Feminist Theory and Women Prostitution

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Prostitution is one of the world’s oldest professions and is against the law almost everywhere in the United States. A more contemporary study has characterized prostitution as a business transaction understood as such by the parties involved and in the nature of a short term contract. To be a prostitute, one has to treat the exchanging of sexual gratification for an established fee as a business deal, without any pretence to affection, and continue to do this as a form of financial occupation. (Social Attribution and the Construction of Prostitution as a social problem)

Prostitution is widespread in societies of the world where women have low standing in relation to men. Conflict theorists analyze prostitution as part of the larger problem of the unequal allocation of scarce resources. Women, they argue, have not had equal access to economic opportunity. The inability to support themselves leaves women to rely on the economic support of men. They get this support by exchanging the one scarce resource they have to offer; sexual availability. To a conflict theorist it makes little difference whether a woman barters her sexuality through prostitution or marriage; the underlying cause is the same. (Wadsworth, Thomson, 2004)

The conflict perspective highlights the relationship between power in society and sex work. The laws that make prostitution illegal are created by powerful dominant group members who seek to maintain cultural dominance by criminalizing sexual conduct that they consider immoral. Conflict theorists argue that women become prostitutes because of economic inequality and patriarchy. Capitalism and patriarchy foster economic inequality between men and women and force women to view their bodies as commodities. Conflict theorists also suggest that criminalizing prostitution uniquely affects poor women, especially poor women of color, who are over represented among street prostitutes. (Hall, Darryl)

There are three main strands of...
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