The Psychology of Prostitution

There are some “Why?” questions that often intrigue us. Like, “Why the Earth is the only planet that supports life?” or “What lies at the dark side of the moon?” and the answers may seem mysterious. I imagine that another kind of a, “Why?” question arises in many of our minds when faced with the issues of prostitution and sex work.

Why would someone choose to be a Prostitute? ( If it was really in their hands to choose?)

A little reflection and nothing more is enough to bring to light many of the reasons as to why someone chooses to be a prostitute. Poverty, homelessness and having nothing else to live on, are the most prevalent of the causes. Some may have addictions that they money to support. Many prostitutes in the west require or accept drugs as the payment for sexual services. And in these cases, their willingness to practice prostitution can be comprehended. But what about the women who choose prostitution as one would choose to be a receptionist at a management firm.

One thing that I have come to observe and understand for myself is that generalization is not correct in matters such as these. It can’t be said that all women go into prostitution because of similar reasons like poverty or childhood abuse. Generalization leaves out the bigger picture and the spectrum of reasons for why someone would choose to become a prostitute. This issue needs to be dealt with from various points of view to be understood fully.

Prostitution being the world’s oldest profession, it is hard to make the opinions of all past and present prostitutes count but only the big picture can be captured. The simplest reason is at the core of prostitution is money. Like any other profession. We work because we need the money and so do they. This might sound simple, but it is anything but simple. Some people may be driven to prostitution, having no other choice but to sell themselves and some are attracted by the ‘easy-money‘, especially when one indulges in prostitution for the first time and realize how easily they were able to make that cash. I believe that’s what lures young women into prostitution as someone would be drawn to thieving. But at that moment what they do not realize, are the dangers, abuse, violence that may await them, even death. At the moment it might even seem worth the risk. But they are too shortsighted to understand see that it’s definitely not worth it. And there is a reason to it. I remember a concept being taught to us in the Psychology class about the Pre-frontal cortex,

The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for planning complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression and the most importantly, Decision making. It has been identified that the pre-frontal cortex is not fully matured till 25 years of age.

Maturation of adolescent brain – NCBI

Did I remind you of all the bad decisions you made before the age of 25, you now know who’s to blame ;). Anyways, we know that the average age, a woman makes the decision to become a prostitute is much lesser than 25, most girls start contemplating their options as soon as they become legal or even before, some at the age of 16. And clearly, they do not make the best decision in terms of longterm well-being. If they are not capable of making decisions, they need someone who can, preferably a mother, a father or an adult sibling or guardian. And when that adult influence is not present, bad decisions are bound to happen. There have been stories of working prostitutes that have reached a stage in life where they realize that all this was a mistake and express the desire to their life around. Like the ‘easy-money‘ delusion, there is something else that also attracts young girls – The glamorous lifestyle. I read a news article from independent where a former sex worker revealed how girls, as young as 12 were asking her how they can break into the industry. She blamed the media to have painted a delusional and false glamour around high-end prostitution and the display of prostitution as a life of glamour, money, travel, connections with powerful men etc. In her view, the reality was quite different.

To operate as a successful ‘high end’ or ‘elite’ escort you’ll frequently find yourself in a position in which you’ll need to consider offering services and taking risks that the legalised brothel industry would undoubtedly shun. No-one tells you this. Sure, you can earn the big bucks but, at what price? What are you prepared to sacrifice? Review forums tell the guys who’s prepared to do what and those who push the limits of safety are usually the ones who are financially rewarded at the expense of those who put safety first.

Gwyneth Montenegro via Independent

The glamourization and normalization of prostitution, far away from sex trafficking and endless abuse is leading to an inflow of more girls opting prostitution as a way of life. The lack of influential adults drove them to this decision them and they, in turn, will become, individuals, who will not be able to do the same when the opportunity arises. It is a vicious cycle.

Another reason listed among many is sexual curiosity. It is a revelation that Sexual motivation ranks high among the reasons as to why someone chooses prostitution. I believe its a product of glamourization and undermining ideas around human sexuality. That’s something that needs to be dealt with in exquisite detail and requires a different post altogether. In conclusion, the pursuit of prostitution may be an outcome of more than physical needs.