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Abstract

Nothing generates as much discord and emotion as sex. No wonder Virginia Woolf once said, "when a subject is highly controversial-and any question about sex is that-one cannot hope to tell the truth."' This warning seems particularly poignant where the subject is one of the sexes selling sex particularly when those selling it are women. Nevertheless, the debate that has taken place in Europe and the United States in the last century over women's prostitution/sex work seems not to have heeded Woolf's call for argumentative caution when discussing the sexes (and sex). Those who talk about prostitution/sex work rarely recognize that "[o]ne can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold," or "[o]ne can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker." Quite the contrary, since at least the Victorian uproar over "white slavery" at the end of the nineteenth century, the legal, social, and political status of prostitution/sex work has ignited heated disputes among those who advocate for its prohibition (by criminalizing both the sale and purchase of sex), its one-sided criminalization (by criminalizing the purchase of sex but not its sale), its regulation (with labor, health, security, or zoning regulations, among others), or its complete decriminalization (treating sex trade as any other trade).

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