Prostitution and Sex Work

Prostitution and Sex Work

Prostitution and Sex Work

Prostitution and Sex Work

Synopsis

Prostitution is a taboo subject that nevertheless permeates American culture in literature, cinema, and music. It has been a cyclical topic of public debate reflecting changing attitudes toward male and female promiscuity, the role of women in society, attitudes toward poverty and class, and most recently, the recurrent theme of "sex trafficking."

Excerpt

Prostitution and sex work feature prominently in the culture and history of the United States of America. Prostitution simultaneously fascinates and repels, falling as it does at the nexus of two topics rarely discussed openly— sex and money. Prostitution is perennial in history and culture, despite social opprobrium. Prostitutes have been institutionalized, forced out of town, and subjected to mandatory internal physical examinations. Prostitutes who participate in regulated prostitution may be required to cede their right to privacy regarding medical and other personal information. Criminalization of prostitution prevents minimum workplace standards from applying to prostitution. The absence of such standards contributes to variable workplace conditions, ranging from the comfortable and even luxurious to abusive conditions. Prostitutes may be stigmatized for their activities, financially exploited for their presumed access to easy money, or prevented from accessing particular services if they do not renounce their activities. Prostitution persists, despite such opprobrium, for the same reason that prostitution features highly in music, movies, and literature—sex sells.

Prostitution permeates American culture, demonstrated by the evolution of jazz in brothels, clothing styles, and the prominence of prostitution in music, in movies, and in literature. Lyrics about prostitutes are found in every genre of music: folk songs, rap, disco, blues, rock and roll, and more. Prostitutes populate American literature. So many examples of prostitutes in literature exist that they are too numerous to list, crossing genres and media . . .

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