a1 University of Tasmania
It is so generally accepted that prostitution is immoral, that this is one of the least discussed of all ethical issues. Few serious philosophical treatments of the subject have been published. Of these, at least one, Lars Ericsson's, ‘Charges against Prostitution’, throws into stark relief the apparent inconsistency of our community attitudes. For it demonstrates that, from the point of view of the simple free market liberalism, to which many subscribe, there is nothing immoral about prostitution. The prostitute is a free agent who sells his or her services on the market at the going price. Why should the exchange of sexual services for money be more unsavoury than other exchanges of fee for service? The desire for sexual gratification is natural, as is the desire for food. So prostitution must be morally on a par with catering. Yet it is hemmed about by restrictions. Prostitutes are social outcasts, they may be pitied but are more often vilified and despised. From the liberal point of view, the moral disgust aroused by prostitution can only be the expression of an archaic and irrational taboo.