Essay 9: It’s Not About Morality. Yes It Is! Part 1

A few years back Laurie Penny published in The New Statesman a diatribe against the abolitionists. Reprising a theme that I have rehearsed in earlier essays, Penny wrote:

When all other arguments fall flat, the last elastic piece of reasoning holding up the sensible undergarments of the sexually conservative feminist lobby is that women who disagree with their arguments must have been abused as children or traumatised on the job, and as such are not worth listening to. The UK Feminista founder, Kat Banyard, who does stalwart work training activists, claimed in the Guardian that “astronomical rates of post-traumatic stress disorder” among sex workers are evidence of “the inherent harm at the heart of this transaction”. . . . [But this] isn’t about evidence, not for “Neo-Victorians,” not really.  It’s about morality, just as it was two hundred years ago when well-meaning upper-class women organised charity centres to ‘save’ street prostitutes from sin by finding them alternative employment as charwomen, in workhouses or scrubbing the streets. Right now, this translates into a belief amongst do-gooders that any kind of work, however exploitative and badly paid, must be better than sex work because it doesn’t involve sex, wicked sex, sinful sex.[1]

Penny is not alone among feminists who see in their abolitionist sisters a reliance on retrograde moral views of sex. Abolitionists counter that they are not sexual conservatives, don’t hold neo-Victorian views about sex, don’t talk about sin, and don’t offer “moralistic” evaluations of prostitution.[2] Their critiques of prostitution are certainly moral critiques, to be sure: “exploitation,” “abuse,” “coercion,” “slavery,” “human rights,” and similar terms that appear in abolitionist accounts constitute part of our common moral vocabulary. Thus, when abolitionists contend that their accounts are not “moralistic,” they mean that their treatment of prostitution does not rest on a distinctive sexual morality.

However, many if not most abolitionists do rely on a specific conception of moral sex. Sometimes this is a bit hard to see because the abolitionist often clothes her moral view as an account of psychological health, but in other cases the view is readily apparent. Consider this instance. “Sex is supposed to be chosen and wanted,” writes Catherine MacKinnon. “[T]he real thing is neither bought nor sold . . . . How simple: the consideration for sex is sex. Where sex is mutual, it is its own reward.”[3]

How simple: sex is for sex, not for money. Why so? It certainly looks like there’s a distinctive sexual morality at work here. Can it be clarified? Can it plausibly be defended?

Examples of this taken-for-granted moral standard abound.

Taja Rahm, feminist blogger:

Let us shout that sex is not a commodity, but it can have huge human cost, if it is treated as such. Let us shout to the world that money and sex do not mix, but that sex should take place under completely different and mutual relationship.[4]

Melissa Farley, prostitution researcher, abolitionist advocate:

There is no mutuality of sexual pleasure or of any other kind of power in prostitution.[5]

Prostitution dehumanizes, commodifies and fetishizes women, in contrast to non-commercial casual sex where both people act on the basis of sexual desire.[6]

Madeleine Coy, academic:

[P]rostitution as a commercial service involves a degree of objectification since it does not require interpersonal mutuality – men pay for their sexual pleasure, not a mutually pleasurable experience.[7]

Kathleen Barry, academic:

[T]he minimum conditions for sexual consent are in sex that is a human experience of personal dignity and one that is enjoyed with respect and pleasure.[8]

Carole Pateman, academic:

Defenders of sex without love . . . always supposed that the relationship was based on mutual sexual attraction between a man and a woman and involved mutual satisfaction. . . . Prostitution is not mutual, pleasurable exchange of the use of bodies.[9]

Lise Tamm, International Public Prosecutor, Stockholm:

Sex, it must be mutual . . . [W]e do not buy an intimate relationship with someone who does not want sex, because sexuality is something that must be reciprocal.[10]

Kajsa Ekis Ekman, writer:

[In prostitution] one person wants to have sex, one doesn’t. Money may get the buyer ‘consent’ . . .  but it only highlights the fact that the other party has sex even though s/he does not really want to. No matter how much is done or said to cover this up, if there were mutual desire, there wouldn’t be any payment – and we all know it.[11]

The mutuality-of-desire standard pervades abolitionist writings. Unfortunately, abolitionists offer the standard as though it were clear and self-evident. MacKinnon, Farley, Tamm, and other proponents don’t elaborate on it and don’t defend it. They don’t bother to answer even basic questions about it. For example, is this a standard of ideal sex or a prescription for permissible sex? Can we make people who don’t live up to it social outcasts or criminals? Why?


“If there were mutual desire, there wouldn’t be a payment” – but there is payment, so prostitution involves unwanted sex. For some abolitionists, that clinches the deal. If we define rape as unwanted sex – a suggestion made in all seriousness by Melissa Farley – then prostitution is “paid rape,” literally, and that closes the moral books on sex for money.[12] However, rape isn’t unwanted sex, it is unconsented-to sex; consequently, more needs to be said about wanted and unwanted sex.[13] Indeed, a great deal more needs to be said, more than I can say here. Issues surrounding sexual morality are tangled and knotty. My remarks here are sketchy at best. I will augment them in Essay 11.

First, we need more categories to capture the complexity of sexual relations. Let’s add to the wanted/unwanted pair a second: desired/undesired, where “desire” means sexual desire.  Adding this category creates several possible permutations. For example, a woman might sexually desire a man but not want to have sex with him because she does not want to cheat on her husband. Or, she might sexually desire the man and want to have sex with him despite her marital commitments.

Similarly, a woman may lack sexual desire for a man but want to have sex with him anyway. He may be her husband or boyfriend and she wants to respond to his desire though she has none herself. Further, a woman may neither sexually desire a man nor want to have sex with him. If she does anyway, it could be that she is forced against her will (raped) or acquiesces under external pressure.

Are these four pairs – desired/wanted sex, desired/unwanted sex, undesired/wanted sex, and undesired/unwanted sex –sufficient to do full justice to the complexity of sexual relations? One thing is for certain: sexual relations are complex! Sex researchers Cindy Meston and David Buss in a 2007 study identified 237 reasons people give for having sex. Many of the reasons invoke pleasure or desire: “It feels good;” “I was horny;” “I wanted the adventure/excitement;” “the person’s physical appearance turned me on.” These reasons fall within the ambit of the mutual-desire standard if the reasons are reciprocated. But many other reasons do not: “I wanted to keep my partner satisfied;” “I felt it was my duty;” “I wanted to increase the emotional bond with my partner.” Some of these reasons seem altruistic (“I wanted to please my partner”) and some incorporate self-protective goals (“I wanted to keep my partner from straying”).

Yet other reasons fall even farther from the mutuality standard. “I wanted to feel powerful;” “I thought having sex would help me trap a new partner;” “I wanted to gain acceptance from my friends;” “I wanted to get back at my partner for cheating on me;” “he was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him;” “my friends were having sex and I wanted to fit in;” “I wanted to manipulate my partner into doing something for me.”[14] These reasons evoke self-serving goals. That the other party may or may not enjoy the sex, or have his or her own aims for entering into the sexual encounter, are incidental.

Women’s motives as well as men’s encompass this whole range.

Quite obviously a great deal of sex fails to meet the mutuality-of-desire standard. We don’t have to rely on Meston and Buss to make this point. Other scholars confirm the ubiquity of “pragmatic” or “instrumental” reasons women give for having sex. Amy Brown-Bowers and colleagues, for example, in their interviews with a sample of Canadian women found that “non-sexual pleasures and perks” for having sex played a significant role in their subjects’ motivations.[15] Similar evidence showed up in the work of Nicola Gavey and colleagues and in the studies of Sharon Thompson.[16] These are not isolated findings. Women and girls have many reasons, independently of sexual desire, for having sex.

To our categories of wanting and desiring, let’s add one more: sex can be pleasant or not. The experiential continuum ranges from feeling exceptionally satisfied to not feeling much of anything to feeling repulsed or violated. To illustrate: a woman could want and desire sex with a man but find the actual experience unpleasant – painful, say,  or otherwise physically unsatisfactory. Likewise, a woman who does not desire sex but wants it can find the actual experience unpleasant.[17] Of course, having an unpleasant experience is most likely when a woman endures sex neither desiring nor wanting it. (There are other permutations but let’s leave them aside.)

With the pleasant/unpleasant continuum in hand, consider now these remarks by a subject in a research study:

Sometimes I lie in bed and think of all the women who might be crying tonight. Crying because they know they’ll have to ‘do it’ tomorrow, crying because they can ‘feel him’ coming towards them, crying because he is grunting there on top of them, crying because their bodies aren’t their own anymore because they promised them away 20 years ago and it doesn’t seem possible to get them back.[18]

All the women crying because they must service their grunting husbands: not a pretty picture, and one representing the experience of many women. They neither desire sex with their husbands nor want it, but they endure it, loathsome as it is, because they promised themselves away in marriage.

Married women often have sex out of duty rather than desire. But are their experiences always as bad as that of the crying women? Here is the report of another subject:

After thirty-two years, it’s hard to think of a single instance [of having sex when I wanted to]. I think it just happens in long-term relationships. In my case, a hysterectomy lowered my libido. There were times when I did not feel like having sex, but just did it for my husband. It was frustrating not to want it, and depressing when I did it because it was not fulfilling for me. However, I felt guilty for not having sex as often and wanted to please my husband, so there you have it.[19]

There you have it: thirty-two years of unwanted sex. Yet the wife doesn’t mark her married life as something horrendous, leaving her crying at night. She was “frustrated” at not wanting sex and found it “depressing” not to be “fulfilled” by the sex she had. Yet she “wanted to please” her husband. Her situation wasn’t ideal – far from it – but neither did it repulse her or blight her life, so far as we can tell.

Finally, another subject describes yet a different reaction to pressure from her lover to have sex:

. . . why don’t [I] say ‘yes.’ I mean it’s, it’s a nothing – it’s like, having sex is like getting up and having breakfast. I think in a way that, um, I was going to say, that was a way of making it, making the ordinariness of it okay. I think it was just ordinary, it is just like having a cup of tea.[20]

These three very different reactions to undesired sex – as a repulsive ritual forced by the terms of enslaving marriage, or a frustrating but not destructive duty-requirement, or a mundane and inconsequential routine – suggest that a full story of women’s sexuality will display considerable complexity indeed. Yet the mutuality-of-desire standard morally excises most of that complexity. What of the women whose sexual undertakings don’t conform to this standard? Are we to mark them as morally deficient, corrupt, weak, misguided, venal, or unprincipled? Are they shirking their duty?[21] Or, consider the other party of a sexual pair: are men morally deficient, corrupt, venal, unprincipled duty-shirkers when they have sex with women that falls short of the mutuality standard? It’s not hard to classify men as moral bullies if they pressure women to have sex they don’t desire or don’t want, but harder to fault men lured by pretense (their sex partners motivated by such reasons as “I want to keep my partner from straying,” “my friends are having sex and I want to fit in,” “I want to get back at my partner for cheating on me,” “I want to manipulate my partner into doing something for me”).

How should the mutuality standard work in the case of prostitution? The prostitute does not desire sex with her client (in the sense specified above) but she does want the sexual transaction to take place: she solicits it, she earns money from it. Now look at her counterparty: couldn’t we assimilate the customer to the moral bullies noted above. The customer isn’t lured by pretense; he must know the prostitute doesn’t desire sex with him.

However, the parallelism doesn’t quite hold. The customer is not pressuring the prostitute. He is responding to her advertisement or invitation. At this point, abolitionists tend to fall back on other premises: the prostitute is acting under coercion, not freely consenting; the customer aims to take his pleasure in degrading the prostitute; and so on. When these contentions get made, the mutuality-of-desire standard drops away; it is not doing any moral work. The absence of consent by the prostitute or the malicious motive of the customer drives our moral assessment. Otherwise, the transaction between prostitute and client does exhibit a mutuality – a mutuality of trade, sex for money. It fails the mutuality-of-desire requirement, to be sure, but we haven’t yet seen why this standard, which morally excludes such a wide range of ordinary sex, should guide our judgment in any context. Nor do we even know what it would mean for it to guide thought and action. What are its practical implications? Does it merely let us look down our noses at people who have sex they don’t desire or does it do more? Does it mandate collective efforts to persuade people not to have sex they don’t desire? Does it underwrite coercive public policies to assure that people adhere to the mutuality-of-desire requirement?


Those who embrace the mutuality standard present it as the antithesis of the “commodification” of sex that occurs in an act of prostitution. Here is one version of an anti-commodification view, offered by the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson:

The specifically human good of sexual acts exchanged as gifts is founded on a mutual recognition of the partners as sexually attracted to each other and as affirming an intimate relationship in their mutual offering of themselves to each other. This is a shared good. The couple rejoices in their union, which can be realized only when each partner reciprocates the other’s gift in kind, offering her own sexuality in the same spirit in which she received the other’s – as a genuine offering of the self. The commodification of sexual ‘services’ destroys the kind of reciprocity required to realize human sexuality as a shared good. Each party values the other only instrumentally.[22]

Anderson goes on:

The prostitute, in selling her sexuality to a man, alienates a good necessarily embodied in her person to him and thereby subjects herself to his commands. Her actions under contract express not her own valuations but the will of the customer. Her actions between sales express not her valuation but the will of her pimp. Prostitution does not enhance women’s autonomy over their sexuality – it simply constitutes another mode by which men can appropriate it for their own uses. The realization of women’s autonomy requires that some goods embodied in their persons, including their own sexuality, remain market-inalienable.[23]

This attack on prostitution remains puzzling. First, why pick prostitution out when it is merely one “mode by which men can appropriate women’s sexuality”? Second, why limit denunciation to market-alienability?  Why not insist that women’s sexuality is inalienable, period? After all, as we have observed, women offer a range of reasons why they have intercourse and many of these reasons have nothing to do with the union of selves “rejoiced in” by the lovers in Anderson’s paean to intimacy. Many of the reasons subordinate women’s own valuations of sexuality to men’s. Thus, alienation in Anderson’s sense is rampant outside prostitution. Shouldn’t all such heterosexual encounters – marriages among them – be disqualified along with prostitution? As happens with other critics, the justification Anderson adduces for her moral censure of prostitution bleeds across boundaries and indicts a wide range of relationships. Yet only prostitution gets singled out as a proper target of criminalization. Anderson herself doesn’t think her argument provides a conclusive case for criminalization, but, still, it is only prostitution that she considers a possible candidate for this kind of heavy-handed state intervention.[24]

A like problem infects the case against commodification pressed by the voluble abolitionist, Kajsa Ekis Ekman. In her book, Being and Being Bought, she claims that the contemporary defense of prostitution pictures a self split from its body. The prostitute may sell her body, the story goes, but not her self. According to Ekman, this story is baloney; the separation implied in it is a delusion.

One cannot sell sex without a living human being of flesh and blood. Thus what the story of the sex worker does rhetorically [split body from self], the real-life prostitute must do in reality. She must be present [in the sex act] but try to convince herself that she isn’t.[25]

The sex seller must try to convince herself of an impossibility, that she can “sell herself and protect herself at the same time.”[26] She tries to maintain a dividing line between self and sexual act, but

[t]his dividing line is incredibly damaging . . .  it breaks down her essential wholeness. Today’s researchers no longer call this attempt to disassociate a ‘defense mechanism’ but instead Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.[27]

Ekman’s argument confusedly waffles between the moral, the metaphysical, and the psychological.[28] Why should “splitting” the self from one’s activities result in mental Illness? Doesn’t  we compartmentalize our selves all the time? The criminal lawyer who in court routinely badgers innocent witnesses in defense of her low-life clients goes home to her family every evening a calm, sensitive, and stable person. Who she is in court and who she is at home are different. The waitress who spends her day smiling at unappreciative and difficult customers stops her pretense when outside work. She acts herself. Yet neither the lawyer nor the waitress end up with PTSD. What’s going on here? Are these instances of psycological distancing not real “splitting”? What underlies Ekman’s account?

In fact, Ekman overreaches in the same way Anderson does.

If we are to believe that the sex sold in prostitution is something completely separate from the person herself, something that has wrenched free and walks around on its own two feet – what do we then become . . . [h]ow do we see ourselves? How do we relate to what we are doing?

The answer is found in “reification.”

Reification occurs when a human creation or action is changed into a commodity, a thing. . . . capitalism transforms our work into objects to be sold . . . .  Reification takes place when a free worker ascends to the free market place. When he can sell his manpower to the employer it becomes a commodity . . . . On the one hand we have the ‘free’ individual, on the other hand, his manpower that gains the form of ‘a commodity belonging to him, a thing he possesses’ . . . This . . . means that he comes to see his functions – which can mean his abilities, his strength, his intelligence, and his quickness – as possessions. He becomes alienated: not only from society, but also from himself as a Self.[29]

In selling her sexuality, the prostitute alienates herself as a self.[30]

On Ekman’s quasi-Marxist account, it seems, an electrical engineer who sells his technical skills to Google for $300,000 a year is alienated. His self is split. Now, if the “split” undergone by the prostitute is of the same nature, then her alienation is surely not something we should be especially concerned about, is it? How does Ekman get from this capitalist “alienation” to the prostitute’s PTSD? How many Google engineers suffer trauma? Their lives may in some way lack an ideal human fullness but the engineers are not candidates for therapy. Obviously, Ekman has jumped from one account of “splitting” to another, as if they had any connection. She treats alienation as inherently traumatic in prostitution but not in other domains. Why? The answer: prostitution is sex.

Ekman holds a specifically sexual morality that makes prostitution destructive. Commodification breaks down the prostitute’s “essential wholeness.”[31] In the bought-and-paid-for act of sex, there is no conscious union of selves. There is none of “unmediated intimacy” that putatively we all long for.[32] There is no shared good generated by gifts of the self.

What drives Ekman’s anti-commodification stance applied to prostitution is the mutuality-of-desire standard. The standard, in turn, rests on dubious claims about the self’s wholeness and about sex as the occasion for deep, shared intimacy. If we all long for “unmediated intimacy” in our sex lives, then many women, not just prostitutes, get sex wrong. The idea of sexual intercourse as the bearer of intimacy certainly holds a commanding place in our social conventions. Nevertheless, many women don’t use or experience sex this way. Sometimes they want to have sex without “sharing” themselves. They want a one-night stand and choose intercourse because it is not particularly intimate, just a “transaction.”[33]


The prostitute typically engages in sex she doesn’t desire. To the abolitionist, this turns her transaction into a hideous ordeal. Having sex with the customer is “offensive” and “disgusting” to the prostitute.[34] It is revolting.[35] If feels the same as the sex in rape.[36] In order to do it, the prostitute must be “broken.”[37] She must use defense mechanisms that let her “feel” as little as possible.[38] She must “alienate her mind from her body.”[39] She must “dissociate.”[40]

The abolitionist appears to deduce the horrors of undesired sex straight off from its not being desired, with survivor testimony recounted as added confirmation, as though undesired sex could be nothing else but revolting and repulsive, as though there were no continuum of experience.

However, the literature on prostitution provides evidence for a multiplicity of responses by sex workers. Thus, in one study, all the subjects hated prostitution and left it as soon as they could, and in another the prostitutes interviewed found their work “disgusting” and “degrading.” [41] By contrast, a study of juvenile prostitutes observed: “One striking finding was the girls’ neutral attitude toward the sexual act; they neither liked or disliked it but only saw it as way of making money.”[42] By yet further contrast, a study of Swedish prostitutes painted another picture: “I thought it would be terrible. I thought it would feel like getting raped. . . . [b]ut it wasn’t that bad;” “[s]ometimes you even have sex that you like;” “[i]t was really good, he was really nice.”[43]

The studies referred to here give us no more than a glimpse into the life of prostitution. They employ small samples of convenience, both those that show sex worker experience to be awful and those that show otherwise. But none of the research that abolitionists draw from is better. The determination by abolitionists to see paid sex as unremittingly loathsome derives not from overwhelming empirical evidence but from a visceral reaction on their part condensed into an implausible moral formula more revealing about them than about prostitution.

Abolitionists resist the charge that they are prudes. Their tolerance of sexual behavior is broad, they insist. They are open to non-standard sexualities; they countenance all sorts of married and unmarried heterosexual encounters – as long as they comport with the mutuality standard. Recall the words of Carole Pateman quoted early in this essay: “Defenders of sex without love . . . always supposed that the relationship was based on mutual sexual attraction between a man and a woman and involved mutual satisfaction.” This supposition rules out so much sex that the charge of prudery may be apt!



[1] Laurie Penny, “The Most Harmful Effects of Prostitution Are Caused by its Criminality,” The New Statesman, December 13, 2012,

[2] “A key factor is that many writers . . . either misunderstand or misrepresent the abolitionist approach as a moralistic one.” Meghan Murphy, “There is no feminist war on sex workers,” February 4, 2013,; “’Moral disapproval’ has no more to do with our approach and ideology than socialism is about ‘moralizing’ against the exploitative nature of capitalism.” Meghan Murphy, “Is This Journalism? A Response to DiManno and The Toronto Star’s Falsification of the Prostitution Debates,”; “The feminists and other human rights defenders calling for the Nordic model are human rights activists, not anti-sex moralists.” Julie Bindel, “Prostitution Can Never Be Made Safe,” in “Should It Be illegal to Pay for Sex? Panel Verdict,” The Guardian, March 24, 2015,; “Abolitionist feminists are not against the industry of prostitution for moralistic or religious or conservative reasons.” Finn Mackay, “Arguing Against the Industry of Prostitution – Beyond the Abolitionist Versus Sex-Worker Binary,” June 24, 2013,; “The question is not sexuality. We are not here to be a moral police.”  Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, French Women’s Rights Minister, “French MPs Vote to Penalise Sex-buyers,” The Local (FR), November 30, 2013,

[3] Catharine A. MacKinnon, “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 46 (Summer 2011), p. 280.

[4] Tanja Rahm, “Til dig der køber sex” [“For those who buy sex”] January 3, 2014,

[5] Melissa Farley, “Prostitution, Trafficking, and Cultural Amnesia: What We Must Not Know in Order To Keep the Business of Sexual Exploitation Running Smoothly,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Vol 18. (2006), p. 126.

[6] Melissa Farley et al., “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2 (2003), p. 35.

[7] Madeleine Coy, “The Consumer, the Consumed and the Commodity: Women and Sex Buyers Talk about Objectification in Prostitution,” In Vanessa E. Munro and Marina Della Giusta, eds., Demanding Sex: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution (NY: Ashgate, 2008), p. 186.

[8] Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality (New York: New York University Press, 1995), p. 68.

[9] Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1988), p. 198.

[10] Une procureure de Stockholm décrit la réussite de l’abolitionnisme en Suède,  Transcription de l’audition de Mme Lise Tamm, procureure au Parquet international de Stockholm, devant la Commission spéciale prostitution (5 novembre 2013) [A Stockholm prosecutor described the success of abolitionism in Sweden: Transcript of the testimony of Lise Tamm, International Public Prosecutor, Stockholm, before the Special Commission on Prostitution (Assemblée Nationale), November 5, 2013],

[11] Kajsa Ekis Eckman, Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self, trans  Suzanne Martin Cheadle (Melbourne: Spinifex 2013), p. ix.

[12] Melissa Farley et al., “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries,” supra note 6, ftnt. 4, p. 66 (“Many women are confused about the definition of rape. If rape is any unwanted sex act or coerced. . . .”); Melissa Farley, “’Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart’: Prostitution Harms Women Even if Legalized or Decriminalized,” Violence Against Women, Vol. 10 (2004), p. 1100 (“It is likely that the low rape incidence reported in some studies is a result of unclear definitions of rape. We found in our research that even women in prostitution themselves assume that rape cannot occur in prostitution when, in fact, it occurs constantly. Future research on prostitution should behaviorally define rape. For example, if rape is defined as any unwanted sex act, then prostitution has an extremely high rate of rape because many survivors view prostitution as almost entirely consisting of unwanted sex acts or even, in one person’s words, paid rape.”).

[13] The feminist blogger Meghan Murphy conflates consenting and wanting, and doesn’t seem to understand that ‘consenting to’ and ‘agreeing to’ mean the same thing: “Consensual sex happens when both parties desire sex. If one partner does not want to have sex, and sex happens anyway, that constitutes rape (i.e. nonconsensual sex). . . . Once you are paying someone to have sex with you, it no longer counts as consensual, enthusiastic, desired sex. Yes, you agreed to perform whatever sexual acts — but you did so because you were being paid.” Meghan Murphy, “In Pornography, There’s Literally a Market for Everything: Why ‘Feminist Porn’ Isn’t the Answer,”

[14] Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, “Why Humans Have Sex,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 36 (August 2007) pp. 481-496.

[15] Amy Brown-Bowers et al., “Managed Not Missing: Young Women’s Discourses of Sexual Desire Within a Postfeminist Heterosexual Marketplace,” Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol. 39 (2015), p. 326.

[16] Nicola Gavey, “Technologies and Effects of Heterosexual Coercion,” In Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, eds., Heterosexuality: A Feminism & Psychology Reader (London: Sage Publication, 1993), p. 112 and elsewhere; Nicola Gavey, Kathryn McPhillips and Virginia Braun, “Interruptus Coitus: Heterosexuals Accounting for Intercourse,” Sexualities, Vol 2 (1999), p. 53 and elsewhere;  Sharon Thompson, Going All the Way: Teenage Girls’ Tales of Sex, Romance, and Pregnancy (New York: Hill & Wang, 1995), pp. 18-46, 104ff, 262ff.

[17] This is a frequent occurrence among girls determined on losing their virginity – thus wanting sex though feeling no physical desire for it and finding the experience uncomfortable, painful, stressful, or in other ways negatively memorable. See Sharon Thompson, Going All the Way, supra note 16, at Chapter 1 and throughout.

[18] Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, “Theorizing Heterosexuality,” in Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, eds., Heterosexuality: A Feminism & Psychology Reader (London: Sage Publications, 1993), p. 15.

[19] Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, Why Women Have Sex: Women Reveal the Truth about their Sex Lives, from Adventure to Revenge and Everything in Between (New York: St Martin’s Griffin, 2009), p. 125.

[20] Nicola Gavey, “Technologies and Effects of Heterosexual Coercion,” supra note 16, at pp. 112-113.

[21] Robin West, the feminist legal theorist, contends that “a girl or young woman owes a moral duty not just to herself but also to her future self not to engage in sex she does not want,” in “From Choice to Reproductive Justice: De-Constitutionalizing Abortion Rights,” Yale Law Journal, Vol. 118 (May 2009), p. 1430. West doesn’t derive this duty from the mutual desire principle.

[22] Elizabeth Anderson, Value in Ethics and Economics (Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 154.

[23] Anderson, Values in Ethics and Economics, p. 156.  Emphasis added.

[24] Anderson, Values in Ethics and Economics, p. 156.

[25] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, supra note 11, at p. 94.

[26] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, p. 112.

[27] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, p. 102.

[28] The metaphysical problem: our culture’s subscribing to the mind-body dualism of Descartes! Ekman, Being and Being Bought, pp. 86-87.

[29] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, p. 93.

[30] Please note here how Anderson and Ekman are using different meanings of “alienation.” Anderson is using the notion captured by the phrase “inalienable rights.” Such rights cannot be taken away, bartered away, given away. Alienation is a juridical notion. Ekman uses a notion of “alienation” more psychologically charged: in the Marxist critique, the worker loses something important to his well-being when he alienates – i.e., sells – his labor or its products. Part of him becomes foreign to himself; he is estranged from it.

[31] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, p. 102.

[32] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, p. 98.

[33] Nicola Gavey et al., “Interruptus Coitus: Heterosexuals Accounting for Intercourse,” supra note 16, at pp. 53-54. See also Nicola Gavey, “Feminist Poststructuralism and Discourse Analysis,” in Mary M. Gergen and Sara N. Davis, eds., Toward a New Psychology of Gender (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 58 (intercourse is “[little] different than wiping your bottom after you’ve gone to the toilet”).

[34] Sporenda, “Legalized Prostitution in Australia: Behind the Scenes. Interview with Simone Watson,” October 3, 2015,; Salomée Miroir, “Is Equating Prostitution and Rape ‘Intolerable Violence’? Really?” January 30, 2013,

[35] Rachel Moran, Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Dublin; Gill & Macmillan, 2013), p. 201.

[36] Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, supra note 8, p. 37.

[37] Suki Falconberg, “Non-Prostituted Women and the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Whore,” May 6, 2008,

[38] Ekman, Being and Being Bought, supra note 11, p. 97.

[39] Vednita Carter and Evelina Giobbe, “Duet: Prostitution, Racism and Feminist Discourse,” Hastings Women’s Law Journal, Vol. 10 (Winter, 1999), p. 46.

[40] Colin A. Ross, Melissa Farley, and Harvey L. Schwartz, “Dissociation Among Women in Prostitution,” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, (2003), pp. 199-212.

[41] Chris Bagley and Loretta Young, “Juvenile Prostitution and Child Sexual Abuse: A Controlled Study,” Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, Vol. 6 (Spring 1987), p. 23; Joanna Brewis and Stephen Linstead, “‘The Worst Thing is the Screwing’ (1): Consumption and the Management of Identity in Sex Work,” Gender, Work, and Organization, Vol. 7 (April 2000), p 93.

[42] Dorothy Heid Bracey, ‘Baby-Pros:’ Preliminary Profiles of Juvenile Prostitutes (New York: John Jay Press, 1979), p. 51.

[43] Anna Hulusjö, The Multiplicities of Prostitution Experience: Narratives about Power and Resistance (Malmö: Malmö University, 2013),, pp. 163-164, 182, 193. The same study shows the range of variation: “I agreed on trying it, and tried it I did. It wasn’t the worst time, it was pretty mediocre. I mean he was mediocre” (p. 180); “it was awful. .  .[h]e was disgusting, and it all felt really wrong” (p. 192), “the real prostitution experience starts [here on the street], the one I really loath” (p. 214); “the lack of demands enabled her to enjoy sex in a way she had not been able to in her private relationships” (p. 245). See also Carina Edlund and Pye Jakobsson, En Annan Horisont: Sexarbete och hiv/STI-prevention ur ett peer-perspektiv [Another Horizon: Sex Work and HIV / STI prevention from a peer perspective] (Stockholm: Rose Alliance, 2014), p. 5 (“The two most common reasons that they [the 130-plus interviewees] started selling sexual services was that they felt it was a good opportunity to make money and that they were sexually curious. The two most common reasons that they sell sexual services today is that it is a job they enjoy working at, and that it is part of their sexuality”); and M.J. Almeida, “Sex Work and Pleasure. An Exploratory Study on Sexual Response and Sex Work,” Sexologies, Vol. 20 (2011), pp. 229—232.