(With thanks to Calypso for pointing me to the story)
Martha Nussbaum’s comments on Spitzer’s legal problems contain two main claims: Prostitution should not be illegal, and Spitzer didn’t commit any crimes that are really against the state. The second is roundly debated, both in the comments on it and in the New Yorker. After all, Spitzer was having people arrested for an involvement he shared in, he was laundering money, and so on.
The first claim is worth discussion here. Is prostitution just comparable to lots of other jobs that involve taking money for the use of one’s body?
To give you an idea of her view:
Why are there laws against prostitution? All of us, with the exception of the independently wealthy and the unemployed, take money for the use of our body. Professors, factory workers, opera singers, sex workers, doctors, legislators – all do things with parts of their bodies for which others offer them a fee….However, the difference between the sex worker and the professor, who takes money for the use of a particularly intimate part of her body, namely her mind, is not the difference between a “good woman” and a “bad woman.” It is, usually, the difference between a prosperous well-educated woman and a poor woman with few employment options.
Many types of bodily wage labor used to be socially stigmatized. … Now they are respectable, but women who take money for sexual services are still thought to be doing something that is not only non-respectable but so bad that it should remain illegal.
What should really trouble us about sex work? That it is sex that these women do, with many customers, should not in and of itself trouble us, from the point of view of legality, even if we personally don’t share the woman’s values. Nonetheless, it is this one fact that still-Puritan America finds utterly intolerable.
What do you think? Perhaps one way to approach the question is to ask whether we also think that other very intimate uses of one’s body, such as wet nursing and surrogate motherhood, should be viewed as goods and services that should have a fair market value, for instance.