Even though nearly everyone wants to have sex, not everyone has someone who wants to have it with them. Although lack of sex is hardly deadly (thousands of years of celibate priests can attest to that), the drive for sex is just about as strong in us as the drive to eat or drink. Thus, just as humans learned how to trade for food and beverages, they learned how to trade for sex.
Although one’s body was pretty much the first commodity sold in the history of civilization, prostitution has not been a constantly respected profession. Different cultures have seen it as godly, diabolic and everywhere in between. However, regardless of public opinion, it has always been present in some form or another.
In today’s society, prostitution is pretty low on the social ladder. Not many professions are more reviled. What happened between now and the days when you could buy sex like bread, so to speak?
People who hire others to fulfill their sexual needs are looked down upon, much in the way that a small population of bread-machine enthusiasts look down on people who must buy bread in a store. But while the good people at the bread factory are applauded for the service they provide, prostitutes are not.
With the Victorian age came the idea that sex should only happen in a married relationship. In this mindset, it is obvious that there must be something wrong with a woman (or man) who would have sex with someone he or she barely knew, let alone somebody who, for some reason, could not find anyone else to have sex with. In addition to this perceived defect, the illegality of prostitution forced sex workers into the lowest social circles.
Prostitution was made illegal in the United States about 100 years ago, coinciding with the prohibition of alcohol and certain drugs. Today, it is only legal in a few Nevada counties. While making prostitution illegal discourages it, it is also ineffective on a large scale, as prostitutes will continue to find work under even the most oppressive circumstances. Also, the illegality of the industry prevents its regulation by the government.
Regulation could lead to dramatic improvement in health and safety, not only for prostitutes, but for the population as a whole. Illegality keeps prostitutes from seeking legal protection, and they are therefore frequently victims of abuse. Some dispute that the lack of legitimacy also encourages association with other illegal professions, such as the sale of drugs, that carry additional risks.
There are many ways legality could improve the health of prostitutes. While it might be too much to hope for to have brothels offer health insurance for their employees, legal prostitutes would be more likely to seek medical attention, and it would be possible to enforce mandatory periodic STD testing, as well as begin important education programs to help prevent their spread.
Prostitution is hardly a glamorous profession. However, its persistence over the millennia has proven that it is a necessary part of every form of human civilization. It is possible that with its legalization, it will not only become safer, but more respected. It might still not be your dream job, but you could definitely do a lot worse than selling sex.