Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 475–487

Prostitution and the Ideal State. A Defense of a Policy of Vigilance


DOI: 10.1007/s10677-015-9645-x

Cite this article as:
Vicente, A. Ethic Theory Moral Prac (2016) 19: 475. doi:10.1007/s10677-015-9645-x


The debate concerning prostitution is centered around two main views: the liberal view and the radical feminist view. The typical liberal view is associated with decriminalization and normalization of prostitution; radical feminism stands in favor of prohibition or abolition. Here, I argue that neither of the views is right. My argument does not depend on the plausible (or actual) side effects of prohibition, abolition, or normalization; rather, I am concerned with the ideals involved. I will concede to liberals their claim that prostitution is not harmful in itself. Yet, I will argue that prostitution cannot be thought of as “just another job”. Even if prostitution is not harmful in itself, it can do much harm. I will argue that a policy of vigilance is the most adequate one to adopt with regard of prostitution, given the risk of harm associated with prostitution. A policy of vigilance tries to discriminate between those who take a certain course of action willingly and those who do not. It puts no restraints on those who exercise their genuine will, but protects those who are openly or subtly coerced.


Prostitution Liberalism Vigilance Harm 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ikerbasque: Basque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain
  2. 2.Linguistics and Basque Studies DepartmentUniversity of the Basque CountryVitoriaSpain

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