Essay Sample on Sex Work in the Streets: Prostitution Defined

Published: 2022-12-28
Essay Sample on Sex Work in the Streets: Prostitution Defined
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Human resources Criminal law Stereotypes Human sexuality
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1831 words
16 min read

Ever seen some women who have little clothes on them in the streets in CBD looking all styled up at night. They dress this way to lure their potential clients to come for their services. They are prostitutes and the activities they are engaging in is called prostitution. So what exactly is prostitution? "Prostitution is defined as a criminal act that includes the trade, barter, or exchange of sexual acts with the hopes of the receipt of economic gain or opportunity" ("Prostitution", n.d.).

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Not all prostitutes are women. This is what most of us think when we hear the term 'prostitute'. It is also the impact of history on our beliefs, which is partly to blame for that kind of thought. There exists quite a number of male prostitutes even though they are not commonly seen in public as compared to their female counterparts.

History of Prostitution

Prostitution is surprisingly a very old act. It is even considered the world's oldest profession since historical evidence point out to acts of prostitution which took place in the old days. The oldest form of prostitution is known as Sacred prostitution, which was practiced by Sumerians. In Babylon, each woman had to go to the Sanctuary of Militia at one point in their lives and engage in sexual intercourse with a foreigner to symbolize hospitality.

In Ancient Greece, prostitutes dressed up in fine clothes and ornaments and were even required to pay taxes by the rulers. In the Jewish religion, despite the abolishment of prostitution, the acts still existed to a large degree. Even the Bible, the Christian book, mention these acts of prostitution. One such instance is the case of the Whore of Babylon, a woman who according to the bible lived sinful ways. The description of her actions as being sinful shows just how much she could have been shunned by society.

Another instance is that of the woman who wept on Jesus' feet. Jesus followers were astonished by her acts. They wondered why Jesus could let such a sinful woman weep on his feet. This biblical story gives us an insight into how prostitutes were treated in the old days. This view on prostitution has been carried along through generations to generations and might be the reason for the moral stigma that prostitutes face to this age.

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomora by God also points out acts of prostitution in the ancient world. The people of this town, according to the Bible engaged in unlawful sexual acts such as sodomy, homosexuality, and prostitution. As a punishment to the town, God burnt it up with fire.

Prostitutes have been given numerous names over the years. The 'whore' is an Indo-European term, which refers to a prostitute. Another term is 'hora', an old Norwegian term meaning an adulteress woman. In Dutch, a prostitute was called a hoer (Amsterdam Red Light District Tours, 2018). In those times, the act of having either paid or unpaid sex outside of marriage was called harlotry. A woman's honor was measured by her sexual behavior. Whores were considered to be humorless women" (Amsterdam Red Light District Tours, 2018). This could be the reason why prostitution has faced a lot of backlash from society."

Prostitution has undergone numerous legal changes over the years. It was legal in many territories at some point in time. Solon, a great and influential Athenian legislator, is believed to be the first ruler to legalize prostitution, some 2609 years ago. He implemented state measures in a bid to protect marriages as well as to prevent acts of adultery.

In the modern days, the legislation of prostitution acts varies from one country to another, and from one state to the other. There have also been cases of human trafficking whereby people are shipped illegally or without their consent, from their countries into foreign countries. Most of these people are underage girls who are taken to brothels to service clients who end up giving the traffickers a huge lump sum of money. This is the emerging trend in world prostitution.

Legal Consequences of Prostitution

Prostitution, as I mentioned before, was originally legal in many parts of the world and particularly in the U.S. However, between the years 1910 and 1915, intervention by the Woman's Christian Temperature Union made prostitution in almost all the states in the U.S. illegally. The exception is Nevada, where prostitution is still legal in some counties. In Alaska, prostitution was criminalized in 1953.

The punishment for prostitution depends on the State. While some States consider prostitution and other acts aligned to it as a misdemeanor, others consider it a more serious offense (U.S. Legal, n.d.). The federal and State Statutes outline clearly the punishments for the various prostitution-related offenses. These are some of them:

Trafficking or attempt to traffic a person in the U.S. Territory for prostitution services attract fine or imprisonment for not more than 10 years or both.

Knowingly persuading a person to travel in U.S territory for prostitution services attracts fine or imprisonment for not more than 20 years or both. If the person is a minor, it attracts fine and imprisonment for not less than 10 years or for life (U.S. Legal, n.d.).

"Prostitution near army and naval establishments are punishable with one-year imprisonment or fine or both" (U.S. Legal, n.d.).

In Alabama, both the customer and the prostitute are punished for Class A misdemeanor. Their punishment is imprisonment for 1 year or a fine of $6,000 or both.

Compelling prostitution has a more severe punishment. The crime is considered a felony of third degree the first time it happens. If the person is convicted three times in three years of the same crime, it becomes a felony of the first degree!

The Role of Law Enforcement and Justice System in Controlling Prostitution

The law enforcement officers and agencies are very important in the control of this vice. They have the ability to identify victims of human trafficking and the perpetrators, investigate cases and follow leads, all in a bid to bring back sanity to the society.

The Police and other law enforcement agencies like the FBI are usually on high alert of brothels and cartels responsible for sex trafficking and are consistently on the mission to diffuse such illegal networks. FBI's Crime Against Children Unit protect children from crimes such as sex trafficking. "A further responsibility of this unit that is germane to this report is oversight over the sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children" (National Academy of Sciences, 2013, pg. 199).

The primary function of the Police is to maintain law and order. They, therefore, arrest offenders who break prostitution laws and take them to court for conviction. The courts, on the other hand, are charged with the mandate of bringing the offenders to book and punishing them appropriately. The various laws outlined by the Federal and State Statute on prostitution serves as the court's guideline for their convictions. The courts should, therefore, put tough penalties to more serious offenders such as sex traffickers to send a warning to the rest.

Current Social Acceptance of Prostitution

Prostitution is regarded by most societies as evil. Most of these people tend to think it breaks homes, marriages, and family and it promotes immorality in society. Prostitutes face stigmatization from the community. "Stigmatization of sex work permeates all facets of society, being understood as a mark of disgrace, a social discrediting, or a spoiled identity" (Berthe, 2018).

Headlines in TV news, online articles, and the general media call prostitutes by derogatory terms such as hookers and whores which already shows how the society views them. They are further considered outlaws, is that prostitution is illegal. This makes them vulnerable to dangers such as rape, manipulation, extortion which are crimes that need to be punished but in most cases are unreported due to the unlawful nature of prostitution itself. Members of the society tend to blame the prostitute, who are the victims in this scenario and let the criminal, therapist, walk-free.

Social Ramifications of labeling Prostitution Criminal

As I have stated above sex workers experience physical violence from some clients for one reason or the other. "In cities like London, Canberra, and Tokyo, street-based sex-workers are harassed, arrested and sometimes beaten for appearing as if selling sex" (Berthe, 2018). These prostitutes suffer in silence even when they get harassed by their clients since the law does not protect them like other people. Has the justice system failed in such cases? Everyone is entitled to justice, even the criminal himself.

Being that prostitution is criminalized most people do not protect the sex workers when they are abused because they are considered outlaws. Members of the society tend to side with the clients who harass and some who rape the sex workers despite their criminal acts.

Demographics: The most impacted

Most people and women in particular turn to prostitution due to poverty and unemployment. Some women have confessed to joining the 'lucrative business' to cater to the needs of their families. "However, oftentimes constrained by unemployment or financial difficulties, many view sex work as a means to survive" (Berthe, 2018).

Prostitution is highly rampant in third world countries as compared to the big economies. This is influenced by the high poverty rates and unemployment that affect even graduates from Colleges. Most sex workers migrate from their poor countries into wealthy countries to earn a living through prostitution. Most prostitutes migrating into Europe are from Latin America, Far and the Middle East, and Africa.

Long-term Projection of Prostitution

With the increase in human rights awareness campaigns and human rights crusaders and organizations, prostitution seems to be gaining ground and could get legalized in many parts of the world sooner than we think. The world now as it is, is a better place for every group of people, thanks to the recent human rights campaigns across the world. People are demanding for their rights than ever before.

Marijuana use got legalized in many countries including some States in the U.S, South Africa amongst others. Homosexuality, something which was totally shunned upon, has also been legalized in many countries in Europe and the U.S. Prostitution, in my opinion, is also headed towards this path and might be legalized in the near future. The society is bound to adjust when prostitution is decriminalized, as in the case of decriminalizing homosexuality and marijuana use in the countries which lift the ban on them.


Amsterdam Red Light District Tours, 2018. History of female prostitution. Retrieved on May 2, 2019, from

Berthe, 2018. The stigmatization behind sex work. Retrieved on May 2, 2019, from

National Academy of Sciences, 2013. Confronting commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. Retrieved on May 2, 2019, from

Unknown Author, n.d. Prostitution. Retrieved on May 2, 2019, from

U.S. Legal, n.d. Punishments. Retrieved on May 2, 2019, from

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