The Complexities of Prostitution: A Closer Look
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world, yet its fundamentals are still widely misunderstood today. Despite how prevalent this sexualized business has become, the attitudes surrounding it still remain clouded by stigma and shame. To properly understand the complexities of prostitution, we must first contextualize it in history, culture, and the existing legislation for the issue.
The earliest recorded evidence of prostitution dates back to the ancient civilization of Sumer, in what is today known as Iraq. Since then, prostitution has had a tumultuous history, with its legality varying depending on culture, region, and time period. Anthropologists, theologians, and even feminist theorists have long been conflicted on the ethics and morality of sex work and its current legal status in many countries is still undefined.
The prevalence of prostitution continues to grow across the world today, as an estimated 24 million people are thought to be partaking in the commercialized business. In regions where prostitution is still highly illegal, this number only increases with the influx of ever-growing human trafficking organizations who exploit vulnerable people for sex-related work.
With that said, it is also important to recognize the nuances which come with engaging in the profession. There is a stark difference between people who engage in consensual and voluntary sex work and those who are coerced, exploited, and forced into it. Drawing a line between both sides is necessary to distinguish the positive and negative effects of prostitution.
Furthermore, the social framework for prostitution has shifted over recent decades as many feminist theorists have teetered away from the traditional view that all sex work is exploitative. In fact, some have argued that sex work is a form of liberation for marginalized populations, and can be empowering for people. When engaging in prostitution voluntarily and safely, individuals are able to gain agency and autonomy over their own bodies and lives.
Despite this, there are still negative implications associated with the profession that must not be ignored. Examples of this include the health risks associated with weak safety protocols and the social ostracization those in the industry constantly face, as they are deemed as “dirty” or “immoral”–even if they are engaging in the profession voluntarily.
Ultimately, the complexities of prostitution remain ambiguous and contested. Depending on individual circumstances, many of the issues associated with the profession become incredibly complex and nuanced. With that said, a closer look at the history, current day implications, and potential legislation of prostitution can help us create a better understanding of the complex realities of this profession.