PROSTITUTION

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PROSTITUTION 

 

 

Why do people turn to prostitutes or even become a prostitute?   Are those that turn to prostitutes or even an escort not getting enough intimacy in their own relationship or worse?  Do people become prostitutes due to economic necessity?  Were they   a victim of sexual abuse? Or any form of abuse?  Were they neglected and are looking for love and this is the only outlet they have?  There could be a number of reasons why people get into this lifestyle and it is not only related to women, men are involved as well.   Is there a relationship between Pornography and Prostitution?

I am sure that many people would prefer to have this issue swept under the cover but I feel that it is worth talking about so many of us can at least attempt to understand the matter a little better.  And I hope I can provide information on this subject that helps.  I am aware that in many cities that once had what is referred to as a “red light district” for prostitution (such as the 42nd Street area in Manhattan), many of these areas have undergone  a remarkable transformation into a more upscale and popular areas to visit.   Prostitution may not have totally gone away, but it is not nearly as visible as it had been prior.  Prostitutes/escorts put themselves at risk for violence as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

Prostitution is the business or practice of engaging in sexual relations, in exchange for payment.  A person who works in this field is called a prostitute, and is a sex worker.  Prostitution is one of the branches of the sex industry.  The legal status of prostitution varies from country to country, from being permissible but unregulated, to an enforced or unenforced crime or to a regulated profession. Prostitution is sometimes also referred to as “the world’s oldest profession”. Estimates place the annual revenue generated from the global prostitution industry to be over $100 billion. Prostitution occurs in a variety of forms.  Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution. In escort prostitution, the act may take place at the client’s residence or hotel room (referred to as out-call), or at the escort’s residence or a hotel room rented for the occasion by the escort (in-call). Another form is street prostitution. Although the majority of prostitutes are female with male clients, there are also gay male prostitutes, lesbian prostitutes, and straight male prostitutes.  Sex tourism refers to traveling to engage in sexual relations with prostitutes. Some rich clients may pay for long-term contracts that may last for years.

The word prostitute was carried down through various languages to the present-day Western society. Most sex worker groups reject the word prostitute and since the late 1970s have used the term sex worker instead. However, sex worker can also mean anyone who works within the sex industry or whose work is of a sexual nature and is not limited solely to prostitutes.   A variety of terms are used for those who engage in prostitution, some of which distinguish between different types of prostitution or imply a value judgment about them. Common alternatives for prostitute include escort and whore; however, not all professional escorts are prostitutes.

Correct or not, use of the word prostitute without specifying a sex may commonly be assumed to be female; compound terms such as male prostitution or male escort are therefore often used to identify males. Those offering services to female customers are commonly known as gigolos; those offering services to male customers are hustlers or rent boys.  Organizers of prostitution may be known as pimps (if male) and madams or Mama-san (if female).   The clients of prostitutes are also known as johns or tricks in North America and punters in the British Isles.  These slang terms are used among both prostitutes and law enforcement for persons who solicit prostitutes. The term john may have originated from the frequent customer practice of giving one’s name as “John”, a common name in English-speaking countries, in an effort to maintain anonymity. In some places, men who drive around red-light districts for the purpose of soliciting prostitutes are also known as kerb crawlers.    Some prostitutes in ancient Greece were as famous for their company as their beauty, some of these women charged extraordinary sums for their services.

In ancient Rome, a registered prostitute was called a meretrix while the unregistered one fell under the broad category prostibulae. There were some commonalities with the Greek system, but as the Empire grew, prostitutes were often foreign slaves, captured, purchased, or raised for that purpose, sometimes by large-scale “prostitute farmers” who took abandoned children.   Indeed, abandoned children were almost always raised as prostitutes. Enslavement into prostitution was sometimes used as a legal punishment against criminal free women. Buyers were allowed to inspect naked men and women for sale in private and there was no stigma attached to the purchase of males by a male aristocrat.

Throughout the Middle Ages the definition of a prostitute has been ambiguous, with various organizations defining prostitution in constantly evolving terms. Even though medieval secular authorities created legislation to deal with the phenomenon of prostitution, they rarely attempted to define what a prostitute was because it was deemed unnecessary “to specify exactly who fell into that [specific] category” of a prostitute. The first known definition of prostitution was found in Marseille’s thirteenth century statutes, which included a chapter entitled De meretricibus (“regarding prostitutes”).  The Marseillais designated prostitutes as “public girls” who, day and night, received two or more men in their house, and as a woman who “did business trading [their bodies], within the confine[s] of a brothel.” In general prostitution was not typically a life-time career choice for women. Women usually alternated their career of prostitution with “petty retailing, and victualing,” or only occasionally turning to prostitution in times of great financial need. Women who became prostitutes often did not have the familial ties or means to protect themselves from the lure of prostitution, and it has been recorded on several occasions that mothers would be charged with prostituting their own daughters in exchange for extra money. Medieval civilians accepted without question the fact of prostitution; it was necessary part of medieval life. Prostitutes subverted the sexual tendencies of male youth, just by existing. With the establishment of prostitution men were less likely to collectively rape honest women of marriageable and re-marriageable age.    In urban societies there was an erroneous view that prostitution was flourishing more in rural regions rather than in cities, however it has been proven that prostitution was more rampant in cities and large towns. Although there were wandering prostitutes in rural areas who worked based on the calendar of fairs, similar to riding a circuit, in which prostitutes stopped by various towns based on what event, was going on at the time, most prostitutes remained in cities. Cities tended to draw more prostitutes due to the sheer size of the population and the institutionalization of prostitution in urban areas which made it more rampant in metropolitan regions.  Furthermore in both urban and rural areas of society, women who did not live under the rule of male authority were more likely to be suspected of prostitution that their oppressed counterparts because of the fear of women who did not fit into a stereotypical category outside of marriage or religious life.

Although brothels were still present in most cities and urban centers, and could range from private bordelages run by a procuress from her home to public baths and centers established by municipal legislation, the only centers for prostitution legally allowed were the institutionalized and publicly funded brothels.   However this did not prevent illegal brothels from thriving. Furthermore, brothels theoretically banned the patronage of married men and clergy also, but it was sporadically enforced and there is evidence of clergymen present in brawls that were documented in brothels.   Brothels also settled the “obsessive fear of the sharing of women” and solved the issue of “collective security.” The lives of prostitutes in brothels were not cloistered like that of nuns and “only some lived permanently in the streets assigned to them.” Prostitutes were only allowed to practice their trade in the brothel in which they worked.  Brothels were also used to protect prostitutes and their clients through various regulations. For example the law that “forbid brothel keepers [from] beat[ing] them.”  However, brothel regulations also hindered prostitutes’ lives by forbidding them from having “lovers other than their customers” or from having a favored customer.

Canon Law defined a prostitute as “a promiscuous woman, regardless of financial elements.” The prostitute was considered a “whore … who [was] available for the lust of many men,” and was most closely associated with promiscuity. The Church’s stance on prostitution was three-fold: “acceptance of prostitution as an inevitable social fact, condemnation of those profiting from this commerce, and encouragement for the prostitute to repent.” The Church was forced to recognize its inability to remove prostitution from the worldly society, and in the fourteenth century “began to tolerate prostitution as a lesser evil.”   However, prostitutes were to be excluded from the Church as long as they practiced.   Around the twelfth century, the idea of prostitute saints took hold, with Mary Magdalene being one of the most popular saints of the era. The Church used Mary Magdalene’s biblical history of being a reformed harlot to encourage prostitutes to repent and mend their ways.  Simultaneously, religious houses were established with the purpose of providing asylum and encouraging the reformation of prostitution. ‘Magdalene Homes’ were particularly popular and peaked especially in the early fourteenth century.   Over the course of the Middle Ages, popes and religious communities made various attempts to remove prostitution or reform prostitutes, with varying success.

In the Turkish baths, the masseurs were traditionally young men, who helped wash clients by soaping and scrubbing their bodies. They also worked as sex workers.  The Ottoman texts describe who they were, their prices, how many times they could bring their customers to organism, and the details of their sexual practices.

Beginning in the late 1980s, many states in the US increased the penalties for prostitution in cases where the prostitute is knowingly HIV–positive. Penalties for felony prostitution vary, with maximum sentences of typically 10 to 15 years in prison.

Prostitution is a significant issue in feminist thought and activism. Many feminists are opposed to prostitution, which they see as a form of exploitation of women and male dominance over women, and as a practice which is the result of the existing patriarchal societal order. These feminists argue that prostitution has a very negative effect, both on the prostitutes themselves and on society as a whole, as it reinforces stereotypical views about women, who are seen as sex objects which can be used and abused by men. Other feminists hold that prostitution can be a valid choice for the women who choose to engage in it; in this view, prostitution must be differentiated from forced prostitution, and feminists should support sex worker activism against abuses by both the sex industry and the legal system.

Historically church prostitutes exist, and may be legal or illegal depending on the country, state or province. Legality will depend on the state or country civil laws and whether religious freedoms allow for acts of prostitution to be protected by religious freedoms. If prostitution is legal then logically, any religious or church prostitutes would also be legal or sanctioned.  From a religious perspective, absolution or atonement from sin is told by the story Jesus saving Mary Magdalene. In the New Testament, Jesus cleansed her of “seven demons and is sometimes interpreted that she was a prostitute because of the consolidation of the seven deadly sins of  lust, greed, pride, gluttony, sloth, wrath, and envy. The Gospel references describe her as courageous, brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hours of suffering, death and beyond.   The position of prostitution and the law varies widely worldwide, reflecting differing opinions on victimhood and exploitation, inequality, gender roles, gender equality, ethics and morality, freedom of choice, historical social norms and social costs and benefits.

Survival sex is when the prostitute is driven to prostitution by a need for basic necessities such as food or shelter. This type of prostitution is common among the homeless and in refugee camps.   The term is used in the sex trade and by aid workers, although some practitioners do not regard the act as exploitative.      About the prostitution of children the laws on prostitution as well as those on sex with a child apply. If prostitution in general is legal there is usually a minimum age requirement for legal prostitution that is higher than the general age of consent.  Although some countries do not single out patronage of child prostitution as a separate crime, the same act is punishable as sex with an underage person.

Virtual sex, that is, sexual acts conveyed by messages rather than physically, is also the subject of commercial transactions. Commercial phone sex services have been available for decades. The advent of the Internet has made other forms of virtual sex available for money, including computer-mediated cybersex, in which sexual services are provided in text form by way of chat rooms, instant messaging or through a webcam.

In some places, prostitution may be associated with the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.    In countries and areas where safer sex precautions are either unavailable or not practiced for cultural reasons, prostitution is an active disease vector for all STDs, including HIV/AIDS, but the encouragement of safer sex practices, combined with regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases, has been very successful when applied consistently.

Kathy Kiefer

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