Discovering Human Sexuality 4e Chapter 17 Summary

  • Many relationships involve an exchange of resources for sex. Prostitution—paid sex—is the extreme version of this phenomenon. Prostitutes can be female, male, or transgender, but nearly all users of prostitutes are male. Prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in the United States, but enforcement varies.
  • Historically, prostitution has been condemned as wrong but also tolerated as necessary. Concern about STI transmission has been a major factor in anti-prostitution campaigns. Prostitution declined greatly during the 20th century in the United States, probably because unmarried women became more willing to engage in sexual relations with men.
  • Streetwalkers are the lowest-paid prostitutes. They face a relatively high risk of violence and STIs, and many use drugs. Street prostitutes who are minors may be runaways or homeless; these prostitutes face a heightened risk of violence and exploitation. Among street prostitutes, women do better economically than men, but men enjoy their work more. Female street prostitutes traditionally worked for pimps, but increasing numbers are independent operators or are controlled by gangs.
  • Some prostitutes work at commercial locations such as massage parlors or exotic dance venues. Brothels—establishments that have the sole purpose of prostitution—are rare today and, in the United States, are legal only in some rural counties of Nevada.
  • Escorts are off-street prostitutes who obtain clients by advertising or by word of mouth. They may go to the client’s location or receive clients at a fixed location. Many work for escort services, which arrange their appointments. Escorts are more numerous than street prostitutes; they charge more, and they work in somewhat safer conditions.
  • Women and men prostitute themselves principally because they can earn much more from prostitution than from other occupations available to them, but sexual pleasure plays some role for high-end escorts and for some male prostitutes. Men use prostitutes for a wide variety of reasons, including difficulty in obtaining unpaid partners, the quest for sexual variety, or the excitement of illicit sex. According to some feminists, men use prostitutes to express their hatred of women, but some accounts by men suggest otherwise.
  • Feminists have campaigned successfully for increased prosecution and punishment of men who use prostitutes. There is some support for regulated legalization of prostitution, as has happened in some European countries.
  • Prostitutes in developing countries work in risky conditions, but the occupation does offer them an above-average income. Some international agencies believe that prostitution should be recognized, governed by fair labor codes, and integrated into regional economies. Some international women’s groups believe that activities associated with prostitution, but not prostitutes themselves, should be criminalized.
  • Many women are trafficked between countries for purposes of prostitution. Some women participate in this traffic voluntarily in search of economic betterment; others are enslaved and prostituted against their will. In sex tourism, men or women travel to foreign countries where prostitution is legal or cheap. Going overseas to have sex with minors is a crime under U.S. and Canadian laws.
  • Pornography consists of depictions of people or behaviors that are intended to be sexually arousing. Censorship of pornography increased greatly in Victorian times but eased after World War II. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the legality of sexually explicit work must be judged by “contemporary community standards.”
  • Developments in communication technologies—the printing press, photography, film, and computers—have all affected pornography in important ways. Feature-length pornographic movies became popular in the 1970s. The introduction of the videocassette format made production and consumption easier and allowed for greater diversity of content. Thanks to the internet, consumers can now access a diverse range of pornography—often for free—and they can create their own pornography for sale or exchange. Virtual reality sites allow for the enactment of sexual fantasies with like-minded others.
  • Pornography designed for women tends to be less sexually graphic than male-oriented pornography—emphasizing intimacy and romance more than sex alone. Still, there is a trend toward more sexually explicit material for women. Some lesbians have pioneered a more hardcore approach to pornography.
  • There is debate about the potential harmful effects of pornography. Research studies suggest that pornography does not cause most men to harm women, but pornography that includes violence may make a few men more likely to do so. Countries with high rates of pornography consumption do not have unusually high rates of violence against women.
  • Pornography featuring real sexual activity by minors, as well as believable simulations of such activity, is illegal in the United States.
  • Sexual content on television has increased greatly. Responding to public and congressional concern, the television industry introduced a rating system that warns of sexual (and violent) content. In combination with the V-chip, it allows parents to filter out material they don’t want their children to see, but the system is little used.
  • Sexually themed advertising can sell products, but women and men react to such advertising in different ways. Advertisers are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in terms of nudity or the kinds of sexual activity shown or suggested by advertisements.