Social Problems Related to Sexual Behavior
Prostitution: The renting of one’s body for
sexual purposes –
◦ “The world’s oldest profession”
◦ Attitudes toward prostitution have varied
immensely throughout history
◦ Attitudes of Americans toward the legalization
of prostitution vary
◦ People between the ages of 50 and 64 are the
most likely to favor the legalization of
In the United States, prostitution is only legal
in parts of Nevada
◦ By Statutory definition, Prostitution is illegal in only
one County, Clark County, location of Las Vegas
◦ Douglas and Lincoln Counties prohibit prostitution,
Eureka County has no ordinance and 11 other counties
specifically permit prostitution. However, some cities,
including Reno and South Lake Tahoe, ban
◦ Officials believe that legalized prostitution might drive
away “family-type” gamblers
Researchers estimate that there are:
◦ 23 prostitutes per 100,000 Americans
◦ Approximately 69,000 prostitutes in the U.S.
◦ Average prostitute serves 694 customers annually
Prostitution Today
Issues in measuring prostitution:
◦ Illegal nature
◦ Police reports are more likely to only reflect arrest rates of
◦ Temporary nature of the work
Sex Tourism: Occurs when an individual engages
in prostitution while visiting a foreign country
Becoming so common, there is now a movement to create
an international court to punish offenders
Continued on next slide
The social functions of prostitution
◦ Flourishes because it satisfies sexual needs that are not met
Prostitutes provide a sexual outlet for men who:
Have difficulty establishing sexual relationships
Cannot find long-term partners (travelers, military personnel)
Have broken relationships (divorced)
Seek sexual gratification that may be viewed as immoral or
would be considered unacceptable by wives or girlfriends
◦ Sexual gratification without commitment
◦ Curiosity about sex or sexual acts - want to have sex with
someone who has a specific body type, age, or race–ethnicity
◦ Sexually dissatisfied with current relationship
Elizabeth Bernstein (2001)
◦ Studied the customers of prostitutes and found that
some men find emotional connections with
Prostitution as a way of controlling sexual
◦ Functionalists argue that, by meeting needs,
prostitution functions as a form of social control
over sexual behavior
◦ Sadists: achieve sexual gratification by inflicting pain
on others
◦ Masochists: Having others inflict pain on them
Most johns are “regular” married, middleaged men
Functionalists stress: When people demand a
service not supplied by legitimate sources,
hidden, or “subterranean,” sources will
develop to meet the need
Underground channeling of illegitimate
services is called a black market, built on
symbiosis: a mutually beneficial relationship
Feminists point out that prostitution is
just one of the many ways that men
exploit and degrade women
Some men use prostitutes as objects for their
own pleasure, other men (pimps, clients, and
police “on the take”) exploit prostitutes for
Types of prostitutes
◦ Call Girls, the elite
◦ Convention prostitutes specialize in conventions
◦ Apartment prostitutes set up a “business” while their
husbands are away at work
◦ Stag party workers serve all-male parties
◦ Hotel prostitutes work out of a hotel and share their
◦ House prostitutes work in a “whorehouse”
◦ Bar girls, also known as “B-girls,” wait in bars
◦ Streetwalkers, lowest status among prostitutes and are
most frequently arrested
◦ Parking lot lizards, frequent truck stops
◦ Male prostitutes who service women are known as
Researchers typically focus on
◦ Means most research comes from poor
women who have been arrested
Simplest answer to why someone
becomes a prostitute is money
Abused as children, most often by men,
these women become locked into a way
of life in which they continue to be
First stage: women drift from casual sex to the
first act of prostitution
Second Stage: Transitional Deviance:
experience role ambivalence, conflicting
emotions regarding their decision to become a
◦ Many girls try to normalize their acts; try to
convince themselves that what they are doing
is normal
Third stage: Professionalization: identify
themselves as prostitutes
Functionalists: Pimps serve the following purposes
◦ Locate customers, screen out sadistic johns, and bail
arrested prostitutes out of jail
◦ In actuality:
 Pimps are not beneficial to their prostitutes – opposite
of above
Conflict–feminist theorists
◦ Male pimps have the power
◦ To control women, use physical strength and are ruthless
Symbolic Interactionists
◦ Analyze what pimps represent to prostitutes
◦ Take into account the background of a typical street
Often takes place in areas known as “meat racks”
Face intense pressure, only those with best bodies
remain employed
Teenagers who act as prostitutes still maintained a
heterosexual identity requiring an intricate mental
balancing act
No emotional attachment to the man
Seeing money as the only motivator
Tolerating nothing other than oral sex
Never seeing a homosexual outside of work
Having a girlfriend in public
Subjective Concerns:
◦ Sociologists argue morality is primary reason
◦ Others view prostitution as immoral
◦ Prostitution ruins “good” neighborhoods, depressing
property values by bringing in unsavory characters and
illegal activities such as drug dealing
◦ Prostitution is a crime
◦ Profits from prostitution feed organized crime
◦ Profits are also used to corrupt police and judges
◦ Prostitutes spread disease
◦ Concern about aesthetics—the disgust that people feel
when they see used condoms and tissues left in public
Pornography: writings, pictures, or objects of a
sexual nature that cause sexual arousal and
people object to as being filthy or immoral
Determining what is and what is not
pornographic is difficult
◦ Lies in the eye of the beholder
On one matter, almost everyone agrees
◦ Pornography, whatever it is, should be restricted
◦ 94% of Americans in favor of legal restrictions
Continued on next slide.
Roth v. United states ruled that materials are
pornographic or obscene when
1. “taken as a whole,” the “dominant theme” appeals to “prurient”
2. the material affronts “contemporary community standards”
3. the material is “utterly without redeeming social value”
Until people attach meaning, words are merely sounds
and human acts merely behavior
California v. Miller
◦ Court tried to remove these ambiguities of Roth
Social class is significant in helping to determine
people’s perceptions of acts as pornographic or
Magazines that depicted children in sex acts
with adults or with other children used to be
easily accessible
Went underground, resurfacing on the
In the coming years it may be even more
difficult to restrict child porn
◦ Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition
◦ Legal to possess virtual child pornography
The National Commission on Obscenity and
◦ Concluded that pornography affects some people
more than others
The Meese Commission
◦ Concluded that pornography does indeed pose a
serious threat to women
◦ Concluded that “common-sense” makes it evident
that violent pornography causes sex crimes
◦ If all we need is common sense, we wouldn’t need
science, and science requires evidence
Does pornography cause sex crimes?
Researchers have been able to document only
The matter of cause and effect is seldom simple,
but is made more difficult because pornography
has different effects on different people
When research is published, it enters the “court”
of science, where it is judged by a jury of
critical scientific peers
◦ Some people find too slow
◦ Based on their ideas about what is right, wrong, and
what they find offensive, they often take a stand
Resistance to pornography, though strongly
rooted, has lost to the porn industry
Safety Valve Theory
◦ Do some types of pornography protect women and children
from rape and other sexual violence by providing the private
release of sexual fantasies
Trigger Theory
◦ Do some types of pornography trigger sexual offenses by
stimulating sexual appetites, often for deviance and violence
Researchers have been unable to settle this
Victimless Crime: refers to illegal acts between
consenting adults
Not all prostitution and pornography involve
victimless crimes
Alternatives to Making Consensual Behavior
◦ Legalizing prostitution
◦ The matter of privacy
◦ The matter of children
Prostitution and the Future
◦ Demand for the services of prostitutes will continue
◦ Although prostitution will continue to flourish, it will
remain illegal in almost all areas of the United States
◦ We are likely to see an increase in an aspect of
prostitution that upsets both the public and the
police, the prostitution of children
◦ More laws will be passed, most of them will have little
Pornography and the Future
◦ Changes in pornography are likely to be driven by
two forces:
 Technology and Profits
◦ Because pornography is so profitable, it is likely that
the mainstream media will embrace it even more
◦ As pornography becomes more mainstream, the line
between pornography and art will become even
more blurred
◦ Pornography is now so entrenched in our society it is
likely that those who oppose it will limit themselves
to occasional statements decrying the fall of
American values and then retreat into enclaves of
people who agree with their views
Conservatives treat sex as a moral issue
◦ Pornography is a social problem because it
undermines society
Liberals are divided over whether pornography
is a social problem
◦ Some liberals contend that what people choose to
read or view is their own business
◦ Others object to pornography as demeaning to women