On Labor Day: The World’s Oldest Profession

September 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Prostitute talking to a potential customer in ...

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People joke that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. This would seem to imply that prostitution somehow qualifies as a “profession.” It’s a job. But it’s hardly a profession. The last time I checked no one issued a diploma in prostitution.

Most prostitution in the United States is illegal. It is legal in only twelve rural counties in Nevada. Some of those counties don’t even contain brothels. There are essentially three forms of prostitution: street prostitution, brothels, and escort services, otherwise known as call girls.

The overwhelming majority of prostitues are girls and women, although there are some men. Most of the men service other men, but a tiny percentage of male prostitutes service women. Prostitutes are generally paid by five factors: the venue they work in, their clients, and their race, youth, and level of physical attractiveness.

Women are paid more than men on average. Younger women are paid more on average, as they are seen as less of a risk for sexually transmitted disease. This could also be due to just a taste for younger flesh. White women command higher rates, and by default one could conclude that young, attractive white women make the most money from prostitution.

Street prostitution is the lowest rung of prostitution. It exists in every major US city in pocket neighborhoods. Typically, police run a sting in one neighborhood, and they scatter to two or three other areas until they’re raided there, and then go back once again to the point of origin, and the cycle continues ad nauseum.

A lot of prostitutes are forced into prostitution, so-called white slavery. Some are not forced but, rather, coerced. The average age for the beginning of a prostitute’s career is 12-14 for a girl and 11-13 for a boy. Staggering, huh?

Lots of times kids begin their careers on the streets as runaways. It’s not something they’ve chosen to do but instead it’s something they do on occasion to survive, to buy a hotel room for the night or some food to eat. Eventually, these kids end up doing it regularly, and it becomes a job for them. Given that they’ve run away from home so young, I think it’s safe to assume that most of them come from abusive homes where they were already beaten or expected to service a family member sexually.

It’s not uncommon in some suburban areas of the United States nowadays for girls to be recruited from middle class homes by pimps. Sometimes they’re enticed by the promise of good money and an escape from boredom. Who knows? Maybe they thrill to the danger involved. Sometimes these girls are coerced with threats of violence to their families. “I know where you live.”

A lot of people think that prostitution should be legalized. A lot of the people I’ve talked with about this are men. And I think they mean well. I really do. I even think that it’s possible that they don’t paint a sex worker with the same stigma that the rest of our society does.

There’s a great argument for it. Look at Amsterdam: Land of All Vices Legal. They’ve really cut down on some of the reasons people cite for their objections to prostitution: human trafficking, the exploitation of minors, the rampant spread of STDs, the threat of sexual abuse and battery to sex workers, the highway robbery of pimps and madams who steal a significant percentage if not all of the sex workers’ wages.

All these evils have been eliminated in Amsterdam, if we are to believe them, simply by legalizing prostitution. Who wouldn’t want to improve these people’s lives by simply legalizing and regulating and thereby legitimizing and taxing their “profession”? What narrow minded person would be opposed to such good?

I would. I would be that narrow minded person. I’ll tell you why. With very few exceptions, the women who are involved in sex work come into it by happenstance, by force, coercion, or exploitation. And then they feel trapped there because it is all they have ever known or because they don’t know how to do any better, or because they think the greater world will never forgive them the stigma associated with an arrest record for prostitution. And, largely, they are right. I think very few major American corporations would hire people of either sex who have a conviction for prostitution.

Some women fall into prostitution of their own accord. But they inevitably do it for the money. They do it because they can make $2,000 in an hour by having sex with a stranger when I make $3,000 in a month doing other work. I realize no one’s going to pay me $2,000 an hour to have sex with him, but that’s beside the point. These women don’t become prostitutes out of some sense of adding to the common good or a sense of self-satisfaction that they get out of sexually servicing men. I’d be very surprised to hear any woman say that, and if she did, then bully for her, and I would tell her that maybe she should remain a prostitute.

But I think it’s kind of funny that the women who glamorize prostitution for us, such as the Heidi Fleisses and the Sidney Biddle Barrows and the Xaveria Hollanders of this world, don’t derive their satisfaction from being sex workers. They would lead us to believe that it’s a victimless crime. Who doesn’t like sex? The woman gets paid handsomely. The Happy Hooker stereotype.

If these women were so happy as hookers, then why did they become madams? And after some of them got caught, then why did they become authors and reality TV stars? Why not just move to Amsterdam and continue to enjoy doing what they do so well? Good question.

And finally, the best argument for not legalizing prostitution. Well, there are two of them. The first is that there is no such thing as Whore Barbie. When they make Whore Barbie in the Streetwalker, Chicken Ranch, and Escort versions, then maybe we should consider legalizing it as a profession because that means that little girls will see it as being something to aspire to when they grow up.

And the other best argument would be if the men friends of mine who think prostitution should be legalized would really wish for their daughters, sisters, and mothers to be whores. Really. Would you be okay with that? You think she would be fulfilled and self actualized? When you really, really feel that way, and prostitution has a four year degree at the university and a pamphlet in the high school guidance counselor’s office, then maybe we should consider it.


Entry filed under: Child Abuse, Ethics, Human Rights, Sex, Women's Rights. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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