Radical feminism is linked to morality because feminists assert that prostitution is wrong. The field of ethics is a formal discipline in which rightness and wrongness are analyzed, and this is where the matter of prostitution should be analyzed and discussed. In both the case of the radical feminist and the conventional morality, prostitution is deemed inappropriate behavior. However, the moral nature of prostitution does not traditionally derive from the belief that it degrades other women. The nearest analog in ethics to the degradation that feminists identify is the view that certain behaviors are generative and others degenerative and that the latter therefore should be discouraged and avoided.
Shifting the ethical center of sexual morality, from contemporary and classical ethical theory toward a new morality in which moral right and wrong is ultimately a function of male domination, would not logically hold. If male domination becomes the underpinning of morality, all systems of moral theory then must be explicable in consistent terms with this new moral centering in which male domination and the thirst for sexual power is central. Marxism seems to have this same theoretical weakness as it attempts to explain the human system in terms of economic considerations. Activists are often slow to realize the limitations of this theoretical approach. They persist in the belief that this approach is a viable explanation of human action. Good theory can be defined as made up of propositions that integrate best in the widest spectrum of theory, observation and human experience. Narrow theory focusing on special interests may have minimal applicability to other reasoning systems. Describing human action in terms of exploitation and oppression is useful but it has limitations. Biological explanations yield far more consistent and interesting ideas of underlying forces that govern human behavior.
As previously mentioned, the fact that prostitution is considered morally wrong derives in part from moral sentiments that view certain behaviors as degenerative and others as generative. Persons involved in prostitution must look critically at what they are doing in terms of generative or degenerative behavior. If prostitution is causing a degeneration of values and attitudes, moral concern might be valid. If it is a positive circumstance leading to personal growth, as a general rule, other people ought to focus their attentions on other aspects of potentially degenerative behavior in society. For instance, the consumption of wine at social gatherings seems fairly generative up to a certain point. When consumption becomes frequent and obsessive it can inspire a series of degenerative changes in behavior that can totally change the person. Alcohol addiction changes a persons behavior radically. For some people the consumption of alcohol is a degenerative activity.
If prostitution is not regulated, degenerative behaviors can evolve. Prostitutes want rights and the freedom to practice their trade. But there must be a recognition that problems can arise from this sort of activity. Making prostitution a truly professional occupation will help keep prostitutes on a generative course of personal evolution. To the extent that prostitutes are willing to regulate themselves, as other professionals do, society might be inclined to a greater acceptance of sex workers. This potential relationship is later explored in a theory of social assimilation.
There is an underlying assumption in conventional morality that involvement in prostitution will necessarily have degenerative effects on a person leading her to other criminal activities. This is untrue and is a strong point in favor of prostitutes. Even given their exposure to the criminal environment that the street and drugs present, it cannot be demonstrated that they descend into deeper and deeper forms of crime.16 Prostitution is not a profound condition of degeneracy and in many instances it may be a self-regarding expression of a person surviving in the best way given their skills and opportunities. Society to some extent has overlooked any semblance of a moral aspect of prostitution. The corrupting effects of involvement in prostitution differ from involvement in lying, cheating, and stealing. If anything, prostitution is actually a mild form of degeneracy. True degeneracy feeds on itself. Lying begets an enthusiasm for lying and whets the appetites of the devious to make fools of naive people. Lying feels good particularly when it makes a person feel superior and enriches him or her as well. This close relationship between an act of lying and the immediate gratification of feeling power can pull a person deeper and deeper into certain kinds of activities. The driving force in many forms of prostitution is probably closer to survival rather than to an activity to enhance ones ego. Moral degeneration, in the normal sense, seems to be held in check by some other influence. The explanation for prostitutes lack of complicity in a wide array of crimes would make an interesting study.
16. Call girls, in my opinion, show less of an affinity for involvement in drugs than street girls, while street girls (84%-100%) have at one time or another used heroin. (See Sex Work, p. 202; life is so hard and painful that it is understandable why they descend deeper into drugs.) Despite the use of drugs, they are not cons, and do not inordinately get involved in an increasing array of scams.
Theoretical View of the Degrading
Nature of Prostitution
Figurative, Not Actual Degradation