Prostitution: Humanity vs. Economy

Bangkok is an infamous haven for the sex industry. Much like global warming, snakes, and all global conflicts this can be blamed on the USA. The US Army created the sex industry in Bangkok informally by having R&R for the soldiers of the Vietnam War in Bangkok. After the war ended, the industry was completely developed, the word was out, and the city’s inhabitants had come to terms with this reality. (This legacy of Thai R&R also brought us the Mai Thai cocktail)

naI visited to one of the three major prostitution centers in Bangkok. It was a three-story strip-mall with girls and lady-boys calling the customers into their bars. The atmosphere was lively but not aggressive. The place was safe and there were no unsavory pimps or beggars. The experience didn’t please me or trouble me. For a place like this to exist there must be a high level of co-operation between the police, the city government, and business owners. I guess that is a testament to how devoted Bangkok is to sex tourism.

            Every country has issues with prostitution and it is for the public of each country to decide its own laws and culture. Throughout Asia prostitution is highly tolerated or legal. Though I aspire to be someone who can bend and flow with new norms, I am firm on human rights above local culture. For myself I found an explanation for why prostitution is exploitation.


Please forgive that I simplify things in order to illustrate a point


Principle 1: Work must create a product to sell on the market.

For argument sake, lets hold that Time is the most valuable commodity of your lifespan. How, with whom, and where you spend that Time defines the quality of your life. You choose in what manner to spend your life’s allotment of Time. In most lives, to maintain health and lifestyle you need to commit some portion of your time to Work (Time + Labor) in order to create a product (good or service). Then you sell the product to financially support yourself.

Components of Work: We sell our Time and Labor within two earnest categories: Mental and Manual. Prostitution, along with other exploitations, falls outside of these categories. I will categorize those exploitations as Body.

Mental Time Manual Time Body Time
Sell Time as your mind’s abilities Sell Time as your physical skills Sell Time with your body
Mental Labor Manual Labor Body Labor
White collar Blue collar Exploitative toil

* Please forgive simplification

In order for Work not to be exploitative it must produce a product that can be sold in the market. Mental and Manuel Work is just because, no matter how small, they produce a product. The worker can respect themselves and their work on the basis that they accomplished something. Work that is fruitless I deem exploitation.

Time + Labor = Product

Not Exploitation

Time + Labor ≠ Product


Body Time + Body Labor ≠ Product

Exploitation- human cannot be consumed as the product

            Work that do not create a product, even if it makes money, is exploitation.


 Principal 2: Humanitarian ideals forbid humans from being products

Here is where humanitarian ideals are going to interrupt economic principles. In Body Work the customer consumes your body as though it were the product on sale.  Life and the body that contains it are priceless. People cannot be sold nor sell themselves as products. There is no fair price, hence it can’t be a product. Those who consume the Body are exploitative vampires, for they reap something that is unjust to consume.

 My explanation is based on the humanitarian ideal that life is priceless, and the economic principle that an invaluable thing cannot justly enter a market


In closing, for men there are almost no avenues to sell their Bodies. For this reason men cannot descend into Body Work. Man, through legalisation or tolerance of prostitution, allow for women to fall to that lowest level of labor.  Men may not specifically push women into the lowest tier of labor, yet only women occupy the bottom tier. The silent sexism in the heart of mankind allows for this imbalance to continue and in their   tolerance they perpetuate it.

Unfortunately many prostitutes are breadwinners and if it vanished tomorrow they would suffer. The trouble is that the world doesn’t hold that life is priceless, but that life has a price. Until this perspective has changed we will continue to see economic decisions that violate the humanitarian ideals.

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