Researchers have found the study of prostitution a challenge, because the exact size of the population is unknown, making a representative sample difficult to come by (Shaver, 2005). Also, because prostitution is illegal, many prostitutes are hidden, so their behav­iors cannot be measured.

Defining prostitution is not easy. The U. S. legal code is ambiguous about what con­stitutes prostitution; for instance, some state penal codes define prostitution as the act of hiring out one’s body for sexual intercourse, whereas other states define prostitution as sexual intercourse in exchange for money or as any sexual behavior that is sold for profit. Some consider erotic dancers and models to be a form of prostitution (Dalla, 2002).

Defining Prostitution
in Real Life

Подпись: ead through the following scenarios. Which of these you would classify as exchanging sex for money? Which would you classify as prostitution? Is exchanging sex for material goods always prostitution? Karen, a 25-year-old woman, goes out to dinner with a 45-year-old man. After dinner, they go back to her apartment and have sexual intercourse. The next day, flowers arrive at her office, and he gives her a pearl bracelet at lunch. She does not really care for him emotionally, but she appreciates his generosity. Sue has been having a sexual relationship with a disabled male. He pays her $50 each time they have sexual intercourse. One night while lying in bed together after having sex, she realizes that she is falling in love with him, even though he is paying her. Подпись: Will is an attractive, heterosexual male who often dates older women. These women treat him very well by paying for everything he needs and wants. In return, he has sex with them on occasion. Although he often feels disgusted to be in bed with some of these older women, he does it because of what they can provide for him. Tim, a heterosexual male bodybuilder, has sex with homosexual males once a month to make some extra cash. He does not enjoy these encounters at all. In fact, most of his friends would say that he is very homophobic and hates homosexuals. Kimberly is hired for a position for which she is not qualified because she is sleeping with the boss. She quickly moves up the corporate ladder even though many others are more qualified.

Am I a Prostitute?

Подпись: ReviewQuestion Define prostitution and some of the terms associated with prostitution. Подпись:Подпись:Dictionaries also have different definitions for prostitution. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines prostitution as “offering of the body to indicate lewdness for hire,” whereas the American Heritage Dictionary defines a prostitute as “a person who so­licits and accepts payment for sexual intercourse.” Take a moment to read over the sce­narios in the accompanying Sex in Real Life, “Am I a Prostitute?” Based on the first definition, Sue, Will, and Tim are prostitutes; but, by the second definition, only Sue could be considered a prostitute. For our purposes in this chapter, we define prostitution as the act of a male or female engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money or other material goods.

Over the course of time, prostitutes have been called many slang terms, such as “whores,” “hookers,” “sluts,” or “hustlers.” Some other terms often used when discussing prostitution include a pimp, who may act as a protector and business manager for many prostitutes; and a madam, who is in charge of managing a home, brothel, or group of prostitutes. A john is a person who hires a prostitute, and a trick is the service that the prostitute performs (although recently trick has come to mean the same as john). Historically, most prostitutes worked in brothels, although with the exception of certain areas of Nevada, few brothels remain in the United States. However, brothels are still widespread in the Asian world.

Defining Prostitution


A house of prostitution.


Sociological Aspects of Prostitution

Society has created social institutions such as marriage and the family in part to regu­late sexual behavior. However, it is also true that throughout history, people have had sexual relations outside these institutions. Prostitution has existed, in one form or an­other, as long as marriage has, which has led some to argue that it provides a needed sexual release. Whether a society should recognize this by allowing legal, regulated prostitution, however, raises a number of controversial social, political, economic, and religious questions.

Some sociologists suggest that prostitution developed out of the patriarchal nature of most societies. In a society in which men are valued over women and men hold the


I john I

A slang term that refers to a prostitute’s client.



A slang term that refers to the sexual services of a prostitute; also may refer to a john.



Of or pertaining to a society or system that is dominated by male power.


Defining Prostitution

reins of economic and political power, some women exploit the only asset that cannot be taken away from them—their sexuality. Other sociologists used to claim that women actually benefited from prostitution because, from a purely economic point of view, they get paid for giving something away that is free to them. Kingsley Davis, one of the most famous sociologists of this century, wrote:

Подпись:The woman may suffer no loss at all, yet receive a generous reward, resembling the artist who, paid for his work, loves it so well that he would paint anyway. Purely from the angle of economic return, the hard question is not why so many women become prostitutes, but why so few of them do. (As quoted in Benjamin, 1961, p. 876)