Prostitution is defined as any act done to satisfy sexual desires in exchange of favors; these include monetary gain and any other benefit that accrues to the prostitute after the service has been done. This is a form of a business transaction that comes in the name of commercial sex either in the form of prostitution or pornography.
One of the elements of prostitution is that it is very addictive and it is hard to escape from. It is said that prostitution lets women to be seen as simple physical entities and mainly place more focus on their breasts and sex organs than the rest of the body.
Prostitution does not portray women’s attractiveness in terms of character, intelligence and even humor; it shows that the relationship between a man and a woman is only pegged on sex. Most importantly, it does not support long term commitment in love and does not produce a long term love and sexual relationships. Prostitution is said to be a victimless crime and those who do it do so at will.
This paper will look at the main causes of prostitution by using Merton’s strain theory. It will also look at the meaning and concept of sex trafficking and use prostitution and pornography as the main forms of sex trafficking. It will conclude by giving the measures that can be put in place to control this problem.
Causes of Prostitution
Young people have resulted in sex trade to earn a living and support their parents; the influx of pornographic materials and the demand that they have also attracted some young people to the trade as they seek for income. This is the main reason that have been cited by many commercial sex workers although the truthfulness of the case has been doubted since there are other people who earn a decent life without engaging in prostitution.
The major cause of prostitution is poverty. Many young girls involve themselves in commercial sex as they try to provide for their families. Some are even forced by their parents to use their bodies so that the family can have food on the table. Most of these girls are ignorant of the activities they are involving themselves into and are not aware of the psychological trauma they might suffer afterwards.
However, there are some social factors attributed to the issue of prostitution, for instance, it is believed that men sexual urge is higher than that of women and thus there is need for an extra service if these men have to be satisfied. On the other hand, there are an increasing number of women who are not committing their lives in marriage set-up but want their freedom, they thus engage in sex with different men. The greatest number of these women is single career women or divorcees.
Merton’s Strain Theory on Prostitution
The strain theory developed by Merton explains how social structures found in a society can influence an individual to involve him/herself in criminal behavior. According to Merton, some individuals are brought up in poor families others by a single parent and they find it difficult to meet the expectations of the society.
In such cases, an individual experiences a lot of pain and friction trying to meet his needs. According to Merton, deviant behaviors such as drug abuse, prostitution, and physical violence are a result of the strain an individual goes through while trying to please the society.
He explains that crime is not caused by a single person but it is a function of society structures and the desire to achieve societal goals. Merton argues that deviant behaviors and crimes are normal in a society although they do not in any way contribute to the progress of the society.
They are just means of achieving certain goals to an individual. He observes that there are so many inequalities in the society in terms of wealth distribution and opportunities forcing some people to involve themselves in criminal behaviors in order to fit in the society (Keel, 2008). In short Merton suggests that crime is a product of the social structure in the society.
These social structures place different pressures on different people who respond differently to these pressures. For instance, In America, the culture in the society provides both the goals and the means of achieving them. Almost everyone tries to achieve wealth in monetary value so as to fit in the “American Dream”. However, not all people have the means of achieving these goals and more often than not they involve themselves in deviant behaviors (Featherstone & Deflem, 2003).
This kind of behavior is supported by Merton who observes that it is hard to find an individual from the high-class family being involved in deviant behaviors. Behaviors such as commercial sex are only common among individuals who come from the low class families and who are not satisfied with their position.
They desire to get equal opportunities and wealth as the people who come from the rich families and have to use any means that comes their way. Using their bodies to earn money seems like the easiest means because no one (except their partners) will ever realize about their deviant behavior and they are be able to live just like other people. Sex workers argue that the services they offer or receive form part of a normal business transaction because one can not pay for a service he/she has not received.
There are also rules that have to be followed by the transacting parties thus forming an example of a social organization. However, some individuals are forced to the business of prostitution because they live in poverty. The wealthy takes advantage of the innocent individual begging for money and introduce them to the ugly business of prostitution.
Sex trafficking is the modern form of slavery whereby commercial sex is coerced into an individual who in most cases is below the age of 18 years. The term commercial sex is used to refer to any act of sex in which there is exchange of money or other valuable things between two parties. Sex traffickers use both physical and psychological bondage on the person supposed to offer the service. In this case, coercion refers to threats to harm or restraint a person if he fails to perform the act.
The victims of sex trafficking include men and women, girls or boys although women and girls are more affected. Sex traffickers use different patterns to lure their victims into commercial sex. Some of the commonly used patterns include promises of better jobs abroad, false marriage proposal, and kidnapping. Some victims are even sold by their parents to sex trade in order to earn money.
The most used tactic by sex traffickers is that of debt-bondage (Gonzales, 2010). This is an illegal practice in which the victims are told that they owe money to the traffickers, this include living expenses and transport cost, and they are forced to pledge to offer their services as a settlement for the debt.
If the victims do not comply with the instruction given, they are subjected to unfavorable conditions including but not limited to beatings, starvation, rape, threats of violence, and physical abuse. In some cases, the victim’s families are forced into drug abuse or are threatened that their victims will be revealed to their friends and relatives if they fail to cooperate.
The victims are not only subjected to physical trauma but also face numerous health risks. Some become addicted to drugs while others sustain both physical and mental injuries, this includes, burns, broken bones, brain injury, headaches, sexually transmitted diseases, miscarriages, coerced abortion, among other risks. Victims of sex trafficking are forced into different forms of sex trade including but not limited to prostitution and pornography.
Prostitution and human trafficking
In many countries, such as in the United States, prostitution has been used as a form of human trafficking; the less privileged members of the society are exploited because they lack the means to survive. The most affected community is the Hispanics which is one of the largest ethnic communities constituting the population of the United States. They have resided in the U.S since the 16th century and their number continue to increase.
This is a community that has been denied their rights since their existence. They continue to live in the United States even though they have been discriminated against in terms of good job, education, and social amenities such as hospitals. Their children have been discriminated against education as compared to the white American. Hispanics are over-represented in low paying, service professions that necessitate negligible educational training and offer little chance for improvement.
By virtue of their growing numbers, Hispanics have and will continue to have a momentous impact on the social, educational, economic, and political systems in America. Thus, the success of Hispanics in the U.S in general, will have implications for the economic and social well being of the country as a whole (Kanellos, et al 1994). The Americans have taken advantage of the predicament the Hispanics are suffering from and have involved them in many forms of trade, more specifically human trafficking.
Young men and women are trafficked for prostitution in return for a livelihood. Currently, the number of Hispanics trafficked for prostitution has increased significantly and this calls for quite remedial measures before the problem goes out of hand. In most cases, the trafficked young men and women are kept in night clubs and bars catering for foreigners.
These are strip dancing clubs where they pose as ordinary bars and clubs. Over the normal bar service, there are other forms of entertainments which ladies (or men in the case of gay clubs) offer dances which eventually lead to sex (Batsyukova, 2007). In some clubs the guest is at free will to take a dancer or any other party and have sex in private or have a sex party; here all the people in the club have sex among themselves.
The fee for this is included in entrance charges and so the sex worker does not receive the payments directly not unless the guest wishes to give him/her some tips. These sex workers are normally paid on commission for the services rendered but the payment is very low although they have to stick to the business because they do not have another means of surviving.
Some women are forced into sex trade such as the production of pornographic film for sale. Pornography is defined as an overt representation of literature or films which are expressive of sexual activities. Pornography in all of its forms is meant to stimulate erotic feelings as opposed to emotions.
Pornography comes in form of photos which are sexually suggestive in nature; these may include women with bare breasts, women whose thighs are left open up to the level where their pants show and even totally naked women and men who are in the act of the crime. It is also important to note that pornography has been designed to include animals (Ivory, 2006). Nude human photos are shown alongside certain animals and in sexually suggestive postures.
Some of it also come as encrypted email messages and are sent to unsuspecting people as advertisement. Computer based crimes are difficult to investigate because the offenders use high technology devices that are able to delete the messages after communication is over. However, the government, through technology, has devised ways of detecting the offenders if such crimes take place. Their jurisdiction is dependent on the type of crime committed and its consequences to the victims.
Pornography is full of vulgar contents which make them easy to identify, some times it may not involve nude people but they are also represented in a way that stimulates one’s erotic feelings. Most pornographic pictures and literatures have their own exclusive sites where they can be accessed. The most striking feature of pornography is that it contains photos of carefully and critically selected beautiful women who are used commercially to attract the attention of potential customers.
Public safety education should be provided to all age group to provide them with the necessary information that will help them recognize and prevent such crimes. Most of the individuals involved in prostitution do it out of ignorance and they do not know the negative effects associated with it. Proper information should therefore be provided. Stopping prostitution is a hard task since it takes many forms. Some of the forms cannot be traced and it keeps changing from time to time.
However, it is appreciated that the practice is a social evil which should be fought from all angles. It leads to moral decay of the society and diseases like HIV/AIDs. Some of the ways that prostitution can be controlled is by legalizing it and regulating the places which have been licensed to do it. This will make the government to have a close eye to the business thereby protecting the minor from being involved in commercial sex.
In most countries sex traffickers are never prosecuted and those who prosecute impose light penalties. In Holland if one happens to take materials that are legal in that country but are obscene in other countries one can be arrested by the police and penalties imposed on him/her. These penalties vary according to age of the prosecuted, intention one had while dealing with the crime, and the damage caused as a result of the crime.
Batsyukova, S. (2007). “Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.” Gender Issues 24: 46. Master FILE Premier. EBSCO.
Featherstone, R. & Deflem, M. (2003). Anomie and strain: context and consequences of Merton’s two theories. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://www.cas.sc.edu/socy/faculty/deflem/zamoniestrain.html
Gonzales, S. M. (2010). Poverty and sex trafficking; Fighting sex trafficking means attacking poverty. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://www.captivedaughters.org/gatesfoundation.htm
Ivory, V. (2006). How to Be Forever Free from O.P.P.: Online Pornography Permanently. New York: Outskirts Press.
Kanellos, N. et al (1994). Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Sociology, Volume 3. Arte Publico Press.
Keel, O. (2008). Structural Strain Theories. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://www.umsl.edu/~keelr/200/strain.html