Essay:Sex laws

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Sex laws are the government statutes and regulations concerning sexual intercourse and related activities. These include, for example, laws against prostitution, sodomy, and child pornography. Many laws are intended to regulate sexual behavior indirectly. For example, laws refusing to recognize same-sex marriage are at least partly meant to delegitimize homosexual sex; and many regulations on abortion clinics, such as requiring invasive ultrasound, are primarily intended to increase the cost and inconvenience of abortion. For those who do not wish to have children, restrictions on contraceptives and abortion tend to increase the potential costs of sex. Depending on the elasticity of demand for sex, this could deter such sex to a greater or lesser degree.

Supposedly, sex laws are intended to protect people from harm, when in reality they are often directed at satisfying the moral sensibilities of various political constituencies, whether they be religious groups or the leftist, misleadingly-named modern "feminist" movement. Workplaces have been required to adopt sexual harassment rules banning quid pro quo sexual transactions between managers and their employees and prohibiting the creation of a hostile work environment. Walter Block points out that a supervisor can invite an employee out for a date and take a rejection in good grace; yet even the invitation could subject him to charges of harassment. Therefore, these laws have "a chilling effect, to say the least, on our rights of free speech—to say nothing of normal social interaction."[1] As Wendy McElroy points out, "businesses spend huge amounts of money to educate employees on this issue, to settle lawsuits and prevent such suits from occurring. There are subtle social costs of sexual harassment laws as well. The laws cast women as permanent victims, and causes them to lose male mentors who fear prosecution."[2]

At the same time that government attempts to "protect" women from sexual advances at workplaces at which they voluntarily accepted employment, it fails to adequately protect them from rape. In the case of Warren v. District of Columbia (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981), the District of Columbia was sued after the police had been called but, after promising that help was on the way, failed to dispatch officers to stop three women from being raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon one another; the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ultimately held police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals. In many cases, the government also does not allow women the means for defending themselves. The Market for Liberty notes that "women, even in the most crime-ridden areas, are forbidden to carry effective self-defense devices. Guns, switch-blade knives, tear gas sprayers, etc. , are illegal. Of course, the criminals ignore these laws, but the peaceful citizens are effectively disarmed and left at the mercy of hoodlums."[3]

Those who argue that certain consensual sexual practices should be banned because they are not conducive to happiness would do well to remember that, as Mises pointed out, "The characteristic mark of ultimate ends is that they depend entirely on each individual's personal and subjective judgment, which cannot be examined, measured, still less corrected by any other person. Each individual is the only and final arbiter in matters concerning his own satisfaction and happiness."[4]


  1. Block, Walter. "Levin on Feminism and Freedom". The Case for Discrimination. pp. 292. 
  2. McElroy, Wendy (June 1998). "Sex and the State". The Free Market 16 (6). 
  3. Morris and Linda Tannehill. "Protection of Life and Property". The Market for Liberty. pp. 82. 
  4. von Mises, Ludwig. "Theory and History". pp. 13.