Skip to main content

European Morality Politics in the European Union: The Case of Prostitution

Abstract

Prostitution is a standard case of morality politics (MP), defined as a particular type of politics that engages issues closely related to religious and/or moral values, giving way to strong and uncompromising value conflicts in both societal and political spheres. This kind of issues have increasingly become a European policy matter due to their transnational nature and the tensions they create between different legal principles. Our hypothesis is that this leads to the emergence of a specific type of European morality politics (EMP) reflecting the particular constraints of the policymaking of the European Union (EU). The purpose of this article is to understand to which extent the rise of prostitution on the EU agenda alters usual patterns of MP to shape a distinctive type of EMP. Our findings suggest that prostitution characterizes EMP albeit with a significant difference, namely the challenge to regulatory inertia through the successful mobilisation of European values by some policy entrepreneurs to promote a neo-abolitionist approach.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Adoui and Cornuaille v. Belgium. (1982). Judgment of the Court of 18 May 1982. - Rezguia Adoui v Belgian State and City of Liège; Dominique Cornuaille v Belgian State. - References for a preliminary ruling: Tribunal de première instance de Liège - Belgium. - Public policy - Right of residence or establishment. - Joined cases 115 and 116/81. European Court Reports 1982-01665. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A61981CJ0115.

  • Aldona Malgorzata Jany and Others v Staatssecretaris. (2001). Judgment of the Court of 20 November 2001. - Aldona Malgorzata Jany and Others v Staatssecretaris van Justitie. - Reference for a preliminary ruling: Arrondissementsrechtbank te 's-Gravenhage - Netherlands. - External relations - Association agreements between the Communities and Poland and between the Communities and the Czech Republic - Freedom of establishment - '"Economic activities" - Whether or not they include the activity of prostitution. - Case C-268/99. European Court Reports 2001 I-08615. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A61999CJ0268.

  • Agustín, L. M. (2007). Sex at the margins: Migration, labour markets and the rescue industry. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ammaturo, F. R. (2016). European sexual citizenship: Human rights, bodies and identities. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Andrijasevic, R., Aradau, C., Huysmans, J., et al. (2012). European citizenship unbound: Sex work, mobility, mobilisation. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(3), 497–514.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aradau, C. (2004). The perverse politics of four-letter words: Risk and pity in the securitisation of human trafficking. Millennium-Journal of International Studies, 33(2), 251–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Banchoff, T. (2005). Path dependence and value-driven issues: The comparative politics of stem cell research. World Politics, 57(2), 200–230. https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.2005.0014.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barry, K. (1984). Female sexual slavery. New York, NY: NYU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bréchon, P., & Gonthier, F. (Eds.). (2017). European Values. Trends and divides over thirty years. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Corbin, A. (1990). Women for hire: Prostitution and sexuality in France after 1850. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Doezema, J. (2010). Sex slaves and discourse masters: The construction of trafficking. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Engeli, I., & Rothmayr, C. (2013). Diverging against all odds? Regulatory paths in embryonic stem cell research across Western Europe. Journal of European Public Policy, 20(3), 407–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Euchner, E.-M. (2019a). Morality policy. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.641.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Euchner, E.-M. (2019b). Morality politics in a secular age. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Euchner, E.-M., & Engeli, I. (2018). Conflict over values in the European multilevel space: The case of morality issues. In F. Foret & O. Calligaro (Eds.), European values: Challenges and opportunities for EU governance. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351037426-4.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Euchner, E.-M., Heichel, S., Nebel, K., et al. (2013). From ‘morality’ policy to ‘normal’ policy: Framing of drug consumption and gambling in Germany and the Netherlands and their regulatory consequences. Journal of European Public Policy, 20(3), 372–389. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2013.761506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Euchner, E.-M., & Knill, C. (2016). Prostitution: Sin, unavoidable evil, or recognized profession? In C. Knill, S. Hurka, & C. Adam (Eds.), On the road to permissiveness?: Change and convergence of moral regulation in Europe (pp. 129–156). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • European Commission. (1998). Communication from the Commission on violence against children, young persons and women. Proposal for a Council Decision on a medium-term Community action programme on measures providing a Community-wide support to Member States action relating to violence against children, young persons and women (Daphne Programme) (20002004). COM (98) 335 final.

  • European Parliament. (1997). Resolution on the need to establish a European Union wide campaign for zero tolerance of violence against women. A4-0250/1997. Brussels.

  • European Parliament. (2014). Report on the on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality (2013/2103(INI)). A4-0372/97, 4 February. Brussels.

  • European Social Survey Round 9 Data. (2018). Data file edition 1.2. NSD - Norwegian Centre for Research Data, Norway – Data Archive and distributor of ESS data for ESS ERIC. https://doi.org/10.21338/NSD-ESS9-2018.

  • Foret, F. (2011). La mémoire européenne en action. Acteurs, enjeux et modalités de la mobilisation du passé comme ressource politique.

  • Foret, F., & Calligaro, O. (2018). Analysing European values: An introduction. In F. Foret & O. Calligaro (Eds.), European values: Challenges and opportunities for EU governance (pp. 1–20). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351037426-4.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Foret, F., & Littoz-Monnet, A. (2014). Legitimisation and regulation of and through values. Politique europeenne, 45(3), 8–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Giric, S. (2016). Strange bedfellows: Anti-abortion and disability rights advocacy. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 3(3), 736–742. https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsw056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goode, E. (1998). Strange bedfellows: Ideology, politics, and drug legalization. Society, 35(4), 18–27. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf02686378.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Inglehart, R. F. (2008). Changing values among western publics from 1970 to 2006. West European Politics, 31(1–2), 130–146. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402380701834747.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jaggar, A. M. (1994). Living with contradictions controversies in feminist social ethics. Boulder: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knill, C. (2013). The study of morality policy: Analytical implications from a public policy perspective. Journal of European Public Policy, 20(3), 309–317. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2013.761494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Knill, C., Hurka, S., Adam, C., et al. (2016). On the road to permissiveness?: Change and convergence of moral regulation in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kohler-Koch, B., & Quittkat, C. (2013). De-mystification of participatory democracy: EU-governance and civil society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Kulick, D. (2003). Sex in the New Europe the criminalization of clients and Swedish fear of penetration. Anthropological Theory, 3(2), 199–218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kurzer, P. (2001). Markets and moral regulation: Cultural change in the European Union. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Locher, B. (2007). Trafficking in women in the European Union—Norms, advocacy-networks and policy-change. Berlin: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Macrae, H. (2010). The EU as a gender equal polity: Myths and realities. JCMS Journal of Common Market Studies, 48(1), 155–174. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2009.02046.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mattson, G. (2016). The cultural politics of European prostitution reform: Governing loose women. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Mondo, E., & Close, C. (2018). Morality politics in the European parliament. A qualitative insight into MEPs’ voting behaviour on abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. Journal of European Integration, 41(1), 1001–1018.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mooney, C. Z. (1999). The politics of morality policy: Symposium editor’s introduction. Policy Studies Journal, 27(4), 675–680.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mooney, C. Z. (2001). The public clash of private values: The politics of morality policy. New York: Chatham House Publishers of Seven Bridges Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mourão Permoser, J. (2019). What are morality policies? The politics of values in a post-secular world. Political Studies Review, 17(3), 310–325. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478929918816538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Outshoorn, J. (2005). The political debate on prostitution and trafficking of women. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 12(1), 141–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Outshoorn, J. (2019). European Union and prostitution policy. In S. Økland Jahnsen & H. Wagenaar (Eds.), Assessing prostitution policies in Europe (p. 363). London: Routledge.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Raymond, J. G. (2013). Not a choice, not a job: Exposing the myths about prostitution and the global sex trade. Sterling, VA: Potomac Books Inc.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Reanda, L. (1991). Prostitution as a human rights question: Problems and prospects of United Nations action. Human Rights Quarterly, 13, 202–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Risse, T. (Ed.). (2015). European public spheres. Politics is back. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rubio Grundell, L. (2015). Sex worker organisations and EU policy-making: Explaining an institutional and ideational exclusion. In 4th European conference on politics and gender, Uppsala University, Sweden, 2015, p. 32.

  • Sabsay, L. (2015). The ruse of sexual freedom: Neoliberalism, self-ownership and commercial sex. In N. Dhawan, A. Engel, C. H. E. Holzhey, et al. (Eds.), Global justice and desire: Queering economy (pp. 180–194). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salter, B. (2007). Bioethics, biopolitics and the moral economy of human embryonic stem cell science: The case of the European Union 6th Framework Programme. New Genetics and Society, 26(3), 269–288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmidt, V. A. (2006). Democracy in Europe: The EU and national polities. Oxford University Press.

  • Smismans, S. (2010). The European Union’s fundamental rights myth*. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 48(1), 45–66. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2009.02041.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Summers, A. (2008). Introduction: The international abolitionist federation. Women’s History Review, 17(2), 149–152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Volkens, A., Lehmann, P., Regel, S., et al. (2018). Manifesto project dataset. Manifesto Project. https://doi.org/10.25522/manifesto.mpds.2012b.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wagenaar, H., & Altink, S. (2012). Prostitution as morality politics or why it is exceedingly difficult to design and sustain effective prostitution policy. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 9(3), 279–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-012-0095-0.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walkowitz, J. R. (1982). Prostitution and victorian society: Women, class, and the state. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weitzer, R. (2006). Moral crusade against prostitution. Society, 43(3), 33–38. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687593.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weitzer, R. (2007). The social construction of sex trafficking: Ideology and institutionalization of a moral crusade. Politics & Society, 35(3), 447–475. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032329207304319.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weitzer, R. (2010). The mythology of prostitution: Advocacy research and public policy. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 7(1), 15–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-010-0002-5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodward, A. (2000). Building velvet triangles: Gender in EU policy making. In: European Consortium for political research, 28th Joint Sessions Copenhagen, April, 2000.

Download references

Funding

This research was supported by Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles: [Grant ARC (Action Recherche Concertée)], conceded to François Foret.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lucrecia Rubio Grundell.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

We hereby declare that this article has no conflict of interests.

Ethics Approval

This research contained no animal or human participants performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Foret, F., Rubio Grundell, L. European Morality Politics in the European Union: The Case of Prostitution. Sexuality & Culture 24, 1798–1814 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09720-w

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09720-w

Keywords