Why Is It Wrong to Sell Your Body? Understanding Liberals’ vs. Conservatives’ Moral Objections to Bodily Markets


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American Marketing Association


People hold strong moral objections to commercial bodily markets—the buying and selling of the human body and its components (e.g., prostitution; commercial surrogacy; trade of kidneys, blood plasma, sperm, ovum, and hair). This research takes a descriptive approach to understand why people object to the marketing of the human body and how their moral objections differ across the political spectrum. The authors propose that liberals and conservatives find bodily markets to be morally wrong; however, the two groups object to bodily markets for different reasons. Liberals are more sensitive to exploitation concerns, but conservatives are more sensitive to violation of sanctity concerns in these markets. Real-world observational data and controlled experiments test these predictions. The findings show how sociopolitical leaders utilize the different moral objections to persuade their respective audiences, such as how conservative versus more liberal pastors sermonize differently on prostitution. Second, results show how targeted marketing campaigns encourage liberals and conservatives to participate in consumer advocacy and donate to political causes. Third, findings outline how liberals and conservatives support different regulatory laws that penalize buyers versus sellers. Finally, results show how the different moral objections manifest for live bodily products but not for dead bodily products.



political identity, moral judgments, prostitution, organ trade, illegal markets