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A young man offers money to a woman (a Greek vase)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Femmes de maison, around 1895.
World map showing the legal status of prostitution by country:
  Prostitution legal and regulated
  Prostitution (the exchange of sex for money) is legal, but organised activities such as brothels are illegal; prostitution is not regulated
  Prostitution illegal
  No data
Advertising a novel
A photograph of a child prostitute in London, 1871. On the back was "Mary Simpson, a common prostitute age 10 or 11 year... She is four month with child".

A prostitute is a person, most of the time a woman, who has sex with people for money or another kind of payment. Prostitution is sometimes called the "world's oldest profession". There are written records of prostitution in almost every culture and society. In many countries, it is a crime. In some places, the police only arrest the customers. A place where many prostitutes work is called a Brothel.

Terminology[change | change source]

Prostitution is sometimes called the oldest profession or oldest occupation.[1] A female prostitute is sometimes called a hooker, whore or ho. A male prostitute is sometimes called a gigolo.[2] They can both be called a street walker, sex worker or escort. Customers or clients are sometimes called sugar mamas, stellas or janes if female.[3] They are called johns if male.[4]

Ways and methods[change | change source]

Some prostitutes walk the streets looking for customers. They are usually called "streetwalkers" and are the most noticeable type of prostitutes. Others work in bars and nightclubs. Others may work at a building called a brothel. Other prostitutes may work from their homes or from an apartment rented for the purpose, and have their clients (customers) contact them by phone or on the internet. Some prostitutes may have a boss (a person they work for and who they may give part of the money they make to), who may be called a "madame" (if they are a woman) or a "pimp" (if they are a man).

Not all prostitutes have a boss; some get business through an escort agency, which is a business or person the prostitute pays to advertise for them and get clients for them.[5] Many prostitutes just work for themselves. The city of Amsterdam is famous for its prostitutes in the Red-light district (a part of a city where prostitution is common). In the Red-light district, some of the prostitutes sit in windows to show that they are available for business. Some people think that in the future, human prostitutes will lose their jobs to sexbots.[6]

Different aspects[change | change source]

United States federal government World War II era poster against prostitution.

Legality[change | change source]

The legal status of prostitution varies from country to country. Many countries have laws about prostitution. Some countries have made prostitution illegal. There are four main approaches to handling prostitution:

  1. Prohibition or fully illegal – Prostitution is forbidden, all acts relating to prostitution and people caught doing them will be punished. This includes "solicitation", which is when someone offers or advertises sex for money, or when a person offers someone money in exchange for sex.
  2. Decriminalization – Prostitution itself is not illegal, but some of the acts relating to it may be. For example, standing on the street offering sex for sale might not be legal. Almost always, trying to get someone to become a prostitute when they don't want to is still illegal.
  3. Abolition – This is not a type of law itself, but it might be a reason behind the laws in some places, usually similar to decriminalization. The long-term goal of "abolition" is to "abolish" prostitution, meaning to try to get it to stop completely. In this approach, the prostitutes themselves are seen as victims, and are not usually punished. Acts connected with prostitution (running a brothel, etc.) are punished. Often people requesting the services of a prostitute are punished as well.
  4. Regulation – Prostitution is legal, but the state regulates it. This may be because it is seen as acceptable between adults who say they are ok with it, because it is seen as necessary or because the law-makers accept that it is not going to stop even if it is illegal and a better idea is to make it safer for everyone. Running a brothel requires a license and prostitutes need to register and undergo regular health checks. Prostitutes and brothel-owners pay taxes like other workers and businesses.

Examples: In some countries, like Turkey, prostitution is legal if done with a license from the government but illegal on the streets. In some Muslim countries prostitution is not only illegal, it is punished by death. In Japan, only certain sex acts are legal; vaginal sex for money is against the law while oral sex for money is legal.

Advertising[change | change source]

A number of stickers on a pay phone in Sao Paulo.

There are some places, where prostitution is legal, but advertising for it is not. In Germany since 2016 both is legal. Since the new prostitution law (Prostituiertenschutzgesetz vom 21. Oktober 2016 (BGBl. I S. 2372)) was included, advertising is not prohibited anymore as long as youth protection is respected. Potential customers find all necessary information about the prostitutes they need in the web, and are able to contact them with their phones. Usually customers visit the apartment of the prostitutes or order them to their home or hotel room. In the Netherlands, both prostitution and advertising for it are legal as well. Hidden advertising is still done. It can take different forms:

Problems[change | change source]

There are different problems surrounding prostitution, some of them are shortly outlined below.

Finding the best system for prostitution[change | change source]

Prostitution in some form or other has always existed, and probably will always exist. One of the problems is that some of the activities linked to prostitutions are dangerous, and sometimes illegal. Where it is illegal, it is often controlled by criminals, who run brothels as they run a black market. There is also the problem of human trafficking, prostitutes are often forced to work. They are also prone to being exploited. Some people say that making prostitution legal where it is not will not solve these problems. The same people would run the businesses, but they would no longer be criminals. The situation for the prostitutes would probably not change much, as the ways the former criminals run these businesses would not change much either. Other people see a different problem: Legalizing prostitution would lead to some legal prostitution, that would well-regulated, and probably worked well. On the other hand, there would also be the illegal prostitution, which would not change much.

There are also solutions that cover the prostitute as an independet entrepreneur. Therefore these self-employees have to inform the government about their transactions and business activities. In Germany e.g. a new prostitution law was passed back in 2017 wich forces those sex-workers to own a "prostitution-pass" they have to show their client. Many german sexclubs now don't employ the prostitutes anymore but rent them rooms for their activities and charge the club visitors with an entry-fee instead. A famous bordello in germany wich was a pioneer with that concept even before the law passed is the Club König in Lower Saxony.

Human trafficking and sexual slavery[change | change source]

The White Slave by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle; representing forced prostitution, usually of children.

One of the first targets of law enforcement actions against illegal prostitution is to find the people who force people into prostitution. This is called sexual slavery. Sex trafficking is when people are taken somewhere in order to be a prostitute. It might be done by forcing them or by tricking them in some way. Sex trafficking is one type of Human trafficking. Some people have called human trafficking "the fastest growing form of modern-day slavery",[7] and the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.[8]

According to a study done in 2006, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders each year, and millions trafficked inside their own countries. This includes all types of human trafficking, although trafficking for prostitution is thought by some to make up a large portion of trafficking. Because it is illegal, it is hard to find out the real number of women or children forced into sex work. The study estimated that eighty percent of transnational victims are women and girls and up to half of them may be minors (meaning not adults).[9]

Children are sold into the global sex trade every year. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned. In some cases they are even sold by their own families. According to the International Labour Organization, the problem is well known in Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and India.[10]

The main causes of human trafficking are poverty, war, and other social issues. Some women are made to believe promises of a better life, sometimes by people who are known and trusted to them. Traffickers may own legitimate travel agencies, modeling agencies and employment offices in order to gain women's trust. Others are simply kidnapped. Once overseas it is common for their passport to be taken away by the trafficker and to be warned of the consequences should they attempt to escape. This may include beatings, rape, threats of violence against their family and death threats. It is common, particularly in Eastern Europe, that should they manage to return to their families they will only be trafficked once again. When an area has a lot of prostitutes some people say its a "sexidemic" (too much).[11]

Globally, forced labour generates $31bn, half of it in the industrialised world, a tenth in transition countries, the International Labour Organization says in a report on forced labour.[12] Trafficking in people has been made easier by porous borders and advanced communication technologies, it has become increasingly transnational in scope and highly lucrative within its barbarity.

In some countries counselling, accommodation and specialist care exists to help trafficked people escape. In other countries, this support is lacking and individuals are often treated as illegal immigrants and deported.

Child prostitutes[change | change source]

One of the big problems is that of child prostitution. Most prostitution happens between adults, but many prostitutes are children. This means that people caught with these prostitutes may also face charges of having sex with a child. In most countries, prostitutes do need to be of a certain age, which is usually higher than the age of consent. Usually, having sex with a child is punished harshly.

Certain people travel to other countries to have sex with children, which is forbidden where they live. Many countries have changed their laws so they also apply outside their territory. The crime is usually not discovered, so these laws are rarely enforced.[13][14][15]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Jones, Gavin W., Endang Sulistyaningsih, and Terence H. Hull. "Prostitution in Indonesia." (1995).
  2. Taylor, Jacqueline Sánchez. "Tourism and ‘embodied’commodities: sex tourism in the Caribbean." Tourism and sex: Culture, commerce and coercion (2000): 41-53.
  3. Engler, Kim, et al. "Explaining the presence of “heterosexual” female clients of a rapid HIV testing site located in the gay village of Montreal, Quebec." Journal of primary care & community health 7.2 (2016): 122-129.
  4. Eyre, Stephen L., et al. "2. A Study of Vernacular Partner Terms: Possible Cultural Cues to Condom use." Journal of Adolescent Health 50.2 (2012): S7.
  5. Not all escort agencies supply prostitutes.
  6. Mackenzie, Robin. "Sexbots: replacements for sex workers? Ethical constraints on the design of sentient beings for utilitarian purposes." Proceedings of the 2014 Workshops on Advances in Computer Entertainment Conference. ACM, 2014.
  7. "Trafficking". Antislavery.org. Archived from the original on 2007-08-11. Retrieved 2007-07-27.
  8. "Responding to Modern-Day Slavery". 2006-10-20. Archived from the original on 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  9. [1] Archived 2014-07-01 at the Wayback Machine "Lost Daughters - An Ongoing Tragedy in Nepal," Women News Network - WNN, Dec 05, 2008
  10. "ECPAT-USA".
  11. Poston, Dudley L., and Karen S. Glover. "Too many males: Marriage market implications of gender imbalances in China." Genus (2005): 119-140.
  12. "A global alliance against forced labour", ILO, 11 May 2005
  13. "Teenage prostitution case shocks China". BBC News online.
  14. "Portugal abuse hearings halted". BBC News online.
  15. "UN damns Czech-German child sex". BBC News online.