — that, though, is a story for another time, despite the temptation to ask up front why we think she’s qualified to give moral advice).
Combining the moral and legal defenses of (a different kind of) sex work, the recently-deceased porn actress Marilyn Chambers ran for Vice President on the Personal Choice Party ticket, sounding almost libertarian (like a lot of Playboy types, I suspect) — and she was interviewed about it by J.R. Taylor (who’ll soon be shutting down his great blog RightWingTrash and likely replacing it with a more all-purpose one).