Category Our Sexuality

Legal Status and Sex Work

The legal status and the principles underlying the laws pertaining to the buying and sell­ing of sexual services vary from place to place (Shaver, 2009). In most countries, includ­ing the United States, prostitution is considered an immoral activity and is illegal under criminal laws, except for some areas in Nevada. (Weitzer, 2007). In Sweden and some other Nordic countries, prostitution is viewed as a social ill and a form of violence against women (Mansson, 2009). Therefore, the purchase, not the sale, of sexual services is a crime: Sex workers are not arrested, but their customers may be and can receive up to 6 months in jail if convicted. Also, assisting others to purchase sexual services—procuring customers or running a brothel—is illegal under criminal law (Mansson, 2009).

In the United States a shift to prosecuting buyers of sexual services is developing (Burleigh, 2012). In Illinois men arrested for soliciting sex must pay a fine up to $1,000. Across the United States about 40 education programs emphasize the consequences and human rights issues of sex work and sex trafficking for men arrested for soliciting. Some locations publish the names and photos of men arrested for solicitation in news­papers as an attempt to deter men from purchasing sex (Salario, 2011).

In a few places, including some areas of Nevada, the Netherlands, and Germany, prostitution has been legalized but continues to be regulated under criminal laws. With legalization, sex work is usually viewed as morally repugnant, but an inevitable activity between consenting adults. Some advantages accrue for prostitutes under legalization when regulations for worker benefits include pensions, sick leave, and unemployment benefits and when brothel regulations emphasize safety and better working conditions (Weitzer, 2007). Generating tax revenues is a benefit for governments that legalize pros­titution. For example, the tax revenues from legalized prostitution in the Netherlands are estimated to be $57 million per year (Global Agenda, 2003).

In contrast, New Zealand, New South Wales, and parts of Australia have decrimi­nalized sex work, in large part due to public health concerns and the advocacy of sex worker organizations. The ministry of health, police, other governmental organizations, and citizens consulted in order to develop decriminalization standards. The basis for decriminalization is the tenet that sex work is a private matter between consenting adults. Therefore, the appropriate role of government is to establish policies to protect public health and to improve the health and safety of sex workers. Under decriminaliza­tion in New Zealand, sex work is no longer a crime but is governed by regulations that promote public health and working conditions of sex workers. Sex workers now have the same employment, legal, health, and safety rights and responsibilities that other workers have. When a sex worker wants to leave sex work for another occupation, she is not burdened by a criminal record that makes finding new work very difficult. She is also able to take advantage of education and training provided for sex workers who want out of the industry. However, prostitution of anyone under 18 years of age, coercing someone into prostitution, and sex trafficking are still illegal under criminal law.

New Zealand completed a 5-year follow-up study of the impact on public health and the welfare of sex workers since the decriminalization in 2003 (Gillian et al., 2009). The report clarified the benefits of decriminalization. First, sex workers had a high

level of condom use and safe sex practices, which supports both the sex worker and public health by reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted infections. Regulations require sex workers and customers to use condoms during sex, with a $2,000 fine for noncompliance. A sex worker was able to go to court and successfully sue a customer who secretly slipped off his condom prior to intercourse with her. Sex workers, whether working on the street or in brothels, reported having a greater ability to control their work environment to increase their safety. They were more able to refuse individual clients and to decline to engage in specific activities. They could work on well-lit streets and could utilize police as a resource for their protection instead of fearing arrest or harassment. They could declare their income and pay taxes and be involved in political activism for sex workers without fear of revealing their occupation. One aspect of sex work did not change: The social stigma of sex work remained the same. However, some sex workers were able to maintain a psychological distance between their sex work and their personal lives and to feel less stigmatization (Abel, 2011).

In spite of concerns raised by some prior to decriminalization in New Zealand, no overall increase in the number of sex workers or underage sex workers occurred (Gillian et al., 2009). The research findings about decriminalization of sex work in New Zealand indicate quite strongly that the most significant risks to the health and safety of sex work­ers are caused by sex work’s criminal status rather than by the work itself. Based partially on New Zealand’s experience, the Canadian government declared anti-prostitution laws unconstitutional in 2010 (Ansari, 2012). A report compiled from interviews with public health advocates, 450 sex workers, and 40 law enforcement officials recommended that sex work be decriminalized in order to protect the social, psychological, and physical rights of sex workers (Shaver et al, 2011).

from Hong Kong, Japan, the Pacific islands, and many other Asian places (Brotto et al., 2005). Similarly, Muslims in the United States originate from more than 60 countries, and the Hispanic population comes from 22 different countries. Many of these subgroups within the Muslim, Asian American, and Hispanic populations consider themselves cul­turally distinct from one another. However, in spite of the intragroup differences, when research looks at patterns, some inter-group differences emerge. For example, Asian Americans, on the whole, have more conservative sexual attitudes and are less likely to engage in premarital intercourse than are Hispanic Americans, African Americans, or Americans of European descent (Benuto & Meana, 2008; Woo et al., 2011). Again, His­panic culture, on the whole, often endorses sexual exploration for males but places a high value on chastity before marriage for women (Deardorff et al., 2010).

The degree of acculturation—that is, replacing traditional beliefs and behavior pat­terns with those of the dominant culture—also creates differences within subcultures. Recent immigrants tend to be close to the traditional values of their places of origin, but most individuals whose families have lived in North America for several generations are well assimilated. Films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, American Desi, and Monsoon Wedding depict the conflicts that can arise in immigrant families when the younger generation becomes more Americanized.

Perspectives on Sexuality

[2]Adapted from Douglas (1999) and Wyatt (1997).

[3]Some health professionals prefer to call these conditions sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.

Glorification of Pimps in the United States

Rachel Lloyd is an anti-trafficking advocate and founder of GEMS, the nation’s larg­est service provider to commercial sexually exploited and trafficked girls and young women. Pimps sell women to other men for sex, and Lloyd describes how pimping and "the adult men who seduce, kidnap, torture, brainwash then sell girls for sex" have become a status business identity in the United States. Rappers glamorize pimping, and corporate sponsors further popularize being a pimp. For example, in 2003, rapper 50 Cent released his song "P. I.M. P" and Reebok gave him a $50 million advertising contract. Rapper Snoop Dogg bragged about his pimping career and was described as "America’s Most Lovable Pimp" when featured on the December 2006 issue of Roll­ing Stone. His corporate endorsement deals include Boost Mobile cell phones, Orbit gum, and a commercial for Chrysler. The entertainment industry also contributes to glorifying pimps. In 2006 "It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp" by Three 6 Mafia won the Academy Award for Best Song. In reality, compared to other criminal behaviors, pimping is not particularly "hard" or risky and is usually a more profitable crime than selling drugs (Kristof, 2011; Saar, 2010).

Rachel Lloyd identifies pimps as essentially traffickers of girls and young women and states, "Frankly, it’s hard out here for a 13-year-old girl who’s under the control of an adult man who beats her daily, tattoos, brands his name on her body to mark her as his property, who controls her every movement and forces her to have sex nightly with dozens of adult men and then takes her money. If that’s not trafficking and slavery I don’t know what is" (Lloyd, 2010).

Customers of Sex Workers

Sex workers exist because there is a demand for their services. In the United States, "John" is the label for the men of all backgrounds, ages, races, religions, and socioeco­nomic status who buy sex. One study found that most men buying sex were married or with a partner and ranged in age from 20 to 75, with an average age of 41 (Bennetts, 2011). How many men have sex with prostitutes? A study of a representative sample of men around the world found that about 10% of them had exchanged money for sex in the last 12 months (Carael et al., 2006). In the United States, 93% of the men who used prostitutes had contact with a prostitute at least once a month (Freund et al., 1991).

What appeals to men about paying for sex? Sex in exchange for money gives a cus­tomer sexual contact without any emotional involvement or future commitment; it elim­inates the risk of rejection and offers an opportunity to engage in sexual activities that the customer does not perform with a partner (Califia, 2002; Watson & Vidal, 2011). Some Johns seek the feeling of power from aggressive sex (Bennetts, 2011). Research has found that men purchase sex at a higher rate in regions where women’s sexuality is tightly controlled: Prostitution rates are highest in Africa and China. The researchers concluded that gender equality would significantly reduce prostitution (Wellings et al., 2006).

Women are far less likely than men to pay for sex. However, female sex tourism has increased. Single, divorced, and married White women, primarily from Europe and North America, travel to third – world locales for liaisons with "beach boys," who provide flattery, com­panionship, and sex for money or gifts. African American women are most likely to travel as sex tourists to Jamaica, and Japanese women usually go to Bali (Hari, 2006). One female sex tourist stated, "In f England, men our age aren’t remotely interested. . . . Here, the men make us feel like gorgeous, sexy women again" (Knight, 2006, p. 2). |

The female sex tourists and the men they hire often hold a benign | view of their commercial relationship. One researcher found that the men often imagine they receive gifts of appreciation for helping these women, and female sex tourists believe they are helping the men and the local economy by giving them money and gifts (Hari, 2006).

The Personal Costs of Sex Work

Sex workers have very diverse working conditions and experiences (Weitzer, 2007). Decriminalization and legalization of sex work significantly improves the health and safety of sex workers, but most sex workers across the world operate under the disadvan­tages of criminal legal statutes. Sex workers can develop physical and mental health prob­lems as a result of violence, chronic stress, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, and a lack of control over their working conditions (Ward & Day, 2006; Wong et al., 2006). At the worst, women in the sex trade are murdered by their customers (Pelisek, 2011). The research in this section pertains to countries where prostitution is not decriminalized.

Two thirds of the sex workers in a nine-country study met diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which develops when an individual experiences overwhelming trauma. Some of the symptoms include recurrent nightmares, emotional numbness or fear, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and flashbacks (feelings of reliv­ing the original traumatic experience). According to this research, it is a misconception that sex workers enter the business to support their drug habits. Various studies have reported that prostitution precedes drug and alcohol abuse for 39-60% of individuals. Sex workers often began to abuse drugs and alcohol to try to cope with overwhelming negative feelings while working (Farley, 2004).

HIV/AIDS is another danger sex workers and their customers face. There is strong evidence that the number of infected prostitutes correlates with the HIV prevalence in a country (Talbott, 2007). Customers often pressure sex workers not to use condoms, and those in the United States who face the greatest pressures not to use condoms are younger than 18, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, service customers in cars or public spaces, are the most desperate for money, and are in the country illegally (Akarro, 2008; Shannon et al., 2009). A study in Mexico found that prostitutes receive a pre­mium of between 23% and 46% for unprotected sex—an increase from over $14,000 to $51,000 in income per year (Gertler et al., 2005). Programs that provide safe sex educa­tion or give female condoms to sex workers have seen an increase in the numbers of sex workers practicing safe sex (Hoke et al., 2007).

Worldwide Trafficking of Women and Children in Prostitution

The 60-year history of modern sex trafficking includes the brothels for U. S. troops that Japanese police officials and businessmen established at the end of World War II. Thousands of Japanese women provided cheap sex for 15-60 U. S. troops a day. The leadership of the U. S. occupation initially condoned the troops’ use of the prostitutes

chapter 18

immigration officials, travel agents, and bankers—are also involved (Finnegan, 2008). The fact that one trafficked sex worker can earn between $75,000 and $250,000 a year for her "employer" provides enormous financial incentives to all involved (Farr, 2004). The worldwide exploitation of children and women through sex trafficking is estimated to generate $7 billion to $10 billion in profits each year (Cwikel & Hoban, 2005).

Instead of giving people the legitimate employment they have promised, traffickers sell them to others who force them into sex work, primarily in wealthier, more stable nations or in locales known for sex tourism (Farr, 2004). For example, after the fall of communism in Europe during the 1990s, traffickers falsely promised legitimate employ­ment in Western Europe to Eastern European women facing poverty in their home countries (Thompson, 2008). Some women are lured into prostitution by promises of marriage in a foreign country. Traffickers also rely on kidnapping. Due to the chaos caused by the U. S. occupation of Iraq, for example, by 2011 criminal trafficking gangs had abducted an estimated 5,000 Iraqi women and girls (Naili, 2011b). Iraqi women and children who fled Iraq to escape the U. S. war also face the fear of being sold into prostitution by male relatives who are desperate for money (Soguel, 2010).

Traffickers also buy children from parents when the children are more of a financial burden than the family can manage. Orphans whose parents died of AIDS or were killed in the ethnic and tribal wars of Africa and Eastern Europe are highly vulnerable to exploitation (Hodge, 2008; Rios, 1996). Younger and younger children are sought for prostitution because customers regard them as more likely to be free of HIV. It is estimated that in Nepal each year about 7,000 girls as young as 9 years old are sold to "employers" who promise them good jobs; they end up in brothels in Mumbai, India, where HIV-positive men have sex with them, believing that having sex with a virgin will cure them (Kottler, 2008). Once the girls are infected, they are often sent back home. Consequently, sex trafficking plays a major role in the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections across South Asia (Silverman et al., 2008).

It is impossible to know how many women and children are trafficked across the world. The U. S. State Department estimates that 2 million children are subjected to prostitution across the globe (Spitzer, 2011). Destination countries tend to be wealthy and/or industrialized nations. A CIA-State Depart­ment report estimated that within the United States alone, 50,000 women and children from more than 40 different countries of origin are essentially slaves in the sex industry, and more are imported each year.

In tourist and convention cities across the nation, it is estimated that one third of street prostitutes are chil­dren (Hodge, 2008; Leuchtag, 2003). Cities where major sports and entertainment events occur, such as the Super Bowl, bring a surge in trafficked sex work­ers (Goldberg, 2011b).

The harm to women and children who have been trafficked is severe. Studies of women from various countries who have been trafficked found that the slave-like existence of confinement, abuse, and sys­tematic rape these women endured over months or years resulted in continued psychological and physical problems even after they found a way out of being traf­ficked (Zimmerman et al., 2011). The women often blamed themselves for failing to recognize deceptive recruitment tactics. During transit, women faced the risk of arrest and death from dangerous modes of

transport and border crossings. Traffickers confiscated their identity papers and threat­ened to kill them or their families back home if they tried to escape. They were deprived of food, held in solitary confinement, and forced to use drugs to coerce their compliance. Over 96% were physically or sexually assaulted, and 100% were coerced into sex acts, including unprotected sex, anal and oral sex, and gang rape. Most had to service 10 to 25 clients a night; some had as many as 40 to 50. Twenty-five percent had at least one unin­tended pregnancy and abortion. Nearly 40% had suicidal thoughts during or after their ordeal (Tsutsumi et al., 2008; Van Hook et al., 2006; Zimmerman et al., 2003).

Poverty provides traffickers with unlimited opportunities to exploit vulnerable individuals (Footner, 2008; Gjermeni et al., 2008). Women’s organizations and other human rights groups have consistently advocated for women’s educational and eco­nomic empowerment to eradicate the connection between poverty and sexual exploita­tion. Private organizations in many countries have developed programs to assist women escaping from trafficking (Katongo, 2012). In 2011 Google donated $11.5 million to help leading organizations combat human trafficking (Horn, 2011).

The United States made human trafficking a federal crime in the Trafficking Vic­tims Protection Act of 2000, which defines human sex trafficking as a commercial sex act involving a minor or induced by force, fraud, or coercion (Spitzer, 2011). Prior to that law, no comprehensive federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking. How­ever, many states continue to charge prostituted children and send them to juvenile detention centers.

Teenagers in Sex Work

The U. S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section estimates that in the United States, the median age of entry into the sex industry is between 12 and 14 years of age (Lloyd, 2010). Statistics from the National Incident-Based Reporting System indicate that in the United States, of the total number of juvenile sex workers, male juvenile sex workers outnumber female juvenile sex workers by 61% to 39% (Finkel – hor & Ormrod, 2004). Teenagers often become sex workers as a means of survival after they have run away from home. Approximately 100,000 children who leave their homes

each year are sexually exploited as sex workers (Salario, 2011). Research indicates that approximately 95% have been victims of sexual abuse, and most have been rejected by their families, sometimes after parents found out their children are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (Mok, 2006). Journalist Nicholas Kristof describes a common scenario:

Typically, she’s a 13-year-old girl of color from a troubled home who is on bad terms with her mother. Then her mom’s boyfriend hits on her, and she runs away to the bus station, where the only person on the lookout for girls like her is a pimp. He buys her dinner, gives her a place to stay and next thing she knows she’s earning him $1,550 a day (2011, p. 2).

Young women in this situation are routinely raped, beaten into submission, and utterly controlled by pimps who take the money they earn (Saar, 2010).

Many Americans perceive the teenage girls they may see on the streets as voluntarily selling sex, but most are exploited by pimps (Kristof, 2011). Pimps seek out young girls because they can charge higher prices and make more money than with adults (Loupe, 2011). Unfortunately, although many of the teens are too young to legally consent to sex, when apprehended by law enforcement, they will be charged with an act of pros­titution and sent to a juvenile detention center or jail (Lloyd, 2010). Sixty-three per­cent of girls in the juvenile justice system are there due to prostitution (Saar, 2010). In 2008 New York passed the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act, protecting them from prosecution and recognizing that underage prostituted girls are victims (Salario, 2011). Unfortunately, laws and programs to help prostituted teens heal from the trauma of sexual victimization and establish new lives are only in their infancy (Loupe, 2011).

While the awareness of sex trafficking in the United States has been limited, in recent years the problem of sex trafficking across the globe has received increasingly more attention, as discussed in the next section.

The Internet and Sex Work

The Internet has transformed the world’s oldest profession. Male and female sex work­ers are increasingly operating independently through individual websites. For example, by 2011 approximately 83% of sex workers in New York City advertised their ser­vices on Facebook (Venkatesh, 2011). The sex worker and customer negotiate through e-mail, which eliminates the need for part of the prostitute’s fees to go to website com­panies, pimps, or brothels (Reynolds, 2006).

Whether working through a company or an individual website, sex workers on the Internet have far safer and less oppressive working conditions than other sex workers. While arrests of Internet sex workers are uncommon, the Internet does provide easy leads for arrest by police posing as customers (Linskey, 2006). The Internet has also created an easy and accessible venue for the commercial sexual exploitation of children (Saar, 2010), as discussed further in the next section.

History of Prostitution and Sex Work

Prostitution has existed throughout history and has been called the oldest profession. However, the importance and meaning of prostitution have varied in different times and societies. Evidence shows that men sold sexual services to other men as far back as the ancient Sumerian and Greek civilizations (Pandey, 2007). During some periods of ancient Greek history, certain types of prostitutes were valued for their intellectual, social, and sexual companionship. In other ancient societies, female prostitution was part of revered religious rituals in which sexual relations between prostitutes and men were seen as sacred acts. In medieval Europe prostitution was tolerated, and public baths provided opportunities for contact between customers and prostitutes. At times, some types of prostitution were a means for women to acquire status and power. For example, in Renaissance Italy courtesans provided social, intellectual, and sexual companionship to the most powerful men of the time. Courtesans often gained significant political influence through these relationships, while the men’s upper-class wives were unedu­cated and sequestered in their homes. Courtesans were well-educated, charming, and witty women who were performers, artists, and writers (Valhouli, 2000). In Victorian

Imperia, a statue in the harbor of Konstanz, Germany, represents a 15th-century Italian courtesan. She holds a naked pope and king in each of her hands, representing her power over leaders of church and state. Imperia was created by sculptor peter Lenk and installed in 1993.

reduce street prostitution and offer greater safety to sex workers, the province of Ontario in Canada recently established that sex workers can legally work in brothels (Makin, 2012).

Massage parlors are often seen as a modern "quick service" version of broth­els. Manual stimulation (a "local" or "hand finishing") or oral stimulation to orgasm is often arranged for a fee once the customer is in the massage room.

In addition, the customer can often dictate in what state of dress or undress he would like his masseuse to be. Intercourse may occur as part of the "massage."

The types of sex workers who earn more than others are call girls and call boys, who provide services for men, and gigolos, who service women. Call girls, or escorts, often come from middle-class backgrounds and are sometimes edu­cated, affluent women making a choice to enter sex work for money, autonomy, and job satisfaction (Hafer, 2011). Contacts are usually made by personal refer­ral, through "escort services," or by independent ads on Internet sites, includ­ing Facebook. They commonly have several regular customers and frequently provide social and intellectual companionship as well as sexual services for their typically wealthy, middle-aged, and older customers (Blackmun, 1996). Regu­lar customers are likely to give them goods, such as clothing, jewelry, and liv­ing accommodations. High-end escorts might have four to six regular clients, each of whom pays the escort a minimum of $20,000 a year (Venkatesh, 2011). | Public visibility for these prostitutes is minimal, and their risk of arrest is much | lower than that for the sex worker on the street.

had an sex was

the most common sexual service they provided. Most of the escorts avoided anal sex. About 80% of the escorts disliked having sex with clients; the escorts preferred clients who were seeking nonsexual companionship for conversation, entertainment, or travel (Hagen, 2006).

Prostitution and Sex Work

Prostitution is the exchange of sexual services for money. Prostitution is typically thought of in terms of a woman selling sexual services to a man, although transac­tions between two males are also common. Payment for a man’s services to a woman is less common. Sex worker is a term for a person involved in prostitution and related

activities, such as phone sex, nude dancing, erotic massage, Internet sex, and acting in porn movies. Most people who are sex workers for more than a few months often move from one type of commercial sex work to another (Farley, 2004).

Relationships that involve exchanging sex for money also occur outside sex work. Advertising frequently portrays the "trade goods for sex" theme, and in 2000, one of the first reality-TV shows, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, highlighted the prostitution­like aspects sometimes present in common male/female relationships (Peyser, 2000). A case could be made that the wife who is especially sexually pleasing before asking for extra money from her husband, or the woman who wants out of her marriage but stays in order to maintain her standard of living, plays out the dynamics of prostitution (Ridgeway, 1996).