The Oldest Profession?

In her book The Bonobo Way – Peace Through Pleasure, Dr. Susan Block writes about the sexuality of the Bonobo (Pan paniscus) chimpanzee: “It’s not just how they have sex, but how they use sex to maintain friendly relationships, to ease stress (…), as a form of commercial exchange (e.g., I’ll give you a blowjob if you give me a banana) (..).” Of all apes, bonobos seem to be closest to humans.  

Prostitution – providing sexual or affectionate services in exchange for something – is older than money. Food and favours were used as currency before the existence of money, and we know that the ancient Greek and Roman cultures had their prostitutes, both male and female. We can’t say that they were professional prostitutes, though, because most of them were kept in the house, as slaves.  

In the Middle Ages we saw the rise of brothels and designated areas for prostitution. The Roman Catholic Church tolerated prostitution, to prevent masturbation, rape, and sodomy, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the clergy made up about twenty percent of the clientele. If only the Roman Catholic Church would have kept this tolerance; this would probably have prevented much of the sexual abuse that seems to be so common among Catholic priests and other dignitaries. 

Funny enough the advent of the Protestant Reformation ended the tolerance toward prostitution. The Roman Catholic Church had to compete with the Protestant Church(es), certainly in Northern and Central Europe, and in many European countries prostitution became illegal.  

In some European countries, like The Netherlands and Germany, prostitution is regulated as a legal profession, while in others it is illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. In other words, in those countries the client commits a crime, not the prostitute.  

Contemporary prostitution in the Western world is usually not a profession that goes from mother to daughter. Very seldom prostitution in our part of the world is a family business. Usually the last thing a prostitute wants is her daughters to become prostitutes.


About Jack Vanderwyk

Hey! What am I like! :-)
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