Chapter 7

Prostitution, Pornography,
and the Sex Industry
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Chapter 7 Outline
Perspectives on
Perspectives on
Deviant behavior
Global Perspective
Health Aspects
Tiers of prostitution
Age, Class, Race
• Functionalist
• Interactionist
• Conflict/Feminist
Pornography, obscenity, erotica
Extent of pornography
Research on Pornography
Age, Class, Race
• Functionalist
• Conflict/Feminist
• Interactionist
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Sociological Approaches in Studying Deviance
 Deviance as objectively given:
 Any person who does not conform to established social norms is deviant.
 Example: Prostitution and pornography are violations of folkways, mores, or
 Deviance as socially constructed:
 A behavior, belief, or condition is deviant because it is labeled as such.
Howard Becker’s (1963) labeling theory contributed to this approach
 Example: Street prostitutes are more likely to be labeled deviant than are
people who work for high-priced escort services
 Deviance is rooted in the social structure of society:
 Behaviors considered immoral, distasteful, or threatening to are defined as
deviant by those in power.
 Example: Prostitutes are more likely to be punished than their customers
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Sexually Deviant Behaviors
4 behaviors identified as sexually deviant:
 Premarital sex or fornication: Sex between unmarried people
 Extramarital sex or adultery: Sex between married person and a
partner not her or his spouse
 Promiscuous sex: Casual sexual relations with many partners
 Underage sex or statutory rape: Sexual relations with children
below the age of consent
U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that defines prostitution as a
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Global Perspective
Prostitution :The sale of sexual services (of oneself or
another) for money or goods without emotional
 Referred to as “world’s oldest profession”
 Prostitution has become a global sex industry
 Businesses benefit economically from the global sex
industry. (hotels, airlines, bars, brothels)
 Demand for prostitution greatest when large numbers of
men are congregated for extended time (ex: military)
 In poorest countries women and children are often sold
into the sex trade.
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Health Aspects of Prostitution for Women
 Many woman see prostitution as a job or way to make
money, but it is very hazardous to their health.
Problems associated with prostitution:
Physical Violence
• Bruises
• Broken bones
• Black Eyes
Health Risks
• HIV/AIDs or other
• Pelvic
• Pregnancy related
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Emotional Health
• Combat disorder
• Depression
• Drug or Alcohol
Levels of Prostitution
Escorts or
Call Girls/Boys
Estimates of 100,00
to 500,000 working
prostitutes in U.S.but hard to estimate
Hustlers, Strippers and Table Dancers
House Girls
Street Walkers
Drug Addicts
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Age, Class, and Race
 Age:
 Most prostitutes are between 17 and 24
 Social Class:
 Lower income and poverty-level women and men are more
likely to enter into prostitution
 Race:
 Wide spread image of black women as promiscuous.
 More whites arrested for prostitution than other races.
 Typical Customer is middle aged, male, white and
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 Insert fig. 7.1
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Perspectives on Prostitution
Prostitution offers several functions in society:
 Offers sexual gratification without a relationship.
 Serves as an outlet for those not in an ongoing sexual relationship.
 Provides an opportunity to engage in sexual practices a regular sex
partner might be unwilling to engage in.
 Provides protection for the family as a social institution by
distinguishing between “good/bad boys”
 Provides jobs for low-skilled people
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Perspectives on Prostitution, cont.
Symbolic Interactionist
 Prostitution as a career is similar to choosing other
 Public labeling of people in such a career as
deviant—and the person’s acceptance or rejection
of that label—determines whether he or she stays
in that career
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Perspectives on Prostitution, cont.
 Conflict theorists:
 People in power define prostitution as illegal because they see it as
 Liberal feminists:
 Prostitution is a victimless crime that should be decriminalized
 Marxist and Radical feminists:
 Women forced to use their bodies to make money because of
economic inequality
 Trace the roots of prostitution to patriarchy in society
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 Pornography:
 Graphic depiction of sexual behavior through pictures or words in a
manner intended to be sexually arousing
 Obscenity:
 The legal term for pornographic materials that are offensive by generally
accepted standards of decency
 Erotica :
 Material depicting consensual sexual activities that are sought by and
pleasurable to all parties involved
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Nature and Extent of Pornography
 Hard-core: is material that explicitly depicts sexual
acts and/or genitals
 Soft-core is suggestive but not explicit
 Pornography is profitable to many, including investors,
film makers, and owners of stores that distribute such
 Porn film industry a $10 billion per year enterprise.
 Many formats for porn but computer technology is
most prevalent.
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Research on Pornography
 Studied by two presidential commissions with
contradictory conclusions
 1970 U.S. Commission on Pornography and Obscenity found no
conclusive links between pornography and sex crimes or antisocial
 1986 Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography concluded
that pornography is dangerous, causes sex crimes, increases
aggression in males, inspires sexism, and encourages pedophilia
(adults engaging in sexual intercourse with children)
 Sociological studies have not established that watching
such films and videos contributes to aggressive or violent
 Most adults do not support censoring pornographic
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Race, Class, and Age
 Men watch more sexually explicit material and are more
favorable toward porn than women.
 Women are more vocal in opposing porn than women
 Class-based elitism: thought that rejecting pornography is
rejecting all that is vulgar, trashy, and lower class.
 White women much more likely to be portrayed in
 Minorities more likely to be portrayed in rape, bondage, and
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Solutions to Prostitution and Pornography
 Functionalist/Conservative:
 Prostitution and pornography need regulation and
 Religious conservatives: these are threats to moral values
 Conflict/Liberal:
 Decriminalize these “victimless crimes” let adults make
their own choices.
 Symbolic Interactionist:
 Need to find out how people in the industry perceive their
actions and what social meanings they attach to their
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