Prostitution is often called “the oldest profession in the world”. One of the first forms is sacred prostitution supposedly practiced among Sumerians. In ancient sources (Herodotus, Thucydides) there are many traces of sacred prostitution, starting perhaps with Babylon where each woman had to reach once a year the sanctuary of Militta (Aphridites or Nana/Anahita) and have sex with a foreigner as a sign of hospitality for a symbolic price.
Prostitution is the sale of sexual services (typically oral sex or sexual intercourse, less often anal sex) for money or other kind of return, generally indiscriminate with many persons. A person selling sexual favors in a prostitute and is called a sex worker. Most prostitutes are woman offering their services to men (known as Johns,) but male prostitutes are women offering their services to make customers also exist and are called hustlers or rent boys. Male prostitutes offering services to female customers are comparatively rare and are known as gigolos. Prostitutes are stigmatized in most societies and religions; their customers are typically stigmatized to a lesser degree.
The term prostitution is sometimes used in the more general meaning of having sex in order to achieve a certain goal different from procreation or pleasure. This includes forms of religious prostitution in which sex is practiced in compliance with religious precepts. Prostitution in this broader sense is also commonly used in espionage. Another generalization is using the term or an equivalent for earning well in an unscrupulous degrading manner.
Prostitution today occurs in various forms. In street prostitution, the prostitute solicits customers while waiting at street corners or walking alongside a street usually dressed in skimpy, suggestive clothing. The act is performed in the customer’s care or in a nearby rented room. This is the lowest paid and most dangerous form of prostitution; street prostitutes are often drug addicts and are commonly subjected to violence by both their pimps and customers.
Prostitution occurs in some massage parlous and in Asian countries, in some barber shops, where sexual services may be offered for an additional tip. Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution often confined to special red-light areas in big cities.
In escort prostitution, the customer calls and agency and the act takes place at the customer’s place of residence or more commonly at his hotel room. Prostitution also takes place in the prostitute’s apartment and in many counties as a legal form of prostitution. A hybrid between brothel and apartment prostitution exists in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands: female prostitutes rent tiny one room apartments in red-light areas and solicit customers from behind windows.
In Japan it is not uncommon for middle-class school girls to prostitute themselves, often via ‘phone clubs’ that allow them to anonymously establish contact first by phone. In many countries illegal immigrants work in prostitution often against their will. The term used for forcing people into prostitution is “sexual slavery”. In addition to the first world, this also takes place in countries of South Asia such as India and Thailand where young girls are sometimes sold to brothel owners. In modern day in Thailand this is becoming much rarer. While in both of these societies visiting prostitutes is a common and almost normal behavior, Thailand is also a destination of sex tourist, travelers from rich counties in search of cheap sexual services. Other popular sex tourism destinations are Brazil, the Caribbean and former eastern bloc countries.
Female prostitution, especially street prostitutes, are commonly associated with a pimp, a man who lives off the proceeds of several prostitutes and may offer some protection in return. The relationship between pimp and prostitutes is often abusive.
The unadorned act of exchanging money for sex among adults is legal in many countries; the United States (except for most Nevada countries), Muslim and various Communist countries being notable exception. At one end of the spectrum, prostitution carries the death penalty in several Muslim countries; at the other end, prostitutes are taxpaying and unionized professionals in the Netherlands and brothels are legal and advertising business there (however, the age of consent for prostitution is 18, while in general it is 16). In most countries, it is however almost impossible to engage in most forms of prostitution legally because several surrounding activities, such as advertising, solicitation, pimping, owning, operating or working in a brothel are not permitted legally.
Sweden outlaws the buying but not selling of sex. Law enforcement is typically concentrated against establishments engaged in sexual slavery or owned by organized crime and against forms of prostitution that generate citizen complaints. In most countries where prostitution is illegal at least some forms of it are tolerated. It has often been alleged that this situation allows the police to extort money or services from prostitutes in exchange for “looking the other way”.
In some jurisdictions, such as Nevada, Switzerland and several Australian states, prostitution is legal but heavily regulates. Such approaches are taken with the recognition that prostitution is impossible to eliminate in an open society and thus these societies have chosen to regulate it in ways that reduce the more undesirable aspects of the practice. Goals of such regulations include controlling sexually transmitted diseases, reducing sexual slavery, controlling where brothels may operate as well as other reasons that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Daily Planet is a brothel in Melbourne, Australia of which since 2003 shares are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Several western countries have recently enacted laws punishing citizens who, as sex-tourists, engaged in sex with minors in other countries. These are rarely enforced.
Since prostitutes tend to have large numbers of sexual partners, prostitution has often been associated with the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, like AIDS.
There are a number of typical responses to this problem: to try to ban prostitution completely, to introduce a system of registration for prostitutes that mandates health checks and other public health measures to try reach out informally to prostitutes and their clients to encourage the use of barrier contraception and greater productive. Banning prostitution tends to drive it underground, making treatment and monitoring more difficult. Registering prostitutes makes the state complicit in prostitution, effectively making the state into a pimp and still does not address the behavior of unregistered prostitutes. Both of the last two measures can be viewed as harm reduction policies.
Many countries have sex worker advocacy groups which lobby against criminalization and discrimination of prostitutes. These groups generally oppose Nevada-style regulation and over sight, stating that prostitution should be treated like other professions. Other groups, often with religious backgrounds, focus on offering women a way out of the world of prostitution while not taking position on the legal question.
The feminist position towards prostitution is divided: while some feminists believe prostitution as an act of sexual self-determination, decry discrimination and demand des-stigmatization and decriminalization, others, exemplified by the American radical feminist and ex-prostitute Andrea Dworkin, consider it to be a sexual abuse or even rape. The former group pushed a law reform in Germany resulting in January 2002 in the recognition of prostitution as a regular profession making it possible for prostitutes to join the social security and health care system and to form trade unions. The latter faction of feminists was able to implement the remarkable law mentioned above in Sweden in 1999 when being sexual favors was outlawed there but selling them was not.
In 1984, the United Nations adopted a convection stating that prostitution incompatible with human dignity requiring all signing parties to punish pimps and brothel owners and operators and to abolish all special treatment or registration of prostitutes. The convention was ratified by 89 countries with the notable exception of Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
Prostitution has long been an issue in controversy and both side offer compelling arguments to defend their position.
To being those opposed to the legalization of prostitution reveal several valid arguments. It is argued that prostitution is an immoral practice and thus should be against the law in the United States. Opponents of the morality position would claim that the job of the government is not to legislate morality. Another solid argument against legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution is that it encourages adultery. But, opponents would answer back that adultery occurs even with illegal prostitution. Legalizing prostitution, opponents argue, would victimize the desperate; for instance, young children and runaway children who needed money to survive. According to an expert on prostitution, current prostitution ratios in Europe are “incompatible with universal standards of human rights.” The expert and others activities against legal prostitution are worried that physical and sexual violence will increase as the demands increase. The same author concludes that prostitution should now be classified as violence against women and all future rulings regarding prostitution has been legalized; prostitutes have not achieved greater autonomy or protection from exploitation by their pimps. And in Netherlands, legalization has led to the increase of organized crime, making the trafficking of women a very lucrative business.
There is a wide speared view that prostitution should be legalized. Proponents of the idea have fascinating answers and solutions to the problems raised by the anti-prostitution crowd. For instance, legalization proponents point to Nevada as a success story. Since prostitution was legalized in Nevada in 1986, HIV testing shows no positive tests amongst the state’s prostitutes, according to Randall Todd, Chief of the Nevada State health Division’s Bureau of Disease Control and Intervention Services. Additionally, costs are in favor of the legalization crowed, as “According to studies complied during the 1980s, the average prostitution arrest costs tax payers $2000,” which was a considerable amount of money during that period. Current estimates for prostitution enforcement in cities across the United States around $ 7.5 million per year. New York City spends over $ 23 million each year on outlawing prostitution. Not only would legalization help save city costs, but it would also generate revenue through special taxes commonly called “sin taxes”. Opponents argue that legalization is a risky scheme. Realistically, proponents argue, people sell religion, politics, and education all the time. Others buy the products sold without problem. Only when the product happens to be your body- what is rightfully, your own property, does the government step in.
The debate over the legality of prostitution will continue despite valid arguments on both sides of the spectrum. The criminalization of prostitution is likely to continue unless a drastic change in policy occurs in the near future. Until that change does occur, the push for legalization of prostitution will continue, along with the growing movements to overturn drug and sodomy laws. In any case, the prostitution profession will continue as it has been continuing since time immemorial.