What Is Prostitution?
Prostitution is defined as the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment. It is a legal profession in certain jurisdictions, while in other places, it is illegal. Despite its illegal status, prostitution is an established and common phenomenon in parts of the world.
Throughout history and all around the globe, prostitution has taken various forms. In many cultures, the sale and exchange of sex services have been an important economic activity and part of the livelihood of many people. Historically, prostitution has been used as a means of survival for those who were impoverished or born into poverty, while in certain countries it has been a legitimate form of employment, an industry that has provided many people with jobs and a steady income.
The exchange of sex for money or other forms of compensation has been practiced since ancient times. It was an activity that was prevalent in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, and references to prostitution are seen in different cultures throughout the world and throughout history.
In modern times, the term ‘prostitution’ is often used to refer to the buying and selling of sex services, although the term is also sometimes used to describe other forms of sexual activity that are not necessarily exchanged for money. This could include forms of sexual exploitation, such as trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable individuals in the sex industry.
Over the centuries, prostitution has been subject to various forms of regulation, ranging from outright criminalisation to varying degrees of acceptance, with legislation differing from one jurisdiction to the next. Generally, classical and ancient Greek societies condoned the sale of sex, while in aspects of the Middle East, prostitution was legal until the early 20th century. In other parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas, prostitution has been widely criminalised, with severe penalties in some jurisdictions for those involved in it.
It has often been a divisive subject, with passionate views both for and against prostitution being expressed. Proponents of decriminalisation argue that it enables those involved to provide for themselves financially in a safe and protected environment. Opponents of the practice argue that prostitution encourages and normalises exploitative behaviour. Such conflicting ideals refer to the contested nature of the debates surrounding prostitution.
There are a variety of services that are commonly provided as part of prostitution, such as companionship, oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, and other types of sexual activities. Those involved in prostitution can be through direct contact with a client, or through a third party. In addition to sexual services, in some cases prostitution also involves other services such as massage, stripping, lap dancing, and other entertainment such as acting or music.
Broadly speaking, those in the profession can be divided into two categories: those who prostituted themselves, and those who do not. Depending on the jurisdiction, those who chose to enter into the profession and those who are forced into it are treated differently in terms of law, with those forced into prostitution often being subject to harsher penalties than those who choose to enter the profession by choice.
There is a high degree of stigma around those who participate in prostitution, with many sex workers facing a degree of marginalisation and discrimination. Reports of violence and exploitation of those employed in the industry are not uncommon, with some jurisdictions providing legal protections for individuals in the profession, in an effort to ensure their safety and security.
Despite the criticism often levelled at those who work in the profession, it continues to exist in various forms across the globe, and remains a widespread phenomenon. Prostitution is a contentious issue and is predicted to remain so, as different social, political, religious, and economic motives shape debates on the exploitation of women, the sexualisation of society, the morality of the industry, and the right to autonomy and self-determination for those in the profession.