Prostitution exists all over the globe. We will now explore how different countries handle prostitution and the different problems they encounter. In the accompanying Human Sexuality in a Diverse World, “In Their Own Words,” three women discuss their experiences of prostitution.
During World War II it is estimated that 200,000 women from Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Netherlands were taken by the Imperial Japanese Army from their hometowns and put in brothels for Japanese soldiers (Kakuchi, 2005). In 1993, Japan finally admitted to having forced women to prostitute themselves as comfort girls, and now these women are demanding to be compensated for the suffering they were forced to endure. In 2005, the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace in Tokyo was opened to honor the women who worked as sex slaves during World War II.
In the Philippines, many women were similarly forced into prostitution and were called hospitality girls. Although hospitality girls are a thing of the past, today women may freely choose to prostitute and may informally work when they need extra money
or have lost their jobs. These women do not see themselves as prostitutes and may have other jobs in addition to sporadic prostitution. The majority of police in the Philippines believe that prostitution is shameful for women (Guinto-Adviento, 1988).
A group named GABRIELA (General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action) has formed in the Philippines in an attempt to fight prostitution, sexual harassment, rape, and battering of women. There are more than 100 women’s organizations that belong to GABRIELA, which supports the economic, health, and working conditions of women. GABRIELA operates free clinics for prostitutes and also provides seminars and activities to educate the community about prostitution (West, 1989).
Human Sexuality in a Diverse World
Potterat and colleagues (1990) found that female prostitutes stay in the life for a relatively short time, usually 4 or 5 years. Some feel ready to leave, whereas others are forced out because of a deteriorating physical appearance or because of addiction to drugs or alcohol. Life after prostitution is often grim because most prostitutes have little money and few skills (which is why they turned to prostitution in the first place; Farley et al., 2003). In addition, there is usually little to show for the years they spent prostituting. Some seek psychotherapy as a way to handle leaving prostitution, and others spend a great deal of time in and out of prison for shoplifting or robbery.
Research has found that many prostitutes are raped and physically assaulted as a result of their work. One study found that between 60% and 75% of female prostitutes were raped, whereas 70% to 95% were physically assaulted (U. S. Department of State, 2005). Overall, 68% qualified for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. As a result, some resort to suicide as a way out.
Even so, there is a lot of disagreement about whether or not mandatory treatment programs should exist for prostitutes. If a person voluntarily chooses to engage in prostitution and he or she does not feel it is a problem, should the government require that he or she undergo treatment? Even if it were possible to make prostitutes stop prostituting, few resources are available for them to establish a similarly salaried occupation (Rio,
1991) . We need to evaluate how to best help a prostitute if he or she decides to stop prostituting. Also, because we have learned that the backgrounds of many prostitutes include a history of sexual abuse, familial violence, and alcohol abuse, perhaps we can offer intervention early on to help these people find alternative ways to make a living.
No discussion of prostitution can be complete without examining sexually transmitted infections, life after prostitution, and prostitution in other cultures.
Prostitution and Sexually Transmitted Infections
Most prostitutes are knowledgeable about STIs and AIDS. They try to minimize their risks by using condoms, rejecting clients with obvious STIs, and routinely taking antibiotics. However, although female prostitutes often do feel they are at risk of infection with STIs or AIDS with clients, they usually do not feel this way with their husbands or boyfriends (Dorfman et al., 1992). Condoms are used less frequently with their own sexual partners than with clients. Among homosexual male prostitutes, receptive anal intercourse without a condom is the most common mode of HIV transmission (Elifson et al., 1993a), whereas among female prostitutes, intravenous drug use is the most common mode of HIV transmission.
Many opponents of legalized prostitution claim that legalization would lead to increases in the transmission of various STIs. However, STI transmission and prostitution have been found to have less of a relationship than you might think. Rates of STIs in Europe were found to decrease when prostitution was legalized and to increase when it was illegal (Rio, 1991). This is probably because when prostitution is legal, restrictions can be placed on the actual practice and medical evaluations are often required. Many prostitutes take antibiotics sporadically to reduce the risk of STIs; however, this practice has led some strains of STIs to become resistant to many antibiotics. Long-term use of antibiotics diminishes their effectiveness in an individual. Also, viral STIs, such as AIDS and herpes, are not cured by antibiotics.
Male prostitutes have sex with multiple partners, are exposed to blood and semen, frequently practice high-risk sexual behaviors, and may continue prostituting even after they find out they are HIV-positive. In addition, many have been infected with other STIs, which may make HIV transmission easier (Morse et al., 1991).
Outside the United States, increasing prostitutes’ condom use and knowledge about AIDS has been an important task. There has been a lot of attention to AIDS transmission among prostitutes in Africa, for example. In Nigeria, AIDS prevention programs, which include health education, condom promotion and distribution, and a sexually transmitted infection treatment clinic, resulted in two-thirds of prostitutes using condoms (E. Williams et al., 1992). In Somalia, the prevalence of HIV in nonprostitute populations is 16 per 1,000; and, in prostitutes, 30 per 1,000 (Corwin et al., 1991). Men and nonprostitute women knew more about AIDS and preventive information than female prostitutes. In Zaire, 99% of prostitutes reported hearing of AIDS, but only 77% knew that sex was the predominant mode of transmission (Nzila et al., 1991). Seventy-five percent of prostitutes had at least one sexually transmitted disease, and 35% were HIV-positive.
ollege students were asked how they felt about prostitution and whether or not they thought prosti-
___ ‘ tution should be legal. Following are some of their
Female: Prostitution should be illegal, because it’s not healthy and morally wrong.
Male: / think prostitution should be legalized. If people want to pay to get laid, and other people are willing to make a career out of it, they should be allowed to. If prostitution was going to be legalized, there should be some rules and regulations and some way to make sure that everyone who is involved is clean and safe to have sex with.
Female: Prostitution should be legal simply because there will always be hookers, so why not tax them? Also, legalizing will decrease STI rates.
Male: I think everyone can do what they want. It’s kinda gross, but if someone wants to sell themselves for money, that’s fine with me. I wouldn’t ever come near them.
Female: Prostitution is disgusting. I don’t think anyone should sell themselves, and I don’t think anyone should be able to buy sex.
Male: Prostitution is one of the dangerous professions because it can spread STIs. I think it should be illegal because it endangers the welfare of the prostitutes and those who go to them.
Female: Prostitution should be illegal, because sex should be something special.
Male: Prostitution could be legal under certain circumstances. If prostitutes were being safe (and could be prosecuted if not), there wouldn’t be a problem.
Female: When people prostitute to make money for drug addictions, this is wrong. If they do it to make money for their kids, then it’s not right, but I can understand it more.
Male: Sex should be an intimate expression of love between two people, not merely a way to make money or have an orgasm.
Source: Author’s files.
are the largest of all the Nevada brothels. Brothels are locally owned small businesses that cater to both local and tourist customers. Although prostitution in Nevada is not a criminal offense, there are laws against enticing people into prostitution, such as pimping or advertising for prostitutes (H. Reynolds, 1986).
Crackdowns on prostitution in other areas of the United States (where prostitution is not legal) often result in driving it further underground. This is exactly what happened in New York City in the 1980s. After law officials cracked down on prostitution in Manhattan, many brothels moved to Queens. Some of the prostitutes began operating out of “massage parlors” or private homes, which were supported through drug money.
There are many groups in the United States and abroad that are working for the legalization of prostitution. In San Francisco in 1973, an organization called COYOTE (“Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics”) was formed by an ex-prostitute named Margo St. James to change the public’s views of prostitution. Today, COYOTE is regarded as the best-known prostitutes’ rights group in the United States. COYOTE’s mission is to repeal all laws against prostitution, to reshape prostitution into a credible occupation, and to protect the rights of prostitutes. Members argue that contrary to popular belief, not all prostitution is forced—some women voluntarily choose to prostitute, and so prostitution should be respected as a career choice.
Delores French, a prostitute, author, president of the Florida COYOTE group, and president of HIRE (“Hooking Is Real Employment”) argues that:
A woman has the right to sell sexual services just as much as she has the right to sell her brains to a law firm when she works as a lawyer, or to sell her creative work to a museum when she works as an artist, or to sell her image to a photographer when she works as a model, or to sell her body when she works as a ballerina. Since most people can have sex without going to jail, there is no reason except old fashioned prudery to make sex for money illegal. (Quoted in Jenness, 1990, p. 405)
Prostitution is illegal in every state in the United States, except for certain counties in Nevada. However, even though it is illegal, it still exists in almost every large U. S. city. In general, the government could address the issue of prostitution in two ways. Prostitution could remain a criminal offense, or it could be legalized and regulated. If prostitution were legalized, it would be subject to government regulation over such things as licensing, location, health standards, and advertising.
The biggest roadblock to legalized prostitution in the United States is that prostitution is viewed as an immoral behavior by the majority of people (Rio, 1991). Laws that favor legal prostitution would, in effect, be condoning this immoral behavior. Overall, however, the strongest objections to legalized prostitution are reactions to streetwalking. Today, the majority of Americans believe that the potential benefits of legalized prostitution should be evaluated.
Those who feel that prostitution should be legalized believe that this would result in lower levels of sexually transmitted infections (because prostitutes could be routinely
checked for STIs) and less disorderly conduct. Another argument in favor of legalization is that if prostitution were legal, the government would be able to collect taxes on the money earned by both prostitutes and their pimps. Assuming a 25% tax rate, this gross income would produce $20 billion each year in previously uncollected taxes.
When college students were asked how they felt about the legalization of prostitution, those who scored high on scales of feminist orientation were more likely to view prostitution as an exploitation and subordination of women; they were also less likely to believe that women engage in prostitution for economic needs; and they believed that prostitution should not be legalized (Basow & Campanile, 1990). Overall, women are more likely than men to believe that prostitution should not be legalized and to see prostitution as exploitation and subordination of women (see the accompanying Personal Voices, “Prostitution,” for some college students’ views).
In Nevada, where prostitution is legal (only in registered brothels, however, not as streetwalking), the overwhelming majority of people report that they favor legalized prostitution. Ordinances for prostitution in Nevada vary by county, with each county responsible for deciding whether prostitution is legal throughout the county, only in certain districts, or not at all.
For instance, there are no legal brothels in Reno or Las Vegas, perhaps because these cities enjoy large conventions and because many men attend these conventions without their wives. City officials felt that if a convention was held in a town with legalized prostitution, many wives might not want their husbands to attend; thus, there would be a decrease in the number of convention participants. Even so, there are several brothels near Reno and Las Vegas and also several that are close to state borders. Usually, these
As we discussed earlier, clients of prostitutes are often referred to as “johns,” “tricks,” or even “kerb crawlers” (Brooks-Gordon & Geisthorpe, 2003). The term trick has also been used to describe the behavior requested by the client. This term originated from the idea that the client was being “tricked” out of something, mainly his money (Goode, 1994).
What motivates people to go to prostitutes? An abnormally high sex drive? Variety in their sexual lives? Sigmund Freud believed that some men preferred sex with prostitutes because they were incapable of sexual arousal without feeling that their partner was inferior or a “bad” woman. Carl Jung went a step further and claimed that prostitution was tied to various unconscious archetypes, such as the “Great Mother.” This archetype includes feelings of hatred and sexuality, which are connected to mother figures. This in turn leads men to have impersonal sex with partners whom they do not love or to whom they have no attraction.
There is much confusion about clients and the reasons they visit prostitutes (Brooks – Gordon & Geisthorpe, 2003). What we do know is that the majority of clients of prostitutes are male (Monto, 2001); and they visit prostitutes for a variety of reasons: for guaranteed sex, to eliminate the risk of rejection, for greater control in sexual encounters, for
companionship, to have the undivided attention of the prostitute, because they have no other sexual outlets, because of physical or mental handicaps, and for adventure, curiosity, or to relieve loneliness (Jordan, 1997; McKeganey & Bernard, 1996; Monto, 2000). They may also be turned on by engaging in the illicit or risky sex with prostitutes (Monto,
2001) . Married men sometimes seek out prostitutes when their wives will not perform certain behaviors, when they feel guilty about asking their wives to engage in an activity, or when they feel the behaviors are too deviant to discuss with their wives (Jordan, 1997).
When men who were arrested for prostitution were asked which sexual behaviors they engaged in with a prostitute, 81% had received fellatio, 55% had engaged in sexual intercourse, while others engaged in a little of both, or manual masturbation (i. e., hand jobs; Monto, 2001). Clients from this study also reported that they believed that oral sex had a lower risk of STI or AIDS transmission than other sexual behaviors.
Sadomasochistic behavior, with the woman as dominant and the man submissive, is the most common form of “kinky” sexual behavior requested from prostitutes (Goode,
1994) . Other commonly requested behaviors from prostitutes include clients dressing as women, masturbating in front of nude clients, and rubber fetishes. One prostitute recalled a job in which she was paid $300 to dress up in a long gown and urinate in a cup while her client masturbated, and another was asked to have sex with a client in his daughter’s bed (Dalla, 2002).
Clients may also seek out prostitutes because they are afraid of emotional commitments and want to keep things uninvolved; to build up their egos (many prostitutes fake orgasm and act very sexually satisfied); because they are starved for affection and intimacy; or because they travel a great deal or work in heavily male-populated areas (such as in the armed services) and desire sexual activity.
Kinsey found that clients of prostitutes are predominantly white, middle-class, married men who are between the ages of 30 and 60 (Kinsey et al., 1948). More recent research supports Kinsey’s findings—the majority of men who visit prostitutes are middle – aged and unmarried (or unhappily married; Monto & McRee, 2005). They also tend to be regular or repeat clients: almost 100% go monthly or more frequently, and half of these go weekly or more frequently (M. Freund et al., 1991). “Regulars” often pay more than new customers and are a consistent source of income (Dalla, 2002).
Male clients are most often solicited in their car on street corners in areas where female prostitution is common, but solicitation can also happen in hotels or transportation stops (Riccio, 1992). Of the clients who seek male prostitutes, almost 75% also go to female prostitutes for sex (Morse et al., 1992). Anal sex and oral sex are the two most popular sexual behaviors requested from male prostitutes (M. Freund et al., 1991).
The majority of clients are not concerned with the police because law enforcement is usually directed at prostitutes rather than clients. However, today more and more police are turning to the clients in order to stop prostitution. Some authorities have gone so far as videotaping license plates and enrolling clients in “John school” to stop their behaviors (B. Fisher et al., 2002).