Chapter 19 Summary

  1. Many relationships involve an exchange of resources for sex. Prostitution—paid sex—is the extreme version of this phenomenon. Prostitutes can be female, male, or transgender, but nearly all users of prostitutes are male. Prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in the United States, but enforcement varies.
  2. Historically, prostitution has been condemned as wrong but also tolerated as necessary. Concern about STD transmission has been a major factor in anti-prostitution campaigns. Prostitution declined greatly during the 20th century in the United States, probably because unmarried women became more willing to engage in sexual relations with men.
  3. Streetwalkers are the lowest-paid prostitutes. They face a relatively high risk of violence and STDs, and many use drugs. Street prostitutes who are minors may be runaways or homeless; these prostitutes face heightened risks. Among street prostitutes, women do better economically than men, but men enjoy their work more. Female street prostitutes traditionally worked for pimps, but increasing numbers are independent operators or are controlled by gangs.
  4. Some prostitutes work at commercial locations such as massage parlors or exotic dance venues. Brothels—establishments that have the sole purpose of prostitution—are rare today and, in the United States, are legal only in some rural counties of Nevada.
  5. Escorts are off-street prostitutes who obtain clients by advertising or by word of mouth. They may go to the client’s location or receive clients at a fixed location. Many work for escort services, which arrange their appointments. Escorts are more numerous than street prostitutes; they charge more, and they work in somewhat safer conditions.
  6. Women and men prostitute themselves principally because they can earn much more from prostitution than from other occupations available to them, but sexual pleasure plays some role for high-end escorts and for some male prostitutes. Men use prostitutes for a wide variety of reasons, including difficulty in obtaining unpaid partners, sexual variety, or the excitement of illicit sex. According to some feminists, men use prostitutes to express their hatred of women, but some accounts by men suggest otherwise.
  7. Prostitutes’ rights organizations campaign for the total decriminalization of prostitution. Feminists have campaigned successfully for increased prosecution and punishment of men who use prostitutes. There is some support for regulated legalization of prostitution, as has happened in some European countries.
  8. Prostitutes in developing countries work in poor conditions, but the occupation does offer them an above-average income. Some international agencies believe that prostitution should be recognized, governed by fair labor codes, and integrated into regional economies. Some international women’s groups believe that activities associated with prostitution, but not prostitutes themselves, should be criminalized.
  9. Underage prostitution is a particular concern in an international context. Overseas travelers are important users of underage prostitutes.
  10. Many women are trafficked between countries for purposes of prostitution. Some women participate in this traffic voluntarily in search of economic betterment; others are enslaved and prostituted against their will.
  11. Pornography consists of depictions of people or behaviors that are intended to be sexually arousing. Pornography has existed throughout history. Censorship of pornography increased greatly in Victorian times but eased after the Second World War. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the legality of sexually explicit work must be judged by “contemporary community standards.”
  12. Developments in communication technologies—the printing press, photography, film, and the computer—have all affected pornography in important ways. Feature-length pornographic movies became popular in the 1970s. The introduction of the videocassette format made production and consumption easier and allowed for greater diversity of content. Thanks to the Internet, consumers can now create their own pornography for sale or exchange. Virtual-reality sites allow for the enactment of sexual fantasies with like-minded others.
  13. Pornography for women tends to be less sexually graphic than male-oriented pornography and to emphasize intimacy and romance. Still, there is a trend toward more sexually explicit material for women. Some lesbians have pioneered a more hard-core approach to pornography.
  14. There is debate about the potential harmful effects of pornography. Research studies suggest that most normal men are not made more likely to harm women by viewing any kind of pornography, but pornography that includes violence may make a few men more likely to harm women. Studies of convicted sex offenders indicate that they have not had greater exposure to pornography than other men. Countries with high rates of pornography consumption do not necessarily have high rates of violence against women.
  15. Pornography featuring real sexual activity by underage actors is illegal in the United States and many other countries. Simulated underage pornography may also be criminalized, according to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
  16. Sexual content on television increased greatly during the 1990s. Responding to public and congressional concern, the television industry introduced a rating system that warns of sexual (and violent) content. In combination with the “V-chip,” it allows parents to filter out material they don’t want their children to see.