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What Is Prostitution?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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Prostitution is commonly defined as the custom of having sexual relations in exchange for economic gain. Although the sex is traditionally traded for money, it can also be bartered for jewelry, clothing, vehicles, housing, food—anything that has market value. It is typically seen as an aberrant way to make a living and is illegal in many countries. The word prostitution can also refer to any act that is considered demeaning or shameful.

The term prostitute is customarily used to refer to a female person who engages in sex in exchange for money as a profession. Depending on the culture, the attitude toward the job, and the socio-economic region in which the business of prostitution is conducted, other terminology is often used. These monikers often include streetwalker, sex worker, hooker, escort, sex trade worker and commercial sex worker.

Male prostitutes are generally considered less prevalent in the occupation. They are typically referred to as escorts or gigolos if their clientele is female. If they specialize in providing their services to men, rent boy or hustler are terms frequently used to describe them.

Similar to most occupations, a prostitute may have an employer or work as an independent contractor. Men who market and sell prostitution services are usually referred to as pimps. Women with the same job description are commonly called madams. Both normally take a percentage of the prostitute’s income as payment for their promotional services.

Prostitutes who work independently have the advantage of keeping all of their earnings. The presumed advantage of having representatives such as pimps and madams involved in the process is safety. These agents are generally expected to screen prospective clients to ensure the safety and security of their staff.

Pimps, however, are frequently portrayed to be less than forthcoming with the agreed upon pay for prostitutes who work for them. In a significant number of cases, pimps have been known to physically and psychologically abuse their employees. Madams are less known for abuse, but are often accused of mishandling the funds of call girls in their employ.

Depending upon the country and the culture, prostitution may be considered a legal or illegal profession. In areas where it is lawful, there are commonly rules imposed by governments to ensure local prostitutes practice safe sex in their business activities to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The workers are also generally required to have regular physical exams to ensure they are healthy and pose no threat to their customers’ well-being.

In regions where prostitution is deemed a crime, the punishment ranges from simple fines or short stints in jail to death. Some jurisdictions recognize the business transaction of prostitution as legal, but make it difficult to lawfully practice by imposing restrictions on how and where it can be conducted. These controls commonly include the prohibition of pimping, running a brothel and publicly offering prostitution services.

Discuss this Article

anon295128
Post 11

This is a wonderful article. I deeply thank the person who wrote it. The only thing I want to say is that there is no more horrible thing than selling our bodies.

anon269436
Post 7

Love is the ultimate reason for any sexual activity between husband and wife. It's awful when both man and woman are doing this activity just for pleasure, not founded by love, but lust.

formerescort
Post 5

to Laura M.- anon146887: I was a former "high class" escort and your words were far from the truth. I used condoms perfectly and I still caught Chlamydia, Trich and Hep C antibodies while seeing "high class professionals". Condoms do not protect against the HPV virus, which by the way, new estimates suggest 7.5 million people in the US alone have it. With more than 100 million people infected with one or more of 20 STDs in the United States alone, it is unrealistic to expect that a paper-thin, nearly weightless sheath of polyurethane or latex will slow down the epidemic. Though I am glad for you that you didn't catch anything, the truth is that you were lucky and blessed. There is no such thing as safe sex! I am a living testament to that!

Furthermore, the escort does not keep families together. The escort and my decisions to work in that industry robbed me of my parenthood and I lost my son because of it. Money isn't everything. No amount of money can replace the child I lost.

Truth be told, the men you were sleeping with were only interested in you for sex, and you were only interested in their money. Can you honestly tell me that you could rely on any of those men to take your child to the doctor? Stay up with your sick child at night so that you could sleep or hold your hand when you wake up out of surgery? Can you honestly tell me that they would still be in interested in you when you wake up with bad breath in the morning or a night of sickness of vomiting? Of course not! They were a means to support yourself and that was it.

And you're right: they don't own your sexuality but neither do you. Put your effort into a more positive experience by finding someone who will truly love you and you will realize just what owning your sexuality really means. Trust me. I know. You are worth it!

A former escort, Susan

aaaCookie
Post 3

I admit I don't know anything on a personal level about this subject. However, I think there does need to be a difference established between high-price "escorts" and the sorts of prostitutes referred to as "street walkers"- the poorer women working for whatever they can get, often on the streets in poor areas. While for a woman who can get a high paying escort job, it might be safe or even fun to do, perhaps an adventure, that is probably not the case for 9 out of 10 women who work in prostitution.

sapphire12
Post 2

Prostitution is often referred to as the "oldest profession", and I do think there is a reason for that. While I find the very idea of it totally abhorrent, I know that in some parts of the world at all times in history it has been, and even still is, the only option for some young women or even teenage girls. While this saddens and disgusts me, I don't really know if the legalization of it in more places would hurt or help those who see it as a way out.

anon146887
Post 1

This is a much more positive article on prostitution than most others.

I worked for myself as an escort. For me there was no such thing as a pimp. I did, however, employ a security guard - but I was in control.

I enjoyed my work. I maintained strong boundaries and chose my customers carefully. By doing this, I have pleasant memories as I was treated with the utmost respect from the men who visited me.

For me, prostitution helped me get on my feet. I became stronger and far more empowered. I was happy to work only two hours a day, and it was when and if I felt like it. And in the comforts of my own home.

In Australia, prostitution is legal. We also have sexual check ups every three months.

Overall, it was a very positive experience. The only negativity about it is people's ignorant attitudes. But this is only because there has been little education on the subject. I have now written a book called "You Don't Own My Sexuality," which shares my experience of escort work and the positive aspects to prostitution.

Escorts keep many families together. They also can help to keep incest and child molestation stats down. Rape too can be greatly reduced, and so can domestic violence.

Without prostitution, society would be in chaos. --Laura M.

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