I wonder why conservatives like the free market but not transactional sex? It’s okay for some guy to make tons of money. It’s okay for shops to get lots of customers. It’s okay for large corporations to capture the whole market share and deprive small businesses of customers.

Yet, when it comes to sex and reproduction, suddenly it's not okay to commercialize this, in the eye of conservatives. Most conservatives have a knee-jerk reaction that sex must be within monogamous marriage, that transactional sex must be illegal.

Yes, there are liberal who are that way too, but many Christian conservatives are even more so. Why the inconsistency? If I ask liberals/progressives, their answer will be consistent.

They think greed, in general, is bad and capitalism is bad. So progressive consistently think prostitution is rich guys exploiting women like rich guys exploiting workers.

I disagree with liberals/progressives. However, at least their answer is consistent. Greed is bad in their eyes for both most goods and reproduction.

However, with conservatives, there is this inconsistency. Why?

Note: I am mostly libertarian. However, even most libertarian only think that prostitution is something that should be allowed based on principle. Most libertarians do not think that prostitution is good and should be praised like other commercialized businesses.

  • 17
    Conservative is not synonymous with libertarian.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 5:10
  • 1
    I'm a self identifying "conservative." I voted to legalize weed, I oppose gun restrictions, I think abortion is ok up to a point, and oppose hate speech laws. I would probably vote to legalize prostitution. Don't paint with such a broad brush. You need to narrow your scope. Free market is fine but we drift a little further from that each day.
    – acpilot
    Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 22:24
  • 1
    I mean there is a moral element to any opposition. You don't have to believe everything should be for sale just because you are a fan of free markets. Murder for hire would be another example of this disconnect that might be less fuzzy on the morality part.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 22:58
  • 3
    murder for hire has non consensual victim.
    – user6063
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 5:02
  • @acpilot you seem to be a libertarian conservative. I change the question to why many conservatives.... Libertarian conservatives are pretty consistent
    – user6063
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 5:03

10 Answers 10


What we call "conservatism" in the US is an amalgamation of several different influences, including:

  • Classical liberal thought (Smith, Locke, Mill, and friends), specifically its aversion toward centralized power. This manifests in the more pro-market, anti-regulation, and personal rights aspects of conservatism. Conservatives who are more aligned with this legacy often either don't care much about prohibitions on sex work, or are opposed to such prohibitions.
  • Religious traditions, in the US primarily the Judeo-Christian tradition. These are a very different legacy from classical liberal thought. Biblical texts generally take a negative view of sex outside the confines of heterosexual marriage. Historically these texts have been interpreted by religious leaders and by established tradition as particularly prohibiting commercial sex.
  • Ideas about gender in which men are viewed as aggressors/protectors/providers, and women are viewed as victims/mothers/nurturers. Under this view, men need to be civilized and domesticated by state authority, and ultimately by their loyalty to a wife; and women need to be protected from "bad" men by "good" men, primarily their fathers and husbands—and failing that, by the state. From this perspective, a client purchasing sex (stereotypically a man) is viewed as an aggressor upending the bargain by getting sex without being a committed provider, and hurting the sex worker (stereotypically a woman). The sex worker, likewise, is viewed as having been necessarily coerced into sex work, and failing to find durable protection and providence from a male. This model does not see any sex work transaction as an honest, symmetric agreement, and it does not take seriously the possibility that both participants made the decision of their own thoughtful accord.

The religious and gender-conservative legacies tend to get along pretty well, but they are in constant tension with the classical liberal legacies. In the US, the Republican Party has, since at least the Reagan era, primarily prioritized its appeal to the more religious side, at least as far as its public image is concerned. Trump, among many other things, changed this legacy somewhat, as he certainly did not display such gendered morality, nor any serious loyalty to religious conservatism.

In Europe, these two sides are usually split into different parties. In German politics, for example, the FDP represents more classical liberal side of conservatism, and the CDU/CSU represents the more religious side.

It is worth pointing out that some, mostly older, branches of feminist thought—typically a creature of the left—share the perspective that power imbalances between men and women make sex work an inherently coercive, unacceptable transaction. Such feminists, such as Katherine McKinnon, typically take a skeptical or disapproving view not only of sex work, but of marriage and in some cases heterosexual sex itself.

Indeed, the view that sex work needs to be criminalized to "protect" women is not only popular among Republicans, but remains the dominant position among Democrats. Nationally, support for legalization or decriminalization of sex work remains a fringe position, at least among elected politicians.

  • Trump was loyal to religious conservatism in his pro-life and anti-LGBTQ policies.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 19:03
  • 6
    I would say that trump appeased people who did not like abortion or certain policies dubbed pro-LGBTQ. However, these were a negligible part of his campaign efforts, and the corresponding attitudes were certainly not expressed in his public persona. Relative to other GOP leaders, he made comparatively little effort enacting any real policy change on those matters. However, his VP choice and judicial appointees certainly pleased the religious right. Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 19:24
  • 12
    That was the paradox of Trump: his personal life was clearly contrary to religious conservative values, but they still loved him as a politician.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 19:32
  • 1
    @AndrewCone I agree with you that the pro-life stuff trump did was negligible and done purely to appease the religious right, but I feel like his anti-LGBT+ sentiment was legitimate, even if not a major part of his 'platform'. His coming out and saying trans people shouldn't be allowed in the military in a tweet is an example of what seems more a personal statement then something to satisfy the religious right, who weren't pushing as hard on that topic. Though I agree with you that Trump isn't a religious conservative, I suspect his anti-lgbt views are independent and not linked to religion
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 16:44
  • 1
    @AndrewCone Trump put three conservatives on the Supreme Court, which is about the most a president can do for the anti-choice cause. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 3:52

What you call [US] conservatives (i.e. the Republican party) isn't a monolithic block of thought, but a coalition. The essence of it, as far as this discussion goes is that there are two opposite poles:

  • For the religious right, (Bible) morality trumps any [Von Neumann–Morgenstern-derived] utility theory arguments for free markets, or fuzzier notion(s) of liberty like Lockean natural rights. This is basically Devlin-style legal moralism, in a US setting, which has had many names over time, Moral Majority etc. It actually has a pretty long tradition in the US Evangelical movement (which has become one of the pillars of the Republican party, as the religious right):

Following the abolition of slavery, a series of social purity movements led by middle-class evangelical Christian reformers and other social purists gained momentum in the late 19th century. Rooted in assumptions about women’s ‘natural’ moral nature as pure, pious, and submissive, these movements sought to use female moral influence as leverage for enacting wide scale social change. Tackling issues that included alcohol use, the sexual double standard and male violence against women, the goal was to eradicate ‘vice’ (understood primarily as prostitution and other forms of sexual immorality), thereby bringing all of society into conformity with the Victorian moral values prized by middle-class evangelical Protestant evangelicals (Coontz 2005; Grittner 1990; Hunt 1999; Pascoe 1990; Pivar 2002).

Fear about ‘white slavery’ was crucial to the leverage that the social purity movement achieved in western Europe and in the U.S. ‘White slavery’ referred to white women held against their wills, usually involving some combination of force, deceit, or drugs, and forced into prostitution. It elicited images of crazed men preying on defenseless white women. Replacing the degraded black slave with the demoralized white woman, the rhetoric of ‘white slavery’ drew on and updated earlier abolitionist rhetoric about chattel slavery. Yet the ‘new abolitionists’ appropriation of the earlier abolitionist rhetoric concerning chattel slavery was riddled with racist undertones. [...]

  • Orthodox/pure libertarians have a maximalist (i.e. politically extremely liberal, in the classical sense of the word) view of the self as governed by property rights, which cannot be infringed unless they interfere with the rights of others. Thus, in the extreme take on this, e.g. as exemplified by Nozick, it entails the right to even sell yourself in slavery.

So, to put it in somewhat crude terms (to enhance the contrast): an "economic conservative" is against regulation of economic life, but a religious (aka social) conservative is for the regulation of morals in society, in a specific way that matches their religion. Some US conservative writers freely point out that an "economic conservative" is what others call a "classical liberal". As discussed in that link, more generally, there's some level of tension between these two conservative-labelled viewpoints [economic vs social] on some other "big government" angles, although there's also plenty of room for some common ground.

In particular, many (on both sides of the formal political party divide in the US) would reject the extreme Nozick-style view on liberty, even if they don't fully endorse a Devlin-style view on legal moralism, by allowing plurality in some but not all respects. So, this leaves room for (many) economic conservatives to agree with social conservatives on matters like prostitution.

For example, if we take Reagan as a prototypical US conservative, and who is generally seen as having successfully married free market thought (with some limits) with religious conservatism (again with some limits), Reagan said e.g. that:

“Prostitution has been listed as a nonvictim crime. Well, is anyone naive enough to believe that prostitution just depends on willing employees coming in and saying that’s the occupation they want to practice? It doesn’t.

…Talk to law enforcement people about the seamy side of how the recruiting is done, including what in an earlier day was called the white slave traffic – and you will find that the recruiting for prostitution is not one of just taking an ad in the paper and saying come be a prostitute and letting someone walk in willingly.”

Basically, the "conservative mainstream" (to the extent that that exists anymore in the US) has it that prostitution is bad because prostitution = slavery. And you can't agree to slavery as a matter of principle. Following the same line of thought, by invoking "human suffering" and "common decency", Reagan argued that pornography, which he interchangeably called obscenity, "exploits women, children, and men alike". Thus it is basically somewhat like slavery too (although he did not explicitly use the latter word in re pornography/obscenity). Basically, a way of "meeting in the middle" for the conservative US movement to reject some behaviors was equate them with slavery, or thereabout.

Some answers here have suggested that conservatives are A-OK with porn; that isn't entirely correct; a number of social/religious conservatives in the US would still like some kind of porn ban or at least more restrictions. Politico has a good (and alas also very long) historical account of such efforts in the US. It's just that for porn the slavery analogy didn't carry that much water perhaps and there was the (major) issue of porn [bans] also butting into free speech issues. To very selectively quote the most relevant bits from the Politico account:

Emboldened [by the Regan era successes], the GOP’s 1992 platform called for “a national crusade against pornography” and endorsed sweeping government intervention. [...]

However, this all fizzled out in the 1990s and Bush years.

The simplest explanation is fatigue: Having lost so many battles during the Clinton years, only to then see the hope of the Ashcroft era vanish, much of the anti-porn movement ran out of gas. “We put the issue front and center in the ’90s. Congress was engaged, we were engaged and the technology industry was engaged fighting against us,” says Hughes, the internet safety advocate. “We had a bipartisan coalition behind us, but we were losing just about every battle in the courts. And it just demoralized so many people. I think that’s when the white flag came out.”

N.B. the heyday of this anti-porn legislative effort might have been the CDA of 1996, which one could describe as an attempt to make a Comstock-style law for the internet age; portions of it were quickly deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It was replaced by much weaker prohibitions limited to public schools. The porn-relevant bits of the COPA of 1998 were likewise struck down during the Bush years. (The final SCOTUS decision on that, finding COPA too restrictive on adults, was only a 5-4 vote though. It's also an interesting case that Scalia and Thomas voted on opposites sides on this matter. I guess the [judicial] conservatives'--by which I mean textualists'--hunch that Thomas had "unsettling" views on natural rights was proven correct in this case.) So it wasn't really for the lack of wanting/trying [from the social conservatives] that porn wasn't banned or more substantially restricted.

  • Note however that some libertarians (e.g. Murray Rothbard) were less than impressed with Reagan, e.g. declaring that his administration was "a disaster for libertarianism in the United States". Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 9:32
  • Interestingly enough, although coming from a completely different direction, some modern US Protestant interpretations of the Bible, such as that of some Emergence pastors agree that debt-slavery was ok according to the Bible... so in some sense they ultimately argue for the same point as Nozick. Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 11:06
  • "is anyone naive enough to believe that prostitution just depends on willing employees coming in ..." - isn't this true of most work? Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 15:10
  • @user253751: I'm not defending Reagan's position here, merely retelling it--as that what the question is about. Your criticism of Reagan's take on the issue has already been articulated elsewhere... (Let me see if I can find a link for you...) Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 15:17
  • 2
    @user253751: Here: “Saying sex work is related to sex trafficking is like saying that labor is related to exploitative conditions in labor”. Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 15:31

I am not really sure where you are getting confused. Neither liberals, nor conservative are opposed to regulating whatever they think is bad.

(a certain brand of) Conservatives: free market good, prostitution bad. Prohibit the 2nd.

(a certain brand of) Liberals: free market bad, prostitution bad. Limit the 1st, prohibit the 2nd.

Note that there are countries on either side of the spectrum that prefer regulated prostitution to prohibiting it without success and driving it underground.

Libertarians on the other hand tend to want to reject most regulation, so it is not surprising that prostitution, which has arguments for/against permitting (perhaps with appropriate regulation as noted above) could get permitted.

  • 6
    Very few countries in the world ban prostitution as completely as the U.S. does (where it is legal only in a few counties in Nevada and there are federal laws banning interstate travel for purposes of prostitution).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 5:08
  • This isn't really true. See en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_law. In almost the entire Islamic world for example, prostitution carries extremely stiff penalties. Even in countries where it is not completely criminalized, it is almost universally stigmatized. Basically nowhere is prostitution seen as a legitimate profession, something you would be pleased to report that your kids did for work. The present movement in some Western countries toward a fully decriminalized and destigmatized sex work profession is pretty unique, and largely illegible outside classical liberal ideology. Commented Mar 13, 2021 at 19:53

This isn't the primary answer, but makes a point about how you frame the issue.

Even a very libertarian politician might oppose prostitution by married people, since if marriage is viewed as a contract, soliciting prostitution with a married person amounts to founding a business upon a business model designed to breach contracts in ways that are hard to remedy after they are breached.

The libertarian politician might also oppose prostitution by minors and with minors because they lack the legal capacity to enter into contracts, and to understand the ramifications of what they are doing.

The libertarian politician might also oppose prostitution by prostitutes who are being trafficked and are acting under physical duress, since that is a bar to valid contract formation and consent.

The libertarian politician might also oppose prostitution in cases where one of the participants has or is likely to have an STD that could be passed to the other participants, which would be a form of fraud or tortious negligent injury if not disclosed.

This would, in theory, leave open the possibility that the libertarian might favor legalizing prostitution involving unmarried freely consenting STD-free adults.

But the libertarian might conclude that fraud by minors, and involuntary fraud by people facing physical duress who are being trafficked, and fraud by married people, and fraud by people who have an STD, and negligence by people who don't know for sure that they don't have an STD, is, as a practical matter, so pervasive in a crass transactional prostitution context, that the amount of intrusive state regulation necessary to permit this to happen in cases where it should actually be legal, are outweighed by the amount of undesirable state regulation that results from banning prostitution entirely. If 99% of the activity is stuff that should be illegal and 1% isn't, it may not be worth the trouble to make it legal in the rare cases when it should be legal.

Further, the libertarian might not that private home owner's associations universally ban prostitution, using their property rights, so that it is illegal in huge swaths of the country's populated territory anyway.

The libertarian might also take further comfort in recognizing that unmarried freely consenting adults who know that they don't have STDs and aren't trespassing in violation of property owner restrictions in which prostitution should be legal are still capable of acting with transaction-like reciprocity in a manner that is not so crass or troubling that it is classified as prostitution in a criminal sense (e.g. taking someone to dinner, paying for it, and having sex afterwards, or living together while having sex with one person paying most of the living expenses, or filming a porno movie together).

So, this may be something that is already banned by existing libertarian standards for state intervention 99.5% of the time, and might be insufficiently crass to be actually considered prostitution another 0.4% of the time, so banning it doesn't impact very much conduct that should be legal but is effectively prevented by the law. A regime that gets 999 out of a 1000 cases right and 1 out of 1000 cases wrong is doing pretty go for government work in the real world, the libertarian politician might conclude.

This isn't to say that this is the reasoning that libertarians or conservatives actually base their policy preferences upon. But, the point is that there are arguments that could be made from a very pro-free trade, little government intervention perspective, that could support the view that prostitution should be illegal entirely.

  • 2
    "But the libertarian might conclude ... that [banning it is better than regulation]" - no libertarian I've ever heard of would think like this. They care about very few things more than they care about the amount of stuff which is regulated, and they would not regulate one more iota than strictly necessary. (and many of them would remove those regulations too, claiming the minor shouldn't have signed the contract or something...) Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 11:13
  • @user253751 Politicians can't afford to be 100% pure with respect to any ideology, and the point is that there is regulation either way. You are either dealing with pervasive breaches of voluntary agreements and torts in massive litigation which is a form of regulation (that even libertarians recognize must be enforced with state power) or you are banning something entirely in its most blatant form, which could be less intrusive. There is no zero regulation option.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 11:36
  • 1
    A libertarian would say that totally banning something is always more intrusive because it intrudes on more instances of the thing. Otherwise, "traffic rule enforcement is a big problem, why don't we just ban cars?" Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 12:14
  • @user253751 A society can survive without crass prostitution involving unmarried freely consenting STD-free adults on property where the property owner permits it much more easily than it can without cars, and detailed litigation over sex is much more intrusive than traffic offenses (or tort litigation over car crashes when they actually happen).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 12:19
  • 3
    I'd expect a libertarian to say something like: "consenting adults...", rather than trying to tell people what the content of their marriage agreement should be.
    – anon
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 7:00

It's really quite simple: in the current state of US politics, most conservatives must deal with the fact that a large share of the people who might vote for them are conservative Christians. Christianity has a long history of regarding sex as sinful*. It's not supposed to happen outside of marriage, and then only for the purpose of procreation. So to enjoy the support of those Christian voters, people running for office have to publicly oppose any other sort of sex, whether it's for money, purely recreational, between people of the same sex, &c.

  • For examples, see the whole idea of the virgin birth of Jesus, lust as one of the "Seven Deadly Sins", the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests, Catholic teachings regarding birth control, and much more. Oh, and let us not forget "abstinence education".
  • 1
    Okay, so why do those people tend to support the free market? Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 11:12
  • @user253751 Not everyone is a free market extremist.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 17:02
  • @user253751: Why shouldn't they? Pragmatically, it works. There's also a long history of shared ideals with most US Christianity - see e.g. "Protestant work ethic" and how it's tied into the rise of capitalism. For instance en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 17:37
  • @jamesqf So the question becomes: Why do conservative Christians in the US like the free market but not transactional sex? Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 17:39
  • 2
    @WS2: First, that sort of feminism is just another religion. Second, in the current state of affairs, of course prostitution has links with crime, because it's illegal - DUH! Just as with many other things - Prohibition in the 1920s US, the "War on Drugs" today, making something illegal ensures that a vast & profitable criminal enterprise will arise to fill the demand.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 0:18

There are a number of ways of approaching this question, but the best answer (I think) comes from feminist theory. The binding tie between economic conservatism and social conservatism is the preference for 'traditional' social structures — established systems of social authority — and in 'traditional' society women are still largely viewed as resources subject to husbandry by men. Daughters are goods that can provide profitable social and economic ties if they are kept in a 'pristine' condition; wives are investments both for perceived social standing (the 'good hostess' and 'trophy wife' ideals) and for the creation of offspring who will inherit accumulated wealth.

Transactional sex only appears as a free market interaction when women are considered to be free agents and equal players in the economic marketplace. When women are considered to be wares offered within the economic marketplace, transactional sex is analogous to theft or property destruction by other men. To leverage the old (incredibly sexist and offensive) aphorism: if you steal milk from the dairy farmer, it doesn't matter if you pay the cow.

  • In re "transactional sex is analogous to theft or property destruction by other men". Only if women act on their own. In your presentation/theory, if a man pimps "his" woman to another, it's all fine. Which is obviously not how US religious conservatives (=evangelicals) think. You're missing the appeal to purity angle. On the other hand, you have some of that right with respect to forced marriages etc. in other (religious) societies. Commented Mar 13, 2021 at 0:55
  • 1
    @Fizz: I think you underestimate how much this religious (moral purity) ideation is based in paternalistic 'women as property' constructs. Pandering is criminalized (in this model) because paternalistic power structures (fathers, the Church, the state) do not want competition for control of the resource of female sexuality. Restriction on sexual activity is a powerful source of social control... Commented Mar 13, 2021 at 4:04
  • 3
    People who oppose prostitution, at least in the US, do not hold this view because they see women as commodities to be exchanged. If they did, they'd be fine with dowries and letting men sell women's sexual services. You will find this view among basically zero US conservatives. If you actually ask conservatives, it is because they think sexuality itself is sacred and they see it as socially damaging to commodify it. I see little serious evidence it derives from their defense of what you call "paternalistic structures", which you can pinpoint see and apparently they cannot. Commented Mar 13, 2021 at 20:00
  • @TedWrigley While I understand your arguments, and agree they do play a role in thinking I think you may have undermined your own argument in the second half of your first statement by explaining the most conservative and restrictive view of gender you could manage, which not all conservatives agree with. focusing more on commonly accepted ideas of gender roles, that virginity is far more important to a women then a man, that women are less capable of protecting themselves so the state must prevent 'abusive' prostitution, and that a women can't enjoy sex, would better explain your case.
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 16:54
  • 1
    This is actually good. Religious leaders want to be the pimp of all women and paying the women directly undermine their powah over those women
    – user6063
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 4:19

Actually almost all conservatives in the US, in fact almost all voters and politicians in the US, are perfectly OK with certain types of transactional sex, just not all types. Paying porn models and actors to have sex is legal, and personally I have never met anyone who thought it should be illegal. There's an inconsistency between that fact and the fact that the majority wants prostitution to be illegal.

Well, there are lots of inconsistencies of this type. For example, we make Adderall easy to get and severely criminalize meth, but Adderall is indistinguishable from meth to meth users when smoked, and the medical evidence is that the two molecules are essentially identical in their effects.

We have inconsistencies like these for various reasons. One is that most people are practical rather than ideological about politics. They don't believe, as many marxists and libertarians do, that they have the magic answer to all the world's problems, and they don't approach the world's problems by appealing to any supposed over-arching principle. This is actually a good thing IMO, since some of the most harmful, evil people in history have been ideologues.

Another reason for the inconsistencies is that there are longstanding cultural attitudes, and we act based on those attitudes whether they make sense or not. For example, the happy climax of the Odyssey comes when Odysseus mass-murders women who were flirting with men. Deuteronomy 23:18 says, "You shall not bring the wages of a harlot, or the price of a dog, into the house of Yahweh your God for any vowed offering; for both of these are an abomination to Yahweh your God."

There are also practical issues with legalizing prostitution. Teenagers, including minors, use prostitution as a way to escape family control. People don't want to find used condoms on the sidewalk in the morning. Although some countries, such as Australia, have had good outcomes with legalization, many others, such as Spain, have had bad ones. Probably it would be sane for the US to copy the successful Australian model, but the US doesn't like to copy successful foreign social systems, we tend to diddle around making our own dysfunctional systems even more dysfunctional.


The hypothetical regulation-free market, where everything can be bought and sold, is something pretty much everyone opposes. In that kind of free market not just is fraud rampant, but even murdering or enslaving the competition are perfectly acceptable business practices. This is better known as anarchy, which can be observed in civil war regions that left a power vacuum - it's pretty bad for trade.

Both opponents and proponents of the free market are in fact very much in favor of rules to regulate and stabilize said market. They both desire markets where people can conduct "free and fair" business, and where contracts can be enforced, where fraud and similar actions that harm the market are outlawed, where there is room to innovate, and where it is easy for new participants to enter - if they can abide by the rules. Opponents and proponents of the free market do disagree about what is "free and fair". The "free market" is merely an abstract and mostly meaningless slogan, which tends to distract from a meaningful discussion about what it actually means for a market to be "free and fair".

Conservatives are generally in favor of maintaining the status quo and against taking a risk of destabilizing the markets with the introduction of new regulation. They are not as bothered by (or less aware of) the risks of removing regulation that promotes fairness, if they feel they get better (and thus fairer) competition out of it. Progressives are generally more in favor of introducing regulation in order to make the markets "fairer", and not as bothered by (or less aware of) the risks of destabilizing a market in the process, if they feel they get fairer (and thus better) competition out of it.

None of this has anything to do with prostitution, which is why prostitution should be looked at as a completely independent topic, where the GOP derives their position from their alliance with the religious right.

  • Just because there are some restrictions on what you can do doesn't mean the free market doesn't exist.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 15:48
  • Sure. But OP uses free market as in "unregulated market". Market regulations absolutely do mean the regulation-free market doesn't exist. Conservatives are not in favor of unregulated markets, never have been. They, like everyone else, tend to be very much against a set of practices, services, and goods they deem unethical, like certain drugs, certain ceremonies, transactional sex, etc. The "free market" is mainly a slogan with very vague meaning. That slogan and that vague meaning do exist, but it's futile to try to derive their stance on related positions from that slogan.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 16:23
  • Murder and slavery has nothing to do with a free market so please don't try and use laws against those things to say a free market doesn't exist.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 18:19
  • However, fraud and misleading advertising are common in free market. In fact, I wonder how free market would be in the absence of government prohibiting people from killings, murdering, and enslaving each other.
    – user6063
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 4:17
  • @user4234 Absence of regulations is better known as anarchy, which can often be observed in civil war regions with collapsed power structures. Slavery and murders are very common in these regions, and trade suffers from the instability. What people often actually mean with "free market" is a market that offers reliability, security, "fairness", and low barriers to entry for both sellers and buyers. Because markets don't provide any of that on their own, by definition that's a highly regulated market.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 7:37

Sex trade in any forms attracts crimes, and socially disturbing criminal acts. The likely criminals are the gangsters, and/or corrupt greedy government officials, who want a share of, or the control over a popular business, that has lucrative monetary reward, but requires little, or no capital investment.

The criminal acts, just to name some, include forced prostitution (child or adult), abduction, human trafficking, drugs...etc. It is therefore not difficult to understand why the "conservatives", strong mind in fighting crimes, dislike/against the trade, no matter it is regulated or not.

Besides the crimes, religious believes/teaching, family values, STD (sexually transmitted deceases)..all are concerns ranked high on the list of why the conservatives dislike it, and the list could be even longer then.

You are correct in saying that conservatives like and support free market/trade, yet there is a string attached to it - only if it works the way it is intended, to bring in measurable economical benefits. When it does not, it will be against, evidently the fight over NAFTA by the (Republican) conservatives. Hope this helps in promoting the understanding.

  • I think the nay sayer owe this post a clear explanation on his/her negative feeling towards the content. It would be appreciated that any incorrectness in the writing is kindly pointed out. Thanks.
    – r13
    Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 0:44
  • 4
    Most studies suggest that human trafficking and forced prostitution is likely encouraged more by making prostitution illegal. With legal alternatives to prostitution that are regulated, with laws designed to defend prostitutes from being forced into work, abusive clients, or someone trying to take too much of their profits, pimps and gangs no longer benefit financially from human transaction and illegal activates inspired by the potential profit of prostitution are no longer financially viable. In short one of the arguments for legalizing prostitution is to prevent all your examples.
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 16:59
  • @dsollen Good points. I wish it keeps flood in.
    – r13
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 18:45
  • there are a few absolutes in this answer that would require some argument: how is prostitution not economically beneficial? Money flows, services are exchanged for it, what's the economical difference to any form of entertainment? it seems to allow for making easy profit given the first paragraph... why are gangsters attracted specifically by that and not other forms of business that low skill workers can do (and not all prostitution is fit for low skill workers anyway)? Why are corrupt governments officials needed to run a legal business? why are they not extorting other businesses? Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 5:18
  • 1
    The middle paragraphs contain the strongest arguments, you might want to build on them and drop some of the absolutism or make a more concise argument for them. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 5:18

It’s okay for some guy to make tons of money. It’s okay for shops to get lots of customers. It’s okay for large corporations to capture the whole market share and deprive small bizs out of customers.

As long as that is not made in "illegitimate ways."

Selling organs, selling children, selling sex...these are are immoral ways to make money.

Even if the act itself isn't immoral -- like organ donation or adoption -- there are certain illegitimate lines of business. (And I'm not sure whether that belief can be broken down into more fundamental axioms. I note that these all involve selling people/bodies.)

The fact that extramarital sex is immoral and causes broken families is just an extra layer of reasons not to permit it, along those other types of businesses.

EDIT: You seem to be saying "conservatives say all business is good, but then they their minds say some business is bad." That's not an accurate understanding. They believe that participants in the large number of legitimate industries should be largely left alone, and illegitimate industries such as the ones I listed should be prohibited.

If that appears inconsistent to you, so be it, but conservatives have not said every industry should be legitimate.

Legitimate industries should be allowed to operate mostly unfettered though.

  • 4
    Does this answer the question? I guess you're saying that prostitution is "immoral" and therefore conservatives don't like it? But if that's your standard, shouldn't we also regulate other immoral businesses, such as monopolies, companies that treat their workers badly, or polluting the environment, etc. – in which case we've just recreated the regulatory state that conservatives complain about
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 3:37
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    @divibisan: When you suggest regulating "immoral" businesses, whose morals are you using? (Morality is a variable, not a constant :-))
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 5:57
  • 6
    Yeah... this answer would be somewhat better if it replaced "is immoral" with "is considered immoral by conservatives" to reduce the absolutism a bit.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 7:35
  • 3
    @user253751 sounds to me like that just means there's something missing in this answer.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 12:34
  • 3
    Gambling could be considered immoral yet it is a booming industry. Didn't Jesus have issues with money changers (early forms of banks)? There are plenty of other things that are allowed that could be considered immoral now or in the past that we don't hear people complaining about and trying to stop.
    – Joe W
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 13:07

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