The Prostitution Argument: A Case for the Decriminalization and Regulation of Sex Work 

Two years ago, I read “The God Argument” by A.C Grayling. The sub-heading was “the case against religion, and for humanism.” I didn’t know much about humanism, so I thought it’d be a good read.
Years removed from reading it, I can honestly say that it was an enjoyable, informative read. Particularly the way Grayling answered the oft-asked “meaning of life” question. While his writing wouldn’t be easy to follow to the average reader, it was definitely a book that any freethinker would be glad to invest their time in reading.

But no, this isn’t a book review or a New Atheism commercial. There is one argument that Grayling put forward in his book; one I found laughable back then, but can now reconsider as time and experience have made me wiser.
The author suggested that sex workers be recognised as healthcare workers, and receive benefits similar to that of nurses. Initially reading this, I literally laughed. I found this argument to be the ramblings of a middle-aged philosopher looking to justify blatant infidelity.
Thinking about that argument now, I can conclude differently. I was a proponent of ad hominem- I attacked the man, but not the argument. I disregarded the argument as invalid. But it’s not. It’s really not.

Sex work should be decriminalized. All arguments against it are either strawmanning or moral musings that should be separate from our (secular) Constitution. Prostitutes are routinely abused by not only their employers and clients, but by police officers. The stigma around sex work has made it easy for human traffickers to abduct and traffick defenceless young women. This is immoral. If we cannot agree on that, you can stop reading here.
While I still do not agree that sex workers = healthcare workers, I can recognise his broader point. What Grayling was (I suppose) trying to convey is that sex workers provide a much-needed service to humans: they provide sex to people who otherwise would rape or commit irrational blunders in the name of sexual frustration. And as such, they need to be protected as any member of society providing a service like, for instance, a teacher or a nurse. This means guranteeing their safety, and ensuring that they receive healthcare befitting their occupation.
I get behind this 100%. Regardless of the varied opinions surrounding sex work, they give of their time and their bodies in order to be remunerated, the very same way a CEO gives of their time and their body to perform their job to the best of their abilities.

Yet they are mistreated not only by the public, but by the state itself. This must change. Sex work should not only be legalised, but the state should regulate the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of sex work. This means no more standing in the street at night showing off merchandise. Not only is this dangerous, but it’s – and this is purely subjective – dehumanising. Also, there should be doctors and nurses present to routinely do check-ups on sex workers, and provide them with not only treatment for STIs but preventative measures against HIV.

This (and much more) would go a long way in curbing the spread of HIV. Not only that, but it would provide a semblance of dignity to the industry of sex work, which often gets a bad rap due to our evangelical attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Prostitutes would still be lambasted and called names. Public opinion is unlikely to change. But a conservative government breeds a conservative people. And so it is with progression.

This means that “The God Argument” did exactly what it said on the tin. With eschewing patriarchal attitudes, we must create a society that bases our inherent humanity above all. This inevitably means allowing sex work to be a respectable line of work like any other.


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