There is a moral position that sex outside marriage is wrong. It may have a purpose, that each man know who is his child, but the ethical basis is a rule, the commandment of God. That is the historic basis of prostitution law. Public order is part of it, too: these prostitutes should not make a nuisance of themselves, so street-walking is criminal.
There are sex workers who walk the streets to pick men up. Not all are chaotic junkies: my friend who sought to make money that way was desperate, after her family threw her out for transitioning. “I have no money,” she told me. I wanted her to be safe. Eventually she found a sugar daddy. Some are women trafficked from Moldova and elsewhere. Unequivocally, these are the people I want the law to protect. They are the victims, of the pimps, traffickers, society, the chaos of their parents and grandparents unto the tenth generation. They are at appalling risk. If what they do to find customers is criminal, they are unable to access the protection of society. I want them protected, not moved on, by the police. When they are raped, I want them to be believed.
The sex workers “excluded” by the SWERFs are those who have some control of their lives. Some students make a bit of money by working as escorts. They get clients from websites. The illegality of selling sex is winked at by a legal fiction: the client pays for the woman’s time, and if she wishes to have sex with him it is entirely voluntary. As many as 5% of British students have dabbled in this. A friend who was a psychotherapist and part-time lecturer in FE, who considered transition M-F, did it. Her career going badly, she had a way of earning £200 sometimes. A man was going to pay £500 plus expenses for a night with her. These are the women most likely to get licences under a licensing scheme; and the law might wink at them- “turn a blind eye” may be a less unfortunate term- under the Nordic model, considering prosecution not in the public interest.
And, possibly, men selling sex to men raises entirely different questions. There, the punters are scarred by a lifetime of homophobia, only reduced in polite society a few years ago, still present in some social groups.
Is it just a transaction, I wonder? There is still the risk of rape, the stigma. This post claims SWERFs are merely motivated by disgust and “whorephobia”, with moral views about sex Pope Francis would approve of; yet our disgust reaction should not rule her choices.
Against that, there is the argument that prostitution is societal violence against women, as End Violence Against Women argues. They seek to change society, not just protect prostitutes: Prostitution, and other structures in which women are objectified, reinforce and perpetuate stereotypes of women, especially where this intersects other aspects of social identity such as race/ethnicity, age and class. Prostitution as an institution reinforces and perpetuates the unequal status of ALL women. They argue, If it is legal to buy sex, the message to society is that women are sexual commodities.
The UN in 1949 said, prostitution and trafficking are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community. I am imposing my judgment of her dignity on the sex worker; but I do this to include, not exclude. I am imposing my feelings on her, too: I know both delight in my body and in touch, and shrinking fear of touch, and pity her if she does not feel the same.