Feminist Economics

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Prostitution, or the sex trade, is often cited as a feminist concern, when in reality it is a human concern Betio, et al. (2017) review the sex trade and consider how the legitimization of this could both increase safety and lessen stigma associated with women who choose this work. The agency as Betio discusses increases, therefore the control a woman has in her own body, the choices she makes, actually serves to lessen associated societal stigma connected to this line of work. The more control a woman has, the safer she will also be in a profession often categorized by abuse and disease. This idea that women have more control also leads to another facet of prostitution, that of sex trafficking. Some countries have adopted a different policy, referred to as the Swedish Approach (Betio, et al., 2017). In this approach, the clients, or “johns” are penalized when caught, but those providing the service are not. The idea is that by penalizing just the clients, eventually the demand will lessen, and the supply will follow. The hope is that this also decreases instances of sex trafficking because it will no longer be a viable economic decision.

Sex Trafficking

Traffickers deal with human beings as if they are goods for sale. Cornish and Clarke (2014) define these people able to view what are heinously criminal acts in a risk assessment scenario and compare these to non-criminal acts and determine that the criminal acts give the greatest risk-benefit ratio. If the risk becomes too great compared to the demand, the Swedish Approach surmises much of the trafficking of humans will diminish.

Economy and Autonomy of the Sex Trade. In Amsterdam, operating a brothel is legal. It is regulated allowing for better protection of those working within the system. It does however need to also be examined in light of how intermeshed the financial gains of multiple players are in the one act performed by the sex worker. Verhoeven and van Gestel (2017) report that the sex worker is just one piece of the economic superhighway. Many informal players, from pimps and brothel owners, to bodyguards, drivers, accountants, and even government workers providing oversight, own a piece of the pie that is created. These players profit from the earnings, and while they provide support, also erode the absolute autonomy of the worker herself.   

Conclusion It is easy to say that feminist economics affects women, but in reality, as demonstrated above, many players are involved. To compartmentalize in this way is to separate the identified group from the rest of the field in such as way as might dismiss them from consideration in the larger question. Economics applies to all people, and in some cases more specifically a partiular group, but it is overall, as is Maxwell’s ethics, a concept that applies to humanity, not a subset of it.


Betio, F., Di Tommaso, M, and Della Giusta, M. (2017). Introduction: Sex Work and Trafficking: Moving beyond Dichotomies. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13545701.2017.1330547.

Cornish D. and Clarke D. (2014). The Reasoning Criminal. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Feminist Economics. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.feministeconomics.org.

Maxwell, J. (2003). There No Such Thing as Business Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions. New York: Warner Books.

Verhoeven, M. and van Gestel, B. (2017). Between Visibility and Invisibility: Sex Workers and Informal Services in Amsterdam. Feminist Economics. 23(3). P. 110-133.