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I consider the profession unwise and harmful to all. But I'm looking for a compelling argument against it.

PS. Maybe "compelling" is too strong a word.

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Unsatisfied with his own wife, with others’ wives he’s seen in tow, corrupted too with prostitutes— that’s the way to disaster’s woe

Snp 1.6

More here.

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The Therigata includes their saying "free" from "crooked old" and or (elsewhere) "shameless" husband.

But I'm not sure that can be understood, or explained to someone:

  • Neither the goal -- because if I have never experienced it, then I may understand it only as idle and irrelevant-to-me words
  • Nor the means -- is the advice "actionable", how is it feasible for me to get from here to there?

And reading Wikipedia's Prostitution in Thailand I'm not sure there is anything really "compelling" in the canon: because if there were then perhaps it wouldn't prevail in a Buddhist society?

Thig 15 is about a nun who says she was rejected by her husband, because in a former life she had been a man who slept with another man's wife and therefore suffered consequences (including rebirth in hell and as an animal). If you, or "the prostitute" to whom you want to give advice, took that to be true then that might be compelling advice -- i.e. that infidelity/unchastity leads to hell -- but even then I think people take a narrow view from the canon of what the third precept means and use that to argue that prostitution is explicitly permitted.

Two arguments you could try:

  • There's no future in it -- youth, health, good looks fade, this is not a long-term employment opportunity
  • Find a better class of friend, a more moral/respectful society, that's important in this life

Are you trying to offer "going forth" as the alternative?

If not must you consider what the person's mundane employment alternatives are? Because that may be what they find "compelling".

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  • Interviews like these suggest that prostitution maybe a symptom or consequence of larger problems.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 19, 2023 at 10:18
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    Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions, Chris. I understand that compelling arguments against something (or for it), explaining, teaching... are usually not the difficult part. The difficult part is usually going to be clinging, not listening, ignoring, or as the Buddha says, "Intoxicated and heedless." But I still think it's okay to ask the question, if only because it's worth thinking about, and reflecting on. Feb 19, 2023 at 18:40
  • It's certainly ok to ask the question. I'm not sure I understand the comment. There's a Quaker phrase, "speaks to thy condition", which I think means, "say things which are relevant to personal experience, understood, and actionable good advice". There's a lot of advice in the suttas but I'm not sure what would speak to their condition. I guess there's something in their material/social/psychic circumstance which leads or "compels" them to assess prostitution to be their best or only option; and without knowing how to address that I don't think I have convincing answer to the question.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 20, 2023 at 7:28
  • And given how the third precept is explained, I'm not sure there's something specifically about prostitution, perhaps that was even an exemption to the rule. That, and going forth seems to be a) the highest good, b) the principle audience, and c) the general direction of the advice, so will or can you suggest that as their alternative and if not then what else? There may be advice about how to be a good wife or something but again I'm not sure that this person would understand that as a helpful answer.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 20, 2023 at 7:58
  • "I'm not sure there's something specifically about prostitution..." "relevant to personal experience..." Your focus is too narrow. I intentionally didn't give any specifics. If the Buddha didn't talk about prostitution, I wouldn't be surprised, but that doesn't mean he didn't cover that specific type of wrong action. Feb 20, 2023 at 11:39
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Well, I do not know from the Suttas perspective exactly. The way I see this profession is that it leads to corruption and unwholesome states of mind. The reason is because the person is constantly exposed to one of the strongest pleasurable feelings. These are not easy to remain unattached to and sooner or later strong clinging will develop. This translates to suffering. Also another reason, not all the clients will be according to the prostitute's liking and the ones which she dislikes she will have to put up with, She will be negotiating her hygiene/risk of disease etc for some money and this is bad I think - kind of like selling one's soul. Thus I believe it is bad for one's mind.

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