Sex and the limits of enlightenment: The irrationality of legal regimes to control prostitution

Special Issue Article

DOI: 10.1525/srsp.2008.5.4.73

Cite this article as:
Agustín, L. Sex Res Soc Policy (2008) 5: 73. doi:10.1525/srsp.2008.5.4.73


To assess the reasonableness of projects to improve the governance of commercial sex, the author explores how rationality in its current hegemonic Western sense is a cultural construction, perceived differently across time and space within Europe. The author examines some aspects of how varying conclusions are reached about which legal prostitution regime to impose, taking into account the role of cultures, worldviews, and interpretation. The author avoids the conventional classification of policy by country that results in unsubtle and overdetermined nationalistic explanations. Current projects to govern prostitution show how the traditional Western idea of rationality fails to lead to social betterment. Worldwide, social policy on prostitution tends to follow Western cues, in seeming acceptance that West is the best, with the most progressive, most enlightened approach. The rational project is, therefore, not limited to European geography.


rationality licensing trafficking evidence interpretation 

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Sexuality Resource CenterSan Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco

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