argument top image

What should the legal status of prostitution be?
Back to question

Sex Work is the choice of the Sex Worker

Sex workers should be allowed to make the choice to work in prostitution.

The Argument

Although Amnesty International defines individuals being able to make choices about their own bodies as a "basic human right",[1] there is a long history of the state trying to restrict what women can and cannot do with their bodies, through laws pertaining to abortion, marriage, sex and assault. By criminalising prostitution, the state is once again trying to take control of women's bodies away from women. The concern regarding prostitution should centre on whether women entering prostitution have ample choices. As Goodyear and Cusick state, "remedies for social issues surrounding prostitution lie not in legislative measures but in social determinants that limit women's choices, such as wage disparities, access to welfare, and domestic violence."[2] Avenues for choice should not be taken away, but measures should instead be taken to ensure the most marginalised have more choices so are not forced into any one profession.[3] The idea that people in sex work are incapable of choosing to be there is belittling. People should have the autonomy to choose what profession they work in. As long as both parties are consenting adults, there is no reason that sex workers should not have the freedom to do the work they want to do. Sex work is a valid choice and one that individuals should have the right to choose. People who subscribe to this argument are likely to also believe that: - Abortion is an individual choice [4] - Surrogacy is about a woman's body, her rules and her choice [5] - Human rights should be inalienable.

Counter arguments

The majority of women in prostitution do not want to be there.[6] To say that sex workers are making a choice is to ignore the constraints within which these choices are being made. Additionally, many sex workers come from backgrounds of abuse or poverty, making the concept of ‘choice’ for them meaningless.[7] Prostitution cannot be seen as a legitimate choice because it inherently involves exploitation, which cannot be consented to.[8]



Individuals have an inalienable right to choose what they do. In particular, women should choose what happens to their bodies. Choosing to do something oppressive does not make someone oppressed.


[P1] People have the right to choose what industry they work in. [P2] Many people in sex work enjoy the benefits that they may not get in another job.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] People cannot ‘choose’ to work in an exploitative system.


This page was last edited on Monday, 2 Mar 2020 at 16:39 UTC

Explore related arguments