So my post on Why Men Suck continues to create a stir and some wonderful dialog. Recently I was pointed to and read an article called Let’s call a whore a whore by Winslie (thanks!) to help continue the dialog. Overall I think that the article oversimplifies the reasons someone enters prostitution, the experience of a prostitute, and the complexity and power of language. Having said this, I should probably elaborate.
I thought maybe it would help to put up some info on prostitution in general, the debate to legalize, the view of prostitution as violence, how human trafficking inter-relates with prostitution and the Swedish solution (which is the most unique and effective, in my estimation, to date).
Commercial sex, pornography, and prostitution are a multi-million dollar business. Views and understandings of the three topics are contradictory, full of judgment, and stigma. People involved in the sex trade are at higher risk for intimate partner violence (both physical and sexual), infection with HIV or other STIs, and substance abuse. Numerous people argue that prostitution and pornography lead to, cause, or increase violence against women. Others argue that in some instances, the women are making an active choice and enjoy their work. For many women (and some men), prostitution is the only viable economic option they have; market forces, lack of education, and lack of access leave them no other opportunities. For others, it was never a choice or a final option; many victims of human trafficking are unknowingly forced into the sex trade.
Prostitution is all around us no matter where we are; some estimate that currently around two million prostitutes are working in the U.S. In the United States, prostitutes working on the street only constitute 10% of the sex work population. The other 90% can be found in strip clubs, brothels, massage parlors, phone sex, dance clubs, etc. In other countries, those percentages may change, for example a survey of sex workers in Vietnam showed an almost 50-50 split. Prostitution is a huge and lucrative business both for individual pimps and for countries. For example, 60% percent of tourist visas granted to Thailand are for the purposes of sex tourism. On an economic level, it is estimated that 70% of a prostitutes earnings are controlled by her pimp. Moreover, 90% of all prostitutes are controlled by pimps; therefore, little of the economic wealth makes it into the hands of the women. Prostitutes are not just women; children and men can also be prostituted. According to the UN, in 1996 over one million children entered the sex trade each year. The prostitution of children throughout Southeast Asia continues to increase by 20% per year.
Citations and stats from:
Carroll, J.L. (2005). Sexuality now: Embracing diversity. Ontario, Canada: Thompson Wadsworth.
Kuo, M. (2000). Asia’s dirty little secret: Prostitution and sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. Harvard International Review, pp. 42-45.
Minh, T.T., Nhan, D.T., West, G.R., Durant, T.M., Jenkins, R.A., Huong, P.T., Valdiserri, R.O. (2004). Sex workers in Vietnam: How many, how risky? AIDS Education and Prevention, 16(5), 389-404.