1. Introduction: The Sexualization of Society
2. Mainstreaming of Pornography
3. Online Prostitution
4. Clients Motivation for Prostitute Use
4.1 Market Approach According to Sex Tourism
4.2. Psychological Approach According to Honour and Gender
5. Feminist View on Pornography and Prostitution
5.1 Anti-Pornography Feminists
5.2 Sex-Positive Feminism
6. Legality of Prostitution
6.1 Human Trafficking
7. Conclusion: How to Deal with Prostitution
“In a perfectly liberal economic system a few people accumulate considerable wealth but others decline in unemployment and poverty. In a perfectly liberal sexual system some experience an exciting sex life while others are limited to masturbation and loneliness. The economic liberalism is the extended battle zone which means that it applies to all ages and social classes. Similarly, the sexual liberalism is the extended battle zone and its extension to all ages and social classes”
Michel Houellebecq - “Extension du domaine de la lutte" (Extension of the battlefield, own translation)
1. Introduction: The Sexualization of Society
In this paper I will analyze how new media and especially the Internet have changed pornography and prostitution towards a sexualisation of society.
In the beginning of the 20th century sexuality in Western culture was considered as a taboo and especially the church acted repressive towards sexual topics.. Since the 1960s the term “sexual revolution” described a cultural change in the western society towards a more liberal view of sexuality, monogamy and sexual relationships. Reasons for that are on the one hand the availability of new methods of birth-control like “The Pill” and the lack of fear of sexual diseases in the 1960s but on the other hand also a change of thoughts and believes which came up through the students movement of 1968 and its more promiscuous and hedonistic way of live (“Sex, Drugs & Rock'n Roll”), which still influences our sexual believes today.
To understand the consequences of this development I want to explain the term “sexualization of society”, which describes the constant (or growing) presence of sexuality in public, in social perception and consciousness of the people. It also refers to the focus or emphasis on sexuality within a broader context and viewing an object under the sexual point of view or in terms of sexuality. I want to analyze if a sexualization of society as an example in the case of “mainstreaming of pornography” really has taken place and in what way this is reflected in pornography and prostitution. Therefore I will also consider the changes in the public opinion towards pornography and I will compare it to prostitution and its role in our society.
After that I will take a closer look at the new phenomenon of online prostitution. I will show a few examples of a German website which offers online auctions of sexual services. In addition I want to explain the sometimes hidden motivations of punters using a market, but also a psychological approach.
To present the state of the current debate about prostitution I will shortly explain the different feminist views and also the legal situation in different countries. Finally I will conclude with the question how to deal with prostitution and give my own opinion.
2. Mainstreaming of Pornography
Today it can be doubted if a real sexual revolution of human behaviour has taken place, but the “sexual revolution” becomes obvious in “the vastly increase imprint of pornography in mass culture … in fashion coverage, in youth magazines, in TV programs and music videos” as Sorensen (2003, p. 34) described in the article “Pornography and gender in mass culture”. The sex-industry as the primary sexual economy has achieved tremendous sales for many years and the concept “sex sells” can be found as an advertising slogan in almost all sectors of the economy. Pornography has become far more accepted and values of sexual attraction have become much more important in daily life. This phenomenon of sexually explicit content entering Western pop culture is called “porn creep”, “porn chic” or “mainstreaming of pornography”. Sorensen described this process as “pornography slips into our everyday lives as a commonly accepted and often idealized cultural element” (Sorensen, 2003, p. 34). This process refers to the normalization of porn as part of the wider culture, but it is not only the rising appearance of pornography or porn stars in the media (especially music videos) or the frequent reference relating to sexual content in TV shows like “Sex and the city”. There are many indicators that pornography is not repelled by society any more but that key elements have become mainstream fashion.
In the article “The Porn Myth”1 the feminist author Naomi Wolf wrote about the normalization of porn in mass culture (Wolf, 2003): “Porn is the wallpaper of our lives now. It has breached the dike that separated a marginal, adult, private pursuit from the mainstream public arena. The whole world, post-Internet, has become pornographized. Young men and women are being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training.” This can be seen as several habits which former had only been common among porn actresses have become widespread in society, for example removing pubic hair by shaving or “Brazilian waxing” or cosmetic surgery such as breast implants. Also the sexual behaviour and sexual preferences especially of young people have been influenced by widespread pornography. Sorensen claimed in her article “Pornography and gender in mass culture” that it is “not solely the case that people`s various life practices influence mass-cultural pictures and narratives; the influence also goes the other way: people’s life practices take shape from the image produced by mass culture.”
(Sorensen, 2003, p. 36).
For example the video portal “YouPorn”2 is a collection of homemade video pornography which has been generated by users them self. Especially young couples record their sexual experiences via camcorders or mobile phones and upload the videos on the webpage. These videos obviously have been strongly influenced by regular porn movies because they mostly consist of the same rituals which Sorensen described as: “The women exhibit themselves, allure with voluptuous movements and then provide sexual servicing” (Sorensen, 2003).
So it can be stated that western society has assimilated pornography and it has become part of its culture. I think one of the most interesting questions about this process is if it will develop further: It is possible that prostitution will experience the same or a similar development in the 21th century like pornography has experienced until today? Is it possible that some day the use of prostitutes will have become as regular as going to the cinema the same way that the use of pornography has become almost regular?
3. Online Prostitution
Prostitution is defined as the act of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money or goods. Prostitution is historically and culturally ever-present and has been described as “the world's oldest profession” but the judgement of society towards prostitution always differs according to cultural, social or religious values. Prostitution has been seen as a moral problem, a health issue, a social political problem or as a question of gender. Feminists often criticize prostitution as an expression of social, political and financial inequalities between the sexes.
There are many different forms of prostitution for example street prostitution, brothels or sex tourism. But in this essay I will mainly focus on the so called “Online Prostitution”, which means that a prostitute is offering herself in the Internet either as independent call girl or part of a call girl agency. The Internet has become the main venue for a customer to find his or her match while staying completely anonymous. This phenomenon is analyzed by Marttila in the article “The Hiding Men in Prostitution” where she points out that “men as clients have been provided with an opportunity to remain faceless and anonymous while it has been a female prostitute, or rather, an image of her that has been the figurehead of prostitution business” (Marttila, 2005, p. 37).
An example for online prostitution can be found in Germany: The online-auction website called “Gesext”3 offers the possibility to make a bid just like on eBay but on any kind of sexual services. The auctions consist of a description of the type of sexual services the person is willing to offer and mostly also of a picture. Both participants of the auction have a profile where reviews of former auctions can be read. It is common that the users describe the persons they have met and rate them on their aesthetics, behaviour or sexual performances. The website got quite famous in the media after a 20 year old German girl anonymously sold her virginity for 6.650 Euro4, which she could prove with a doctor’s certificate. After that “Alina Percea”, a 19 year old girl who was still going to school, also sold her virginity for 10.050 Euro5 and even mentioned her full name. Several other interesting incidents occurred as more and more women offered sex in order to become pregnant.
This kind of “Online Prostitution” is very common especially among women who just occasionally work as a prostitute, because they do not have to get in contact with brothels or pimps because they just invite their clients to their own flat. These kinds of prostitutes mostly have another regular occupation, sometimes with low or no income for example students, trainees or persons who receive welfare. Usually they only work as a prostitute for a short time in order to secure or improve their financial situation using this (second) income. Many upcoming autobiographies of former students, who have worked as prostitutes (for example “Fucking Berlin” (Rossi, 2008)) also claim that there is a certain attraction of this job. They feel sexually desired and are able to live out sexual fantasies that are not compatible with a monogamous relationship (this can be referred to the stereotype of the sexual bored housewife). Some of them even see themselves as a sexual missionary to free society of their sexual inhibitions towards a more liberal sexual behaviour.
A very modern kind of sexual service some occasional working prostitutes sometimes offer is called the “girlfriend experience”. During this special kind of service the prostitute usually acts like a girlfriend to the client, and the term “experience” refers to that the focus is not on completing an act, but just having more of an intimate experience, which means the call girl spends the full advertised time including kissing/french kissing, cuddling and foreplay. A similar phenomena is also described by O'Connell Davidson in the chapter “Eroticizing prostitute use” as “tarts with hearts”: “She listens to the client’s woes, allows him to rest his weary head on her ample bosom, and then takes care of his bodily ‘needs’” (Davidson, 1998a, p. 151). This kind of service also gives the customers the opportunity to convince themselves that they are not really involved in prostitution, because it seems like having normal sex with a girlfriend. In a similar way Davidson wrote about about sex tourists as she pointed out that “Clients often want to believe that, although the prostitute is a paid actor, in their particular case she enjoys her work and derives sexual and /or emotional satisfaction from her encounter with them” (Davidson, 1998a, p. 158).