prostitution, sociological studies of

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prostitution, sociological studies of The provision of sexual favours for financial reward has probably been institutionalized in the form of prostitution in every society that has had a coinage. It has nearly always involved the prostitution of women to men, though male prostitution, especially to male clients, is not uncommon.

Kingsley Davis proposed a functional theory which saw prostitution as a safety-valve, helping maintain the respectability of marriage. Prostitution certainly flourished during the Victorian period of rigid sexual morality. But feminists have pointed out that prostitution provides no safety-valve for women, and indeed controls them by labelling those who are not chaste as whores. Victorian prostitution was connected with a double standard of morality, which was much more permissive for men than for women. Sociological studies of prostitutes show that their motivation is mainly economic and it seems likely that the number of prostitutes increases when there are fewer other job opportunities for women. International movements of prostitutes are nearly always from poor countries to richer ones. There are few studies of clients, though a Norwegian study found that while most of them are ‘Mr Average’, there are a number of single men who have difficulties relating to women who go to prostitutes quite frequently.

In Britain prostitution itself is legal, but soliciting in public, ‘kerb-crawling’, brothel-keeping, procuring, and living on the ‘immoral earnings’ of a prostitute are all illegal. Here, the commonest ways of working are as a street-walker, as an individual call-girl who advertises her telephone number, or in association with apparently legal work as a club hostess, escort, or masseuse. In some countries prostitution is regulated by the state, with prostitutes being required to register (and often to have regular medical tests), or with prostitution confined to designated red light districts or registered brothels.

See Allegra Taylor , Prostitution (1991