On Prostitution


In 1998, I undertook a dissertation on prostitution examining psychological and social issues and theories of crime. Part of that involved spending time with, and interviewing, three women who worked as call girls. These women are referred to as ‘Q’, who was in her mid-twenties, ‘R’, who was in her late-thirties, and ‘S’, who was in her mid-twenties. Their contribution was key to my project and I am very grateful and thankful for their honesty and openness. In addition to those semi-structured interviews, over twenty accounts written by women in prostitution on their working lives were examined. At the time of writing, research on prostitution was lacking, and the few books available on the subject were mainly written by people who were not in the life, and did not utilise interviews or accounts from women working as prostitutes themselves. Due to the scarcity of firsthand accounts, my research used accounts from women in prostitution between the 1970s to the 1990s.

The Business of Prostitution

Prostitution dates back to ancient times. In pagan cultures, the prostitute was known as a sacred whore or high priestess and carried out both religious and sexual duties. The prostitute of this epoch was a highly respected figure in society and prostitution was viewed as a high calling. This is a far cry from today’s prostitute who can no longer be found practicing in a house of religion or acquiring respect from her profession.

Today, the class structure within society is echoed in the prostitution business. At the uppermost level there are call girls or escorts, who work for madams and escort agencies and some work independently. This is the highest paying level in the business. The women charge in excess of £200 per hour, though the agency or madam usually takes one-third as commission. The most prosperous of these women, including ‘Q’, earn over £100,000 annually. ‘R’ and ‘S’ also work as escorts, though only ‘Q’ and ‘R’ have established their own client base, known as regulars, and talk of clients who have taken them abroad on holidays and bought them expensive gifts.

Before ‘Q’ began work as an escort, she worked as a streetwalker and describes the differences between escorting and streetwalking. “…You get twenty or thirty quid. It’s in and out; you can do up to twenty clients a day. With escorts you can do one or two, and you have to touch. But someone on the streets you can be rude to, like ‘Get off me’, ‘Don’t touch me’, but you can’t with escorts.” The fee charged by streetwalkers is much lower than escorts and based on the sexual act requested by the client. Massage parlours work in a similar manner by charging additional tips to the fee for a massage depending on the extra sexual services rendered.

Brothels are considered lower than call girls and escorts but higher than streetwalking. They are not as common in Britain as they are where prostitution is legalised and state controlled. In a brothel, the woman is usually under strict control and often does not have the choice to refuse a client or take time off. Some women in prostitution also work in hostess clubs, although the club is not supposed to be aware of this side of the business.

Women Who Work as Prostitutes

A common marker that drives women into prostitution is money. Some women get into prostitution to clear an initial debt: ‘I decided to do it for a while and then stop.’[1] ‘…I was absolutely broke…’[2] ‘S’ says, “I wanted to improve things in my life. I want to make the most of it while I’m still young.” ‘R’ revealed that she, “loves money…money buys freedom…it’s the best way to get some money together.” Some women want the money to get out of unstable relationships and feel that prostitution is the fastest way. It seems that single mothers who go into prostitution do so because they can earn the money to support their children while they are asleep and are still able to be with the children during the hours they are awake. Some women are sexually propositioned in ordinary jobs and feel they may as well use the attributes their employers noticed as a prostitute rather than as an employee: ‘The boss soon asked me to go to bed with him but I refused…he kicked me out…’[3] Supporting a drug habit is the reason why many women go into prostitution, ‘…Where else would they get the money for drugs? That was partly why I was on the game…’[4] Students, too, are becoming involved in prostitution due to the decrease in funding from the government and the shortage of post-graduate jobs.[5]

Women get started in prostitution through different routes though the predominant marker is through known contacts in the business. ‘There was this woman and one night…she said, “I’m going out hustling…” I couldn’t have started myself if I didn’t have a connection.’[6] One woman tells of a contact passed to her from an ex-prostitute, ‘So I telephoned this girl…and she showed me the ropes.’[7] Another woman talks of her first experience in a brothel where an older lady was teaching her to be a ‘whore’.[8] ‘R’ also had friend who introduced her to the life.

It should be noted that there are many women who are forced into prostitution by trafficking and pimps. Some women in this study became involved in prostitution through pimps. The pimp will often cajole the women into believing they are a boyfriend, then take most, if not all, of the money they earn. ‘Q’ discloses “…a pimp brought me down to London…I was forced to do it…he used to beat me up.” She was fifteen at the time. ‘S’ tells of a boyfriend who convinced her to join escort agencies then took the money she had earned for himself. Both ‘Q’ and ‘S’ have managed to disengage from these men but still remain in the life. Other cases exist where husbands have enticed their wives into prostitution: ‘I was nineteen at the time and he was twenty-three years older…he talked me into going out to pick somebody up in a bar.’[9] Interestingly, this woman and another who started at the age of sixteen with a pimp,[10] still, like ‘Q’ and ‘S’, continue to work as prostitutes independently.

Being viewed as a sex object is a commonly held opinion by the women in this study. ‘Q’ says, ‘You feel like a sex object and that’s what you are.” A French woman agrees that, ‘What’s tough is being seen as an object, being looked at and bought like an object…to show yourself and let yourself be treated like an object.’[11] Another French woman clarifies that although ‘…They say we allow ourselves to be bought, that we sell ourselves…we hire ourselves out and that’s very different.’[12] Some of the women believe it is better and/or easier to be paid for sex than to provide it for free. ‘S’ feels that it is “…more respectable to sleep with a man and get paid for it, rather than doing it for free.” ‘Q’ finds it harder to have sex with a normal man than to have sex with a client for money: “I don’t think I could ever like make love, only like have sex…It’s not like I feel like it’s a personal thing to have sex with somebody anymore. It’s more just like a normal thing and it’s something I usually do for money.” One ex-prostitute reveals that she felt better about being a prostitute than being married and that the money meant she felt more free.[13] This is exactly the same sentiment held by ‘R’ who is more content as a prostitute than as a wife.

Psychological Issues of Prostitution

‘R’ states that “People think it’s so easy, it’s not. You have to be quite smart, a good actress…That does affect your mind…I can be something in one room and completely different in another.” ‘S’ echoes this when she says that you have to be “…very strong-minded…put on an act.” She continues, “I can switch off emotionally from it and it doesn’t get to me. I can have my normal life as well. I’ve got this great way of blocking things out. I mind-block it. Within an hour I’ve forgotten about it.” ‘Q’ also agrees that “…it’s like being an actress,” and she “blanks it out.”

A French woman discusses the problems she has encountered with this dual-identity: ‘I’ve got a sort of split-personality. In the daytime, I’m myself, I do my shopping, live like any other woman; and at night I’m a real prostitute…If I wake up to this double personality while I am working…I realise only too well that I’m not what I should be, what I would want to be…Those times are the hardest.’[14] Another woman says, ‘You try to make light of it…you find ways of distancing yourself…you find escape routes, blinkers, drugs…You grow a sort of second skin.’[15] An American former prostitute imparts, ‘When you’re doing prostitution…you’ve got to have tremendous defences. You’ve just got to turn off…Drugs or willpower, you’ve got to cut yourself off somehow…If you tell me being in the life is beating yourself up psychologically, I can’t help but resent that. Because psychologically I’ve suffered so much more in other situations, been humiliated much more in other situations.’[16] One woman working in the 1970s found that ‘Most of the girls in London…want to cut their minds off…they’re hard hustlers.’[17] Another woman of the same generation tells of how prostitution made her feel ‘…very cynical and very bitter.’[18] ‘Q’ says that “From a young age…I’ve been hardened to it…When I first started doing it, I cried my eyes out every day and just scrubbed myself in bleach…I felt like I’d been raped…it really screwed my mind up….you become hardened in your…heart and your soul to it…this is when you get the hatred for the men…Sometimes I really hate it.”

Many of the women admit their attitudes have changed, especially towards men. ‘Q’ asserts that she has “…a completely different outlook to men…I could never trust a man, ever…you feel cold…I could never let myself go one hundred per cent with a man…because of the things I’ve seen and the things I’ve done…You see some really sick things…and it stays in your mind.” Although ‘S’ feels that due to prostitution she does not trust people as much, both herself and ‘R’ would like to find men that they could settle down with. In contrast ‘Q’ says, “I don’t know how I’m going to stop and have a normal relationship…I’ve slept with…I can’t even remember how many guys I’ve slept with…billions and billions…It’s a lot of people you’ve seen and it’s soul destroying to do it. But now, it’s…all I know and I can’t stop it. Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t stop it.” ‘Q’ does not feel that she could ever have a normal relationship with a man having been working as a prostitute for nearly nine years. A French woman shares this conviction: ‘I don’t trust men…precisely because I’m a prostitute. I always see myself as a prostitute…I can’t get the idea of prostitution out my head.’[19] An American woman said she feels ‘…Messed up as far as sex is concerned.’ Though she says, ‘that’s why I could become a prostitute.’[20]

A victim of childhood abuse who works as a prostitute talks openly, ‘When I became a prostitute I used to think men are paying for me…I used to laugh at them…I really detested them, and I think my stepfather had a lot to do with that…He had sexually assaulted me…my stepfather was a very violent man…and…a child should be able to trust it’s mother 100 per cent.’[21] Studies undertaken by Russell have found that one-sixth of girls with stepfathers have been sexually abused by them, and one in forty girls have been sexually abused by their biological fathers.[22] ‘Q’ suffered a similar experience as that described above. In fact, seventy-five per cent of women in prostitution have been victims of childhood sexual and physical abuse.[23] ‘…Early sexual abuse may leave children more vulnerable to sexual exploitation as prostitutes.’[24] However, others argue that the coping-mechanisms learned through this abuse enable the woman to work in prostitution rather than enable her to become the victim of sexual exploitation. It is possible that the way women in prostitution feel about men has not been caused by prostitution but by childhood abuse. However, it is probable that these feelings are reinforced by their work.

Additional statistics from OBJECT www.object.org.uk

    • Up to 70% of women in prostitution spent time in care, 45% report sexual abuse and 85% physical abuse within their families (Home Office 2006).
    • 75% of women in prostitution became involved when they were children (Melrose, 2002).
    • Up to 95% of women in street prostitution are problematic drug users, including around 78% heroin users and rising numbers of crack cocaine addicts (Home Office 2004a).
    • More than half of UK women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted. At least three quarters have been physically assaulted (Home Office 2004b).
    • 68% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as torture victims and combat veterans undergoing treatment (Ramsey et al 1993).
    • Once in prostitution, 9 out of 10 surveyed women would like to exit but feel unable to do so (Farley et al, 2003)

Social Issues of Prostitution

Working as a prostitute can affect a woman’s social life and relationships. There is a social stigma attached to prostitution. It also seems women in prostitution feel differently toward people who are not in the life and that they think those people see them in a different way. Due to the way many people view women in prostitution, some do not tell their non-working friends of their working life. ‘S’ has only confided in one of her friends about her work. She imparts, “I don’t really talk about work to people unless they’re working themselves.’ ‘Q’ feels awkward about socialising with people who are not in the life, as she feels that they look down her. She says that she doesn’t “…understand normal people…they’re in a different world than me.” She does come into contact with people who are not in the life and describes the way she is treated when she goes out to nightclubs, “…like everyone, usually they know what I do. I think people take the piss out of that a lot. They’ll want me to give them a blow-job or they want something for something all the time. You always get looked at like a hooker. People look at you very different.” Therefore, it is not surprising that she tends to discuss her working life with other women in the life.

‘R’ does not feel comfortable with people knowing what she does for a living. She makes a point that, as a prostitute, you have less in common with non-working women. “I started living a really exquisite life…you lose touch with the girls who you’d hang out with in the office after work. You go in a different direction…” An English woman remarks that the only people she socialised with were ‘…prostitutes and pimps.’[25] It seems that attitudes have not changed much since the 1970s. One ex-prostitute of this era divulges that ‘As a prostitute you are alienated, isolated even, not only from yourself but from the rest of society because you can’t talk to people about it…when I was doing it I only had friends that I could tell about it, people in the life.’[26] A French woman points out that ‘Being a prostitute is not so much a sexual occupation, it’s more a way of being seen as different, being rejected, and even feeling different.’[27] However, another French woman has a different experience, ‘As far as my relationship with friends go, it hasn’t changed anything for me. Also I’ve kept my relationships from work…My friends have accepted me, they haven’t rejected me.'[28] The marker as to who women in prostitution discuss their working lives with is evidently other people in the life, even when their non-working friends are aware of their occupation. There is no marker as to the response of their friends. This is dependent on the views and attitudes held by those individuals.

It seems that many women in prostitution feel that they are viewed differently than other women by prospective boyfriends. ‘Q’ feels that they “…want sex not love.” She says that from working as a prostitute she feels that she “…couldn’t make love” but only “…have sex.” She remarks that “It’s very hard to have a relationship…if you’ve been working all night…you don’t want to be touched.” ‘R’ and ‘S’ also feel that prostitution can spoil relationships, although they would both like to have a boyfriend. However, ‘S’ feels that a boyfriend does not necessarily have to be made aware of what she does for a living. She is worried that a boyfriend will just be interested in the money she makes as a prostitute. Another woman shares a similar perspective ‘…One way or another he’ll try to take advantage of me.’[29] Another imparts, ‘I can’t sleep with a guy when I’m not on the streets. My body just feels rotten to me.’[30] An ex-prostitute reveals that she ‘…does not have sexual relationships now with anyone…it spoiled my relationship with men….’[31] It is evident that working as a prostitute can have a profound and detrimental effect on relationships with men.

In sharing their occupation with their families, ‘Q’ divulges, “It broke my Mum’s heart but she had to accept it. She knew if I came to London she’d never see me again.” Her sister’s reaction was different: “My sister…thinks I’m the scum of the earth to let someone do that to my body.” ‘S’ was exposed in a Sunday tabloid. Her mother was abroad at the time, and as her parents do not speak to each other, her mother did not find out. Her father and her sister saw the article and she discusses their reactions. “My sister snubbed me and said I’d humiliated the family.” When talking about her father she says, “He doesn’t think I do it now, but he knew before. He says I should educate myself and get a proper profession.” It is no longer talked about in her family and she says that they act as if it never happened.

A woman in prostitution in the 1980s imparts, ‘My mum knows I’m a prostitute, I was very straight with her about it. I can’t say she was pleased…she said “…you’re at the age where I can’t tell you not to do it.”’ Interestingly ‘R’, who has been working in prostitution for longer than both ‘Q’ and ‘S’, has managed to keep her working life concealed from her family. Although she says that she feels bad about keeping a secret from her mother. It seems that more mothers than fathers are aware of their daughters’ working lives. This could be due to the fact that some women in prostitution have been abused by their fathers, and some fathers are no longer in their daughters’ lives. The women seem to confide in their mothers because they want a real, honest relationship with them. The mothers’ acceptance seems based on the fact that they do not want to alienate their daughters rather than the absolution of their daughters as prostitutes.

Social Control

Within society, there is a variety of opinions held on prostitution and women who work as prostitutes, from victim, to menace, to necessity. ‘S’ says ‘…they think “oh what a slut.” They don’t realise it’s just a job.’ ‘R’ feels that ‘…the word prostitute is an offensive word.’ Another woman divulges, ‘I don’t feel I’m a whore…but the social stigma attached to prostitution is a very powerful thing.’[32] One woman in prostitution in the 1980s feels that prostitutes have ‘…become a scapegoat for society.’[33] Another woman of this era feels ‘…watched…scared of the way people look …always feel they’re judging…’[34]

A feminist sociologist, Heindensohn, states that ‘Prostitutes…tend to be depicted as sexual deviants, vicious, depraved and beyond redemption…fallen women…forever damaged by their sins.’[35] A woman in prostitution in the 1970s feels that ‘Most people don’t like prostitutes. A lot of them look down on us…It’s a shame…because we’re doing it for the community.[36] There are other women who also feel that what they are doing protects the rest of society from sexual abuse. ‘Q’ believes that “…if it weren’t for prostitutes there’d a lot more people getting raped…and kids getting abused…we’re doing society a favour.” Another woman agrees that without prostitution ‘…it would be unbearable for all women. Assaults, rapes…they’d be happening by the thousand.’[37] This woman, along with many others in France, went on strike. The community wanted them back on the streets. ‘People can say what they like…everybody’s glad it’s us they screw.’[38]

‘People want prostitutes to exist, but don’t want them to have the means to work.’[39] This statement is certainly true as prostitution itself is not illegal, but actions that could lead to its practice are. These actions include soliciting for business, living off immoral earnings and even sharing a flat with another woman in prostitution, which is interpreted by the law as running a brothel. A civil rights adviser of the 1970s advises that ‘Prostitution is accepted by everyone – polices, judges, clerks, and lawyers. Arrest and prosecution are purely gestures…to keep up the facade of public morality.’[40] The prostitute is penalised while the client innocent. It is only the female prostitute who is labelled by the police as a Common Prostitute. One woman asserts, ‘I’m known to the police as a Common Prostitute…Prostitute…I can accept that, but common I will not accept.’[41] Another woman remarks that ‘Known prostitutes are arrested and imprisoned for such innocent activities as shopping, waiting at the bus-stop, or even standing in their own front doors.’[42] Another tells of the way she avoided arrest ‘…two police would come down there…have their fun…they didn’t arrest us.’[43]

It appears the police can treat women in prostitution differently from other women and can be unsympathetic when a woman in prostitution has a crime committed against her. When ‘Q’s flat was burgled the police did not return for a statement or provide her with the victim support that other women are furnished with when they are the victim of a crime. ‘Q’ feels that this was because she has a criminal record as a Common Prostitute. Hence, when she was raped by a client, she did not consider reporting it to the police. Seventy per cent of women in prostitution have suffered multiple rapes[44], and most do not report rape or any other crimes committed against them to the police. One woman recalls an incident when she was found by the police on the side of a road after being severely beaten by a client, ‘…they knew I was on the game…they knew what had happened…but they still charged me for prostitution.’[45]

Theories of Crime

It should be recognised that a prostitute engages in deviant behaviour and although all criminal behaviour is deviant not all deviant behaviour is criminal. The prostitute is not a criminal within all societies; however, she is usually considered a non-conformist and a deviant in most. There are many theories of crime and deviance, few theories that relate to females who engage in such activities and no credible theories of prostitution. Sociologists and psychologists have tended to ignore the female criminal or sexualised her as the field has been dominated by men. ‘When men did study prostitution they studied the phenomenon and not the prostitutes themselves.’[46] This is slowly changing and feminist sociologists and criminologists are researching this area and extending existing theories, as well as developing new theories, to account for female criminal and deviant behaviour.

Psychological and biological causes for criminal behaviour date back to the late nineteenth century. Lombroso (1895) thought he had discovered that women were not as far evolved as men, and as such, had less capacity to deviate. Female criminals were thought to be more like the male species and prostitutes were more like their ‘…primitive ancestress.’[47] Not surprisingly, most recent criminologists find his theories facetious.

Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, believed that female crime was related to penis-envy. As with most of Freud’s theories, this is based on human sexuality. However, if penis is replaced with power, which more men than women possess within society, this theory could be applied to prostitution. It is unlikely that it can account for all prostitution, but some women say they feel in control and have more power from working in prostitution.

Hans Eysenck (1971), a psychometric personality theorist[48], carried out research which led him to believe that criminals were more likely to have a neurotic extrovert[49] personality. He also found that unmarried mothers were more prone, than other women, to be extroverts, therefore were more inclined to engage in criminal activities. Eysenck’s theory can be given little credence, because although many women in prostitution are extroverts and unmarried mothers, so are many other women who are not in the life or involved in any other criminal activity. Another organic cause of crime, and the basis on which many women are relieved of responsibility for their criminal acts, is pre-menstrual tension. This theory cannot be applied to prostitution, as there will be few, if any, women who only work as prostitutes when they are in a pre-menstrual state.

Other psychogenic explanations of crime relate to mental pathology. ‘These types of explanation have been especially prevalent in explaining female criminality…’[50] In the case of prostitution, the psychological damage caused by childhood abuse, which many women in prostitution have suffered, is likely to be an influencing factor. Though others would argue that these women are making a considered ‘…rational economic choice…’[51]

What leads a woman to make this decision might be discovered by looking at prostitution in a social, rather than a purely psychological context, because prostitution takes place within society by members of society. Therefore, to discover if there is a cause which leads some women to enter the life that others do not dare entertain when, ‘…that one ultimate solution remains for all women…’[52] sociological theories of crime shall be examined, in conjunction with the psychological effects of sociological phenomena.

Social control theory can be used to examine both female participation in criminal activities as well as their absence. Feminist sociologists, including Heindensohn, attest that females are subject to more social control than males. Generally, parents enforce on their daughters how to be good women, which tends to include society’s acceptable female role as a carer, in the form of a mother and wife and ‘…Of special concern is the protection of the girls virginity.’[53] It is probable that this type of control and constraint deters most women from entering prostitution. One main reason for this is to avoid damaging her reputation, which is based on her sexuality and determined by males. As seventy-five per cent of women in prostitution have suffered abuse as children, it is possible they will disregard society’s acceptable female role and ideal reputation, as they have been determined by the sector of society of which their abuser is most likely a member. Another perspective is that of Pat Carlen who suggests that ‘…Females who see themselves as marginalised…consequently have nothing to lose.’[54] Reflecting on the statistics of incest between fathers and daughters and the accounts of women in prostitution, it seems that a number have suffered this type of abuse. Therefore, parental control and guidance is less likely to be prevalent or if forthcoming, it is certainly less likely to be heeded particularly after the abuse has stopped and independence gained.

Another theory that can be used to examine what steers some women away from prostitution and what encourages others to become involved is labeling theory. This theory stresses that the label given to criminals encourages them to become increasingly involved in criminal behaviour. If this is applied to prostitution it can be seen that from suffering abuse and being viewed and treated by the abuser as a sex object could encourage the victim to behave as such. The power of labeling can also stop women becoming involved in prostitution. Many women experience the label of a good and pure woman, the Madonna. Hence, they feel unable to take on the opposing role, the Magdalene. ‘Sutherland argued that criminal behaviour was a result…of the people with whom one associates.’[55] This theory, known as differential association, can be applied to prostitution, as the research revealed that the way in which many women become involved in prostitution is through known contacts in the business. However, this theory can not explain why the friends of women in the life do not work as prostitutes. However, this can be accounted for if both differential association and labeling theory are applied concurrently.

Disorganisation theory stresses that people become involved in crime because they can not reach society’s acceptable goal through the means available to them. This theory should not be applied to prostitution. From the research undertaken it is evident, with the exception of those women forced into prostitution, most women choose prostitution because it a means to make more money in a short time rather than the fact they are unable to do anything else. Other means may be available, but none that match the financial rewards or the flexibility of prostitution – this is especially true for single mothers, women suffering with mental illnesses, and those with drug addiction issues. In addition, once a woman has a criminal record for prostitution, it makes securing another job extremely difficult. However, radical feminists would argue that the top jobs in industry area taken by men and that women do not have the opportunity to achieve such. Sue Edwards, a supporter of radical feminist theory, argues that ‘…explanations why women become prostitutes are an extension of explanations of the oppression and exploitation of women in a patriarchal society.’[56] This is true as women are deviating to serve the needs of men. However, they are only serving the sexual need of the male and by doing so they are benefiting themselves financially. Therefore, this could also be interpreted as females exploiting men financially through their sexual needs, by making themselves sexually available to them for a price.

Transactional Analysis, a branch of radical psychiatry, examines how people follow life scripts determined from birth. Unconsciously, parents want their children to be either winners or losers, and in different ways they try to encourage this in the child, often with the opposite effect. The script is based on the parents expectations of their child, and how the child interprets the treatment they receive from their parents. ‘Each person has a…preconscious life plan or script by which he structures longer periods of time – months, years, or his whole life…’[57]. By this, Eric Berne, an American psychiatrist and the creator of Transactional Analysis, infers that when the child is grown up, they have the choice to change their script through script analysis – questioning and testing. This theory is similar to that of psychologist, Kelly, who takes a phenomenological approach. He believes that ‘…we put our own interpretation on the world of events…’[58] Kelly describes people as ‘…scientists in their everyday experiences and activities…’ and believes that ‘…we develop theories about what’s really happening.’[59] From the theories, a hypothesis is developed and tested, ‘…in this sense, behaviour is…the experiment… The outcome…will determine…subsequent behavioural experiments.’[60] These two theories can be applied to prostitution. It has been established that most women in prostitution have suffered childhood sexual and physical abuse. The way in which the childhood abuse, and other circumstances and events, which are all part of a life-script, are interpreted, tested and handled by an individual will determine their behaviour.


The prostitution business is unique in many ways. It is a business in which a woman can earn a substantial amount of money in a reasonably short period of time, and it is a business in which females earn more than their male counterparts. It is clear from the research undertaken, that most women who work as prostitutes have suffered childhood sexual and physical abuse. Financial reasons are the primary motivation for working in prostitution, whether that be to support a drug habit, provide for their children, clear a debt, or pay for their education. It is evident that working as a prostitute can have a detrimental effect psychologically. It negatively affects relationships with men. It can make relationships with family strained, and within wider society, women in prostitution can feel separate and isolated.

In ancient times, the sacred whore was the only female within society who was not dependent on one man, and she was respected for her high calling as a prostitute. This pagan ideology does not fit into a patriarchal society. Hence, British society, among others, has taken a place on a moral high ground from where they oppress and exploit the prostitute by passing laws that relieve her of some of her income in the form of fines, whilst still making her readily available to relieve others sexually. Most societies within the world, including the British, have adopted a double standard toward sex, which is enforced on its members with the furtherance of laws, which persecute the prostitute and accommodate the client. Yet prostitution, within society, is a form of deviant behaviour for both the purveyor and the purchaser of sex. Prostitution is a business, and as such, there has to be sufficient demand for the business to exist. This demand is created by a significant number of the male members of society, many of whom outwardly condemn the supply of prostitutes, whilst in private indulge in the very same.


[1] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.84, 1980

[2] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.25, 1975

[3] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.91, 1980

[4] Padel & Stevenson, Women’s Experience of Prison, p.165, 1988

[5] Giddens, A, Sociology, p.109, 1997

[6] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.26, 1975

[7] Sandford, J, Prostitutes, p.143, 1972

[8] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.75, 1975

[9] Sandford, J, Prostitutes, p.12-14, 1972

[10] Padel & Stevenson, Women’s Experience of Prison, p.92, 1988

[11] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.88, 1980

[12] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.127, 1980

[13] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.42, 1975

[14] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.150, 1980

[15] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.101, 1980

[16] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.42, 1975

[17] Sandford, J, Prostitutes, p.17, 1972

[18] Sandford, J, Prostitutes, p.94, 1972

[19] Jaget, C, ed., Prostitutes – Our Life, p.78, 1980

[20] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.43, 1975

[21] Padel & Stevenson, Women’s Experience of Prison, p.88, 1988

[22] Cochrane & Douglas, Psychology and Social Issues, p.36, 1995

[23] WHISPER Oral History Project, 1987; S.B. Satterfield. Clinical Aspects of Juvenile Prostitution. 15 Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality 9: 126. (1981); J.C. Barden. “After release from foster care, many turn to lives on the streets.” York New Times, A1. (1991). Rita Belton. Prostitution As Traumatic Reenactment in International Society for Traumatic Stress Annual Meeting. Los Angeles, CA (1992)

[24] Cochrane & Douglas, Psychology and Social Issues, p.36, 1995

[25] Padel & Stevenson, Women’s Experience of Prison, p.92, 1988

[26] Millet, K, The Prostitution Papers, p.41, 1975

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