There's a very interesting debate amongst feminists in Canada, and throughout the world. One camp fights for the rights of sex workers to work, organize, and decriminalize prostitution, while the other wants to abolish it completely. The latter camp was 100% in control of a conference I recently attended in Vancouver British Columbia, on violence against women, billed as a “Remember Me” memorial to commemorate the Dec 6, 1989 Montreal Massacre. One of the main themes at the conference was that prostitution is violence against women – it’s always exploitive, dangerous, oppressive, and dehumanizing for women.

Although many of the arguments I heard were thoughtful and sincere, I'm convinced that prostitution is something that cannot be, and should not be, abolished. I don't agree with the abolitionists that you can just change social attitudes en masse by discouraging men from believing they are "entitled" to sex – or by forcing them via criminal law to stop buying sex. I strongly suspect that prostitution is mostly a consequence of biological and psychological gender differences in sexual behaviour and needs, which in turn are reflected in patriarchy. We can only resolve the prostitution problem by ensuring that women have full equality and freedom throughout the world, including sexual autonomy in particular. By “resolve” I don’t mean abolishing prostitution or even necessarily reducing it – I mean making prostitution a safe and respectable occupation for both men and women.

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***Essays from a pro-choice feminist liberal skeptic infidel activist (and animal lover)