The complete history of prostitution
Prostitution, often called the world's oldest profession, refers to sexual acts for compensation. Its legal status is very different around the world. Some countries fight against it, punish it in various ways, including death. Some countries made it legal, to collect the taxes, let the sex workers have health insurance, and more. Prostitution occurred in history in a lot of different ways and stories. Its early forms included "sacred prostitution," in which the sexual act was performed for a religious purpose with a person other than one's spouse. Religions have been against it for any other purpose. When it is for one's pleasure then it is not supported by religion.
No matter the laws or religion, prostitution continues to exist in modern society. Unfortunately, a huge number of women and children have been the victims of human trafficking and are forced to work in the sex industry, without an opportunity to get out of it.
For many people sexual acts are connected to love, emotional connection between partners and are something that should not be sold. Some even say thinking about sexual acts as something that can be bought and sold, destroys the ideals of family and marriage.
Prostitutes are often called whores. The word “whore” comes from late Old English hōre, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hoer and German Hure, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin carus ‘dear’. People usually use the words whore and prostitute in a pejorative way, when they want to offend someone. When comes to male prostitutes who are offering services to female clients, are often referred to as gigolos or just escorts. Male prostitutes who are offering services to male customers are referred to as “rent boys.”
A brothel, bordello, ranch, or whorehouse is a place where people engage in sexual activity with prostitutes. For many legal and cultural reasons, these establishments often describe themselves as massage parlors, bars, strip clubs, body rub parlors, studios, or by some other description. Sex work in a brothel is considered safer than street prostitution. Prostitutes usually don't work for themselves, they are a part of an organization, run by a pimp or madame.
If you think about it, prostitutes are not the only ones who get paid for having sex. But they still are the only ones who are paid by their clients. Pornography actors and actresses are also paid to do all kinds of sexual acts, but not by a client. A producer or other third party is paying them.
Societies around the world are very judgmental of prostitutes, but it looks like the moral compass doesn't work the same way when it comes to their clients.
As said before, prostitution accrued a very long time ago, all the way back to ancient societies… Let's take a quick look back in time.
In the ancient world
There were a lot of temples and heaven houses in the ancient world in the Near East. The earliest recorded mention of prostitution as an occupation is in Sumerian records dating back to ca. 2400 BCE. These describe a temple-brothel operated by Sumerian priests in the city of Uruk. This temple was dedicated to the goddess Ishtar and was the home to three grades of women. The first grade of women was only permitted to perform sexual rituals in the temple, the second group had access to the grounds and catered to visitors, and the third and lowest class lived on the temple grounds. The third class was also free to find customers in the streets.
There were also places where the majority of the temple prostitutes were male, like in the Canaan region. This was also widely practiced in Sardinia and some of the Phoenician cultures, usually in honor of the goddess Ashtart.
Prostitution was present in ancient Israel as well, despite the Jewish law. There are several Biblical stories that mansion prostitution happening in that period. In these stories, the price of the service is very high - paying with goats, information on socio-cultural, military information, and other valuables.
Both men and women participated in prostitution in ancient Greece. The Greek word for a prostitute is porne (Gr: πόρνη), derived from the verb pernemi (to sell), which is where the English word for pornography comes from. Female prostitutes were often independent and influential women. They had to wear distinctive dresses and pay taxes. Some prostitutes in ancient Greece were widely known for their beauty as well as the quality of their services, such as Lais, which enabled them to charge extraordinary sums for their services.
Solon instituted the first of Athens' brothels (oik'iskoi) in the sixth century B.C.E. and used the earnings from this business to build a temple dedicated to Aphrodites Pandem, the goddess of sexual pleasure. The work done by pimps and madams today was then strictly forbidden. There was a temple in Cyprus with more than 1000 prostitutes according to Strabo. They were divided into several categories. Each category had its proper name, so there were the chamaitypa'i, working outdoor (lie-down), the perepatetikes who met their customers while walking (and then worked in their houses), and the gephyrides, who worked near the bridges. In the fifth century, Ateneo informs us that the price was of 1 obole, a sixth of a drachma, and the equivalent of an ordinary worker's day salary. As said before, male prostitution was also very common in Greece. Usually, adolescent boys acted as male prostitutes, which takes us back to the pederastic tastes of some Greek men. Some of the boys were slaves so they had to sell their bodies, but the ones who were free and doing that, were in danger of losing their political rights as adults.
Ancient Rome wasn't much behind Greece in this. The empire grew, the needs of men were bigger, so most of the prostitutes were foreign slaves, purchased on markets, or raised for this purpose. Unfortunately, this happened to a large number o abandoned children. Prostitutes were bought and sold, like any other product. Buyers were allowed to inspect naked men and women for sale in private and there was no stigma attached to the purchase of males by a male aristocrat. A large brothel, called the Lupanar, found in Pompeii attests to the widespread use of prostitutes in Rome around the turn of the century. Like Greece, Roman prostitution was highly categorized, with titles for prostitutes and their places of trade.
The Roman Catholic Church taught of all kinds of sexual activity outside marriage as sinful, but tolerated prostitution. They thought it helps prevent even worse sins like rape, sodomy,, and masturbation. Augustine of Hippo held that: "If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts." By the Middle Ages, prostitution was present in urban areas. By the High Middle Ages, the town governments made rules about prostitution. They allowed prostitutes to do their job outside the city, mainly because it was out of their jurisdiction.
In France and Germany, it wasn't that uncommon that town governments defined parts of cities or streets where prostitution was allowed. In London, the brothels of Southwark were even owned by the Bishop of Winchester. Later it became common in the major towns and cities of Southern Europe to establish civic brothels, whilst outlawing any prostitution taking place outside these brothels. In much of Northern Europe, a more relaxed attitude tended to be found.
By the end of the 15th century, society was not so welcoming when it comes to prostitution. With the Protestant Reformation, Southern German towns closed their brothels, trying to decrease the levels of prostitution. All kinds of sexually transmitted diseases probably influenced this change in attitudes. An outbreak of syphilis in Naples 1494, which later swept across Europe, and which may have originated from the Columbian Exchange, appears to have been one of the causes of this change in attitude. There were periods when prostitutes were required to be recognizable. They had to wear long or short hair, sometimes no hair at all, wear a vale over their head, etc…In some cultures, prostitutes were the only women allowed to sing in public or act in theatrical performances.
In the eighteenth century, prostitutes started using condoms. Stories say that this first started happening in Venice, and the condoms were made with catgut or cow bowel. Many of the women who posed for paintings in the 19th and 20th centuries were prostitutes. The most famous were the New Orleans women who posed for E. J. Bellocq.
In the 19th century, France and UK wanted to legalize prostitution. It quickly becomes a public controversy. The state decided that the supposed prostitutes had to take pelvic examinations.
Early feminists fought for the rights of prostitutes, saying that it should be legalized but not ruled by the government. Also, they said that is very degrading to have to go to these mandatory examinations. This legislation applied not only to the United Kingdom and France but also to their overseas colonies.
At first, prostitution was legal in the United States. It became illegal in almost all states between 1910 and 1915 largely due to the influence of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. This organization banned drugs and also highly impacted the prohibition of alcohol. After this period, in a few states prostitution was still legal. A legally defined prostitution district Storyville in New Orleans was closed down in 1917, due to local objections. It was still legal in Alaska until 1953 and is still legal in some counties of Nevada.
Asian tradition obliged women from occupated territories into prostitution. This was the case during World War II when the Japanese occupied China. These specific women were called "Comfort Women."
Since the rise of HIV, many states increased the penalties for prostitution in cases where the sex worker was positive. When someone was arrested for prostitution, they had to be tested for HIV. In case the test comes back positive, the person is informed that if they get arrested again for prostitution, they will be punished harder. Penalties for felony prostitution vary in the states that have such laws, typically with maximum sentences of 10 to 15 years in prison.
As in any other occupation, there are many types of prostitution. Some of them work directly on the street, near bus stations or even bridges. Also, a lot of fancy agencies are acting as escort services but providing the clients with much more than just company. The rise of the Internet-enabled any woman who needs some extra cash to try to work as a prostitute. There are different websites where a woman o man can upload their photos, write something short about there self and let anyone interested in their services get in touch.
While working in the street, prostitutes are waiting for their customers in busy intersections, bus stations, or even near bridges. They usually are wearing skimpy clothing, vigs, a lot of makeup. They are probably the lowest in the prostitute hierarchy. The sexual acts are usually performed in the client’s car, in a cheap motel room. These prostitutes charge by the hour, some even for half an hour or a specific sexual act. In street prostitution, a niche can be found. These women are referred to as lot lizards. Their clients are mainly truck drivers. They are located at large truck stops, waiting for their customers.
Since prostitution is mainly illegal and escorting is not, a lot of escort agencies advertise themselves as one, but provide other services as well. These agencies usually have catalogs of available women, mostly online. The client contacts the agency, by phone or via the website, lets them know which escort he chooses. The agency provides him with the necessary information and collects information about the client as well. Then the escort is off to the date with the client.
In case the escort engages in sexual acts with the client, the agency acts like it doesn’t have anything to do with that.
The majority of escort agencies are sex-related, there are some non-sexual escort agencies, where escorts provide companionship for business and social occasions.
Sex tourism is when someone is traveling to a specific location where that person is going to pay for different sexual acts. The World Tourism Organization defines sex tourism as "trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination."
Unfortunately, there are places around the world where children are used as prostitutes. People who enjoy sexual encounters with children travel to those places.
Popular sex tourism destinations are Brazil, the Caribbean, Thailand, and former eastern bloc countries.
Internet got into every pore of lives. It is not surprising that prostitution is all over the internet. Prostitutes use it to find clients, clients use it to find prostitutes. There are several websites where information about local prostitutes can be found. Also, online sex, using video calls is considered prostitution.
Religious prostitution means that someone is having sexual intercourse with another person, who is not their spouse, for religious purposes. A woman engaged in such practices is sometimes called a temple prostitute or hierodule, although modern connotations of the term prostitute cause interpretations of these phrases to be highly misleading.
Sacred prostitution was common in ancient times, mainly among Sumerians and Babylonians. In ancient sources (Herodotus, Thucydides) there are many traces of hieros gamos (holy wedding), starting perhaps with Babylon. A similar type of prostitution was practiced in Cyprus (Paphos) and in Corinth, Greece, where the temple counted more than a thousand prostitutes (hierodules), according to Strabo, as mentioned above.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo (sixteenth century), in his The Conquest of New Spain, reported that the Mexica peoples regularly practiced pederastic relationships and male adolescent sacred prostitutes were held in temples.
In Aztec society sex between men and youths was very common. The conquistadores were horrified by this. Of all customs of these societies, they were only more horrified by the human sacrifices. The custom died out with the collapse of the Aztec civilization. Devadasis ("Servant of God") are cult prostitutes in the service of the Yellamma, the Hindu goddess of fertility. The term "Devadasi" originally described a Hindu religious practice in which girls were "married" to a deity. These women were taking care of the temple, they learned Indian traditional arts, and enjoyed a high social status in society. Since the colonists were Christian, this did not fit into their view of religion. They called Devadasi prostitutes since they engaged in sexual activity outside marriage. These social changes left the devadasi without support.
In modern India, the tradition grew out to be commercial sexual exploitation, particularly of children, as described in a recent report by the National Human Rights Commission of the Government of India. According to this report, "after initiation as devadasis, women migrate either to nearby towns or other far-off cities to practice prostitution" (p. 200). This practice was defined as illegal in 1982. Still, it is practiced in around 10 districts of north Karnataka and 14 districts in Andhra Pradesh.