Since various definitions of prostitution exist, officials find it very difficult to make estimates of females who currently work as prostitutes. National arrest figures in the United States range over 100,000, and the National Task Force on Prostitution reports that over one million people in the States have worked as prostitutes in the United States, or about 1% of American women. ("Prostitution in the United States - The Statistics," The Prostitutes' Education Network, March 19 2007)
Whatever the true numbers, money and greed drive the business. The prostitution trade in the United States is estimated to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 billion a year. (Havocscope Prostitution Market Breakdown, http://www.havocscope.com/activities/prostitution)
Lately, in the small town of Portsmouth, Ohio (population 20,352), many residents have been appalled at the apparent sight of a rather large number of prostitutes working the streets in the east end of town. Reactions to this problem range from utter repulsion to mild ridicule. Reports describe most of these women as young girls doing cheap tricks with little regard for safety. Recently, one night, eight girls were arrested, charged with soliciting, and made to submit to venereal disease and HIV testing. Of course, the girls still walk the streets.
Most people immediately associate the hooker with female prostitution and are quick to blame and to despise women for its existence, its criminal nature, and its alarming connections to escort services, strip clubs, brothels, Internet and child abuse, and rampant drug use. Yet, obviously, those who buy or sell girls into prostitution bear a huge part of the blame. The despicable men who use the girls to satisfy sexual lusts are horrid criminals, for without such practitioners of immorality, the prostitution of these girls would not exist.
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Examiner ("Hollywood is Hooked On Hookers," December 3 1995) says, "[The prostitute] is a victim of every bad thing men do to women: physical and sexual abuse, economic oppression and abandonment." His point is that even though this crime is often seen akin to female loitering, the vice is much, much more. And, prostitution lingers as a visible symptom of some other very serious male-initiated crimes.
The very business of prostitution may be defined as "the practice of sexual objectification of women." Misinformation and media stereotypes of women as legs, breasts and thighs help support this practice of portraying women’s sexuality as subservient to men’s pleasure. "Every act of sexual objectifying occurs on a continuum of dehumanization that promises male sexual violence at its far end," reports John Stoltenberg (Refusing to be a Man, 1990) As men dehumanize hookers, the girls become easy targets of those wishing to find scapegoats for larger problems.
By trivializing sex and portraying women as innocent, vulnerable creatures who don't really mean "no" when they say it, our culture has falsely glamorized blatant, violent sexuality and risky promiscuous behavior while ignoring the potential dangers. About 80% of women in prostitution have been the victim of a rape. Prostituted women are raped, on the average, eight to ten times per year. (Susan Kay Hunter and K.C. Reed, "Taking the Side of Bought and Sold Rape," speech at National Coalition against Sexual Assault, Washington, D.C., July, 1990)
Women in prostitution have a death rate that is 40 times higher than women who are not involved in prostitution. (Melissa Farley, et al. “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder,” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, 2003)
Margaret A. Baldwin believes people usually don't see prostitution as domestic violence because it is just too painful: "...the carnage: the scale of it, the dailiness of it, the seeming inevitability of it; the torture, the rapes, the murders, the beatings, the despair, the hollowing out of the personality, the near extinguishment of hope commonly suffered by women in prostitution." ("Split at the Root: Prostitution and Feminist Discourses of Law Reform," Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Vol 5 1992)
About 293,000 American youth, female and male, are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The majority of American victims of commercial sexual exploitation tend to be runaway or thrown-away youth who live on the streets and become victims of prostitution. These children generally come from homes where they have been abused or from families that have abandoned them. Often, they are high school dropouts and become involved in prostitution as a way to support themselves financially or to get the things they want or need. (Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S, Canada and Mexico, 2001)
Other young people are recruited into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from parents, or through deceptive agreements between parents and traffickers. (Francis T. Miko & Grace Park, Trafficking in Women and Children: The U.S. and International Response, July 10, 2003) Hard to qualify because of its underground nature, trafficking figures are estimated between 14,500 and 17,500 people into the United States each year, according to reports by the U.S. State Department.
Conservatively, about one-third of foreign born victims trafficked into the country are children. In the United States over the last 25 years, the average age when girls enter prostitution has decreased from 16 to 12-14 as men now feel safer from AIDS with younger girls. Many of these girls become alcoholics or drug addicts. And, 75-95% of all of them were sexually abused as children. (Debra Boyer, "Danger For Prostitutes Increasing, Most Starting Younger," U. of Washington Beacon Journal, September 21 1997)
Ohio, itself, is a center of the child sex trade. "Ohio is not only a destination place for foreign-born trafficking victims, but it's also a recruitment place," said Celia Williamson, an associate professor at the University of Toledo. Ohio Attorney General Richard Condray, formed a commission that also found that hundreds more in the state are at risk of being forced into sex trafficking or to work against their will in fields, restaurants, sweatshops or constructions sites. ("Study: Ohio At Center of Child Sex Trade," CBS News, February 11, 2010)
Why Do Men Want Street Prostitutes?
According to men, they seek prostitutes for a variety of reasons such as the following:
1. To satisfy an immediate sexual urge or for pleasure (32%),
2. To fill a need for variety (21%),
3. To meet their needs that are not met in their current relationships (20%),
4. For convenience (15%),
5. For the thrill (8%),
6. For an addiction or a compulsion (3%).
These men say they would be easily deterred from seeking prostitutes if the current laws were enforced. Most of the men say that fines, public exposure, employers being told of their activities, the risk of a criminal record, and being given an ASBO (antisocial behavior order, which means an individual’s activities can be made known publicly) would stop them from continuing to pay for prostitutes.
But, the men say that learning the women were trafficked, pimped, or otherwise coerced would not be so effective. (Eaves and Prostitution Research & Education, nonprofit group, San Francisco) Sadly, males must see themselves as the sexual predators they truly are. Until society views the customers of female prostitution as the engines that keep the vice afloat and primarily promote all the associated deadly problems of the world's oldest trade, we can expect it will be "business as usual."
To close, here is the penalty and degree of prostitution as a crime in Ohio.
Prostitutes Customers Pimps Brothel Owners
|OHIO||Up to 60 days and/or $500 |
(Third degree misdemeanor)
|Up to 60 days and/or $500 |
(Third degree misdemeanor)
|Up to 180 days and/or $1,000 |
(First degree misdemeanor)
|Up to 180 days and/or $1,000|
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