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Episteme

Abstract

This paper concerns the ethics of prostitution. It begins with David Benatar’s distinction between “significant” and “casual” sex. Kant’s understanding of sex—fraught with worries about ends, autonomy, and objectification—falls under the significance view of sex, even more “special” because it seems to hold that sex is only morally acceptable within marriage. But this untenable position exposes an inconsistency in Kant’s thoughts on personhood and possession. Singer offers a preferable view of sex as sustenance. The author next argues that the service of prostitution is ethical so long as the prostitute’s job and her or his personal life remain distinct, the body is not harmed, and the prostitute chooses to prostitute. The author then dismisses dissenting opinions from Melissa Farley and Howard Klepper, who misplace the cause of psychological harm and misidentify coercion, respectively. The paper concludes with an analogy connecting the prostitute’s services with a Santa Claus impersonator’s service.

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