Prostitutionthe selling of sexual services, is yet another controversial sexual behavior. These two groups of people might agree on little else, but they both hold strong negative views about prostitution. Regardless of their other beliefs, many people also worry that prostitution spre STDs. All these groups think prostitution should remain illegal, and they generally prefer stricter enforcement of laws against prostitution.
Other people also do not like prostitution, but they believe that the laws against prostitution do more harm than good. They think that legalizing prostitution would reduce the various harms prostitution causes, and they believe that views about the immorality of prostitution should not prevent our society from dealing more wisely with it than it does now. This section presents a short history of prostitution before turning to the various types of prostitution, reasons for prostitution, and policy issues about how best to deal with this particular sexual behavior.
Because most prostitution involves female prostitutes and male customers, our discussion will largely focus on this form.
In ancient Mesopotamia, priests had sex with prostitutes. Ancient Greece featured legal brothels houses of prostitution that serviced political leaders and common men alike. During the Middle Ages and through the nineteenth century, prostitution was tolerated as a necessary evil, as legal brothels operated in much of Europe and were an important source of tax revenue. Poor women became prostitutes because it provided a source of income at a time when they had few other options for jobs.
Some prostitutes worked for themselves on streets and in hotels and other establishments, and other prostitutes worked in legal brothels in many US cities. During the Civil War, prostitutes found many customers among the soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy; the term hooker for prostitute comes from their relations with soldiers commanded by Union general Joseph Hooker. After the Civil War, camps of prostitutes would set up at railroad construction sites.
Many US cities had legal brothels into the early s. Beginning in abouthowever, religious groups and other parties increasingly spoke out about the immorality of prostitution, and in addition claimed that middle-class girls were increasingly becoming prostitutes. Their efforts succeeded in shutting down legal brothels nationwide. Her clientele included many leading politicians and businessmen of San Francisco and nearby areas.
Despite or perhaps because of her fame from being a madam, Stanford was later elected mayor of Sausalito, a town across the bay from San Francisco. Estimates of the of prostitutes in the United States range widely between 70, andStreetwalkers comprise about one-fifth of all prostitutes. No one really knows how many prostitutes we now have. Prostitutes are not eager to be studied, and because their work is illegal, the federal government does not compile statistics on their s as it does for physicians, plumbers, teachers, and hundreds of other legal occupations.
One well-analyzed estimate put the of female prostitutes at 70, and further concluded that they engage in an average of acts of prostitution with male customers annually, or almost 50 million acts of prostitution overall each year Brewer et al. Regardless of the actualprostitution is very common.
These figures translate to about Inpolice and other law enforcement agents made almost 63, arrests for prostitution and commercialized vice Federal Bureau of Investigation, Most of these arrests were of prostitutes, but some were of customers. Women ed for almost 69 percent of the arrests in this entire category.
Several types of prostitutes exist.
Although streetwalkers are the subjects in most studies of prostitutes, they in fact compose only about one-fifth of all prostitutes Weitzer, The remaining 80 percent of prostitutes generally work indoors. Call girls work as independent operators in their homes or fairly fancy hotels and charge a lot of money for their services, which include sex but also talking and dining.
Their clients are typically businessmen or other wealthy individuals. Escorts work for escort agencies, which often advertise heavily in phone books and on the Internet. Although they may actually act as an escort to a dinner or show, typically their services include sexual acts. They, too, are generally well paid for their work, but do not earn nearly as much as call girls because they have to give at least 30 percent of their earnings to their agency.
Call girls and escorts rank at the top of the prostitution hierarchy Weitzer, Below them, but above streetwalkers, are three other types of prostitutes. Brothel workersas the name implies, are prostitutes who work in brothels. The only legal brothels in the United States today are found in several rural counties in Nevada, which legalized prostitution in these counties in Workers in these brothels pay income tax.
Massage parlor workersas their name also implies, work in massage parlors. Many massage parlors, of course, involve no prostitution at all, and are entirely legal. They make contact with a customer in these settings and then have sex with them elsewhere. The lives and welfare of streetwalkers are much worse than those of the five types of indoor workers just listed. As sociologist Ronald Weitzerp.
A good of streetwalkers also began their prostitution careers as runaway teenagers and were abused as children. In contrast, indoor workers begin their trade when they were older and are less likely to have been abused as children. Their working conditions are much better than those for streetwalkers, they are less likely to be addicted to drugs and to have STDs, they are better paid, and they are much less likely to be victimized by their clients. Studies that compare indoor prostitutes with nonprostitutes find that they have similar levels of self-esteem, physical health, and mental health.
Many indoor prostitutes even report a rise in self-esteem after they begin their indoor work Weitzer, By definition, prostitution involves the selling of sex. This means that money is the key feature of prostitution.
As such, money is also the major motivation for women who become prostitutes, as most of them come from low-income backgrounds. For indoor workers, and especially call girls, prostitution is a potentially well-paying occupation. Streetwalkers hardly get rich from prostitution and suffer the many problems listed earlier, but prostitution still provides them a source of income that they are unlikely to receive through legal occupations because they have few marketable job skills.
Despite this financial motivation, most women do not become prostitutes, and scholars have tried to understand why some women do so. Because prostitutes are not eager to be studied, as noted earlier, we do not yet have studies of random samples of prostitutes, and probably never will have such studies. As also noted earlier, most studies of prostitutes involve streetwalkers, even though they compose only about 20 percent of all prostitutes.
Several of these studies cite high rates of child abuse in the backgrounds of streetwalkers, but other studies find that their rates of child abuse are similar to those of women from similar sociodemographic backgrounds who are not prostitutes Weitzer, Although some studies find certain psychological problems among streetwalkers, it is unclear whether these problems existed before they became streetwalkers or developed as is very possible after they became streetwalkers.
Methodologically, the best way to clarify this causal question would be to randomly as young women to become prostitutes or not to become prostitutes, and then to study what happens to their psychological health afterward.
For many reasons, this type of study would be highly unethical and will never be done. In the absence of studies of this type, it is difficult to determine what exactly prompts some women to become prostitutes. Customers of prostitutes tend to come from the same kinds of social backgrounds as do noncustomers.
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They have certain motivations for wanting to be with a prostitute, but many noncustomers have the same motivations yet still do not pay for prostitution. Despite this essential fact of prostitution, there are very few studies of why men choose to become customers. The implicit message from this lack of studies is that it is normal for men to have sex with a prostitute but abnormal for women to charge these men for this sex.
The few studies we do have do not find any substantial differences between customers and noncustomers Weitzer, Just as men come from various social backgrounds, so do the men who choose to have sex with a prostitute. Customers do have certain motivations for choosing to pay for prostitution Weitzer, These motivations include 1 the desire to have sex with someone with a certain physical appearance age, race, body type ; 2 the lack of a sexual partner or dissatisfaction with a sexual partner, including a desire to have unconventional sex that the partner does not share; 3 the thrill of having sex with a prostitute; and 4 the desire to have sex without having to make an emotional commitment.
For example, many men may not have a sexual partner or may be dissatisfied with a partner they do have, but they still do not decide to pay for a prostitute.
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Table 9. According to functionalist theoryprostitution exists because it serves several important functions for society generally and for certain people in society. As we have already mentioned, it provides a source of income for many women who otherwise might be jobless, and it provides a sexual alternative for men with the motivations listed earlier. Almost eight decades ago, sociologist Kingsley Davis wrote that prostitution even lowers the divorce rate.
He reasoned that many married men are unhappy with their sex life with their wives.