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The Economics of Sin

Rational Choice or No Choice at All?

Samuel Cameron

The Economics of Sin examines the definition and evolution of sin from the perspective of rational choice economics, yet is conscious of the limitations of such an approach. The author argues that because engaging in activities deemed to be sinful is an act of choice, it can therefore be subject to the logic of choice in the economic model.
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Chapter 10: Prostitution

Rational Choice or No Choice at All?

Samuel Cameron


INTRODUCTION As with most things sexual, and otherwise, the progress of technology has made the process of definition somewhat harder than it was. The most restrictive definition of prostitution is to regard it as paid sex where there is an expectation that full physical intercourse (copulation or anal intercourse if we wish to encompass non-heterosexual prostitution in the definition) is part of the menu of services. A lot of activity is not covered by this, which falls into the broader definition of services sold in the ‘paid sex market’ including such things as lap dancing, strip shows, internet interactions and indulgence in the fetishes of customers by paid sex workers which do not involve copulation. At the latter point the distinction becomes blurred as the client may obtain full sexual release for the exchange of money. Words have been used other than prostitute, such as whore and harlot, but these have not persisted with any regularity into modern times where hooker seems to be the most prevalent demotic alternative. The archaic term ‘whore’ seems sometimes to be used by those campaigning for the rights of prostitutes in order to give an edge to their message. The term prostitute has escaped from its occupational sphere to become a wider form of condemnation. We commonly hear of people ‘prostituting’ their morals or their talent in the sense that they are exploiting something, of intrinsically higher moral worth, for the mere pursuit of income for its own sake. This reflected stigma derives from...

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