A Look at Lars Ericsson: Charges Against Prostitution
Lars Ericsson proves his conclusion that prostitution is morally unobjectionable through three separate premises. The first is "It is morally unobjectionable for a consumer to purchase nonsexual services from a supplier in a free exchange on an open marker". Ericsson intends morally unobjectionable to mean that there is no moral reason to object to a certain service. A free exchange is one in which both parties agree upon a certain service. An open market is a market where there are no restrictions on the selling and buying of a product and prices are determined by competition. Ericsson believes this premise to be universally accepted among his critics. The second premise is that
"Prostitution is the practice of a consumer purchasing sexual services from a supplier in a free exchange on an open market" (pg.255). This premise along with the first are assumed to be accepted. The premise in itself is self explanatory. The third premise is the key to Ericsson's arguments. The third premise is as follows "Purchasing sexual services are morally on par with purchasing non sexual services". When and if this the third premise is accepted, the conclusion Ericsson reaches is that prostitution is morally on par with the purchasing of non-sexual items. Ericsson spends the majority of his writing on defending this third premise and the conclusion that follows. Ericsson tries to discredit some of the charges toward prostitution.
The first charge that Ericsson handles is "The Charge from Conventional Morality". The charge states that prostitution is inherently wrong because any woman who would become a whore is choosing an unworthy style of living and is seriously immoral (pg.258). Prostitution is illegal and frowned upon by society, which is why the conventional moralist would say that it is immoral. Ericsson responds to this charge by claiming that just because society frowns upon prostitution does not automatically make it immoral. The opinions of society are irrelevant to whether or not something is immoral. Most of societies' opinions come from the past or religion, etc. But this is no reason to constitute something, such as prostitution, immoral. Ericsson states that if "two adults voluntarily consent to an economic arrangement concerning sexual activity and this activity takes place in private, it seems plainly absurd to maintain that there is something intrinsically wrong with it" (pg.259). Ericsson strongly believes this, but it does not go without an argument. Ericsson faces heat from Laurie Shrage who claims that morality is largely determined by how widely it is accepted because that is the reality in which we live. In other words morals are based on how they are perceived by the majority in the society in which we live.
Shrage goes on to distinguish the difference between the social realities in which we live from the objective reality which Ericsson believes in. This is to say that what the general public believes, aside from rationality, is the social scale for morality (pg.272). Sharge draws an analogy of prostitution being on the lines of eating cats and dogs. But Ericsson would most likely respond by claiming that the way people react and the way one is treated does not having anything to do with morality. Plus, the legalization of prostitution would begin to close the gap between social reality and objective reality. I believe Shrage falls short of proving that "The Charge from Morality" is correct. If morals were based on the majorities' beliefs then things such as slavery could still be considered morally correct today. Slavery was believed to be morally correct in its time by the white majority, but almost all would agree that it is one of the most intrinsically bad or immoral services possible. Ericsson seems to be correct in debunking "The Charge from Conventional Morality" but he faces many other charges.
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