The History of Sex Workers Essay

There are many different ideas as to what a sex worker is. A sex worker is someone who uses sexual acts in return for money, services, or products. The person benefiting on behalf of the sex worker can be the actual sex worker or someone referred to as a pimp. Throughout history, people around the world have had different views of sexuality. Sex work is an area of sexuality that has been around for centuries. There are many different areas of sex work. There are such things as prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, and the sex trade. Sex workers are present in almost every country.

In the Middle East, Islams believed that sex was meant to be enjoyed by both the male and the female. Sex was not allowed outside of marriage. It was believed that extramarital sex would so powerful that it could disrupt society (King, 156. ) Once a girl hits puberty in Australia, she was deflowered. She could be forced into group sex with the elders after this surgery. Australians believed that gang rape was an acceptable punishment. This was used because a woman finding their own partners was frowned upon. A woman’s sexuality was controlled by the male figure.

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He could give his bride to other men in order to repay debt, or abolish offenses he may have done (King, 279. ) In the Brazilian Highlands, it was frowned upon to have sex before marriage. These types of women were forced into the status of “wanton. ” Wantons were not married. They relied on the men they had sex with to care for them. Some women did not have a family capable of arranging marriages. These women were also forced to become wantons. These women could have been captured for the sex trade, orphans, or refugees (King 100. ) Thailand has seen a great influx in the amount of tourism.

This is due to something referred to as sex tourism. Thailand is a third world country, yet it is emerging as an economic leader. According to Professor Krikiat Phiapatserithan of Thammasat University, sex tourism generates $1. 5 billion every year for Thailand (World Congress, 3. ) The sex tourism in Thailand has to have had a start. It is believed that Vietnam was the start. Thailand was a popular destination for “rest and relaxation” for American servicemen during the Vietnam War. American soldiers were eager to pay for a temporary sexual partner.

This allowed for new brothels and go-go bars to spring up almost overnight. Following the war the Thai government took an active stance in promoting the growth of the tourist industry in the hope that it would contribute to the modernization process. The half-a-million prostitutes left over from the war were seen as a commodity that could be actively exploited in exchange for the influx of much needed foreign currency. Eventually the growth of Thailand’s tourist industry succeeded in creating rapid economic growth, and modernization.

However, Thailand has become so dependent on the tourist industry that a significant reduction of the number of tourist, for any reason, would likely result in the collapse of the entire Thai economy, which would result in widespread poverty. This is one reason why Thai officials have been reluctant to crack down on the sex industry, which is estimated to contribute a quarter of all of the revenues brought in by tourism. The rapid growth and modernization created by tourism has rapidly changed the economic and social structures of Thailand.

These shifts have caused the Thai economy and Thai women to be enslaved to the sex trade. Thailand’s total gross national income has nearly tripled in the past 50 years (World Congress, 2. ) Widespread poverty has lead families to consider children, especially females, as economic burdens. Children and women have dropped to the lowest strata of the socioeconomic scale, and have thus suffered the most. The closing of options for many families have compelled parents to force their children to fend for themselves and in some circumstances it has led people to sell their children, especially daughters (World Congress, 1. During the 1970s, Thailand had very lenient laws about sex work. This attracted many Western pedophiles. The supply of customers caused pimps to acquire children through sale and through kidnapping to meet their demand. Widespread rural poverty and the low socioeconomic status of children caused the influx of a large supply of rural children that could be acquired relatively cheap. To prevent the interference of the government Thai officials were bribed or in some cases offered a portion of the profits of the trade (Jubilee, 4. In the past decade the media, most specifically the travel industry, has developed a taste for women with “girly” qualities. The result of this trend is a steadily increasing demand for underage prostitutes as well as the continual decline in the desired age for child prostitutes. Due to these unfortunate circumstances the child sex trade has steadily grown and it is estimated that every year one million children are enter the sex trade (World Congress, overview, 2. ) Sex workers can come from a variety of backgrounds.

According to a table about China from an article called HIV/AIDS Risk Among Brothel-Based Female Sex Workers in China: Assessing the Terms, Content, and Knowledge of Sex Work, the women’s economic backgrounds affect what role they have in the sex industry. The table explains what income they receive, the demographics, and the organization of work and employment status (Huang, 696. ) In China, there are at least seven different types of female sex work. Second wives are self employed and are hired by one person. They receive a high, stable income and come from variable backgrounds.

Courtesans work for big hotels and VIP clubs, yet they are self-employed. They receive a high income and young, well-educated women. Karaoke dancing girls are employed by managers at karaoke and dancing bars. They earn a middle income and are young with a middle level education. Massage girls are employed by a manager at a massage parlor. They also receive a middle level income and are young with a middle level education. Beauty parlor girls are employed by a pimp or a manager. They work in a barbershop, small singing dancing bar, or a small roadside restaurant. They receive a low to middle level income.

The women can be young to middle aged and have a low to middle level education. Street-standing girls can be self-employed or employed by a pimp. They solicit in the streets and parks. They generally are older women who receive a low income and have a low level of education. The final grouping of female sex workers is factory girls. Factory girls are employed by a pimp and solicit in construction fields and small factories. They, also, tend to be older with a low level of education. They receive the lowest level of income (Huang, 696. ) Sex workers are most at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

Some countries are trying to enact laws to have all sex workers tested. In the United States, people involved in pornography have to be tested for STD’s once a week. Since prostitution is illegal in the U. S. , these types of sex workers are at a greater risk for diseases. Prostitution has been a major part in Chinese culture throughout history. Not until the 20th century were the terrible effects of commercial sex recognized. “Recent studies have shown that sex workers have little knowledge of HIV/AIDS. In one study of 701 prostitutes from a Shenzhen reeducation center, 10% had never heard of AIDS, 21. % felt that AIDS is a disease confined to the homosexual population, and approximately 35% of the respondents believed that AIDS is a curable disease. Although 37% believed that condoms are effective in preventing HIV/AIDS, 91. 7% thought they had low chances of contracting HIV. In another study, approximately half of the sex workers believed that only foreigners can acquire HIV(Huang, 698-699. )” These are scary statistics. HIV/AIDS is one of the major diseases and killers that effects sex workers. Laws needed to be passed in order to reduce the abuse of commercial sex.

Countries around the world passed all kinds of sex-law reforms between 1945 and 2005—on trafficking, sexual harassment, contraception, prostitution, abortion, bestiality, pornography, incest, rape, adultery, sodomy, child sexual abuse, and so on. In New Zealand, for example, the Prostitution Reform Act shifted the burden of criminal sanctions from sex workers (usually female) onto those who exploit them (usually male). In particular, 2003 legislation legalized ‘‘commercial sexual services’’ while safeguarding sex workers’ human rights and prohibiting the prostitution of persons under 18 years of age (Weitzer, 447-475. Sex workers have been around for centuries. They work in many countries throughout the world, whether it is legal or illegal. Children have been used in the sex trade for money and because it was believed they were at less risk to catch sexually transmitted diseases. Stricter laws have made commercial sex a little bit safer throughout many countries. People say history repeats itself. Sex workers will continue to be present throughout the world for a long time because they have been a major part of many countries’ cultures.

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