Prostitution is the performance of sexual acts for pay, including
money, drugs, or other rewards. It has occurred throughout history.
Women and men in ancient Babylon who worked as "sacred harlots" in
the temples were greatly respected. Secular prostitution though has
been much more common. Some prostitutes have enjoyed a high social
status as courtesans—companions to wealthy men, kings, popes and
Brothels, or houses of prostitution, were legal and regulated in
many European cities during the Middle Ages. Prostitution continued
to be legal in the frontier towns and mining camps of the American
West and the Yukon in the late 1800s.
Prostitution continues to be legally tolerated in a few Euro]
countries today, including the Netherlands, Germany, and England.
Nevada is the only state in the United States that has continued to
allow legalized prostitution; however, it is allowed there only in
cc ties with fewer than 250,000 people.
Most industrial societies have laws against prostitution because of
concerns about public morals and the spread of sexually transmitted
infections. Interestingly, the incidence of sexual infections among
prostitutes in Nevada is virtually nonexistent because of increased
condom use and frequent, mandated medical examinations.
In most states, prostitution is a misdemeanor. The penalty is
usually a short jail term and payment of a fine. The charge under
which most prostitutes are arrested is solicitation, which means
openly offering sex to a potential client. Clients, called Johns or
tricks, are rarely arrested or prosecuted. They are usually white,
middle-aged, middle-class, and married.
The more serious crimes in the sex industry include "pandering'',
procurement," and "pimping"—recruiting prostitutes and living off
their earnings. These are typically felonies punishable with
significant jail sentences. A pimp is most often a man who takes
care of the prostitute, offers clothes, shelter, and food, but takes
most of the prostitute's earnings.
Prostitutes can be women or men. Many were sexually abused as
children. They often refer to themselves as sex workers and serve
heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual clients. Some are teenagers,
many of whom are runaways. There are more than 2 million teen sex
workers in the United States. Streetwalkers or hustlers work the
streets in urban areas. Many are drug addicts. Bar girls and boys,
hotel prostitutes, call girls and boys, and "escorts" are often more
independent than streetwalkers, who usually work for pimps.
There are groups working to decriminalize or legalize prostitution.
They were formed by sex workers to offer assistance to others "in
the life" and to promote social tolerance for this profession. These
groups include COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), which is
based in California, and PONY (Prostitutes of New York) and
Scapegoat, which are both based in New York.
Decriminalizing prostitution would eliminate penalties for
prostitution but would retain penalties for procurement or pimping.
Legalizing prostitution would legalize all aspects of the business.
However, many people fear that suspending penalties for prostitution
would increase organized crime, street crime, drug use, and
pornography. But this has not been the case in European countries
where prostitution is tolerated.
Through restrictive zoning and other local laws, many cities and
towns try to limit commercial sex in areas for "adult
entertainment." These areas can include pornography stores and
theaters, peep shows, massage parlors, saunas, strip and lap dance
clubs, and sexually explicit video arcades. These businesses often
include prostitution services.
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