About Prostitution

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Prostitution forms an age-worn but interesting chapter in the history of civilization and presents an important problem for modern society. All civilized countries have offered solutions, none of which are satisfactory, and only a few of them have even modified its baneful influence. We commonly speak of prostitution as being the oldest of the professions, but in the light of historical investigation, this is hardly in keeping with the truth. In order to understand the social construction of ‘prostitution’, we begin with common definitions from The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (1989). In the English language, the word ‘prostitute’ can be used in several ways. Prostitute can be used as a noun: ‘A woman who is devoted, or (usually) who offers, her body to indiscriminate sexual intercourse, esp. for hire: a common harlot’ (OED, 1989a, p. 673) or a verb:

‘To offer (oneself or another) to unlawful, esp. indiscriminate sexual intercourse, usually for hire; to devote or expose to lewdness (Chiefly refl. of a woman)’ (OED, 1989a, p. 673) Dictionary descriptors of ‘prostitution’, the industry or practice, include ‘whoredom’ and ‘harlotry’ (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989a, p. 674).

Prostitution is any, or a combination, or all of the following: a) sexual harassment
b) rape
c) battering
d) verbal abuse
e) domestic violence
f) racial practice
g) a violation of human rights
h) childhood sexual abuse
i) a consequence of male domination of women
j) a means of maintaining male domination of women
Dictionary definitions provide only part of the picture. Discourses surrounding prostitution have varied greatly throughout time, demonstrating its dynamic conceptual nature. Despite these developments, particular beliefs have prevailed: for example, nineteenth-century morals have a direct influence upon the worldwide prohibition against prostitution (Perkins, 1991).

The definition of a prostitute, as Rey (1851)...
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