Law and Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 307–336 | Cite as

Poetic Justice: Why Sex-Slaves Should be Allowed to Sue Ignorant Clients in Conversion

  • Tsachi Keren-Paz


In this article I argue that clients who purchase commercial sex from forced prostitutes should be strictly liable in tort towards the sex-slaves. Such an approach is both normatively defensible and doctrinally feasible. As I have argued elsewhere, fairness and equality demand that clients compensate sex-slaves even if one refuses to acknowledge that fault is involved in purchasing sex from a prostitute who might be forced. In this article I argue that such strict liability could be grounded in the tort of conversion, and not only (as argued elsewhere) in battery. Since the quintessential experience of sex-slaves is that of being treated as chattels, the appropriate legal response is to allow them to benefit from the strict liability imposed on those who interfere with an owner’s dominion over his property. Accordingly, sex-slaves should be viewed as both subjects and objects. As subjects they can sue clients for the violation of their sexual autonomy manifested by their treatment as objects. This approach is both advantageous to sex-slaves, in the sense it affords them protection that might not otherwise exist, and fair, since the ultimate response to the objectification of sex-slaves by clients should be to afford the former a proprietary-based claim against the latter. I further explain why my approach is not problematic on conceptual grounds, anti-commodification sentiments or feminist concerns with the symbolic message of my solution: that the law treats women as property.


Strict Liability Bodily Integrity Ultimate Response Fetishism Sexual Autonomy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



The author is grateful for many useful comments, discussions, suggestions and critique received on previous drafts from the participants of Keele Work in Progress Workshop, Cegla’s Private Law Forum of Tel-Aviv University Faculty of Law, the Tort Section of the Society of Legal Scholars, Keele 2009, the Oxford Jurisprudence Discussion Group and members of the Obligation Discussion Group.

Cases Cited

  1. Aitken v Richardson [1967] 2 NZLR 15.Google Scholar
  2. Ashley v CC Sussex Police [2008] UKHL 25.Google Scholar
  3. AT v Dulghieru [2009] EWHC 225 (QB).Google Scholar
  4. Basely v Clarkson (1681) 3 Lev 37 (CP).Google Scholar
  5. Clayton v Leroy [1911] 2 K.B. 1031.Google Scholar
  6. Dobson v North TynesideHealth Authority [1996] 4 All ER 474.Google Scholar
  7. Hecht v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (1993) 20 Cal. Rptr. 2d 275.Google Scholar
  8. Hollins v Fowler (1875) LR 7 HL 757.Google Scholar
  9. Hunter v Canary Wharf [1997] AC 655.Google Scholar
  10. K v Jaack, CC (Tel Aviv) 2191/02 Tak-Meh 2006 (1) 7885 (2006).Google Scholar
  11. Kuwait Airways Co v Iraqi Airways Co [2002] 2 AC 883.Google Scholar
  12. Lancashire and Yorkshire Ry v MacNicholl, (1919) 88 LJKB 601.Google Scholar
  13. M v Salsrevski, La (Be’er She’va) 4634/03 Tak-Av 2005 (3) 97 (2005).Google Scholar
  14. Marfani v Midland Bank [1968] 1 WLR 956.Google Scholar
  15. Moore v Regents of California University 51 Cal 3rd 120 (1990).Google Scholar
  16. Motis Exports v Dampskibsselskabet AF 1912 A/S [2000] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 211.Google Scholar
  17. OBG Ltd v Allan [2007] UKHL 21.Google Scholar
  18. Ploni v State of Israel Cr.A. 371/06 (30.4.2008).Google Scholar
  19. Ploni (R) v Kochick La.A. 247/07 (24.9.2009). Google Scholar
  20. The Queen v Tang [2008] HCA 39.Google Scholar
  21. R v. Bentham [2005] UKHL 18.Google Scholar
  22. R v Maka [2005] EWCA Crim 3365.Google Scholar
  23. Roberts v McDougall (1887) 3 TLR 666.Google Scholar
  24. Rolle Abr. Tit. Action Sur Case p5 (equine variety).Google Scholar
  25. Schemmell v Pomeroy (1989) 50 SASR 450.Google Scholar
  26. Solloway v McLaughlin[1938] A.C. 247, PC.Google Scholar
  27. State of Israel v Lifshin Cr.A. (Tel-Aviv) 1123/03 (29.1.04).Google Scholar
  28. State of Israel v Rabi’eeBS (Haifa) 4891/00 (01/01/2001).Google Scholar
  29. State of Israel v. Yosef SCrC1210/01 (15/1/03).Google Scholar
  30. Tallahassee v Macon 8 Fla 299 (1859).Google Scholar
  31. Toor v Bassi [1999] EGCS 9.Google Scholar
  32. Tucker v Wright (1826) 3 Bing. 601.Google Scholar
  33. United Australia Ltd v Barclays Bank Ltd [1941] AC 1.Google Scholar
  34. Williams v Williams (1882) 20 Ch D 659.Google Scholar
  35. Yearworth v North Bristol NHS Trust (2009) EWCA Civ 37.Google Scholar


  1. Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965).Google Scholar
  2. Restatement (Second) Contracts (1981).Google Scholar

Legislation Cited

  1. The Criminal Code (Cth) (Aust).Google Scholar
  2. Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, Ch. 37.Google Scholar
  3. Sales Act 5728-1968 (Isr).Google Scholar
  4. Sale of Goods (Amendment) Act 1994, Ch. 32.Google Scholar
  5. Sale of Goods Act 1979, Ch. 54.Google Scholar
  6. Suicide Act 1961, Ch. 60.Google Scholar
  7. Torts (Interference with Goods Act) 1977, Ch. 32.Google Scholar


  1. Abel, Richard L (1990), ‘A Critique of Torts’, UCLA L. Rev. 37:785-831.Google Scholar
  2. Abel, Richard L (2006) ‘General Damages are Incoherent, Incalculable, Incommensurable, and Inegalitarian (but Otherwise a Great Idea)’, DePaul L Rev 55: 253-329.Google Scholar
  3. Albert, Alexa (2001) Brothel Mustang Ranch and Its Women. NY: Random House.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, B. and Julia O’Connell Davidson, Is Trafficking in Human Beings Demand Driven? A Multi- Country Pilot Study, IOM Migrant Research Series NO. 15 (2003).Google Scholar
  5. Bingham, Nicola (1998) ‘Nevada Sex Trade: a Gamble for the Workers’, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 10:69-99.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, Felix S. (1935) ‘Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach’, Colum. L. Rev. 35:809-849.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coy, Maddy, Miranda Horvath and Liz Kelly, `It's Just Like Going to the Supermarket: Men Buying Sex in East London’ (CWASU, London Metropolitan University, 2007).Google Scholar
  8. Dagan, Hanoch, Market Overt as Insurance, in S. Lerner and D. Lewinsoh-Zamir (eds.), Essays in Honour of Joshua Weisman (2002), pp. 15–42.Google Scholar
  9. Dagan, Hanoch, The Law and Ethics of Restitution. (Cambridge UP, 2004).Google Scholar
  10. Dickson, Sandra (2004) When Women are Trafficked: Quantifying the Gendered Experience of Trafficking in the UK. London: The POPPY Project.Google Scholar
  11. Dworkin, Andrea (1987) Intercourse. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  12. Fletcher, George P. (1972) ‘Fairness and Utility in Tort Theory’, Harv. L. Rev. 85:537-73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Friedmann, Daniel (2003) ‘The Objective Principle and Mistake and Involuntariness in Contract and Restitution’, L.Q.R. 119:74-93.Google Scholar
  14. Hughes, Donna, Best Practices to Address the Demand Side of Sex Trafficking (2004).Google Scholar
  15. Jaffe, Louis L. (1953) ‘Damages for Personal Injury: The Impact of Insurance’, Law & Contemp. Probs. 18:219-240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kant, Immanuel, Lectures on Ethics L. Infield trans., J. Macmurray rev. ed (1930).Google Scholar
  17. Keating, Gregory C., ‘Distributive and Corrective Justice in the Tort Law of Accidents’, Southern California Law Review 74 (2000): 193–224.Google Scholar
  18. Keren-Paz, Tsachi, Torts, Egalitarianism and Distributive Justice (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007a).Google Scholar
  19. Keren-Paz, Tsachi (2007b) ‘Compensating Injury to Autonomy: Normative Evaluation, Recent Developments and Future Tendencies’, Colman L.R. 22: 187-266.Google Scholar
  20. Keren-Paz, Tsachi, ‘An Essay on Banalization of Slavery, Devaluation of Sex-Workers’ Labor and Deprivation of Victims of Trafficking’ in Concord Research Institute for Integration of International Law in Israel. Available at (2009a) pp. 1–55.
  21. Keren-Paz, Tsachi, Reforming Tracing Law: Some Lessons from Sex Trafficking SLS Conference, Keele University, September 7th (2009b) pp. 1–47.Google Scholar
  22. Keren-Paz Tsachi & Nomi Levenkron (2009) ‘Clients’ Strict Liability towards Victims of Sex-Trafficking. Legal Studies 29: 438-63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Keren-Paz, Tsachi, and Nomi Levenkron, ‘Clients’ Fault-Based Liability for Purchasing Sex from Forced Prostitutes’ (under submission, on file with author) (2010) pp. 1–40.Google Scholar
  24. Levenkron, Nomi, The Legalization of Prostitution: Myth and Reality – A Comparative Study of Four Countries (2007).Google Scholar
  25. Levenkron, Nomi, email correspondence with author 1st October (2009).Google Scholar
  26. MacKinnon, Catharine (1987) Feminism Unmodified. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. MacKinnon, Catharine (1989) Toward a Feminist Theory of the State. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. McGregor, Harvey (2003) McGregor on Damages. Sweet & Maxwell, London.Google Scholar
  29. Nussbaum, Martha (1995) ‘Objectification’, Phil & Pub affaires 24:256-291.Google Scholar
  30. Orren, Karen, Belated Feudalism: Labor, the Law, and Liberal Development in the United States (Cambridge UP, 1991).Google Scholar
  31. Radin, Margaret J. (1987) ‘Market Inalienability’ Harv. LR 100:1849-1937.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Radin, Margaret J. (1993) ‘Compensation and Commensurability’ Duke L.J. 43:56-86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rogers, W.V.H. (2006) Winfield and Jolowicz on Tort. London: Sweet & Maxwell.Google Scholar
  34. Seboc, Anthony J. (2003) ‘Reparations, Unjust Enrichment and the Importance of Knowing the Difference between the Two’ NYU Ann. Surv. Am. L. 58:651-657.Google Scholar
  35. Steinfeld, Robert (1991) The Invention of Free Labor. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  36. Stevens, Robert, Torts and Rights. (Oxford UP, 2007).Google Scholar
  37. Weinrib, Ernest J. (1999) ‘Restitutionary Damages as Corrective Justice’ TIL 1:1-37.Google Scholar
  38. Witzleb, Normann and Robyn Carroll (2009) ‘The Role of Vindication in the Law of Remedies’, Tort LR 17:16-44.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law, Keele UniversityStaffordshireEngland, UK

Personalised recommendations