Contrary to assumptions that women enter the prostitution market only because they are desperate – that they need money to pay bills or buy drugs – the study indicates that many women, especially educated, affluent women, are making a rational decision to enter certain segments of the prostitution market. (LINK)
This is the finding of a study conducted by Jennifer Hafer of Arkansas University, in which she examined all the major sex markets in the U.S. — from legal brothels to high class escorts to streetwalkers. The results run contrary to the “common sense” notion that women only “resort” to prostitution when they have no other options. Hafer found that women with high “opportunity cost” — those with good educations, affluent backgrounds and family support were joining the sex industry willingly. In fact, they were choosing based on the same criteria as any other job.
“The findings suggest that these women are not forced into the prostitution market but rather choose to enter it for many of the same reasons that people enter the conventional job market – money, stability, autonomy and even job satisfaction.”
Notably, the women choosing prostitution for “career reasons” chose very specific kinds of sex work. The high end escort industry, while illegal, has a lot of up-sides. Clients are generally screened beforehand, reducing the possibility of police stings and weeding out shady characters. The business is usually handled in a nice hotel, or an apartment rented for the purpose. In a few hours a day, an attractive and enthusiastic escort can make more than in a 40 hour work week — and since it’s illegal, it’s tax free.
Street-walking, on the other hand, does appear to be a last resort option for most women. The risks are much higher, pimps are abusive, and disease is rampant. High opportunity cost women avoid it the same way they avoid cashiering at Walmart. It’s just not worth the time and effort for the return.
Ms. Hafer recommends the legalization of “escort” prostitution based on her findings. First, her primary finding indicates that escorting is not the horrible and exploitive industry it’s been made out to be. Second, legalization would allow two very important government functions: Taxation and regulation. Like the legal porn industry, sex workers could be required to provide proof of recent STD screening. They would pay taxes on their earnings.
Advocates for the sex industry have been saying it for years: Sex work is not for everyone, and there are unsavory characters — just like in any other industry. But lots of women enter the market of their own volition. It is a career choice that they can leave if they want, but they choose to stay. Especially in the escort industry, there are women who genuinely enjoy the sex and get paid for it. They get paid for doing what they love.
The morality police have been calling for harsher sentences, publicly exposing Johns, more sting operations, and other enforcement measures for years. It hasn’t done a thing to slow the industry. Men who want to pay for sex can always find women willing to do the work. As a result of morality legislation, women are being hurt, getting diseases unnecessarily, and avoiding paying taxes. It is yet another example of how the religious moral agenda does more harm than good.
- Affluent, Educated Women May Be Choosing Sexual Prostitution (scienceblog.com)
- Don’t Imprison Prostitutes (hotsaucehelen.wordpress.com)
- Is buying sex a better way to help Cambodian women than buying a T-shirt? (slate.com)