Existentialist Feminism

      Existentialist feminism derives from the school of thought of Simone de Beauvoir. In her world-view, the woman is not always powerless and does not always need to be dependent in a male-female relationship. Prostitution allows women an avenue of escape from dependency on men in a way that does not leave them victims, but empowered women.28 Equality of rights and freedom between the sexes is desirable. However, if they are not forthcoming, prostitution can provide the woman with the kind of liberty that is immediate, affirming, and temporally rewarding. De Beauvoir appears to exalt all women as possessing the capacity to realize their innate power in the sense of the feminine warrior spirit. In the existentialist view, the power of a competent woman over a man is not an illusion. A man may think he is in charge of a situation by virtue of his power to degrade and subdue a woman, but with a woman of competence and spirit this “power” is not incontrovertible. In Carol Pateman’s words directed towards the role of a woman as a prostitute, “The man may think he ‘has’ her, but his sexual possession is an illusion; it is she who has him...she will not be ‘taken,’ since she is being paid.”29 The spirit of entrepreneurship prevails here instead of the darker concerns of Marxism, which views employment as exploitative and oppressive. To her the prostitute is not the fallen and oppressed victim, rather the “quintessential liberated woman.”30 While believing that women are oppressed by an inequality between the sexes, she also believes there is an escape by economic means.31 So on the one hand a prostitute is viewed as an oppressed woman, and on the other, a liberated one by way of a successful economic strategy for her own survival.


28. Extrapolations from Applications of Feminist Legal Theory to Women’s Lives, p. 191.
29. Jaggar in Applications of Feminist Legal Theory to Women’s Lives, p. 191.
30. Ibid., p.191.
31. Simone de Beauvoir “believed that one of the keys to a woman’s liberation is economic, a point she emphasized in her discussion of the independent woman.” Rosemarie Tong, Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction (Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, 1989), p. 211.


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Existential Feminism

Radical Feminism

Liberal Feminism

Marxist Feminism

Socialist Feminism

Moral Considerations

Theoretical View of the Degrading
Nature of Prostitution

Figurative, Not Actual Degradation