There are many good reasons why selling sex for a living did not predate such survival trades as hunting, tool-making, healing arts and farming.
For prostitution to flourish at all, there first has to be some form of currency available. Even the act of barter requires items to be used for exchange, starting with food and livestock, and later crafted objects—all of which derive from skilled “professions” that add value to the goods used in trade.
Back in Paleo times, desirable, unattached women would become a caveman’s second or third wife, not a whore. Currently, the Yanomami Indians in South America are illustrative of this, as are the Dani people of New Guinea – there are no prostitutes in these tribes, at least not until they have been contaminated by outsiders.
The Rise of Cities and Prostitution
Far from being the first prehistoric profession, prostitution is a product of civilization. The earliest known records of it come from the ancient Sumerians in the Code of Hammurabi. By 3600 BCE, cities had been established in the Mesopotamian region, including Kish, Lagash, and Uruk. With the rise of these population centers came the construction of temples to the various gods of the region, and many of these housed temple prostitutes, who could be either male or female.
Imperial Rome set down rules governing prostitution a little over 2,000 years ago, and owning a brothel was considered a legitimate source of income. The use of slaves as prostitutes, where the women or men had absolutely no choice, was finally prohibited by Augustus Caesar (circa 62 BCE ~ 14 AD), but how well this was enforced is problematic. Ancient Egypt also used temple prostitutes, especially in temples devoted to Isis, and undoubtedly the priests found prostitution to be a steady source of income.
Nasty, Brutish and Short
The renaming of prostitution as the “sex industry” and prostitutes as “sex workers” is a modern attempt to put a better face on what is a demeaning, and often forced occupation. Movies and television shows glorify the lives of whores and pimps, but in truth most prostitutes are little more than slaves who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Most of the women who enter this field were sexually abused as children, and this typically means that they have serious mental problems to begin with.
Beautiful call girls, who often earn fantastic amounts of money for their brief appearance on the stage of prostitution, are only able to ply their trade until their looks begin to fade. Unless a particular call girl is extremely intelligent and knows how to invest properly, she will soon be joining her less fortunate sisters in brothels or on the street.
Besides contributing to the spread of ordinary STDs, prostitution also contributes to the spread of HIV into the general population. While many prostitutes entertain fantasies of marrying a rich client, few ever do. The average life span of a prostitute is just 34 years, as they frequently fall victim to disease, drugs or alcohol.
The second most dangerous job for a woman is to work in a liquor store, but being a prostitute is over 50 times more likely to result in injury or death. No, prostitution is not the oldest profession, but it is arguably one of the most pitiful.
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