Connexions Library

Working Girls: Prostitutes, Their Life and Social Control

By Roberta Perkins



If prostitution is the "oldest profession" (which is probably far from true), then it is also the oldest social debate. Legislators, theologians, philosophers, municipalities, police, criminologists, psychiatrists and social scientists have debated the proper place of prostitution in society for centuries. Some have argued that it is anti-social and should be eradicated; others that it has an essential role in society. Then there are those who have maintained that it will persist in society regardless of the opinions of authorities and ideologists, and therefore should be controlled or regulated by law.

Much of the problem with this on-going debate has been the lack of substantial evidence either way, which has opened the path for such speculation and prejudicial convictions. Supposition and predilection on prostitution has produced a mountain of mythology on the subject, and, in turn, this mountain has proven to be an effective barrier to realistic appraisals and irrefutable theories. What is even more alarming is the morass of myths, morality and misogyny that permeate the subject, which has arisen partly due to the chauvinism of the intelligentsia in the past, and partly due to the titillations of sensationalist journalism, movie screen imagery and other misinformation from the media at large. It is as though each generation of the populace is confronted by prostitution as two alien and hostile cultures. As one prostitute told me in disgust over a newspaper story: "It is like we are strange nocturnal animals that crawl out of the sewers at night."

The major cause of this deplorable situation of ignorance and bias has been too little objective analysis and empirical investigation from scholars, and a lack of public contact. Too many people have had too much to say on a subject they are much too ignorant about. It would be unthinkable for a serious political scholar to write about the machinations of government without ever having sat in a parliamentary session or spoken to politicians for opposing parties. The same principle of observation and objective analysis applies to writers on prostitution. Of course, the blind prejudices of extreme moralists who have never spoken to a prostitute will continue to exist, but these will no longer have the support of scientists, journalists or jurists who have done their homework well, and, ultimately they will also not gain credence from any well-informed public.

Some readers may be sceptical about changes to public thought which has been too indoctrinated by prejudicial views of ancient and modem ideologists. But, since the sixties, literature on the subject of prostitution has had a more positive approach, with participant observers, empiricists and prostitutes themselves beginning to dominate recent writings. Highly inflammatory news items about prostitutes no longer have the public credence that they once did, as a more critical audience, which is better informed, makes more appropriate value judgements.

This book is an addition to this growing literature on prostitution from an objective and well-informed position. It has an empirical approach, with the insights of a participant observer, as well as the interior perspectives of prostitutes themselves. It reflects my public support of prostitutes over the years from the position of a subjective radicalism. I have argued for a decade now that prostitutes and their industry are among the most maligned and misunderstood segments in our society, despite having once shared with the rest of society an opinion of prostitutes as women with high sexual motivations and criminal minds. In 1980, however, on joining the Crisis Team of volunteer welfare workers at Kings Cross' Wayside Chapel, I came face to face with these "denizens of degradation" for the first time. None of them struck me as representative of the image I had of prostitutes as loudmouths, untrustworthy over-painted tarts. They seemed so ordinary. Soon after, residents of Darlinghurst were mobilising against the street prostitutes in their area. They were telling newspapers the kinds of things I once believed prostitutes were capable of. Through my daily contact with these same women, I realised that neither the residents nor the journalists were telling the truth, because the women in their stories were nothing like the women I had come to know and like. It was this misrepresentation that prompted me to begin a public campaign of counteracting the myths and malignant stories that often provided moral and political opportunists with "evidence".

My associations with prostitutes cover two distinct periods. The first was contact with street prostitutes of Kings Cross and Darlinghurst and the women in the little East Sydney brothels. Most streetwalkers were heroin addicts and many of the brothel workers had criminal connections. But, I soon learned that these women were also mothers who cared much for their children, that they did not come from broken homes nor a background of juvenile delinquency, and most of them did not pursue promiscuous lifestyles outside of prostitution. I was so impressed by this reversal of the public profile of these women that I wrote my first book on the subject, Being A Prostitute, published in 1985.

Five years ago I entered my second period of association. The women this time worked in parlours (bordellos, up-market brothels) and in private (call-girls) flats across the Sydney metropolitan area and in Canberra, Wollongong and Newcastle. Many of them, I discovered, had worked, or were still working, as office secretaries, as nurses, as air stewardesses, and in public relations. Others were students working to pay their way through college or university. Many had also worked in factories or as waitresses, barmaids or shop-assistants. A great number of them were single mothers, and about half had bourgeois backgrounds. Once again they failed to meet the stereotype. Rather than ice-cool dames with particular misanthropy, they were often warm, generous, sensitive women with quite ordinary suburban lives beyond prostitution. Once again I was compelled to write about them, and this book is the outcome. This book has three objectives:

  1. To demonstrate empirically that prostitutes are basically ordinary women with only their occupation distinguishing them from others.
  2. To bring to the general public a balanced, well-informed view of prostitution, shed of its tawdry reputation.
  3. To convince legislators to adopt a more practical method of dealing with prostitution.

The Macquarie Dictionary has two definitions of the word "prostitute":

  1. a person, esp. a woman, who engages in sexual intercourse for money as a livelihood.
  2. one who debases himself or allows his talents to be used in an unworthy way.

The first definition is more appropriate to the meaning of "prostitute" expressed throughout this book. The semantics in the book have been expanded to incorporate the words "sex workers/sex work", "sex industry" and "commercial sex" as alternative terms bearing the same meaning in order to avoid word tedium and too much repetition.

The first chapter of the book introduces the reader to the subject of prostitution by taking a number of perspectives, and raising the issue (tirelessly so in the literature, I'm afraid) of prostitution either as legitimate work or activity, or as an immoral and basically antisocial pastime. From four perspectives - that of the prostitute, the moralist, the scientist, and the jurist-a history and discussion of prostitution as work, immorality, a subject for study, and a legal entity is examined, drawing certain conclusions and endeavouring to determine from the evidence whether in fact the prostitute should be regarded as a "sex worker" or as a "scarlet woman".

Chapter Two explores the law on prostitution across Australia. It begins with an historical outline bringing us to the present situation in Australian jurisdictions; and then discusses in detail the implications and effects of the three major legislative trends: criminalisation (in all but two state/territorial jurisdictions), legalisation in Victoria, and decriminalisation in New South Wales.

In Chapter Three a sample of Sydney prostitutes is compared with two high-status groups of women-health workers and university students-with a view to determining the extent of difference between them, especially in their demographic and class perceptions, their familial and other social relations, and their early sexual experiences. Findings here should indicate to what degree, if any, prostitutes are socially, psychologically, and sexually different to other women, and how these might be seen as predisposing them for sex work.

In Chapter Four the working lives of the prostitute sample and other prostitutes are scrutinised and compared to earlier studies of Sydney prostitutes, and sex workers in America. Descriptions of workplaces and problems that arise, the nature of sex work, and the men in the business are offered for analysis, and the reasons prostitutes give for entering the business are examined in relation to the popular view. Also, the more positive features of the work, such as high income, short or flexible hours, and advantages expressed by the workers themselves are juxtaposed with the negative features of violence, contagion, arrest and drug addiction in an effort to arrive at a full and realistic appraisal of the commercial sex industry.

The final chapter serves as a summary and conclusion based on the evidence at hand throughout the book. It especially attempts a satisfactory discourse on decriminalisation, the politicisation of prostitutes and concord between feminists and prostitutes through an ideological integration. It asks the final question: will prostitution survive with increasing sexual liberation in society, or will it change direction in a major reconstruction of the industry? Is saleable sex really necessary, after all?

This treatise is another addition to a very much overburdened literature (of some 6,000 or more publications) on the subject of prostitution. But, it is an important addition in two major aspects. Firstly, it adds to a small but growing number of books that are reversing misconceived attitudes on prostitutes/prostitution. Secondly, it attempts a solution to an age-old debate with some practical concessional formulae. This book may not be the last word on prostitution, but I sincerely hope it will be pivotal.

Chapter I — Sex Workers or Scarlet Women?


Prostitution has different meanings for different groups in society. A general impression of commercial sex might be that of the ruling cultural dictum, but each social group also tends to interpret it according to the dominant values of its subculture. Thus, to the prostitute it represents work, with the same values and norms found in industrial relations and commercial enterprise. To the church leader and the dedicated Christian it is an immoral act highly offensive to their God and contravening the codes of behaviour in their religion. To the academic it is an interesting social phenomenon requiring research and theoretical analysis to explain its existence. To the legislator, jurist, lawyer and philosopher of law, it is a human behaviour beyond social norms demanding legal interpretation and regulation. To the writer, actor and artist it has a fascinating aesthetic appeal. To the customer of the prostitute and the average male it is sexually titillating. To the average woman it can be forbidding yet intriguing at the same time.

In this chapter prostitution is critically examined from four perspectives - work, morality, science, legality - tracing the historical sources as well as arriving at a rational understanding for each viewpoint.

Prostitution: A Work-Based Occupation

People have got to realise that prostitution is a community service because it provides a definite service for a lot of men - and women, I might add - who wouldn't have that outlet for their fantasies otherwise.

This comment by a Kings Cross prostitute in 1983 probably expresses how most sex workers feel about the business they are in. June, a parlour worker on Sydney's North Shore, put it another way:

Doing prostitution feels like the amount of money you're paid gives me the sense that my labour is valued, from a purely monetary sense [Other] work I've done felt to me to be particularly undervalued, most particularly in nursing.

This comparison of sex work with other work is a constant theme in prostitutes' conversations about their occupation. But, what exactly do they mean by "work"?

The Macquarie Dictionary (1982) has nearly 50 meanings for the term "work". But, the one which seems most pertinent to the viewpoint of prostitutes is this one: "Employment; a job, esp. that by which one earns a living." Raymond Williams notes that:

There is an interesting relation between work and labour. Labour has a strong Medieval sense of pain and toil; work earlier, in one of its senses, had also a strong sense of toil (Williams 1976).

A common defence by prostitutes when questioned on the amount of money they make is: "I work hard for my money!" They speak of aching limbs, mental exhaustion and pelvic pain. Marie is a private prostitute, who includes fantasy work in her business, and she expressed it thus:

The jobs vary in intensity and sometimes I feel very exhausted and I don't feel like doing another job. I wouldn't do it unless I could give it all my attention and be as alert as I should. If I don't have that strength any more then I finish for the day.

Fatale is a bondage mistress who considers her work extremely demanding:

It does take a lot of energy out of me and it can be very stressful at times, even an ordeal. To be dominant takes so much energy; not only does the stance have to be right, you have to be a supreme actress and give off an incredible aura, which makes you a good mistress... I usually require some time in meditation to try and get my thoughts back together again. I think 12 hours [her shift length] is far too long for me because of the pace I work at. When it's 12 hours straight without a break, after a day of working I'm physically exhausted the next day, and mentally drained if the sessions have been stimulating. I continually get sick and run down with shifts of that length.

It is probably this aspect of prostitution which others find most difficult to understand. How can sex be work? After all, for most people it is a pleasant natural pastime, and for the average permissive pragmatist its enjoyment makes it inconceivable as toil. For the Christian moralist, extramarital sex is "sin" not deserving the dignity of being referred to as "work". In both these instances, their responses bear a strong relationship to the Protestant work ethic, with its doctrine of work as toil, sin as pleasure, and work never equated with pleasure.

The strong economic motivation for women entering prostitution is the same for anyone entering the work force. This itself is a strong indication that prostitutes are seeking incomes, and not just some imagined or real psychological propensities. What prostitutes have to exchange for this income is the use of their bodies and time in a sexual service. In the 1983 (Perkins & Bennett 1985) study of Sydney's inner city prostitutes, nearly 97 per cent of the sample of 121 women stated earning an income as their reasons for entering prostitution, and 62 per cent of them claimed their only other alternative was a welfare pension. An American study arrived at similar findings. Nearly a third of 29 mid-west prostitutes worked in commercial sex for entirely economic reasons, while a further 17 of the 29 were psychologically as well as economically motivated, according to the researcher (Decker 1979).

In the sense that prostitutes exchange their labour for cash, it is little different to the everyday exchange of non-sexual labour for cash. Doctors, chartered accountants, lawyers, typists and tradesmen also exchange their labours or skills for cash. The argument that prostitutes are different to these is that they enter an intimate arrangement with another person by physical contact with that person's sexual parts. Prostitutes counter-argue by saying that they do not feel emotionally intimate with their clients and that many of their services do not include sex. Besides, doctors also make a living which include physical contact with the sexual parts of their patients, and no one seems to question their right to take money for it or treat it as work. Some office secretaries have been known to sleep with their bosses for a higher income, and no one would consider calling them prostitutes. Laura, an American call-girl, argued thus:

I use my body to earn a living. What is the difference between working with my hands and working with my pussy. You're still working with a part of your body, which is no different to working with your brains.

The Protestant work ethic principle of separating work and pleasure often troubles some prostitutes too. Martine, a Potts Point parlour worker, spoke about her problem with this:

When I first started work whenever I felt myself getting excited I would stop myself and told myself that I was doing that because I would get too tired after I orgasmed. But then, the more I kept stopping myself the more I realised I was doing it because I felt guilty. I thought that if I had an orgasm it wouldn't be a job any more but pleasure; it would be too enjoyable and I shouldn't get paid for it. It takes a lot not to be turned on as you get very sexually excited jumping in and out of sessions. Now I think, if I don't orgasm it just becomes like any other job.

This is a very good point. How many people in the work force strive to make their job more pleasant so it will not be "like any other job"? Then there are those fortunate highly paid executives, actors, artists, statesmen, writers, correspondents, to name a few, who are stimulated by their work, but who might, like prostitutes, justify the pleasure they derive from their job with: "But I work hard for my money!" Should they be criticised like the prostitute because their work is also pleasurable?

The prostitutes' argot is an excellent indicator of the way these women perceive what they do. They refer to themselves as "working girls" or simply "workers". The men who visit them are called "customers" or, more often "clients", and their payment is a "fee" or "pay". The owner or manager of a brothel is called "the boss" and the employees are "staff" or, in the case of prostitutes "the workers". Time spent with a client is known as "a job", or "a session", and the period involved is referred to as the prostitute's "time". The brothel is sometimes called "the workplace", and the time spent there is known as "a shift". A prostitute takes "time-off" for example when having a coffee or lunch break, going shopping, or seeing a doctor during her shift, and when she is not working on a shift these are her "days off". This has been the language of the oldest prostitute I have known in Sydney, and she worked during World War II, It is also a language well understood by American prostitutes.[1]

Of course, there are those who will claim that this language has arisen in an attempt to legitimise and justify prostitution as a "profession", but, on the other hand, there are professions, like lawyers in private practice, independent artists, freelance writers and politicians, who would not use such work-based terms yet would insist that what they do is work. The fact remains that prostitutes in parlours are rostered onto "shifts", do provide labour for cash, and do have customers who pay for the service. Independent brothel worker Jeanette has a routine which could apply in any number of professions or trades:

I do my books every Sunday, I go to work sharp at 7.45 p.m., and I go in to make a certain amount of money.

My many years' association with prostitutes makes it difficult for me to visualise prostitution in anything else but work-based terms. During our research in 1983, Garry Bennett and I, in seeking to define prostitution. were forced to this conclusion:

Prostitution is a business transaction understood as such by the parties involved and in the nature of a short-term contract in which one or more people pay an agreed price to one or more other people for helping them gain sexual gratification by various methods (Perkins & Bennett 1985).

Years later there is no reason to challenge this viewpoint, and it may stand as a useful definition for this study. It narrows prostitution to a purely commercial transaction, in which the payer is called customer and the payee is the prostitute. It clearly defines "prostitute" also as someone who identifies her/himself in this arrangement. It thus avoids confusion with such murky terms and euphemisms as "good-time girls", "gold-diggers", "hostesses" or mistresses financially supported by their lovers and other quasi-prostitutes, or with other social interactions, like dinner date sexual obligations, sexual favours by career climbers, or the marriage contract. Although, it is interesting to note the words in the old marriage vows, whereby the groom said, "With all my worldly goods I thee endow", and the bride replied, "With my body I thee love".

Using the above definition, prostitution may be expressed in such work-oriented terms that it can be appreciated as an industrial relations or commercial interaction. In Marxist rhetoric it is described thus: the working method of the street prostitute is based on the principle of bargaining and free trade, similar to street vendors and open markets as ancient as human society itself. The "call-girl" reminds us of the small business operations of the petit bourgeoisie, with its modest, though lucrative, profits, and minimal overheads. Brothels, or parlours (bordellos, bagnios, stews, seraglios) are the equivalent in structure to a small to medium sized factory, a hotel, or other building used solely as a workplace, involving large capital expenditure, high overheads and a large regular profit. The "owner of the means of production" may be an individual, a partnership, or a company of shareholders, who employ auxiliary salaried staff, such as managers, receptionists, barmaids, or cleaners and commissioned staff, or the prostitutes. The prostitutes here work in the proletariat tradition in which their labour is hired and exchanged for cash. The prostitute's exchange-value is usually half the exchange-value of the goods (sex) purchased by the client (customer or consumer). This is her commission in a shared arrangement with the owner, whose share is a surplus-value from which wages for auxiliaries, rent, power, telephones, advertisements and other overheads, and capital for reinvestment into the business (for example, improvements or expansion) must be extracted. The balance of this surplus-value is the profit for the owner(s). Whichever of these modes of operation a prostitute chooses is usually motivated by earning power, personal preference, ambition, enterprise, discretion and an ambience compatible with her psychological outlook.

The outcome of choosing a mode of operation can vary enormously between individuals. For example, in street prostitution much depends on how an individual will interact with this environment. There are women who seem to be perpetual victims, who are being constantly robbed, beaten or raped. The streets are a potentially dangerous place to them, and were it not for their excessive drug addictions, for which only street soliciting provides high enough income, they would not be there. To them, every client and other man on the street is a threat. They are tense and distant in their contacts with them, and they lack skills of communication and the clever repartee that is often useful in extricating oneself from a tight dangerous comer. They are often obviously nervous on the street and show apparent lack of confidence.

On the other hand, there are women who are stimulated by street work. They seem to enjoy the action and excitement, and combine something of the exhibitionist and the voyeur in their approach to life on the streets. They have fun communicating with men and have the talent for a good sales pitch, which brings them a high number of jobs. They are rarely beaten, robbed or raped, and they make large amounts of money from quick turnovers, or "short-time" with many clients. These women are professionals at their business, but, more than that, they are comfortable with street life. They ooze confidence and a sense of street-wisdom. While most of them are also drug addicts, some of them are not. The difference between these women and the negative street workers lies in their personalities and their psychological adjustments to various social environments.

In the parlours, adjustment can also depend on these personal factors. But, just as often, it is the external factors which can affect the individual's working environment. Where a boss shows more concern for the welfare of the clients than for the workers, or refuses the use of condoms, or cheats his or her staff, or, in the case of a male boss, demands sex from his workers, the workplace is unpleasant. In instances of condom bans, women often develop strategies of slipping sheaths on customers without their knowledge. But this induces stress from fear of discovery and the consequent dismissal. In situations like these the women have little power or control over the working conditions. The worst example I heard about where the boss acted as an insensitive autocrat was where a worker was threatened with dismissal if she continued to refuse to see a client with obvious herpes. Marie found her working environment unsatisfactory only because of management:

The only thing I dislike at the moment is management; that's the only distasteful part of my present working conditions. Everything else about my work I really enjoy. I feel really excited about going to work apart from the occasional conflicts with management.

Another unpleasant aspect of a parlour working environment is disharmony among the workers. This can arise because of a single disruptive woman, or a quarrel between two enemies on the staff, or theft by an unknown worker, or one woman seeking favours from the boss, or, simply the competition between workers, particularly when business is slow. Occasionally, one worker will be suspected of not wearing a condom in a safe-sex house, or she might be doing anal intercourse or other activity viewed as unsavoury by the rest of the staff. This can be resolved if management supports their staff and is anxious for harmony. Then, some women are incompatible with other women — a usually disastrous situation in a parlour's confined spaces. Caroline admits to being such a woman:

I don't like women and they don't like me... my main problem is working with women... It is a sense of competition or something, I don't know, but whatever it is 95 per cent of women hate me on sight. Yet, my present employer is a woman and she's been very good to me.

There are pleasant workplaces, such as where management has a policy of making condoms mandatory, where the boss has a good personal relationship with everyone on the staff, and, especially where harmony, even friendships, exist among workers. But even in the most conducive parlour atmosphere, ultimate control rests with management. The boss dictates prices, limits working time by Fostering shifts, and can employ as many workers for a shift as he or she thinks fit (obviously the more workers the greater the competition between them, while it means increased business for the owner). On top of this, no parlour management to my knowledge had ever paid sick-pay, holiday-pay or superannuation. These are benefits that will only arrive with unionism, and that can only occur with an empowerment of prostitutes in the first instance.

There is an obvious lack of power for prostitutes within this kind of work structure, which is why some women choose to become independent call-girls, or take to the streets. Kelly is one woman who chose the streets after some time working in parlours:

What I like about the streets is you can start when you want to, finish when you want to; you are virtually an independent person. You don't have to put up with half the things you have to put up with in the parlours. And the money's better on the street.

Street, brothel and parlour prostitution is a very ancient practice, but did the prostitutes of ancient times consider what they did as work? One of the earliest forms of commercial sex was in a different tradition-temple prostitution which once flourished as part of the religious cults of the Ancient Near East, India and South-East Asia. Prostitution was a religious duty to the women attached to the temples of love and fertility deities, and the proceeds they made went to the up-keep of the temple, which, of course, meant them as well. But, according to Herodotus, every woman in Babylon was obliged to prostitute herself on the steps of the temple of the goddess, Mylitta, at least once in her lifetime. It was not a task relished by many women, we are told, but they endured it as a task of duty. Even though the proceeds went to the temple, this toil sounds like unpaid work. Clement of Alexandria reported that on Cyprus women sold sexual services in the temple of Aphrodite in order to earn enough for their dowries. These women, too, might have considered this toil work (Henriques 1962).

In Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire slaves were often sold to the keepers of the state-controlled brothels. But the histories also tell us that non-slave women were prostitutes too, usually in the taverns and streets. These were usually women without men to support them, widows, deserted wives, orphan girls — the poorest women in society. Prostitution, for them, would have been their only source of income, and there is little doubt that they thought of it as work. In Grecian society there was a class of prostitutes known as auletrides, who were musicians, acrobats and strip-tease dancers as well. They were often beautiful young women who hired themselves out as entertainers at banquets, fiestas and orgies. Since they were paid, this was their career, their work, and probably prostitution was not clearly separated from their other activities. The highest ranking prostitutes in Ancient Greece were the courtesans, known as hetairai, whose gifts and pecuniary benefits from the prominent men of Athens were probably considered as payment for services rendered. But there were other benefits, since their close association with the most powerful men in Grecian society brought them a status above all other women. However, in order to reach this level, a great amount of work was required, for not only were the hetairai beautiful, but they had to have achieved the highest social graces and have learned to read and write (Henriques 1962; Simons 1975).

Prostitution also flourished in the European Middle Ages. The streets, taverns, brothels and courts were places where they frequented. Once again, widows, orphans and the poorest women made up the lower ranks of these sex workers, while ambitious learned women were the courtesans. An interesting development in the Late Middle Ages occurred with the establishment of prostitute guilds in some towns, indicative of the trade tradition in medieval commercial sex (Henriques 1963, pp. 42-52).

In the 19th century the largest numbers of women ever recorded made a living from selling sex. Once more these consisted of widows and deserted wives, the unemployed and the under-employed. London was reported to have 80,000 prostitutes in 1840, mainly on the street (Flexner 1914, p. 24). In contemporary Paris the number was 30,000 (Simons 1975, p. 75; Ryan 1839). The economic factor in this rise in female prostitution alone would strongly imply that commercial sex was an alternative, and often only, form of employment. A French physician, Alexandre Jean-Baptiste Parent--Duchatelet, in the 1830s contacted 5,200 Parisian street prostitutes and concluded his investigation with a statement that nearly all of them were there due to dire poverty (Parent-Duchatelet 1857). William Sanger in New York a few years later found that 60 per cent of 2,000 prostitutes were foreign women, a third of whom had fled starvation in Ireland. The poverty and alien backgrounds of these women make it very likely that prostitution for them was employment for survival (Sanger 1858-1937, p. 456).

Today, with increased employment, education and welfare subsidies, much fewer women need to work as prostitutes. In accordance with the earlier definition of prostitution, I estimate that about 1,000 female prostitutes worked in Sydney each week in 1986.[2] This is a mere 0.06 per cent of an approximate female population of 1,680,000 for Sydney (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1984) or about I in 100 women aged between 15 and 45. The NSW Select Committee Upon Prostitution in 1986 estimated between 1,500 and 2,200 prostitutes of both sexes in the State of New South Wales worked on a single day (Parliament of NSW 1986, p. 68). The Victorian Inquiry Into Prostitution in 1985 estimated there were between 3,000 and 4,000 prostitutes of both sexes in the State of Victoria.[3] The South Australian Police Department claimed 250 prostitutes in the city of Adelaide, while an estimate for the State of Western Australia claimed 330 prostitutes.[4] Estimates for male prostitutes range from 5 per cent (Select Committee 1986, pp. 71-2) to 10 per cent of the total prostitute population [5], but taking the least number, since there are considerably fewer males working as prostitutes in other states than New South Wales, and extracting these from the above estimates, I arrive at the following conclusion: in NSW the average number of female prostitutes at a given time is 1,750, or 0.06 per cent of the total female population; in Victoria the corresponding figures are 3,300 or 0.16 per cent; in South Australia 238 or 0.03 per cent; in Western Australia 314 or 0.04 per cent. Comparisons with other countries shows considerable variation. In Paris, for example, one estimate put the percentage of females who worked as prostitutes at 0.5 per cent (Jaget 1980). In Birmingham, England, the estimate was 0.47 per cent (McLeod 1982). For the United States of America, 0.5 per cent of women take up prostitution (Winick & Kinsie 1971). Why such discrepancies exist between areas of similar cultural heritage may be explained by any number of causes — like variations in morality or economies that discourage or prompt women to enter prostitution, or different definitions of "prostitute" and different methodologies for estimating populations by the various researchers. What we might conclude, however, is that as many as 0.5 per cent of women become prostitutes, and as few as 0.03 per cent. In any case, the numbers are extremely small. Given that, as we have seen, the pay is good and working conditions can be pleasant, why do so few women take up commercial sex? The answer to that lies in the forthcoming discussions in this book.

Situations and methods of operation may change in prostitution, but the essential element of commercial exchange, in which one party pays for a service and the other party receives the fee as a part of her income, remains the same throughout the ages and across cultures (excluding temple prostitution). Like the tradesman or the doctor, the prostitute depends on her skills, expertise and bodily labours to conduct a service: it is work for an income, little different, apart from the nature of the work, to other forms of employment. For the more fortunate among them this work can be pleasant, even fun, or stimulating. For the less fortunate, it is tedious, boring and tiresome, or even dangerous. There are those who are traumatised by it and do not last long in it. On the other hand, there are those who gain enormous satisfaction from it, and make a career of it. Like all human endeavours and experiences, prostitution is not the same for all people.

The Moral Response

The anti-prostitution sentiments of the modern Christian Church have their sources in Old Testament dogma and the philosophies of the early Church fathers. Although prostitution has remained condemned in Christian theology almost since the foundation of the Church, remarkably there have been long periods of Church tolerance in Christian societies throughout history. The recent renewed attempts by the Christian Church to exert pressure on the state to eradicate prostitution has largely hidden the compromises of the past.

Although in the eyes of the Church some acts of prostitution contravene the seventh Commandment - "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" - there are more direct references to it in the Old Testament. The most appropriate is found in the Book of Leviticus 19:29:

Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land become full of wickedness. [6]

It was much more serious for daughters of priests in Israel, since as members of the upper religious class they had to set a good example; any of them found as harlots resulted in their extermination by fire (Leviticus 21:9). Thus, to be a prostitute in ancient Israel was an unholy disposition, and the early Christian Church adopted the literal meaning of these references. Curiously though, the responsibility for ordinary women becoming prostitutes rested with their fathers, who were forbidden to sell or encourage their daughters to enter prostitution, and were expected to prevent them if they were so inclined. On the other hand, daughters of priests bore full responsibility for their actions because they profaned their fathers.

The early Christian Church, though, was founded in Rome. Here, it had a direct model of prostitution. While the Romans regulated prostitution through its state-controlled brothels, citizen women who took up prostitution were regarded with contempt. For non-slave Roman women to prostitute themselves meant they gave themselves the same status as slaves. The aristocrat woman who turned to prostitution, in fact, was banished from the city (once again because she must set a good example to ordinary women). The word "prostitute" is derived from the Latin "Prostitutus", meaning "up front" or "to expose", in reference to the fact that prostitutes were expected to appear in public with their faces uncovered, unlike Roman citizen women, who covered their faces with a palla (head cloth). Thus, like Hebrew prostitutes, Roman prostitutes were stigmatised. But the nature of the stigma was quite different. For Israelites it was sacrilegious; for the Romans, however, prostitutes were rebels because they could not be controlled by their menfolk, and therefore defied the social mores of the patria-Roman prostitutes, as was suggested by their term "prostitute", were public women (Henriques 1962).

What impressed the founding fathers of the Church were not the subtle differences, but the outcome, which was the same. St Paul, who thought celibacy was a holier existence than the sexual life, provided this example in his effort to demonstrate the spiritual connection with the body's sexual parts:

Do you know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two shall become one flesh." But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun Immorality (Corinthians 6:15-18)

St Jerome, who was tempted during his privations in the desert by hallucinatory dancing girls, in 385 preached to Eustochium, the daughter of one of his most devout female followers, on the virtues of virginity out of concern for an imagined inclination to harlotry. The most ardent opponent of prostitution at the time was St Augustine, who invented the concept of original sin to explain the lust of men and the evil incarnate of women. He strongly alluded to the fact that the presence of prostitutes in society threatened good women:

What is more base, empty of worth, and full of vileness than harlots and other such pests?... Let them be with matrons and you will produce contamination and disgrace (Augustine of Hippo; Migne).

Yet Augustine had a practical side too, for he also said that harlots "fill a most vile function under the laws of order", because, he warned, "take away harlots from society and you will have tainted everything with lust." Thus was born the idea of prostitution as a necessary evil. Centuries later the great medieval theologian, St Thomas Aquinas would elaborate on this theme:

Rid society of prostitutes and licentiousness will run riot throughout. Prostitutes in a city are like a sewer in a palace. If you get rid of the sewer, the whole place becomes filthy and foul (Thomas 2:2).

Some of Augustine's teachings had a curious influence on men centuries after him. He promoted the idea of sex without passion as better than sex with passion, which became a cornerstone in a 19th century medical rationale for limiting conjugal sex. Men were warned not to indulge in too much sex with their wives, and when they did so to do it without emotion. Many men, of course, turned to prostitutes. and as we have seen, there were plenty available at the time.[7] The curious role of religion in society sometimes has a double edge.

The necessary evil approach opened up a peculiar tolerance for prostitution from the 4th century through to the Reformation. Mary Magdalene provided the perfect model for a harlot to save herself through redemption, and this opened the doors for a charitable concept to impose itself on the "necessary evil". Mary Magdalene may have been a composite of three women, but there are only vague references to her in the New Testament and even vaguer assumptions that she was a prostitute. She is referred to as "a woman of the city, which was a sinner," (Luke 7:37) and Jesus tells us that "her sins, which are many, are forgiven." (Luke 7:41) Whatever the truth, she was a perfect Church vehicle for a female object lesson. Whilst an antithesis of the Virgin Mary, in the end she gained almost as high a place in heaven. Hers was the classic redemption and one of Christianity's highest ideals.

A number of prostitutes in the early Christian period followed in Mary Magdalene's footsteps by giving up their trade and becoming holy women. After death some of them became saints — Sts Mary the Harlot, Pelagia, Afra, Thais, Digna, Eunomia, Eutopia, to name a few — thus proving once again the virtues of salvation, and demonstrating that the greater the sinner the greater the holiness. From carnality to canonisation, these women served to underwrite Christianity's messages of redemption (See Bullough 1982, pp. 38-40).

In the Eastern Church the concept had unprecedented success when Theodora, the wife of Emperor Justinian I and herself a redeemed harlot, founded an institution, Metanoia (Repentance), for reformed prostitutes. In her lifetime 500 repentant prostitutes entered this institution. In the 10th century, four centuries after Theodora, Emperor Leo the Wise turned a Constantinople brothel into a refuge for reformed prostitutes (Bullough 1982, p. 37). The Western Church repeated this in the 13th century when Pope Gregory IX founded an order known as the Magdalenes, dubbed "the White Ladies" on account of the colour of their habit. These were reformed whores turned nuns, whose convents spread across Europe dedicated to the purpose of saving "fallen women". The most famous of these institutions was the Soul House, founded in Vienna in 1384. Unfortunately the place was closed in 1480 when it was discovered that the inmates had relapsed into old ways in order to raise funds to support the convent (Bullough 1982, p. 41). Although the Church viewed the Magdalenes as an experiment that failed, in fact the order had endured for over 250 years. In any case, by then the Church had found other means of dealing with prostitutes.

The necessary evil concept and the Magdalene model had paved the way for an intimate association between Church and whore that would have been inconceivable in either ancient Israel or in St Augustine's time. In the high Middle Ages some extraordinary examples of this association existed. The Bishop of Winchester rented rooms to prostitutes in Southwark under an ordinance of the English King Henry 11 which lasted 400 years (Burford 1976, pp. 41-2). In 1337 the nuns of Stratford opened a brothel for business to support their convent (Burford 1976, p. 75). In 1347 Queen Joana of Naples opened a brothel in Avignon next door to the Pope's residence, and gave the control of it to the nunnery on the other side (Scott 1968, p.68). In Toulouse a brothel known as "the Grand Abbaye" served as a source of revenue for the university for 200 years (Cleugh 1970, p. 138). Early in the 16th century Pope Julius 11 was so inspired by the success of the Avignon brothel that he established one in Rome (Tannahill 1981, p. 264). No attempt at compromise on this scale has occurred since that period. The Reformation and its allegations of Church corruption have put paid to that.

In the 16th century the esteemed Renaissance Humanist Lorenzo Valia, so admired by Martin Luther, wrote that prostitutes were more useful than nuns (de Reincourt 1974, p. 241) but his view had come too late to be appreciated. Notwithstanding his admiration of Valla, Luther in his attack on the established Church also vilified prostitutes:

[A man] may have had vile commerce with 600 harlots and seduced countless matrons and virgins, and kept many mistresses, yet nothing of this would be an impediment and prevent his becoming a bishop or a cardinal or a Pope (Richards 1979, p. 121 1).

Protestantism rejected prostitution outright and banned its existence in those countries which adopted Lutheran and Calvinist codes. But in the counter-reformation, the Papal Church also attempted to ban prostitution, severing its long association with prostitutes and their redemption. In 1560 Paris banished its prostitutes and threatened to brand with hot irons those in the city after 24 hours had lapsed following the edict. The Pope ordered all prostitutes out of Rome by 23rd July 1566, but when 25,000 persons (prostitutes and their dependents) packed to move out, he was forced to rescind the order on 17th August (Sanger 1858-1937, p. 120). In the grand scheme of things, in the end, neither the Reformers nor the Papists, successfully eradicated prostitution. When the dust settled at the end of the religious wars in the mid-17th century, prostitution in Europe was still flourishing.

There followed a period of moral laxity with regard to prostitution. But by the mid-19th century a call for moral order returned, with prostitution its main target. Feminist Josephine Butler, who had waged a successful campaign in England to gain the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (insidious pieces of legislation that discriminated against prostitutes) in 1885 began a fresh campaign for women's fights. Following a trip to Brussels she was confronted by English women working in brothels there and assumed they had been kidnapped. She told her account to a hack journalists W.T. Stead, who followed up with a highly fictitious and sensational article called "The Maiden Tribute of Ancient Babylon" in the Pall Mall Gazette. It blew Butler's story out of proportion with its implications of hundreds of innocent English girls being whisked off to the Continent and forced into prostitution. A massive public demonstration in Hyde Park following the article brought together feminists, evangelists, Anglican church leaders, Socialists and radicals of every kind and creed. The British Government responded with a notorious piece of legislation known as the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1885, an important set of laws because it ushered in legislation across the Commonwealth and America that would begin the legal prohibition of prostitution in the 20th century. The ramifications of this legislation on prostitution will be discussed in more detail in the Section on the Legal Response.

The point to be made here is that what began as a concern for women's rights with the collaborative efforts of feminist Butler and Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army, with the view to curbing the traffic of women, set in motion a series of legislative attacks on prostitution and the women freely involved in it that has continued to this day. In the later 19th century and at the turn of the century the most reactionary element of the evangelist movement put their weight behind the legislation with the successful recruiting of the working classes in a middle-class thrust for social purity. The National Vigilance Association was formed in the wake of the legislation in 1885 to insure its ultimate enforcement. When law enforcement officers, pushed along by the social purity spirit of this Organisation, closed 200 brothels in London, drove most of the prostitutes from the streets, and invaded their little homes, Butler, one of the original members of the association, resigned in disgust. One of the leading female social purists, Ellice Hopkins, managed to establish an active moral vigilante Organisation termed White Cross Army, made up of mostly working-class men, which gave police a much needed citizen's arrest committee. When a second bill was passed to deal with the traffic in women, which became known as the White Slavery Act of 1912, a much wiser feminist leader, Sylvia Pankhurst, wryly remarked:

It is a strange thing that the latest Criminal Amendment Act, which was passed ostensibly to protect women, is being used to punish women (Walkowitz 1982, pp. 79-93).

Through the social purity leagues of Britain not only did religion enter politics, but it aided in the enforcement of the laws it lobbied for and almost wrote single-handedly. These powerful religious forces have remained in positions of great influence to this day, still guiding the hands of government in its moral crusade against prostitution and what they perceive as other vices (such as homosexuality, pornography, and permissiveness).

Fundamentalist Christian organisations are persistently the staunchest opponents of prostitution in Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia. But Catholic and orthodox Protestant sects refuse to alter their traditional position on prostitution. When the NSW Select Committee Upon Prostitution published its report, the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church responded with a strong criticism on 11 June 1987. It introduced its response by establishing its views on the issue:

Prostitution is indeed dangerous. The history of human relationships proves the point in terms of physical and emotional danger to the prostitute, those who live off the prostitute's earnings and the clients who pay for the services. This fact alone should force responsible governments to limit prostitution. Prostitution is now inextricably linked with the twin problems of drug addiction and AIDS. This makes it one of the most powerful vehicles for harm in our community (Anglican Press Service 1987, p. 1).

Following this, the Church disagreed with those recommendations of the Select Committee which suggested more moderate legislation, the repeal of draconian laws, and environmental regulation of prostitution, on the basis that it "does not condone brothels ... street prostitution ... brothel operation." According to the Church:

The ideal would be to eradicate prostitution. Society does not need the stain that it creates ... the desperate lives of those using prostitution to support drug habits, or unmarried mothers trying to raise cash to support young children, or young teenagers seeking refuge from hostile or broken home environments, or men incapable of building satisfactory relationships being enticed by what is essentially a very deceptive form of loneliness and unfulfilled love ... The Church's position is clearly defined: prostitution in any form is wrong. Adultery, fornication and homosexuality are not intended forms of human sexual expression. Exchanging goods or services for such activity does not make them any less wrong (Anglican Press Service 1987, p. 2).

The Church, however, does not ignore the need for compassion in this issue of morality and the sex industry. On the contrary, in the spirit of the Magdalenes it holds out its hand to those drug addicts, unwed mothers and teenagers it spoke of earlier:

The Church has long had concerns for the disadvantaged in society. Our Lord was ridiculed as a friend of prostitutes and sinners. It has been, and continues to be, the Church's wish to reach out in love and practical help for such people (Anglican Press Service 1987, p. 2).

Since addicts, unwed mothers and teenagers represent less than half the women in prostitution, how can welfare assistance and institutions help the other half, who are divorcees, struggling students, underpaid nurses, and women who choose prostitution as a career? Women like Laura, Martine and Marie, judging by their comments in the previous Section, would probably consider this attitude both patronising and impractical. Most drug addicts, unwed mothers and teenagers whose only livelihood is commercial sex would probably not be too impressed either.

In an institution which promotes celibacy, chastity, and the duty of sex for procreation, it is difficult to see how prostitution can ever be tolerated by the Church, unless radical departures occur from its traditional views. In traditional Christian ideology, the prostitute is influenced by the devil and is therefore antithetical to Christ. The Church sees prostitution as intrinsically immoral because it promotes sin. But as philosophy scholar Lars Ericsson points out in a well-argued document:

To say that prostitution is intrinsically immoral is in a way to refuse to give any argument. The moralist simply "senses" or "sees" its immorality. And this terminates rational discussion at the point where it should begin (Ericsson 1980, p. 339).

Fundamentalist Christians, in particular, often accuse prostitution of corrupting young people, or as a threat to the family. These are usually highly emotive responses intended to whip up political and legislative support for their anti-prostitution sentiments. Ericsson presents a counter-argument:

Nor has [prostitution] ever been a threat to the family itself. People marry and visit whores for quite different reasons. In point of fact, the greatest threat to the family is also the greatest threat to prostitution, namely, complete sexual liberty for both sexes (Ericsson 1980, p. 338).

As for the phobia of prostitution corrupting children, this is often a frontline defence for protecting the family. However, it is repressive Christian mores and anti-sexual attitudes which more often break down family relations, with young people fleeing their natal homes for a better life, and maybe taking up prostitution as a matter of survival. Street prostitute Kelly is a case in point:

The first home I remember going into was when I was five and it was a Salvation Army Home. From the time I was seven until 13 1 was living with these foster parents. My foster father was quite good when my foster mother wasn't around, but he used to have this terrible habit of wanting to kiss me on the lips and he used to pin me against the wall just to kiss me. I hated my foster mother; she used to bash me and was very strict with issues. My childhood was very lonely because I could never get to know any of the children at school. I had to hurry straight home after school and wasn't allowed to go out by myself. If I did go out it was with my foster parents, and then everything was organised for me: what I wore, whom I spoke to, really really strict. On a couple of occasions they let me go to kid's parties on condition that the parents of the girl whose party it was picked me up and dropped me home again. My foster brother used to babysit me when the rest of the family was out. When I was eight he sat in the lounge room with just a towel wrapped around him. He started masturbating and made me sit there and watch. I was scared of all of them so I did as he asked. As time progressed he started rubbing his penis in between my legs, until one day he tried to enter me. He said: "Now don't you tell anyone otherwise I will tell them you're lying." My foster father was a doctor and he was a masseur for the local football club. Five of the boys raped me when I was 13, and that was my first actual intercourse. My foster mother blamed me and said I looked for it, and she put me in an institution as an uncontrollable child. I remained there for a year and then ran away to Tasmania with a girl from the institute. I was eventually arrested at 16 for being in moral danger. I had a job in a shoe store at the time. Six months later I ran off again, this time to Sydney, where I met a man whom I later married. I conceived on my honeymoon. When I was 17 1 met another man and he put me into prostitution.

Raised in a Christian institution and fostered to a Christian family is no guarantee of avoiding prostitution. Margaret, another street prostitute, has a similar story:

My father was an alky and my mother a barb freak. She took valium and secanol a lot to cope with Dad and he used to drink a lot to cope with her. I can understand why Dad took to drink because Mum used to rave a lot and why she took tablets because he used to hit her a lot. I felt really threatened and unloved, and I was put into institutions a lot by my parents because they couldn't cope with me. I was unlucky to have been born into a family that was poor and unable to look after me. At age 10 my first introduction to a government institution was for breaking and entering. No one asked me why they sentenced me, they just did it, for my own protection they said. I ran away from there and in a year they sent me home, but it was the same old hassles of Mum arguing and Dad drunk. So I ran away from there and was charged with exposure to moral danger. No one asked me why I kept running away. I was 13 and I ran away again, but this time not back home. I ran away to the Cross and started working on Victoria Street in my school uniform.

For Margaret, Kelly and many other young people the family offers no protection, and for some, prostitution is far better, since it provides them with a sense of independence and an income.

Yet the moral message remains a very powerful persuasive force in modern society, distilled as it is through law codes, and pervading everyday relations through the media and language. Two well-springs for moral thought exist, in ruling class dictum and intellectual communication. Lord Devlin's argument for an enforcement of morals through legislation is an example of the former.

Following the United Kingdom's Wolfenden Report On Prostitution and Homosexuality (1957), Devlin delivered a lecture to the British Academy in 1958. He argued that since prostitution was disapproved of by a majority in society, the law had a duty to protect the interest of this majority. Sexual deviance, he claimed, undermined the fabric of society, and society, in order to protect its existence must utilise whatever power it had at its disposal. He further rationalised that where a majority in society possesses a moral conviction it has a right to demand of society the means by which it might maintain the status quo, since any change, however insignificant it may appear, changed the moral order for the majority. Devlin argued that this is the essence of democracy and the law must respond in favour of the majority (see Devlin 1959/65).

Yale Professor of Law, Ronald Dworkin argued against Devlin:

The claim that a moral consensus exists is not based on a poll. It is based on an appeal to the legislator's sense of how his community reacts to some disfavoured practice... An awareness of the grounds on which that reaction is generally supported [includes] sifting through these arguments and positions trying to determine which are prejudices and rationalisations, which presuppose general principles or theories vast parts of the population could not be supposed to accept... It may be that when he has finished this process of reflection he will find that the claim of a moral consensus has not been made out. In the case of homosexuality, I expect, it would not be, and that is what makes Lord Devlin's undiscriminating hypothetical so serious a misstatement. What is shocking and wrong is not his idea that the community's morality counts, but his idea of what counts as a community's morality (Dworkin 1965-66).

Devlin's assumptions about public morality and the need for a legal enforcement of morals is exactly the kind of ruling class indoctrination that has worked as a social control forum for centuries, and was also seen in the middle-class social purity regimes of the last century, as well as the media and political propaganda of the fundamentalist organisations today. It is, in fact, less to do with majority rule and more to do with reasoning through the power of collective consciousness in a sexual paradigm (see Foucault 1980).

Just as successful as an instrument of moral propaganda is intellectual communication. Not as overtly intentional as ruling class dictum, it is, nevertheless, equally effective as a mechanism of moral order. As a parallel to this there is Freudian analysis reinforcing notions about female sexuality as providing propaganda for the maintenance of female submission in western society. The following example which demonstrates the above theory is one of the most blatant instances of morality proselytisation.

Ray Sexton, a psychotherapist, and Richard Maddock, a practising psychologist and Episcopal priest, investigated a series of female patients whom they were treating for depression, among other neuroses, some of which manifested in a clearly physical form (for example headaches, vomiting and abdominal pain). It was suggested that these might be outcomes of guilt following a proposal that these women were prostitutes. The authors explain:

In our professional activities we have seen profound psychological problems in professional prostitutes which required professional psychiatric assistance in order to help them overcome their emotional difficulties. But even more frequently we have seen theological problems that underlie sexual misconduct on the part of individuals who have never prostituted themselves professionally, but for some reason believe that they are prostitutes (Sexton & Maddock 1980, p. 226).

Sexton and Maddock claim that their patients' psychological problems were due to a past event when a suggestion was made that they may be prostitutes. This was only effective after the women had realised differences between good and bad behaviours. In a "primary gain" of information in early childhood they learned of the Ten Commandments, including the, meaning of adultery. Later in childhood they were subjected to a "secondary gain" of information, including the meaning of prostitution. But, had the women been called "a bad girl" even before the "secondary gain", a connection could be made to enable them to identify subconsciously as prostitutes. Treatment involves regressing the patient back to the first moment when she was referred to as bad and learned about prostitution.

The authors mention Jesus' association with "loose or immoral" women, and "He was aware of the individual problems of prostitutes and types of sinful behavior. He used these individuals to teach about the forgiving Grace of God." (Sexton & Maddock 1980). In a modern sense, cleansing the soul is a treatment that ends these women's feelings of guilt. In the logic of the authors, God enters the consciousness first, followed by knowledge of morality. A reverse logic here might be that had God not entered the consciousness first, then a concept of wickedness may never exist. Becoming a prostitute first and then knowing God is a situation not unfamiliar to Christian missionaries among pagan cultures. Under such circumstances the missionary expects the individual to re-shape her moral consciousness.

Although the Sexton and Maddock study is an extreme example of morality through intellectual communication, there are many more subtle examples of intrinsic moral values in academia, even where the researcher is unaware of it but unconsciously relays moral messages through deep-seated biases. Stereotypes of prostitutes are perpetuated this way from assumptions made in the original study through to more blatant instances of bias in popular media. The many reproductions of prostitute characters on the movie screen are a good example of this process. The filmmaker reproduces popular stereotypes because he/she responds to a tacit approval of audiences, but also because of biases which he/she shares with the community at large in a common cultural consciousness (Perkins 1989, pp. 28-34).

Sexton and Maddock are not too different to Devlin in that there is an assumption in their work that they are speaking to a majority of people in simpatico with their religious language and theory. Such an assumption spills over into fundamentalist organisations which think they represent a majority. As Dworkin ( 1965/66) points out, this is done without reference to a poll. In fact polls on public opinion about prostitution have been conducted in Australia. In the 1960s a national poll solicited people's opinions on the "legalising" of prostitution. Of the 1,045 participants, 53 per cent of the non-religious agreed to "legalising", as well as 51 per cent of the non-church going religious, 43 per cent of Anglicans, 35 per cent of Catholics, and 28 per cent of other Protestants among church-goers. Forty-five per cent of all participants agreed with "legalisation", 46 per cent opposed it, 7 per cent offered no opinion and 2 per cent failed to answer. The sexual ratio was 1.1:1 in favour of males; 51 per cent of men agreed to "legalisation" and only 39 per cent of women (Wilson & Chappell 1969). The Sydney Morning Herald ran a poll in conjunction with the researchers Irving Saulwick & Assoc. in 1985. Some 2,027 Australians were participants, including 436 churchgoers. In all, 75 per cent of the total thought prostitution should be "legalised", and so did 56 per cent of the churchgoers. The sexes were nearly equal in opinion, with 80 per cent of men agreeing to "legalisation" compared to 71 per cent of women. Street prostitution was thought to be the most offensive, with 76 per cent of the total opposed to its "legalisation". The women's magazine Cleo also ran a poll on prostitution recently. All, or nearly all, of the 1,231 respondents were probably women, and one question asked them which type of prostitution they thought should be legal. Only 21 per cent opposed any "legalisation", while 36 per cent agreed to brothels, 42 per cent agreed to parlours, 64 per cent agreed to escorts, and 6 percent agreed to street soliciting, being "legalised". Interestingly, women over 25 years were the most tolerant, with only 10 per cent disagreeing to any kind of "legalisation", while those under 19 were the least tolerant, with 30 per cent disagreeing with any "legalisation" (Cleo May 1989). As you can see, this is far from a majority; in the past 20 years increasingly more people are inclined towards tolerance.

Christian logic is deeply imbedded in our common consciousness. Through state power and moral authority it reaches every individual in society, and, as we have seen in the example of Sexton and Maddock, it challenges intellectual logic. It is this persuasive cultural dynamic which maintains social control over prostitution and makes prostitutes outcasts.

The Academic Response

On the one hand, much academic research, particularly in the social sciences, has provided us with essential insights into the nature of prostitution. But, on the other hand, some academic research into the world of the sex worker, particularly the early studies in criminology and psychoanalysis, seemed to provide a scientific logic to the moral response.

Many disciplines have contributed to our knowledge of the commercial sex industry. Vern Bullough et. al. (1977) compiled a comprehensive list of 5,500 works published between 1539 and 1977 which dealt with various aspects of prostitution. Since then the total number of publications may well have risen to around 6,500. The disciplines most represented in this list are medicine and law, while psychiatry, which has probably had the most effective impact on the public consciousness, contributes one of the smallest number of entries among the disciplines. The social sciences of sociology, psychology and anthropology have contributed less than the humanities, with history the leading contributor in all these disciplines (see Table 1.1). The dominance of medicine and law entries indicates a high interest in these disciplines as a reflection of the community concern for controlling prostitutes.

Table 1.1a : List of publications by discipline
Discipline N. %
General 108 1.97
Anthropology* 152 2.77
Area Studies 787 14.33
Bibliography 24 0.44
Biography/Autobiography 266 4.84
Business 112 2.04
Fiction (English) 295 5.37
Guides/Descriptive history 45 0.82
History+ 540 9.83
Juveniles 83 1.51
Legal/Police regulations 833 15.17
Literature+ 88 1.60
Males (Prostitutes/clients/pimps) 53 0.97
Medicine/Public health 1130 20.58
Organisations publications 132 2.40
Psychiatry 77 1.40
Psychology* 88 1.60
Religion/Morality+ 133 2.42
Sociology* 473 8.61
War 72 1.31
Total 5491 100.00
* Social Sciences = 713 (12.98%)
+ Humanities = 761 (13.85%)
Source: Bullough et al. 1977

Table 1.1b : List of publications by geographical area
Geographical areas N. %
Non-specific 10 1.27
Africa 8 1.02
Asia generally 8 1.02
Australia and Pacific 3 0.38
Austria/Germany/Switzerland 42 5.34
Canada 7 0.89
China 21 2.67
Eastern Europe and Greece 10 1.27
Europe generally 11 1.40
France 51 6.48
Great Britain and Ireland 50 6.35
Holland and Belgium 9 1.14
India 44 5.59
Italy 30 3.81
Japan 74 9.40
Latin America 60 7.62
Middle East 22 2.80
Scandinavia 9 1.14
South-East Asia 10 1.27
Spain and Portugal 20 2.54
United States of America 264 33.55
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 24 3.05
Total 787 100.00
Source: Bullough et al. 1977

Table 1.1c : List of publications by historical period
Historical Periods N. %
History generally 97 17.96
Ancient Times 25 4.63
Middle Ages 19 3.52
Early Modern Times 31 5.74
Eighteenth Century 60 11.11
Nineteenth Century 200 37.04
Twentieth Century 108 20.00
Total 540 100.00
Source: Bullough et al. 1977

Academic research of prostitution can be said to have only begun in the 19th century. One of the earliest of these was the study carried out by Alexandre Jean Baptiste Parent-Duchatelet in Paris in the 1830s. A physician, he investigated an incredible 5,200 street prostitutes. He was not influenced by moral opinion and very little scientific research on prostitutes had been conducted before him, so that he was not swayed by any particular school of thought. In his day, prostitution, though not approved of, was treated more as a fact of life rather than a criminal phenomenon. It was understood as an activity mostly engaged in by the desperately poor who suffered from unemployment or pitifully low wages. Parent-Duchatelet concluded that:

Of all the causes of prostitution, none is more important than unemployment and the poverty inevitably resulting from low wages (Parent-Duchatelet 1857).

In the late 19th century the new morality of the evangelists began to change the popular view of prostitutes. They were no longer seen as just poor women struggling to survive. The new laws in Britain, prompted as we have seen by the social purists, put paid to that view. Now prostitutes were the women who defied the law and therefore had criminal status, and since law-breaking and sin were equated, the social and economic factors in prostitution that were raised as an issue by such researchers as Parent-Duchatelet were forgotten. The question being asked was: "Why do some women become immoral?", instead of "Why do poor women become immoral?". Coinciding with the popular moral and legal views of prostitution and female deviance were the early stages of two research traditions that would have far-reaching impacts on 20th century thought about women involved in commercial sex.

The first of these traditions was the new science of criminology. Two of its founders were the Italian social Darwinists, Cesare Lombroso (sometimes referred to as "the father of criminology") and Giulgielmo Ferrero. They developed an astonishing new theory on prostitutes at the turn of the century based on atavism, in which prostitutes were assumed to be representative of a kind of primeval female whose sexuality was as virile as male libido (Lombroso & Ferrero 1895). This view of prostitutes as sub-human women, presumably, was inspired by a fact that they often initiated sexual contact with their customers. Lombroso later produced evidence to support his theory by demonstrating that prostitutes' virility corresponded with a more masculine appearance, such as larger frames, huskier voices, and hairier bodies (Lombroso 1898). This fantastic piece of empiricism became a cornerstone of the new science, and threads of it remain in present-day police attitudes on prostitutes. It, of course, delighted the moralists who had a scientific justification for their attacks on deviant women as it created a circular reinforcement between the prevailing moral outlook and the new scientific dogmas. Also the psycho-legal logic of Lombroso's atavism complemented the growing theories on passive female sexuality vis-a-vis deviant behaviours in the second of the new research traditions - psychoanalysis.

Sigmund Freud himself had little to say about prostitutes. But in his discussion on the "polymorphously perverse disposition" in children's sexuality, he made this comment:

Children behave in the same way as an average uncultivated woman in whom the same polymorphously perverse disposition persists. Under ordinary circumstances she may remain normal sexually, but if she is led on by a clever seducer she will find every sort of perversion to her taste, and will retain them as part of her own sexual activities. Prostitutes exploit the same polymorphous, that is, infantile, disposition for the purpose of their profession; and, considering the immense number of women who are prostitutes, or who must be supposed to have an aptitude for prostitution without becoming engaged in it, it becomes impossible not to recognize that this same disposition to perversions of every kind is a general and fundamental human characteristic (Freud 1905/79, p. 109).

Thus, unlike Lombroso, Freud never considered prostitutes' sexuality strikingly different to most women. But for many of his followers prostitutes were key figures in a dialectic of deviant female sexuality. The problem for psychoanalysis as academic research methodology, though, is the nature of the treatment itself. The very intensity of the treatment with each patient limits the number of patients a doctor is able to see. Thus any statistical conclusion made from one doctor's list of prostitute patients was based on a small sample, and this then makes it suspect scientific empiricism. This fact may well account for the extraordinary diverse theories about prostitutes that the Freudians produced for half a century. A review of just a few of these will be sufficient to indicate the extent of this diversity.

Karl Abraham (1942) in 1920 claimed that prostitutes' acceptance of a fee indicated a deep hostility towards men. Helene Deutsch (1929) said they were masochistic. Jeannie Lamplade Groot (1928) thought their sexual assertiveness was due to a failure to resolve their Oedipal (that is "Electra") Complex. Maryse Choisy (1960 & 1961), who worked as a waitress in a Parisian brothel in order to observe her subjects in 1928, claimed that prostitutes and their clients resented one another, due, she asserted, to a hatred of father by prostitutes and a hatred of mother by clients. The Italian Freudian, Tibor Agoston (1945), argued that prostitutes and their customers were involved in an immature fantasy and were unable to develop adult responsibilities of long-term relationships. He felt that the prostitute achieved a subterfuge of maturity by submerging her real infantile personality beneath a pseudo-personality, which was rented out in her transactions.

The situation did not improve among the neo-Freudians. Frank Caprio (Caprio & Brenner 1961), after a world brothel tour in 1953, concluded that lesbians were more compelled to become prostitutes than other women, due to a pseudo-heterosexual defence against their suppressed homosexual tendencies. Thomas Szasz (1957) thought prostitutes denied their genitals by allowing male strangers to "possess" these sex organs. Harold Lichtenstein (1961) argued the other way: he claimed prostitutes "castrated" their clients in order to "possess" the phallus and thus win back the love of mother lost in the Oedipal phase. Marc Hollander (1961) argued that prostitutes symbolically castrated their clients in an act of revenge for the way men mistreat women.

Perhaps one of the most amazing studies in the psychoanalytical tradition was that of Edward Glover (1960), who investigated the lives of 20 call-girls and arrived at a classic Freudian conclusion. These women, he asserted, failed to resolve their Oedipal phase, maintaining hostility towards their mothers, yet being distant from their fathers. As a result, they were contemptuous towards men, which explained their apparent frigidity. With sexual pleasure having a monetary value for them, this indicated a strong anal fixation due to an association of cash with faeces (filthy lucre?). In addition, Glover (1960) argued, this masked a submerged homosexuality.

Another neo-Freudian, although not quite so outrageous in his claims, was Harold Greenwald (1958), who treated a number of call-girls. They also failed to resolve Oedipus, and entered prostitution in a hope of finding a father figure to love, whilst maintaining anger towards their mothers, whom they tormented by an open identification as whores. Greenwald admitted to his study's shortcomings due to a small sample, and went to great lengths to point out that his conclusions were pertinent to his patients only. By then, though, psychoanalysis as a useful scientific methodology was falling out of favour. But much of the damage had been done, since its analytical outcomes had reinforced popularist, moralist and legislators' negative views of prostitutes.

Sociology was another science that had grown as an important analytical academic tradition in the early 20th century. Unlike psychoanalysis' focus on the individual's internalisation of his or her reaction to inter-personal stimulus, sociology is concerned with the external agents interacting with the person. The earliest sociological research, however, was theoretical rather than empirical, and one of the fundamental schools of the science in the early 20th century was functionalism. Perhaps the foremost scholar from this school to turn his attention to prostitution was Kingsley Davis, who was most concerned for the nature of the relation between "deviant" and "normal" behaviours. In a milestone work he argued that prostitution has an important function in society alongside marriage because men are kept contented with emotionally free sex beyond the nuptial bed (shades of Aquinas?). Therefore, he contended, prostitution was more likely to complement marriage than weaken it. Dislocations in marriage are more likely to occur with men involved in extra-marital affairs than involved with prostitution, since the mistress is much more ready to be a substitute for his wife than the prostitute. Davis (1937) concluded then that prostitution should hardly be termed "deviant". Later, he argued that in the economy of sex the exchange of sex for cash by prostitutes was intrinsically no different to wives trading sexual access to their bodies in marriage for financial security. He also thought that women in the general work force might improve their working conditions by taking up prostitution, since prostitutes "set their own hours, determine their own vacations, as well as escape income taxes" (Davis 1961). Not quite so utopian, but, nevertheless, with uncanny insight, Davis had hit upon some of the reasons for some women throwing in their "straight" jobs for prostitution.

Davis' functional analysis may be criticised for its assumptions that the social structures and the relationship between social functions, like marriage and prostitution, for example, will remain unchanged. It assumes that women will always be the majority of prostitutes, and that men will maintain the same form of dominance over women. Thus, it tends to prop up conservative notions of sex and society, whereas he intended to challenge them. Already, today over half a century after Davis' initial work, some of the functions of social roles have changed, especially in the work force, in sexual permissiveness, and in the importance of marriage.

But there are some redeeming features of Davis' analysis. He saw wives and prostitutes together in reciprocal arrangements with men in a sexual socioeconomic relationship between the sexes. The "collusion" of wives and prostitutes in this role indicate a clear overlap of so-called "deviant" and conventional social roles. Davis found that the exact demarcation point between deviancy and normalcy was no longer as clear as socially supposed. He therefore concluded that rather than deviant and orthodox behaviours functioning as contrasts, they closely interacted and complemented one another. This is one of functionalism's major assets in sociology: the de-construction of previous concepts of "deviance".

Another important sociologist with essential contributions to research into prostitution was William Isaac Thomas. He emerged from a different school, the so-called Chicago school of sociology, with its role in promoting the analytical tradition of symbolic interactionism. The main concern of the symbolic interactionist method of research is the relationship between the individual and his or her social environment. This is best analysed through the perspective of the subject, whose interpretation of norms and values in his or her sub-culture establish a very different meaning than usually assumed by society. The social meaning of "deviance" makes little sense, since the deviants become those who fail to conform to the norms of the sub-culture. Symbolic interactionism allows the research a much deeper insight into the subject's world than ever possible using a functionalist or psychoanalytical approach. Whereas the functionalist will ask "What is important for society?" and the psychoanalyst will ask "What is important for the subject?", the symbolic interactionist will ask "What is important for the individual (that is subject) in society?" Critics of this method, however, argue that it is too narrow in scope and fails to take account of the wider social structures that underpin society.

But, whatever its limitations, symbolic interactionism was utilised by Thomas early this century to produce one of the outstanding works on prostitutes to his time, and certainly the most insightful of these women. Delving into some 90 case histories of young women and others brought before the juvenile and criminal courts, he found that many of the women moved into prostitution for survival and moved out to marry or settle down into conventional lifestyles. He alerted us to what many researchers today are just beginning to discover: that prostitutes are ordinary women who cross into deviant lifestyles and back into social conformity. These women's lives, however, were affected by their social circumstances which sent them into prostitution just as much as their social circumstance after their experiences in prostitution. As Thomas points out: "It is only when we understand behavior as a whole that we can appreciate the failure of certain individuals to conform to the usual standards." (Thomas 1923/67, p. 2). The women were usually very poor, many came from undesirable family relations, and many were migrants. He referred to their general social milieu as a "culture of survival", and recognised the plight of economic sustenance, or what he calls "the over-determination of economic interests" because this is both "universal" and "predominant" in achieving "economic success... a value convertible into new experience, recognition... security" (Thomas 1923/67, p. 256). Thomas notes with the bitter irony of his case histories:

We only have to refer to the criminal code to appreciate the variety of ways in which the wishes [desires] of the individual may conflict with the wishes of society... There is, therefore, always a rivalry between the spontaneous definitions of the situation made by a member of an organised society and the definitions which his society has provided for him (Thomas 1923/67, p. 42).

Thomas concluded his analysis of his "unadjusted girls" with some probing questions still the basis for sociological enquiry 75 years later:

How far is abnormality a matter of deficient social Organisation?... How far is individualism compatible with social cohesion?... How is the general social efficiency of a group affected by various systems of relations between man and woman? (Thomas 1923/67, p. 2)

These were questions which tantalised a group of later sociologists from the Chicago school of thought who grappled with the relationships of individuals and society in theories of social deviance. Some of these social deviance theorists, like Edwin Lemert and Howard Becker, were of the interactionist school, while others outside the Chicago school, most particularly Robert King Merton, championed the structural-functional position in the sociology of deviance. Becker summed up the position of the interactionists:

[Societies] create deviance by making those rules whose infractions constitutes deviance... From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an "offender" (Becker 1962, p. 9 1).

Lemert (1951) referred to "social pathology" as the situation in which the individual is seen to be the cause of an infraction which is due to ills in society itself, such as sexual repression, social inequality, labelling and social ostracism. As a group the social deviance theorists say deviance occurs as a result of conflicts of interest between powerful "in-groups" and powerless "out-groups". The "in-groups" protect their interests by constructing laws, which they promote as "natural laws of justice", while the "out-groups" are defined as "law abiding" or "law breakers" depending on the degree of acceptance of these laws. "Deviants" are those most unable to meet the demands and constraints of these laws, and are dealt with by the state's oppressive and institutional apparatus controlled by the "in-groups" such as reform schools, police, courts, prison, and mental asylums, aimed to control and rehabilitate them, or in the case of incorrigibles, lock them out of society forever. Such a situation arose for a group of street prostitutes in Sydney. They were arrested soon after a law was passed in 1983 to make street soliciting offensive. Overnight they became criminal "deviants" ending in gaol sentences. Bearing a double stigma, of social as well as criminal "deviant", they were scapegoats of powerful government forces and the victims of powerful middle-class reactions. I commented on the position of these unfortunate women at the time:

[The prostitute] mirrors our inadequacies and our distorted sense of human sexuality, while at the same time tendering to the back-log in human reality. For her honest raw-boned approach to a part of ourselves we find ugly in our own denial of self, we vilify her, deny her rights, and lock her up in an attempt to cast out of our minds what most of us know she is telling us is true (Perkins 1984).

Merton's structural-functionalism sees deviance occurring when a person is unable to meet the "ends" (or values) by the acceptable "means" (or rules), leading to an illegitimate attempt at acquiring the "ends". Deviance then, "arises from a dissociation between ends and means" by which mostly people from the lower classes, rather than the upper or middle classes, will be in a position to depend on a deviant lifestyle to achieve what others acquire through conformity (Merton 1957).

His major critic was Lemert (1967) who felt his analysis too simplistic and failing to confront complex situations. As Becker (1963) pointed out, white-collar crimes are just as prevalent as blue-collar crimes but less often solved and brought to public notice. Lemert (1968) levelled similar criticisms at Davis' narrow focus on the trading of sex for pecuniary benefit. Not only prostitutes and wives are involved but women who sleep with their date for providing a generous outing, mistresses kept by their lovers, waitresses who allow their bottoms to be pinched for a tip, and secretaries who sleep with their bosses for a raise.

David Matza (1969, p. 84) sums up nicely for deviance theorists in his comparison between prostitution and other professionals. As with any service, he points out, prostitution renders a service for a fee, it is devoid of emotion, and it does not discriminate between customers. As he put it: "Prostitution is among the oldest of professions, and professionals always fear prostituting themselves."

Psychologists, especially since the 1940s, have shown an interest in prostitution. The branch of psychology that has made the most important inroads into this area of study has been social psychology, a largely empirical science interested in outcomes as much as origins. Until the time of the psychologists of the 1950s empirical analysis of prostitutes was rare, but since then it has become one of the major methods of research. One of the earliest empiricists to study prostitutes was British psychologist T.C.N. Gibbens, who was also inclined towards behaviourism. In the early 1950s he conducted a survey of 400 "wayward girls" focusing on differences between those juveniles who had been prostitutes and those who had not. He was surprised to learn that very little differences existed between them in their intellectual, emotional and psychological dispositions (Gibbens 1957, p. 3ff).

Later, Gibbens turned to adult prostitutes by conducting a study of such women in Holloway Prison. His findings were quite disturbing: 25 per cent of these women had attempted suicide, 25 per cent had some physical disorder, 25 per cent were alcoholics, 25 per cent were drug addicts, and 15 per cent suffered acute mental stress. This is a very different picture to Thomas' "unadjusted girls", who were self-sufficient and pragmatic, and moved freely from one lifestyle to another. There were two problems with Gibbens' adult sample. Firstly, it was not measured against a control group, so that it is impossible to determine how unusual these findings might be in a prison population. Secondly, since these were incarcerated women it would be incorrect to assume that these incarcerated prostitutes were representative of prostitutes per se, most of whom had never been gaoled.

Gibbens' American counterpart was social psychologist and one-time colleague of Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy. Once again there is a bias towards criminalised prostitutes, since Pomeroy's sample of 175 sex workers included 154 gaol inmates. But his findings were very different to Gibbens' adult sample. Rather than the depressing picture seen in the British study, Pomeroy's women seemed lively and positive. Two-thirds of them had not regretted taking up prostitution. They saw it as work and entered it to earn more money than they could otherwise. They found it interesting and easy work that was enjoyable, and providing them with freedom and sexual pleasure. For the first time in a major prostitution study here were women admitting to obtaining orgasmic experiences at work. It helped to dispel a myth of the cold, unemotional, frigid prostitute promulgated by the psychoanalysis many years earlier (Pomeroy 1965, pp. 177ff).

These psychological studies were not milestone works in the history of prostitution research, but they did pave the way for a strong trend towards empiricism and statistical analysis. With the impact of feminism on the female consciousness, women researchers showed a renewed interest (since the early Freudians) in prostitution, but now applied statistical findings to causal factors. They came from many disciplines, but the most influential studies were by American women, like anthropologist Jennifer James, sociologist Nanette Davis, and social psychologist Mimi Silbert.

James concentrated on a group of street prostitutes in Seattle and developed a series of studies probing the familial relationships and early sexual experiences of these women in her search for the causal factors for women's entrance into prostitution. In one of her studies she found that a group of juvenile street prostitutes had attracted the attention of authorities because of their sexual behaviour well before entering prostitution (James 1972, p. 102ff; 1978). She followed this up with a survey of 200 adult and juvenile prostitutes, and discovered that 51 per cent had problems with their parents, 16 per cent were incest victims, 43 per cent had been raped mostly outside of work, and 21 per cent had been pregnant and/or had abortions in early adolescence. Most of them had experienced their initial coital intercourse at least a year before a comparative sample of non-prostitute women (James 1979). Finally, she took her sample of street workers and compared them to findings on women's sexuality in other studies. She concluded that her prostitutes had:

• Learned less about sex from their parents and more from personal experiences.
• As children, experienced more sexual advances from adult men.
• Were more involved in incestuous relations with their fathers or stepfathers.
• Generally initiated sexual activity at a younger age.
• More often had no further relations with their first coital partner.
• Experienced a higher incidence of rape (James & Meyerding 1977a, p. 138ff; 1977b, p.3 1ff).

Davis used a symbolic interactionist approach to her sample of 30 street prostitutes contacted in a prison in Minneapolis. She provided a scenario in which these women passed through three stages in what she terms as a "process of drift into prostitution". Features in the first stage are an early coital experience, promiscuity in early adolescence, and familial instability. By mid to late adolescence most of these women had experienced their first act of prostitution as a relatively easy "slide" from promiscuity to actually accepting cash. The second stage is a "transitional" step from initial prostitution to professional adoption of commercial sex. It was undertaken by 21 of the women for an average period of six months. During this stage each woman "normalises the deviant status" and first acquires a label as prostitute from others. In the final stage "behavior becomes regularised, and the self-conception revolves around sex as a vocation. Deviance is no longer viewed as a segmental part of self". From the "bad girl" label it has been a series of gradual or "drifting" sequences to the final acquisition of the permanent label of prostitute, known, by then, to authorities as a "common prostitute". "Such an approach," says Davis, "stresses the significant ways in which deviance comes to be shaped by the attitudes and actions of others." (Davis 1971)

Silbert based her study (Silbert & Pines 1982a, p. 477ff; 1982b, p. 395ff) on 200 adult and juvenile San Francisco street prostitutes. Unlike the James and Davis' studies, half of Silbert's juveniles came from families with above average incomes. On this basis Silbert hypothesises that these women were not motivated by economic factors. It may, of course, have been independence from oppressive family lives. Findings for the study included: 60 per cent of the women were raised by one parent or divided parents; alcohol was a major problem in most families; mothers were beaten in over half the families; two-thirds of the subjects were physically abused as children; 60 per cent were victims of child sexual abuse and nearly a third of these were incest cases; a third of the women experienced early pregnancies and/or abortions; and nearly three-quarters of them were raped at some time in their lives. Finally, 60 per cent of the sample said they were considered promiscuous in adolescence and the average age of initial coital intercourse was 13.5 years.

Collectively, but most especially Silbert's study, these studies paint a grim, bleak picture of prostitute women's lives, both prior to entrance into prostitution, and after it. They do support a popular feminist notion about prostitution as an abusive scenario, in which the women are victims who lack control over their environment. Unfortunately, they also bolster the arguments used by the extreme moralists, such as fundamentalist Christian organisations, in their bids to introduce tougher laws and stiffer penalties to deal with prostitutes (and further victimise these women). However, each of the studies in this research group depended on street prostitutes for their samples. Furthermore, Davis obtained her sample from the prison system, and Silbert sought her sample from among drug rehabilitating women. Also, there was a heavy bias in James' and Silbert's samples towards juveniles. None of these are truly representative of prostitutes per se, since street soliciting is carried out by a small minority of prostitutes; incarcerated and drug-using prostitutes are a small section of the prostitute subculture; and juveniles are also a small minority of sex workers.

In the past decade there has been an increase in the number of works on prostitution that are heavily reliant on prostitutes' own interpretations of their situations. The prostitutes are not simply subjects for the benefit of the researcher's analysis, but their comments and views are often the very core and essence of the work, frequently supplying a self-evident analysis. There is usually no attempt, or little effort, on the part of the writer to structure or generically assemble the material, but it is left for the reader to contemplate the raw data. Some have feminist orientations, others have other political intentions, but all make an appeal for human rights based on a non-deviant argument for prostitutes. They have been inspired by the prostitutes' movement since 1975, and are more concerned for circumstances affecting prostitutes in their work than for causal factors, such as found in the studies of James, Davis and Silbert. Among the more prominent of these works are: McLeod (1982), Jaget (1980), Perkins and Bennett (1985), Pheterson (1989) and Delacoste and Alexander (1987).

Eileen McLeod's (1982) study is an outstanding work in this field. Unlike most of the researchers mentioned throughout this Section, who have had only fleeting, mostly non-participatory, contact with their subjects, she has spent many years in the criminal justice system as a parole officer, coming in intimate contact with prostitutes on an almost daily basis. In addition she is a sociologist. Her work is both a narrative and scientific treatise of prostitution in Britain, with a high dependence on the first-hand material of 30 prostitutes in all areas of the industry. There is no search for family upheavals, sexual abnormalities, nor pathologies in her analysis, but it is a direct and descriptive account of the working lives of prostitutes, with solutions offered for improving the day-to-day conditions of the sex industry and reforming laws. Her descriptive analysis expands on the prostitutes' viewpoint that their work offers good pay and flexible hours, but is far too dominated by men, with far too little protection offered them against violence. She also expands on data from clients, showing that they more often view the prostitute as their "other girlfriend" rather than as a mere sex object. McLeod's discourse on the current laws in Britain is in effect a lobby to legislators. In describing her objectives for undertaking the study McLeod probably sums up the attitude of most researchers and other writers in this genre:

Two convictions lay at the core of this book. First, that people should be regarded as equal, and secondly, deriving from this, that the most constructive working relations are co-operative rather than competitive and hierarchical (McLeod 1982, p. 147).

In this Section we have encountered some of the research carried out on prostitution over the past two centuries. Small, though select this may be, it nevertheless indicates the enormous diversity of opinions that have emerged in the course of the history of this research. Some, like Lombroso and the Freudians, seem bizarre in the light of knowledge today, while others obviously push a moral, political or careerist intention. Even within disciplines, such as psychoanalysis or sociology, there is a great diversity of opinion. Taken together, all of these studies and opinions with their contrasting, as well as complementary, findings, provide the material for a lively dialectical argument either way. It is an impressive literature on the subject of prostitution (grand even, if you consider the quantity on Table 1.1). But so much has been written, yet so little learned. The myths and misconceptions that surround prostitution continue to reinforce the notions on the subject in the public consciousness. It is the intention of this book to make an inroad into this void of knowledge.

Continued on next page

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