In legal terms, the word prostitute refers only to thosewho engage overtly in such sexual-economic transactions, usually for a specifiedsum of money. Prostitutes may be of either sex, but throughout history themajority have been women, who have usually entered prostitution through coercionor under economic stress. II. Preindustrial Societies Prostitution waswidespread in preindustrial societies. In the ancient Middle East and India,sexual intercourse with prostitutes was believed to facilitate communion withthe gods. In ancient Greece, prostitution flourished on all levels of society.
In ancient Rome, prostitution also was common, despite severe legalrestrictions. In the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century), the Christianchurch, which valued chastity, attempted to convert or rehabilitate individualprostitutes but did not attack the institution itself. By the late Middle Ages,licensed brothels flourished throughout Europe, yielding enormous revenues togovernment officials and corrupt clergy members. During the 16th centuryprostitution declined sharply in Europe, largely as a result of stern reprisalsby Protestants and Roman Catholics. They condemned its immorality but were alsomotivated by a connection between prostitution and an outbreak of syphilis, adisease that is often transmitted through sexual contact. III.
IndustrialSocieties In the 18th century most continental European governments controlledprostitution through a system of compulsory registration, licensed brothels, andmedical inspection of prostitutes. In Britain and the United States,prostitution flourished openly in urban so-called red-light districts. In timethe corruption of licensed prostitution stirred protests throughout Europe. Manygovernments sought to check prostitution by trying to stop the internationaltraffic in women and children. IV.
Prostitution in the United StatesProstitution in the United States today takes various forms. Some prostitutes,so-called call girls, operate out of their own apartments and maintain a list ofregular customers. Some follow convention circuits or work in certain resortareas. The majority are so-called streetwalkers, who find their customers oncity streets.
Increasing numbers are young runaways to the city who turn to thestreets for survival. Many prostitutes are managed by men known as pimps, whousually take much of the money earned by the women. V. Current U. S. AttitudesThe United States remains one of the few countries with laws againstprostitution.
It is legal only in the state of Nevada. The rationale for itscontinued illegal status in the United States rests on three assumptions:prostitution is linked to organized crime, prostitution leads to increased crimein general, and prostitution is the cause of an increase in sexually transmitteddiseases. These assumptions are now in question, as some experts have pointedout that prostitution is no longer an attractive investment for organized crime,and as public-health officials indicate that prostitutes account for only asmall percentage of the country’s sexually transmitted disease cases. Polls haveshown that approximately half of the U.
S. population would favordecriminalization of prostitution throughout the country. Decriminalizationwould free the courts and police to spend more time dealing with what are seenas more serious and violent crimes. The constitutionality of laws againstprostitution is also in question, since they penalize prostitutes but not theircustomers.Philosophy .