Prostitution: Prostitution might appear to be an odd topic for historical inquiry. As “the world’s oldest profession,” concerned with buying and selling something as “natural” and “unchanging” as sex, it might seem to have no history. However, prostitution is subject to historical change and is shaped by the society in which it exists.
In the United States, over the last couple hundred years, the nature of prostitution and the experiences of people working as prostitutes have varied a great deal. The character of women’s economic options has affected them by economic depression, by wars, by changing popular attitudes and, in particular, by the law and the ways in which the police, the courts and the prisons have administered the law. Organized political resistance has also played a role. Women working as prostitutes have developed strategies to survive and resist increasing social control.
At the same time, the unique cultures of prostitutes are also formed by factors not immediately related to their work. For example, prostitution is more prevalent in working class communities and families. The historical record of prostitution, however, points us towards examining issues of social control, religion, profits, disease and legal regulations. It is funny how prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, and yet it is still only legal in one of the fifty United States of America. Prostitution could be a guaranteed moneymaker for the Internal Revenue Service; instead, it remains a seedy underside of society. It seems obvious to me that prostitution should be legalized, although statistics regarding the rates of disease and death from such an industry are difficult to verify it is common sense that the cost to society is high.
Consider the necessary evils of pimps, or procurers, these are men (and occasionally women) who traffic in the flesh of others, as tax free as the Catholic Church I might add. And prostitutes themselves, whether working in a legal brothel in Nevada or on the corner of forty-second and Broadway, These are women, (and occasionally men) who have given up all other options for money making. Usually forced to admit that their one marketable skill isn’t even legally marketable. Prostitution is about sex, and so it is dirty, and wrong, and illegal. But is it really so dirty wrong or even as illegal as we are lead to belive? Is it even what we think it is? The conundrum that I come to is that we only seem to know prostitution when we see it. Defining it is a stickier wicket.
Okay, we know that sex for money is prostitution, but what about sex for a place to live, if one does not live and have sex with one’s significant other, then one must either find another other, or pay rent on a place of their own, yet a man who pays his girlfriend’s rent could not be arrested. As a matter of fact, a man who gave his girlfriend money because she needed it could not be arrested, neither could the woman. But if the man and the woman do not know each other before the sex act, and have an agreement spoken or otherwise that there will be no social contact after the act, well, that’s illegal. What’s the difference? DeBouvier states that: “Marriage. .
. is directly correlated with prostitution which. . .
follows humanity from ancient to modern times like a dark shadow over the family. ” “a caste of ‘shameless women’ allows the ‘honest woman’ to be treated with he most chivalrous respect. The prostitute is a scapegoat; man vents his turpitude upon her, and he rejects her. . . .
She is treated as a pariah. “. . . Viewed from the standpoint of economics her position corresponds with that of the married woman.
“Moralists would say there is a large difference. People especially in this Judeo-Christian, puritanically rooted society of late 20th Century America need to believe that sex equals love. Money can’t buy love. Selling sex is wrong.
But it brings us back again and again to the definition of selling. Clearly bartering sex isn’t quite so wrong. A single mother, with a boyfriend, who gets an offer for a job in another state. This job pays significantly more money than her current position. The woman announces she .