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Sure, I expect that Objectivists would be of the opinion that prostitution should be legal. But do they consider it moral?

asked Sep 25 '10 at 11:17

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦
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Is prostitution the free trade of sexual participation for a value other than (or in addition to) the spiritual value of the involvement? Assuming so, what is sexual in this context? Is a dance, a kiss, or a massage sexual? Or does prostitution require some sort of contact with primary sexual organs? Understanding what is meant, I might be able to answer, "Is prostitution necessarily immoral?".

(Sep 28 '10 at 19:19) sector7agent ♦ sector7agent's gravatar image

Before asking such a question, it helps a great deal to understand just what it means to consider something to be moral or immoral in the Objectivist ethics. And moreover, why it is important to distinguish the moral from the immoral in the first place.

(Oct 05 '10 at 00:22) Runar Runar's gravatar image

For a good discussion of this, see Rationally Selfish Q&A #004 on NoodleFood, where Diana answers the question: "Is it immoral to have a sexually-oriented job, such as stripper or pornography actress/actor? Is it wrong of me to enjoy having a sexually-oriented job?" Key quote:

[T]he sex worker is deeply warping his/her own view of sexuality -- such that the reality of sex is smutty and bestial, and the spiritual meaning of sex is mere pretense. A person who develops that view of sex closes off his/her capacity for truly deep and meaningful sexual relationships. Given the value of such relationships, I can't but regard that as self-destructive.

answered Sep 25 '10 at 13:18

jasoncrawford's gravatar image

jasoncrawford ♦
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If the prostitute and the prostitute's customer are exchanging their "best" in what each consider a fair trade, please explain to me why this would be considered immoral. Neither has asked sacrifice or unrequited value from the other.

(Sep 25 '10 at 19:27) ethwc ♦ ethwc's gravatar image

What part of Diana's explanation doesn't make sense to you?

To try to make it a bit more clear: Both the prostitute and her customer are damaging their own psychology, warping the way they look at sex and hurting their ability to truly value it--to value the best it can be. Neither the prostitute's payment nor the momentary physical pleasure of her customer could be worth that. So it's a sacrifice for both.

(In some cases--mostly limited to literature--I could understand prostitution as moral. In essence, that was the case of Kira Argounova in We the Living. But that is a rare exception.)

(Sep 25 '10 at 19:35) jasoncrawford ♦ jasoncrawford's gravatar image

The Objectivist view of sex is one of those with which I have trouble. I don't agree that every time you have sex, it has to be an exchange or reflection of each partner's highest values. Were that true, there would never be a case of an Objectivist in a relationship with a non-Objectivist.

My real problem, though, is that the Objectivist idea of moral sex as being a response to values is never presented as more than just assertion. I'm not denying that there are psychological aspects to sex, but the overall Objectivist view on it I think might be a bit too narrow.

(Sep 26 '10 at 04:08) infallible ♦ infallible's gravatar image
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One thing I love about Objectivism is that questions like this don't have to have one answer, handed down by authority. One must answer these questions with regards to one's own values and rational judgement. The opinion of others simply serves as grist for the rational decision making apparatus one's own mind.

(Sep 26 '10 at 10:53) Raman ♦ Raman's gravatar image

@jasoncrawford I think you could make it easier to understand what Diana was getting at if you included a bit of an Objectivist view on sex.

(Sep 27 '10 at 19:05) Justin O ♦ Justin%20O's gravatar image
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Prostitution usually refers to seeking sex for money, or vice versa, or facilitating both (i.e., as a pimp or madam). The traditional objection to prostitution is that sex is bad (though assuredly tempting), prostitution is sex, and therefore prostitution is bad. Over the centuries, this has created an atmosphere in which many tend to assume that if one regards sex as good, then one logically would also regard prostitution as good.

Objectivism, however, regards sex as too good to squander on prostitution. Ayn Rand's basic view of sex is well described in the collection of excerpts contained in The Ayn Rand Lexicon in the entry on "Sex." The application of that view to prostitution should be straightforward.

One may dispute many aspects of Ayn Rand's view of sex, but the essence of it -- i.e., sex as good -- is most definitely a key part of Objectivism. Indeed, sexual relationships offer the potential for immense personal happiness for rational producers and achievers, as Ayn Rand concretizes in her novels. Imagine trying to achieve anything close to that potential by having sex with someone who wants only money in return, and who must consciously strive not to become emotionally close to the "clients," lest it detract from ability to offer an equally enticing "show" to all paying customers. One must blank out the ugliness of the psychological context in order to "enjoy" sex with a prostitute, and the enjoyment can never be more than purely physical and temporary.

Morality in Objectivism refers to "a code of values accepted by choice," to guide the life of a rational being. To judge the moral status of prostitution, all one need do is ask whether and how it serves the life of a rational being, especially a rational person's deepest emotional needs and potential happiness.

answered Sep 28 '10 at 01:48

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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One of the comments asks about the definition of prostitution and the meaning of "sexual" in that context.

For questions about the definitions of terms, an ordinary dictionary should always be considered as a potential reference, unless or until one identifies any philosophical objections to a dictionary definition. When I looked up "prostitution," I found the following: "the act or practice of engaging in promiscuous sexual relations especially for money" [from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prostitution]. This seems rather straightforward, Obviously it relies on the terms "promiscuous" and "sexual," both of which have reasonably straightforward definitions of their own in the same dictionary.

To judge the moral status of any human action, an Objectivist approach focuses on specifically what the parties involved are doing, and why, i.e., for what purpose. Any alleged value "presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what?" Objectivism goes on to ask: how does a given human action or course of action serve the life of a rational being? In borderline cases, the moral evaluation is likely to be borderline as well.

(Sep 29 '10 at 23:00) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

I ate nachos for lunch. I know they aren't the healthiest choice for a meal. I could have had a salad or something, and enjoyed it, but I chose nachos. My enjoyment of them was because they tasted really good, but I know it's a temporary satisfaction and that it's for their taste, not their nutrition.

Sex can be the same way. So long as you're not lying to yourself or your partner, and you're not unhealthy about it (like having nachos for every meal would be), then I don't see the problem with having "only" physical & temporary enjoyment. If that's immoral, then so are my beloved nachos.

(Sep 30 '10 at 16:48) infallible ♦ infallible's gravatar image

Regarding the analogy between having sex (which I would call casual sex) and having nachos for lunch:

A great many people seek far more than that from a sexual relationship. If casual sex is moral, what is the status of more serious sexual expression? Is the latter immoral? Is it equal in moral standing to casual sex? Is it more moral, perhaps, meaning more life-serving by the standard of the life of a rational being?

(Oct 01 '10 at 01:58) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

A related point: the original question was prostitution, not merely casual sex. Is casual sex with someone who wants only money in return, and who feels nothing (or perhaps contempt) for the sexual aspect of the trade, to be classified as of the same moral standing as casual sex between "equals" who both enjoy (on the level of having nachos for lunch, at least) what they are doing?

(Oct 01 '10 at 01:58) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image
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Until the person is mature and integrated enough to be romantic, sex is just an animal satisfaction. It is still a satisfaction. Once the person does develop the understanding and firmness of character to be capable of romance, their sexual appetites will require the romantic dimension.

answered Jan 04 '11 at 19:11

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Mindy Newton ♦
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Asked: Sep 25 '10 at 11:17

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Last updated: Jan 04 '11 at 19:11