Department of Philosophy



site header


Jacqueline Davies (Queen's University)

will be presenting on

"Sex Work, Sexual Exploitation, and Social Justice: Revealing Tensions in 21st Century Prostitution Law Reform"

THURSDAY, November 17th, 2016

WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.

What do you call a person who is paid to engage in sexual activity?  This doesn’t seem like such a difficult question. Most say either “sex worker” or “prostitute.” Though one term is morally stigmatizing and the other focuses narrowly on economic productivity, both terms at least recognize the agency of the subject in question. To recognize agency is not to condemn or praise specific agents or their actions. However, even with benevolent intentions, negating the agency and first person perspectives of legal subjects is harmful. The Nordic model  of prostitution law and its supporters, wittingly or not, undermine the subject perspectives of those who are the objects of their concern. In communities shaped by settler colonialism, intensive human and natural resource extraction, unjustly sexualized and racialized divisions of labour, grossly unequal local and global distributions of wealth and violence, the Nordic model reproduces rather than resists the harms of exploitation. In place of social justice and safety it offers dangerous lip service to the protection of people who bear the burdens of historical and contemporary injustice and violence.  Political engagement with the perspectives of current and past participants in commercial sex has more potential to advance social justice than rescuing them or criminalizing their associates. Philosophical engagement with the history and contemporary realities of domination and privilege at the intersections of the racial contract (Mills) and the sexual contract (Pateman) is critical for making sense of how sexual commerce and its regulation are inadequately theorized.


*If you have accessibility requirements, please contact Judy Vanhooser (