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Why Do Women Become Prostitutes and Why Do Men Go To Them?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

This essay is a follow up to one that was posted on December 6, 2008, titled, “Why Do Men Go To Prostitutes?

It can be found at this URL:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=28997

The answers to these questions are many and complex. The complexity is embedded in the dangers of being simplistic, making generalizations, being judgmental, and falling prey to stereotyping.

The Women:

The most common stereotype of prostitutes is that they are all street walkers, drug addicted, controlled by pimps, and willing to accept a few dollars for their services.

In reality, this “oldest profession” falls into several categories. Yes, there are the street walkers whose lives are awful. However, there are also those women who provide sexual favors in massage parlors, small hotels and out of their own apartments. At the end of the spectrum are those women who are escorts or professional sex workers. Often, they work for themselves and charge sums of money that can run into thousands of dollars for a night out. Sometimes their clients are  politicians, sports figures, and Hollywood movie stars.

There are many reasons for women becoming sex workers and escorts. Some of these women have stated that they are attracted by the large sums of money they can earn while they are still young. Others see it as a way to pay for university education and further advancement. Most state that they intend to leave the business once they have earned the amount they want or need. They also see themselves as helping men save their marriages by supplying something they cannot get at home, or helping them chase away loneliness when they are on business trips.

At the other end of the spectrum of prostitution are the street walkers. Most of them are addicted to drugs, and many were forced into prostitution against their will. Sex trafficking is an international, multi billion dollar business involving criminals who kidnap and enslave girls. Girls as young as ten-years of age are snatched from their countries and sold into prostitution far away from their native homes.

Again, it’s important to avoid generalizing about how women get into prostitution. Studies show that large numbers of prostitutes were sexually abused during their childhood.  It is the fact of the sexual abuse, more than anything else, that seems to underlay how and why some of them become prostitutes. These are the people most likely to be addicted to drugs as well as to develop, or already have, serious health problems, not the least of which is HIV as well as other STDs.

Finally, there are women who see prostitution as their way out of poverty. While they may choose to sell themselves, it is economic necessity that drives them. These are people who are unable to get jobs and are sometimes the only bread winners in the family.

The Men:

Several men commented on the original article by saying that all of the reasons for paying for sex were not listed. Among the motivating factors for them were: 1. Believing they are ugly and unable to have sex without paying for it, 2. Wanting sex but without all of emotional involvement that comes with a girlfriend, marriage and family; wanting casual sex with no obligations attached, 3. Being convinced that their genitalia is too small and that any average woman would laugh at and reject them, 4. Working long, hard hours leaving no time for dating and romance. These are only a few of the reasons given.

From my perspective, the major concern about these men is not so much that they pay for sex but that they seem blind to the plight of these women. They convince themselves that prostitution is a choice and that none of the women they see are exploited. In some cases, they might be right. A lot depends on where they go and who they see. In my opinion, it’s a mistake to make any assumptions about the women they are visiting.

These are difficult issues that stir controversy. There are those who advocate legalizing and regulating the sex industry. There are others who are outraged by this for moral, or religious reasons.

For example, should a married man, for any reason, see a prostitute? Do you believe that it can help a marriage? Is a man who sees a prostitute being unfaithful?

You are encouraged to discuss your views, opinions, experiences, and opinions on this difficult issue.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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