This is one of those topics... you won't make friends, whatever your views. I just read an interesting piece on the BBC's website. They interview clients of sex workers in the UK. Three blokes are questioned who unashamedly regularly hire sex workers for their sexual (and possibly emotional) gratification. Their reasons are quite diverse, as one would expect. One guy seems to be a typical city high roller. He claims to have insufficient time for romantic involvement and is looking more or less for quick sexual release. Another guy says that he hasn't had sex with his wife for five years and he gets from sex workers what's missing in his marriage. Another one goes on about getting better sex from sex workers.
Well, first things first, guess this is one of those coming out type moments: I have not paid for sex myself. My main reason really is that I think there's no 'fun' in that. I am probably sufficiently vain that I would want someone to have sex with me because of me as opposed to because of my credit card. So, paying to my mind defeats a central purpose of having sex. Shows you how simple-minded I am. Clearly, however, people hold different views on this.
Secondly, my take on the ethics of sex tends to agree with the view that sex causes no particular moral problems, ie there is nothing special at all about sex. There are certain types of sexual activities that are bad because they translate into harm, eg non-consensual sex, probably sexual acts involving seriously young children, things like that. The wrongness of such acts is related to the harm they cause as opposed to their sexual nature. Some feminists have argued that rape doesn't constitute sex at all, because of the violent nature of such acts. I am not convinced of that, but that's neither here nor there for the purpose of this argument.
Thirdly, I cannot see how sex work is different to any other type of bonded work where we offer our bodies to people hiring us to perform particular tasks. Unless we have good reason to think that it would be wrong, for instance for my assistant to work for me based on agreed-upon conditions, we have no good reasons to think that it would be wrong for someone to work voluntarily and informedly as a sex worker who also offers his or her body on agreed-upon conditions to a person seeking to pay for such services. There does not seem to be an in-principle difference between people selling their bodies for sex for an agreed upon fee or people selling their bodies to produce cars for an agreed upon fee.
Fourth, the illegal nature of sex work in many countries has arguably led to more harm than good, because it forced sex workers into the underground, making them more vulnerable to harm, including rape, STIs, and the illegal industry that goes with this. Arguably one of the reasons for why people in the illegal business of trafficking women for sex work get away with it all too often is precisely that they can threaten the women with deportation or jail should the women opt to inform police, simply because they are/were in an illegal line of work.
Fifth, reading thru the comments posted on the BBC website, I was bemused to note this one: 'I found some of the comments quite shocking, especially the comment about demanding oral sex from a partner and not getting it. I'm sure most women wouldn't dream of visiting a prostitute when their male partner doesn't satisfy their fantasies or demands.
Cheryl Evans, Oldham, Greater Manchester' Little does Cheryl Evans know...
Sixth, of the three men interviewed by the BBC, only one would would seem to be reasonably in the clear, morally, namely our city high roller. The other guys are acting in ways that are morally questionable, not because they hired sex workers but because they are dishonest to their partners. Which takes me back to my point that there is nothing ever morally special about sexual activities. These guys acted wrongly because they cheated on their partners, not because they had sex with sex workers.
It seems to me that everyone would be better off if sex work was a legalized, regulated industry.