The Psychology of Prostitution

 Posted by on 12 October 2003 at 12:26 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 122003

Josh Zader pointed me to these fascinating comments by Heidi Fleiss on prostitution. She talks about the government’s legal pursuit of her, how she got into the madam business, and advocates the legalization of prostitution.

People often presume that prostitutes are somehow psychologically damaged by their trade, but I wonder whether that is true. Certainly streetwalkers are not paragons of mental health, but it is doubtful that prostitution made them that way. And what of the higher-end prostitutes? And some women may be drawn to the profession due to past sexual abuse or somesuch, but even if they are thereby damaged further, prostitution cannot really be blamed for the negative outcome. And some women might simply be dispositionally unsuited for the profession, such that they would be damaged if they entered it. But none of these facts shows that the profession is itself psychologically harmful. It might be positively beneficial for some women in some circumstances — or at least no more psychologically harmful (and much more lucrative) than alternative professions.

Frankly, I suspect that casual sleeping around is far more damaging to a woman than prostitution, given the likely resulting emotional confusion and turmoil. The prostitute can fairly easily create a sort of emotional distance between herself and her clients, largely because she knows exactly why she’s sleeping with them: money. The slut, on the other hand, is performing extremely intimate acts with virtual strangers and other unworthies… but why? She is investing her trust in men who have done nothing to deserve it. I think that such a contradiction must prey on the mind over time, gradually diminishing the woman’s capacity to make wise judgments about other people.

I wonder if there are any good psychological studies on the psychological effects of promiscuity… and comparing those effects in women versus in men.

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