Prostitution: Story of the Oldest Profession on Earth | The Thinking Blog ~ Knowledge Grows When Shared
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09 February 2008

Prostitution: Story of the Oldest Profession on Earth

"Prostitution presents a moral, social and economic problem that cannot be solved juridically" once famously commented Federica Montseny, the first ever female Spanish minister and a liberal anarchist. Indeed, since ancient times when females were held with a lower social regard than the males in the social hierarchy, till modern days when women rights are promulgated upon fervently - prostitution remains a relevant issue in society. With its scope encompassing social, moral and economic issues, it presents a dilemma to any government determined to fully comprehend this grey area.

NOTE: Article contains images that might Not be Safe For Work [NSFW].

It is fascinating that so little is known about the "oldest trade in the world" but prostitution has always been rampant and thriving. From the Aztecs time where Cihuacalli (House of Women) became a legalized place for prostitutes to provide sexual services for men; to the Babylonians' time where each woman had to reach, once in their lives, the sanctuary of Militta (Aphrodite or Nana/Anahita), have sex with a foreigner as a sign of hospitality for a symbolic price; and right down to the ancient Rome and Greece where slavery and sex ran alongside one another, prostitution has never ceased to thrive. Even with the abolishment of slavery, initiated by the 1926 Slavery Convention and adopted by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, prostitution which itself is an indirect form of slavery never get exterminated.

Roman hetaera, relief, around 2nd century—head is missing.

Customer and a prostitute illustrated on an ancient Greek wine cup.

Birth of Venus/Aphrodite, the classical Latin/Greek goddess of love, lust, and beauty.

French prostitutes being taken to the police station.

"The Procuress" by Dirck van Baburen.

Köçek troupe at a fair. Recruited from the ranks of colonized ethnic groups, köçeks were entertainers and sex workers in the Ottoman empire.

A political cartoon from 1787 jesting about the notion of taxation affecting prostitutes.

Ultimately though, the main reason why prostitution remains relevant till today is because sex has always been regarded as a highest form of pleasure for humans and thus explains peoples’ crave for it. Like any other types of transaction for pleasure purposes (eg. Purchasing of games etc), sex will remain an entity that is to be purchased if people continue to view it as something that can be bought and not sacred. It is sobering and lugubrious to know that sex is increasingly becoming something of a transaction as shown by the rise of the prostitution and pornographic industries; an act of bestial nature that desecrate the sanctity of the ultimate physical intimacy between fellow beings. Indeed, such is the scope and depth of its operations that complete eradication remains an idealistic notion.

Prostitutes in the Shimpuro Brothel in Yokohama.

1941 Las Vegas hotel sign.

The red-light district in Amsterdam.

A neighborhood where prostitution and other businesses in the sex industry flourish.

Prostitution Information Centre, in Amsterdam.

Further reading:

- Prostitution in New York City, 1830-1870
- A History of Prostitution, From Antiquity to the Present Day

By Jacob Toh. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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