Poetic justice: Why sex-slaves should be allowed to Sue ignorant clients in conversion [Book Review]

Law and Philosophy 29 (3):307-336 (2010)
In this article I argue that clients who purchase commercial sex from forced prostitutes should be strictly liable in tort towards the sex-slaves. Such an approach is both normatively defensible and doctrinally feasible. As I have argued elsewhere, fairness and equality demand that clients compensate sex-slaves even if one refuses to acknowledge that fault is involved in purchasing sex from a prostitute who might be forced. In this article I argue that such strict liability could be grounded in the tort of conversion, and not only (as argued elsewhere) in battery. Since the quintessential experience of sex-slaves is that of being treated as chattels, the appropriate legal response is to allow them to benefit from the strict liability imposed on those who interfere with an owner’s dominion over his property. Accordingly, sex-slaves should be viewed as both subjects and objects. As subjects they can sue clients for the violation of their sexual autonomy manifested by their treatment as objects. This approach is both advantageous to sex-slaves, in the sense it affords them protection that might not otherwise exist, and fair, since the ultimate response to the objectification of sex-slaves by clients should be to afford the former a proprietary-based claim against the latter. I further explain why my approach is not problematic on conceptual grounds, anti-commodification sentiments or feminist concerns with the symbolic message of my solution: that the law treats women as property.
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