A libertarian moment? What if your daughter was a porn star?

I submit that virtually every honest person — those with children of their own, as well as those who merely possess a functional moral imagination — will admit to being appalled at the thought.

But how could that be? After all, her decision to perform in pornography appears to be consensual. She even makes arguments defending the choice. She’s making good money, and she’s becoming famous, even a role model. Maybe, like some other porn stars, she’ll be able to parlay her sex work into a mainstream movie career, or become a bestselling author. That’s certainly more than most of her peers at Duke will accomplish in their lives.

And yet practically everyone would nonetheless be devastated to learn that a daughter had gone to work in the porn industry…

Why? Because at a level of thinking that we increasingly conceal from ourselves, we persist in making the same vertical moral distinctions that human beings have always made: high and low, noble and base, elevated and degraded. Of course precisely what is considered high/noble/elevated and what is thought of as low/base/degraded changes over time and varies across cultures. But what persists as a fundamental, ineradicable element of moral thinking is the act of placing some actions into the first category and others into the second.