Societies have long held an interest in sex. As long as governments have existed, sexual behaviour has been managed — specifically, with whom we have sex, where we have sex and how it is negotiated. Most recently, prostitution has created a boundary dilemma for radical (ideologically driven) feminists who feel that the most effective way of curbing commercial sex is by adopting the Nordic model popularized in Sweden — a model in which the buyers of sex (mostly heterosexual men) are punished, while the suppliers of sex (mostly heterosexual women) are offered exit strategies.
Hence, the Nordic approach has been packaged as “progressive” and “woman-friendly.” However, it is completely untenable on three grounds: first, the evidence of Sweden’s “success” at stopping prostitution is deeply suspect; second, the dangers to women’s health and well-being are ignored; and third, “gender equality” becomes an imposition on people’s rights, namely, those established through contractual agreements.
Implemented in 1999, the Swedish Sex Purchase Act promotes the idea that selling sex for money is intrinsically wrong, irrespective of context. Its supporters argue that prostitution is a form of male violence against women, that is reinforces the belief that women’s bodies are commodities for male consumption and that no woman would sell sex voluntarily. Prohibitionists have lauded the act’s achievements, claiming that it has reduced prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes, deterred male clients and changed societal attitudes toward prostitution.
“If we are to take liberty seriously, public policy should not be shaped by the ideologically motivated agenda of radical feminism”