Supporters of sex work frequently accuse (anti-prostitution) radical feminist abolitionists of victimizing women in the sex industry and denying their agency. This accusation seems based on the pro-sex work theoreticians’ misunderstanding of two different aspects of agency. First, a lack of agency does not necessarily imply that the individual has no capacity for agency, and second, social oppression or some external pressure and coercion can impact the possibility of choice. The goal of this chapter is to clarify these two philosophical sides of agency and to argue that there is no contradiction in arguing that, on the one hand, the sex industry lowers the possibility of women’s agency, while, on the other hand, we can consider women in prostitution as being equal, in their rational capabilities and their strengths, to other people. This chapter can be a tool for social workers as well as philosophers and ethicists, who consider prostitution as a form of violence but want to be respectful to women in the sex industry.
- Sexual Harassment
- Rational Capability
- Sexual Exploitation
- Sexual Agency
- Sexual Freedom
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© 2015 Rhéa Jean
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Jean, R. (2015). Prostitution and the Concept of Agency. In: Marway, H., Widdows, H. (eds) Women and Violence. Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137015129_4
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