Regulating Commercial Sex

29 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2006

Date Written: July 19, 2006


The robustness principle for vice regulation suggests that public policy towards addictive or vicious activities engaged in by adults should be robust with respect to departures from full rationality. That is, policies should work pretty well if everyone is well-informed and completely rational, and policies should work pretty well even if many people are occasionally (or frequently) irrational in their vice-related choices. To work well, policies must deal effectively with the standard vice concerns surrounding kids, addicts, externalities, and costs imposed upon adult, non-addicted participants. This paper applies the robustness principle to prostitution and pornography. These forms of commercial sex cannot be prohibited for adults under a regulatory regime consistent with the robustness principle, though public manifestations of these activities can be controlled. Policies aimed at promoting informed rational decision making, including mandatory waiting periods prior to pornography performance and other sex work, and the explicit provision of consent for risky commercial sex undertakings, also are consistent with or required by robustness.

Keywords: Pornography, Prostitution, Robustness, Regulation, Vice, Sex

JEL Classification: I18, K10, K49

Suggested Citation

Leitzel, James A., Regulating Commercial Sex (July 19, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

James A. Leitzel (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-8555 (Phone)

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