Is Prostitution a Women’s Issue?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series A Fresh Look at the Oldest Profession
It’s a man’s world. Before we continue talking about prostitution, I think it’s important we establish that fact.
All Men Are Created Equal

America is supposed to be an equal society, and yet women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. Even in the top 10 best-paying jobs for women, women earn less than men, and as you climb the corporate ladder, the gender gap only widens. America’s top female CEOs earn an average of 33 cents for every dollar earned by a male CEO.

And that’s hardly the worst of it. 25 percent of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. 1 out of every 6 women will be sexually assaulted and/or raped in her lifetime. Between 20 to 25 percent of women enrolled in a higher educational institution will experience an attempted or completed rape over the course of her college career.

I think it’s safe to say we live in a world where injustice against women is common. And that’s where the question of prostitution comes up. What role does prostitution play in a world dominated by men? Does prostitution hurt gender equality? What is the effect of prostitution on society?

What are Women’s Issues?

Just as it’s difficult to define prostitution, it’s difficult to define women’s issues.

Are women’s issues those that have traditionally been associated with women or the “private” realm, such as healthcare, children, and education? Or are they those that have a direct and explicit impact on women, such as sexual discrimination and abortion?…Or are women’s issues those that provide for feminist outcomes?

Craig Volden, Alan E. Wiseman, and Dana E. Wittmer

Honestly, I don’t know why we make these things so complicated. For the purposes of this post, I’m defining women’s issues as issues that involve women and have a direct or indirect impact on their lives. In other words, all of the issues mentioned in the quote above. So is prostitution a women’s issue?

Prostitution Involves Women

Of the estimated 1 million prostitutes in the United States, most are women.  According to some estimates, about 1 percent of American women have worked in prostitution. Men do work as prostitutes, but their numbers are significantly less than their female counterparts.

Average prostitution arrests include 70% females, 20% percent male prostitutes and 10% customers.

Prostitutes’ Education Network

Why are so many women prostitutes? I think it all goes back to the man’s world theory.

In the past, women were denied access to education and job training. Men controlled the majority of a woman’s wealth, beginning with her father and brothers, handed over to her husband in the form of a dowry, and inherited by her sons. If a woman lost her male providers or was taken advantage of by greedy relatives, there were very few laws in place to protect her. Work outside the home was discouraged and most jobs didn’t hire women anyways. In the absence of salable skills, women turned to the one service that will always be in demand—good, old-fashioned sex.

Today, things are better for women, but as the statistics above show, our society is still far from equal. I’m not saying prostitution is all men’s fault, but I do believe prostitution is a natural by-product of a male-dominated society.

Prostitution and Gender Relations

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at the implications inherent in the sale of a prostitute’s services. When you buy sex, you’re essentially buying a woman’s body for an allotted period of time. The body belongs to you, and what you do with that body is entirely up to you.

In the sex trade, men pay and women perform…no matter what.

Linda Lowen for About News

Prostitutes are at an increased risk of violence, rape, physical abuse, and death than other women not employed in the sex trade. One report cited 60 percent of the abuse against street prostitutes was  by clients, 20 percent by police, and another 20 percent occurred in a domestic relationship. Some prostitutes are raped between 8 and 10 times a year or more. On average, 7 percent of rape victims sought help from an organization such as a rape crisis center, and only 4 percent reported the rape to the police.

Prostitution in and of itself is an abuse of a woman’s body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple. And if you are not simple-minded, you will never understand it.

Andrea Dworkin

Prostitution and Society

Prostitution affects relationships between men and women. Not just prostituted women and their customers, but all relationships between men and women.

A sex buyer explained that in prostitution, “she gives up the right to say no.” Another man told us that he clarifies the nature of his relationship to the women he buys: “I paid for this. You have no rights. You’re with me now.”

Melissa Farley

Prostitution encourages the objectification of women. As long as a man can buy a woman’s body, he will view women as objects to be bought, sold, or abused according to his desires. Whether or not a man has ever purchased sex is beside the point—the simple fact that we live in a society where women can be bought reveals how our society views women as a whole. As long as women are used as objects, they will be treated as such, by the media, abusive boyfriends, and sexist coworkers. It doesn’t matter if they’re prostitutes. If one woman can be used as an object, all women can be used as objects.

I am a firm believer that all women are prostitutes at one time or another.

Sex buyer interviewed by Shere Hite

Prostitution is not independent of society—it’s just as much a part of our culture as baseball and BBQs. I don’t care if you’ve never had anything to do with prostitution. You live in a society where sex is a business, and the values that built that business also built the world you live in, from the ads on your TV, to the paychecks of your coworkers, to the way you raise your children.

A Women’s Issue?

What affects one woman affects all women. What affects one man affects all men. What affects one segment of society affects society as a whole. Prostitution and equality are polar opposites. As long as we live in a world where prostitution is tolerated, equality and respect between men and women cannot be achieved. So, is prostitution a women’s issue? I say no.

Prostitution isn’t a women’s issue—it’s everyone’s issue.

Do you believe prostitution is a women’s issue? How does prostitution impact gender relations? What affect does prostitution have on society? Share your opinion in the comments below.
Read More<< What is Prostitution?Is Prostitution a Choice? >>

Author Details

Bryanna Lindberg

Today, billions of people are living in slavery. Some are trapped in physical slavery—sold as prostitutes, laborers, or soldiers. Others are trapped in psychological slavery—controlled by ignorance, fear, or pride. Too many are trapped in spiritual slavery—trying to please a god who demands nothing less than perfection. As Christians, we've been set free from the law of sin and death, but how many of us are living free? Pursuing freedom is a fight, but the victory means living a better calling, telling a better story, and leaving a better testimony. Will you join me in the fight for better?

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