The Libertarian Argument Against Legalizing Prostitution


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Author’s Note: Since the release of this article, I have done more research into the differing ideologies of conservatism and libertarianism with the assistance of those communities. The argument below more represents a conservative take rather than the libertarian rationale, and is therefore inaccurate. I leave this article up to show, hopefully, that I’ve grown as an author.

The Argument Against Legalizing Prostitution

Prostitution not a simple contract between two individuals because of the externalities involved with the interaction. Risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases mixed with the current epidemic of human trafficking and sexual abuse are enormous consequences of prostitution that cannot be ignored.

While the Libertarian movement seeks to maximize individual rights, which is a fundamentally excellent pursuit, ignoring the externalities of prostitution causes greater harm than good. The freedom to participate in actions which harm someone physically or economically encroaches on their personal liberties, rendering them inappropriate.

Pregnancy & Disease

Because the business of prostitution necessitates sexual contact, most nations and jurisdictions that permit prostitution legally require the use of condoms to prevent disease and pregnancy.

If condoms were 100% effective, this would be a non issue, but the chance of defective condoms, coupled with the risk of improper use or accidental slipping, makes the public transfer of fluids unsafe. Indeed, it is a biohazard.

The data on previous legalization of prostitution driving down STIs and STDs is mixed at best because of the risk of disease that takes place with any sexual partner who has had sex before. This calculation only multiplies with each sexual encounter. While studies from UCLA and from Avert suggest that HIV and Gonorrhea decreased, the authors of those studies cite that underreporting may have occurred as many with the disease don’t report having it. In areas with mandatory testing, such as Australia and the Netherlands, there was a notable rate of increase of both Gonorrhea and HIV. Unless a very strict and heavily regulated system were put in place for legal prostitution (and even in those cases medical record fraud would drastically increase), the rate of disease would be expected to increase due to the carelessness or selfishness of many participants.

Pregnancy is also an important issue to consider, as the externality of creating another human life is a significant responsibility. This most likely would result in an increased number of abortionspresenting a health risk for the women of the industry. The murder of infants to support a private business is an externality, which encroaches on the liberties of another human. This business model, which would necessitate the need for open and cheap abortion, sacrifices personal liberty for the reward of a brief monetary gain.

Sexual Abuse & Trafficking

Not only are disease and pregnancy in play, but the horrific practices of trafficking and sexual abuse are prevalent in prostitution communities. Multiple studies indicate that rates of abuse and violence during the sexual encounter increase drastically when sex occurs with a prostitute.

Individual liberties are thrown away when one of the two in the business relationship is brutally beaten. Promoting an environment where the world’s worst can place (mostly) women in the most biologically vulnerable position is a dangerous proposition for society. While cases of rape within the community have somewhat decreased, this statistic seems trivial. Just because a psychopath is paying for his sex instead of taking it forcefully, doesn’t mean the psychopath isn’t likely to abuse the sex worker. In fact, he can do it even more easily.

Human trafficking is inherently linked with the sex industry as a whole, with data from over 150 nations suggesting that every jurisdiction allowing sex work increases the amount of trafficking in the area. Another argument to be made suggests that increasing the market for sex-based industries profits those who benefit from sex trafficking. The side effects alone from human trafficking alone should be a strong enough argument to keep the prostitution illegal.


On the surface, it seems only logical that one should have the freedom to do with their body as they please, especially in industry. The libertarian position understandably supports the ultimate liberty of the individual as long as their rights do not encroach on another’s. Based on this stance and the data provided past the cursory glance of social media campaigns, prostitution should remain illegal for the sake of the liberties the livelihoods of the sex workers. As a matter of public health risk, societal-level abuse, and the connection with human trafficking, prostitution should continue to be illegal based not only upon the principled conservative stance, but the libertarian externalities stance.

Anthony Kinnett is a curriculum developer in Indiana with a B.S. in Science Education and a M.A. in Curriculum Development and Education Technology. He is a former education policy and legislation advisor to Governor Walker of Wisconsin and has articles in Red Alert and the Foundation for Economic Education.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Anthony Kinnett

Ball State University

Anthony Kinnett is a curriculum developer in Indiana with a B.S. in Science Education and a M.A. in Curriculum Development and Education Technology. He is a former education policy and legislation advisor to Governor Walker of Wisconsin and has articles in Red Alert and the Foundation for Economic Education.

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