It is sometimes referred to euphemistically as "the world's oldest profession " in the English-speaking world. Prostitution occurs in a variety of forms, and its legal status varies from country to country sometimes from region to region within a given country , ranging from being an enforced or unenforced crime, to unregulated, to a regulated profession.
It is one branch of the sex industry , along with pornography , stripping , and erotic dancing.
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Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution. In escort prostitution , the act may take place at the client's residence or hotel room referred to as out-call , or at the escort's residence or a hotel room rented for the occasion by the escort in-call. Another form is street prostitution. There are about 42 million prostitutes in the world, living all over the world though most of Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa lacks data, studied countries in that large region rank as top sex tourism destinations.
The position of prostitution and the law varies widely worldwide, reflecting differing opinions. Some view prostitution as a form of exploitation of or violence against women ,  and children ,  that helps to create a supply of victims for human trafficking. Others view sex work as a legitimate occupation, whereby a person trades or exchanges sexual acts for money. Amnesty International is one of the notable groups calling for the decriminalization of prostitution.
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Prostitute is derived from the Latin prostituta. Some sources cite the verb as a composition of " pro " meaning "up front" or "forward" and " stituere ", defined as "to offer up for sale".
A literal translation therefore is: "to put up front for sale" or "to place forward". The Online Etymology Dictionary states, "The notion of 'sex for hire' is not inherent in the etymology, which rather suggests one 'exposed to lust' or sex 'indiscriminately offered. The word prostitute was then carried down through various languages to the present-day Western society. Most sex worker activists groups reject the word prostitute and since the late s have used the term sex worker instead.
However, sex worker can also mean anyone who works within the sex industry or whose work is of a sexual nature and is not limited solely to prostitutes. A variety of terms are used for those who engage in prostitution, some of which distinguish between different types of prostitution or imply a value judgment about them. Common alternatives for prostitute include escort and whore ; however, not all professional escorts are prostitutes. Use of the word whore is widely considered pejorative , especially in its modern slang form of ho.
In Germany, however, most prostitutes' organizations deliberately use the word Hure whore since they feel that prostitute is a bureaucratic term.
Those seeking to remove the social stigma associated with prostitution often promote terminology such as sex worker , commercial sex worker CSW or sex trade worker. Another commonly used word for a prostitute is hooker. Although a popular etymology connects "hooker" with Joseph Hooker , a Union general in the American Civil War , the word more likely comes from the concentration of prostitutes around the shipyards and ferry terminal of the Corlear's Hook area of Manhattan in the s, who came to be referred to as "hookers". Correctly or not, use of the word prostitute without specifying a sex may commonly be assumed to be female; compound terms such as male prostitution or male escort are therefore often used to identify males.
Those offering services to female customers are commonly known as gigolos ; those offering services to male customers are hustlers or rent boys. Organizers of prostitution may be known as pimps if male and madams or Mama-san if female. More formally, one who is said to practice procuring is a procurer , or procuress. Clients of prostitutes, most often men by prevalence , are sometimes known as johns or tricks in North America and punters in the British Isles.
These slang terms are used among both prostitutes and law enforcement for persons who solicit prostitutes. In some places, men who drive around red-light districts for the purpose of soliciting prostitutes are also known as kerb crawlers. Female clients of prostitutes are sometimes referred to as janes or sugar mamas. The word "prostitution" can also be used metaphorically to mean debasing oneself or working towards an unworthy cause or "selling out".
If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me. The prostitution metaphor, "traditionally used to signify political inconstancy, unreliability, fickleness, a lack of firm values and integrity, and venality, has long been a staple of Russian political rhetoric. For the sake of the longed alliance with imperialist democracies [Stalin] has brought the Comintern to the last stages of political prostitution.
Besides targeting political figures, the term is used in relation to organizations and even small countries, which "have no choice but to sell themselves", because their voice in world affairs is insignificant. In , a Russian caricature depicted the Baltic states as three "ladies of the night", "vying for the attentions of Uncle Sam, since the Russian client has run out of money".
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Usage of the "political prostitute" moniker is by no means unique to Russian political lexicon, such as when a Huffington Post contributor expressed the opinion that Donald Trump was "prostituting himself to feed his ego and gain power" when he ran for President of the United States. Sex work researcher and writer Gail Pheterson writes that these metaphorical usages exist because "the term "prostitute" gradually took on a Christian moralist tradition, as being synonymous with debasement of oneself or of others for the purpose of ill-gotten gains". In the Ancient Near East along the Tigris—Euphrates river system there were many shrines and temples or "houses of heaven" dedicated to various deities documented by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus in The Histories  where sacred prostitution was a common practice.
As early as the 18th century BC, ancient Mesopotamia recognized the need to protect women's property rights. In the Code of Hammurabi , provisions were found that addressed inheritance rights of women, including female prostitutes. According to Zohar and the Alphabet of Ben Sira , there were four angels of sacred prostitution , who mated with archangel Samael.
Both women and boys engaged in prostitution in ancient Greece. They were required to wear distinctive dresses and had to pay taxes. Some similarities have been found between the Greek hetaera , the Japanese oiran , and also the Indian tawaif. Some prostitutes in ancient Greece, such as Lais were as famous for their company as their beauty, and some of these women charged extraordinary sums for their services. Prostitution in ancient Rome was legal, public, and widespread.
A registered prostitute was called a meretrix while the unregistered one fell under the broad category prostibulae.
There were some commonalities with the Greek system, but as the Empire grew, prostitutes were often foreign slaves , captured, purchased, or raised for that purpose, sometimes by large-scale "prostitute farmers" who took abandoned children. Indeed, abandoned children were almost always raised as prostitutes. Buyers were allowed to inspect naked men and women for sale in private and there was no stigma attached to the purchase of males by a male aristocrat. According to Shia Muslims, Muhammad sanctioned fixed-term marriage — muta'a in Iraq and sigheh in Iran—which has instead been used as a legitimizing cover for sex workers, in a culture where prostitution is otherwise forbidden.
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Sunnis regard prostitution as sinful and forbidden. Some Western writers have argued that mut'ah approximates prostitution. She quotes the Oxford encyclopedia of modern Islamic world to differentiate between marriage nikah and mut'ah , and states that while nikah is for procreation, mut'ah is just for sexual gratification. It means that if a woman marries a man in this way and has sex, she has to wait for a number of months before marrying again and therefore, a woman cannot marry more than 3 or 4 times in a year.
In the early 17th century, there was widespread male and female prostitution throughout the cities of Kyoto , Edo , and Osaka , Japan. Oiran were courtesans in Japan during the Edo period. To entertain their clients, oiran practiced the arts of dance, music, poetry, and calligraphy as well as sexual services, and an educated wit was considered essential for sophisticated conversation.
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Many became celebrities of their times outside the pleasure districts. Their art and fashions often set trends among wealthy women. The last recorded oiran was in Although illegal in modern Japan, the definition of prostitution does not extend to a "private agreement" reached between a woman and a man in a brothel. Yoshiwara has a large number of soaplands that began when explicit prostitution in Japan became illegal, where women washed men's bodies.
They were originally known as toruko-buro, meaning Turkish bath. A tawaif was a courtesan who catered to the nobility of the Indian subcontinent , particularly during the era of the Mughal Empire. These courtesans danced, sang, recited poetry and entertained their suitors at mehfils. Like the geisha tradition in Japan, their main purpose was to professionally entertain their guests, and while sex was often incidental, it was not assured contractually.
High-class or the most popular tawaifs could often pick and choose between the best of their suitors. They contributed to music, dance, theatre, film, and the Urdu literary tradition. Throughout the Middle Ages the definition of a prostitute has been ambiguous, with various secular and canonical organizations defining prostitution in constantly evolving terms. Even though medieval secular authorities created legislation to deal with the phenomenon of prostitution, they rarely attempted to define what a prostitute was because it was deemed unnecessary "to specify exactly who fell into that [specific] category" of a prostitute.
Women usually alternated their career of prostitution with "petty retailing, and victualing," or only occasionally turning to prostitution in times of great financial need. With the establishment of prostitution men were less likely to collectively rape honest women of marriageable and re-marriageable age. Augustine 's claim that "the removal of the institution would bring lust into all aspects of the world.
In urban societies there was an erroneous view that prostitution was flourishing more in rural regions rather than in cities, however it has been proven that prostitution was more rampant in cities and large towns. Cities tended to draw more prostitutes due to the sheer size of the population and the institutionalization of prostitution in urban areas which made it more rampant in metropolitan regions.
Sumptuary laws became the regulatory norm for prostitutes and included making courtesans "wear a shoulder-knot of a particular color as a badge of their calling" to be able to easily distinguish the prostitute from a respectable woman in society. Although brothels were still present in most cities and urban centers, and could range from private bordelages run by a procuress from her home to public baths and centers established by municipal legislation, the only centers for prostitution legally allowed were the institutionalized and publicly funded brothels.
Furthermore, brothels theoretically banned the patronage of married men and clergy also, but it was sporadically enforced and there is evidence of clergymen present in brawls that were documented in brothels. Brothels also settled the "obsessive fear of the sharing of women" and solved the issue of "collective security. For example, the law that "forbid brothel keepers [from] beat[ing] them. Courts showed the conflicting views on the role of prostitutes in secular law as prostitutes could not inherit property, defend themselves in court, or make accusations in court. By the end of the 15th century attitudes seemed to have begun to harden against prostitution.
An outbreak of syphilis in Naples which later swept across Europe, and which may have originated from the Columbian Exchange ,  and the prevalence of other sexually transmitted diseases from the earlier 13th century, may have been causes of this change in attitude. By the early 16th century the association between prostitutes, plague, and contagion emerged, causing brothels and prostitution to be outlawed by secular authority.
The Church used Mary Magdalene's biblical history of being a reformed harlot to encourage prostitutes to repent and mend their ways. With the advent of the Protestant Reformation , numbers of Southern German towns closed their brothels in an attempt to eradicate prostitution. Ancient codes regulated in this case the crime of a prostitute that dissimulated her profession. In some cultures, prostitutes were the sole women allowed to sing in public or act in theatrical performances. They also worked as sex workers. During the British East India Company 's rule in India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was initially fairly common for British soldiers to engage in inter-ethnic prostitution in India , where they frequently visited local Indian nautch dancers.
In the 19th century, legalized prostitution became a public controversy as France and then the United Kingdom passed the Contagious Diseases Acts , legislation mandating pelvic examinations for suspected prostitutes.