why do prostitutes do what they do
Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph. D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
This essay is a follow up to one that was posted on December 6, 2008, titled, Why Do Men Go To Prostitutes? The answers to these questions are many and complex. The complexity is embedded in the dangers of being simplistic, making generalizations, being judgmental, and falling prey to stereotyping. The most common stereotype of prostitutes is that they are all street walkers, drug addicted, controlled by pimps, and willing to accept a few dollars for their services. In reality, this oldest profession falls into several categories. Yes, there are the street walkers whose lives are awful. However, there are also those women who provide sexual favors in massage parlors, small hotels and out of their own apartments. At the end of the spectrum are those women who are escorts or professional sex workers. Often, they work for themselves and charge sums of money that can run into thousands of dollars for a night out. Sometimes their clients are politicians, sports figures, and Hollywood movie stars. There are many reasons for women becoming sex workers and escorts. Some of these women have stated that they are attracted by the large sums of money they can earn while they are still young. Others see it as a way to pay for university education and further advancement. Most state that they intend to leave the business once they have earned the amount they want or need. They also see themselves as helping men save their marriages by supplying something they cannot get at home, or helping them chase away loneliness when they are on business trips. At the other end of the spectrum of prostitution are the street walkers. Most of them are addicted to drugs, and many were forced into prostitution against their will.
Sex trafficking is an international, multi billion dollar business involving criminals who kidnap and enslave girls. Girls as young as ten-years of age are snatched from their countries and sold into prostitution far away from their native homes. Again, it s important to avoid generalizing about how women get into prostitution. Studies show that large numbers of prostitutes were sexually abused during their childhood. It is the fact of the sexual abuse, more than anything else, that seems to underlay how and why some of them become prostitutes. These are the people most likely to be addicted to drugs as well as to develop, or already have, serious health problems, not the least of which is HIV as well as other STDs. Finally, there are women who see prostitution as their way out of poverty. While they may choose to sell themselves, it is economic necessity that drives them. These are people who are unable to get jobs and are sometimes the only bread winners in the family. Several men commented on the original article by saying that all of the reasons for paying for sex were not listed. Among the motivating factors for them were: 1. Believing they are ugly and unable to have sex without paying for it, 2. Wanting sex but without all of emotional involvement that comes with a girlfriend, marriage and family; wanting casual sex with no obligations attached, 3. Being convinced that their genitalia is too small and that any average woman would laugh at and reject them, 4. Working long, hard hours leaving no time for dating and romance. These are only a few of the reasons given. From my perspective, the major concern about these men is not so much that they pay for sex but that they seem blind to the plight of these women.
They convince themselves that prostitution is a choice and that none of the women they see are exploited. In some cases, they might be right. A lot depends on where they go and who they see. In my opinion, it s a mistake to make any assumptions about the women they are visiting. These are difficult issues that stir controversy. There are those who advocate legalizing and regulating the sex industry. There are others who are outraged by this for moral, or religious reasons. For example, should a married man, for any reason, see a prostitute? Do you believe that it can help a marriage? Is a man who sees a prostitute being unfaithful? You are encouraged to discuss your views, opinions, experiences, and opinions on this difficult issue. Allan N. Schwartz, PhD Half of the prostitutes in a new survey say they became prostitutes because of sexual curiosity, and 68 percent consider their line of work as part of their sexuality. While there s no doubt that money is the primary reason for the women becoming prostitutes, it is very surprising that sexual motivation ranks so highly, says Jens Kofod, who holds a PhD in anthropology and is a researcher at SFI The Danish National Centre for Social Research. He was responsible for the survey and the subsequent report, Prostitution in Denmark, which also reveals that Denmark has fewer prostitutes than expected and that most street prostitutes are foreigners. Women became prostitutes for many different reasons, but they often feel stigmatised by society as needing help to stop their work (fewer than half of the prostitutes have considered stopping), instead of society respecting their choice of work. Child abuse is often regarded as a reason for prostitution by the media, politicians and general public, who feel the prostitutes need help to stop their work.
But the survey produced no clear conclusion on this some prostitutes were abused as children, others were not. The SFI researchers calculate that there are a little over 3,200 prostitutes in Denmark, which is fewer than expected, for example because some prostitutes work at several clinics. Female clinic prostitutes (about 1,600) Street prostitutes (less than 600 foreigners, few Danes) A majority of female escort and female clinic prostitutes gave sexual curiosity as a reason for entering prostitution; many had great interest in sex before becoming prostitutes. Almost half of the female escorts and just over a sixth of the clinic prostitutes started their work because they saw an opportunity to make money through sex. Street prostitutes, however, draw another picture: they are not in the business for the sex but to deal with problems such as drug abuse. Despite the sexual drive, the main reason for prostitution in all groups is money. Money is cited by 85% of the prostitutes, says Kofod. Some have to pay for housing, food and day care for their children, others must pay for their drug abuse, while others want an extra week s holiday abroad. A typical story, according to the researcher, is that a man divorces a woman and takes all the money, and the woman then sees prostitution as the only way to earn a living. Our study shows that prostitution is a much more nuanced picture than we have previously believed, he says. Firstly, we have halved the estimated number of prostitutes in Denmark. Secondly, the public debate about prostitution as poor wretches or happy hookers is distorted most prostitutes are somewhere between these two extremes. The prostitutes have widely differing lifestyles and reasons for their work, says the researcher.
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