History of Prostitution Term Paper

Pages: 10 (4911 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

History Of Prostitution

"There hasn't been a place on my body that hasn't been bruised somehow, some way, some big, some small," Marcia (pseudonym), a prostitute, reports in a study noted by Farley (2000). In addition to suffering the pain of a broken arm three times during the course of her "work," Marcia states she also had her nose broken twice and currently has a small fragment of a bone floating in her head that gave her migraines.

Along with experiencing these maladies, and suffering from a fractured skull, Marcia had her toes broken. The bottom of her feet had been burned and "whopped with a hot iron and clothes hanger." Marcia was cut with a knife, and beat with guns and two by fours. She also reports: "... The hair on my ***** had been burned off at one time...I have scars." (Giobbe, 1992, p. 126, cited by Farley, 2000)

Some scars from sexual scenarios prostitutes suffer may not be as visible or poignant as the ones Marcia notes, but instead may take invisible forms such as health and/or psychological problems. In San Francisco, when a john attempted to kidnap one prostitute, she broke her hips when she jumped out of a moving car. Some prostitutes report having teeth knocked out by their pimps and johns. (Farley, 2000)


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Prostitution, according to Webster's, consists of "Offering sexual intercourse for pay." (Parker, 2008) prostitute, by definition," according to Overall (1992, cited by Dalla, 2000, p. 344) "is one who exchanges sex or sexual favors for money, drugs, or other desirable commodities). During the past decade, researchers have specifically focused more attention on women who engage in prostitution. (Dalla, 2000, p. 344) This research effort explores a number of components contributing to prostitution, including its history, aspects evident in contemporary American society and various related laws.

TOPIC: Term Paper on History of Prostitution Assignment

Prostitution, noted throughout recorded history, depicts the buying and selling of sexual services and favours, reportedly continues to reflect a part of the human condition. Evidence of prostitution is evident "in mythology, art, sculpture, drama, literature, music, and archaeological structures and ruins." (HISTORY TOPICS, 2008) a number of societies in various countries, including some in the U.S., during different times in history accepted prostitution as a norm, portraying one extreme. At differing times, albeit, a number of societies, including some in the U.S., deem prostitution to be a punishable crime. Between the two extremes of being the norm and depicting a crime, prostitution has variously been regarded, as "a necessary evil."

It is portrayed as a blight on the community, with those who engage in prostitution, often judged as the immoral dregs of a society. Even though men and boys have been "used" as prostitutes in some cultures, women primarily have been associated with prostitution. In the U.S., during the past quarter century, Minnesota reports the number of young girls and boys, often homeless children, many of them runaways or throwaways, forced into prostitution, has risen. Frequently, instead of the abusers or patrons being penalized by social stigma, fines, or jail time, victims of sexual and physical abuse, particularly prostitution have been punished. (HISTORY TOPICS, 2008)

In the U.S., during the years from 1870 to 1930, more women than ever in the recorded past reportedly supported themselves through prostitution. Prostitutes were more visible in the cityscape, in towns such as New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, than in less populated areas.

New York, London, Paris, and shanghai had the highest numbers of prostitutes, but the phenomenon was far more apparent in... New Orleans, "the greatest brothel city of all times." Ringdal (2005, p. 315)

Myth and Facts

Some proponents of legalizing sex-work in the United States insist prostitution is "just another recreation-oriented service industry.... Working outside the law, prostitutes have few legal protections and no right to unionize. Making sex-work criminal reinforces what philosopher Martha Nussbaum, of the University of Chicago, believes to be 'an unjust prejudice of the sort that once denigrated the activities of women actors, dancers, and singers.'" (Prostitution and Freedom," 2003)

Allowing prostitution might even be a social good, advocates contend. The freedom to use one's body as one wishes seems a basic right. And it gives everyone at least some fall-back employment. Prostitution might gain public esteem as what City University of New York philosopher Sybil Schwarzenbach calls "erotic therapy," and allow the sex worker to "be respected for her wealth of sexual and emotional knowledge."

Three kinds of arguments are usually made against legalization. One is based on traditional morality. A second asserts that prostitution spawns crime and disease. Finally, many feminists argue that prostitution furthers the degradation and subordination of women.

Anderson, a visiting professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Albany, makes a fourth case. Sex for pay should be illegal, he asserts, because the chance to sell sex impinges on the seller's freedom -- what he calls her right to "sexual autonomy." "If sexual autonomy means anything, it means that sex does not become a necessary means for a person to avoid violence, brute force, or severe economic or other hardships." Recognizing sexual autonomy, in other words, requires barring any interchange between the bedroom and the marketplace. Sex cannot be "just another use of the body."

If society does not acknowledge sexual autonomy and legalizes prostitution, he asks, what's to prevent an increase of pressure to provide "unwanted sex"? Imagine the eerie results. Would schools offer vocational training in sex-work? Might welfare-to-work programs demand that clients consider prostitution as employment?

Legalized prostitution exists under tightly restricted conditions in a few places in Europe and elsewhere. But Anderson does not see how it advances sexual equality. Commerce, built on openness and mutual agreement, will always be at odds with intimate matters of sex, ever founded on privacy and self-determination. (Prostitution and Freedom," 2003)

The following table (1) reflects nine common myths related to prostitution and its legalization (Nevada, particularly).

Table 1: Myths and Facts About Prostitution (Myths and Facts. 2008)

MYTH: Legalization of prostitution will stop illegal prostitution

FACT: Legalization of prostitution in Nevada, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands has resulted in an increase in illegal, hidden, and street prostitution. Decriminalization and legalization promote sex trafficking. Germany and the Netherlands are currently reconsidering whether to get rid of legal prostitution.

MYTH: Legal prostitution protects prostitutes from rape and physical assaults.

FACT: Women can report rapes and assaults to the police under current laws. The problem is that contempt toward prostitutes stays the same whether prostitution is legal or illegal. Women are frequently raped in escort and brothel prostitution, according to a number of studies. Almost everyone in prostitution was raped as a child before she got into it.

MYTH: Nevada's rural counties reap economic benefits from legal prostitution. The rural economies would not survive without the brothels.

FACT: Pimps tell women in prostitution: You'll get rich! You'll make $15,000 a week? They also lie to Nevada's citizens, telling them that rural counties are supported by brothels. it's actually the other way around: the counties are supporting the brothels. By the time licensing, policing, and other state-paid tasks are performed, most counties with legal brothels barely break even. In both northern and southern Nevada, major developers have stayed out of the state because of counties' proximity to legal prostitution.

MYTH: When prostitution is legal, licensed brothel owners do not hire illegal, underage or trafficked women.

FACT: Legalization increases child prostitution. This has been well documented in the Netherlands since brothel prostitution was legalized. Pimps want to make money. They don't care if someone is illegal, age 16, or whether she was trafficked. Pimps, organized criminals, and especially johns flock to wherever a thriving prostitution industry exists such as Las Vegas.

MYTH: When prostitution is legal it eliminates pimps by providing prostitutes with an occupational alternative.

FACT: Prostitution is about not having a range of educational and job options to choose from. Most women in prostitution end up there only because other options are not available. They do not have stable housing, they urgently need money to support children or pay for school, and they often have limited or no education. Prostitution is not labor, it is paid sexual exploitation. It is often paid rape. It is intrinsically harmful and traumatic.

MYTH: If prostitution is legalized it would promote the mental health of prostitutes because they feel ashamed and stigmatized by illegal prostitution.

FACT: It's not the legal status of prostitution that causes the harm, it's the prostitution itself. The longer she is in prostitution - legal or illegal - the more she is psychologically harmed. The shame and the isolation persist even if prostitution is decriminalized or legalized. Even though they'd be earning retirement benefits if they registered, women in Dutch prostitution don't register as legal prostitutes because they are ashamed to be known as prostitutes. Regardless of its legal status, women would prefer to get out of prostitution and usually feel ashamed of it....prostitution inevitably means that you're treated like an object… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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