The Economist magazine in New York is proud to present statistics stating that the prostitution “trend” is finally dissolving. This emotionally and physically damaging practice has been deemed unpopular, and all are no doubt pleased to hear it. But to be honestly cynical, prostitution isn’t really disappearing so much as it’s changing its face.
It’d be naïve to assume the demand for sex has changed; instead, new norms have altered the supply. A replacement for prostitution is alive and well but called by another name. It’s undeniable that the prostitute population has decreased, but (on the mutual understanding that Americans haven’t suddenly dismissed depravity) could this decline be attributed to the modern-day acceptance of casual sex found most frequently among students?
A century ago, profits from commercial prostitution were much higher due to the scarcity of casual sex. Due to the social stigma surrounding prostitution and the fact that salaries for classier female occupations paled in comparison, streetwalkers could charge outrageous prices, making sacrificing their dignity worthwhile. Since that era, prostitution has declined ins one places by as much as 34%. At the same time, pick-up sex has increased by 10% and “friends with benefits” by 20% since the 80s and 90s. Most aren’t so delusions to believe that casual sex is irrelevant to this study though most consider it excessive to directly compare young, sexually-(over)active girls to “free prostitution.” But, to be candid, our society is one where it is socially acceptable (even expected?) for a girl to go home with a man because he bought her drinks. Instead of leaving a Benjamin on the nightstand like the old days (where we were at least compensated for our shame), men are merely expected to drop twenty dollars at most on whatever fruity alcoholic concoction a woman requests.
It’s generally believe that prostitution is far more dangerous than casual sex. STDs are the first problem one might consider. But, shockingly, the US Department of Health consistently reports that only 3-5% of STDs are found in formal prostitutes. On the other hand, 35% of STDs are found in teenagers.
Another problem often paired with streetwalking is depression, the sense of worthlessness stemming from being physically used. Casual sex supporters claim that it doesn’t result in depression since it’s a choice and not a means of survival as is prostitution. While this seems a convincing argument, Ohio State surveyed 10,000 students to determine the mental effects of casual sex. Through this survey, they found that it was indeed linked to declines in mental health. Those involved in casual sex in their late teens and early 20s were found more likely to have serious suicidal thoughts. In fact, each additional partner increased the odds of suicidal thoughts by 18%.
Essentially, prostitution has merely been exchanged for a practice with identical problems. The healthiest thing is to stay classy, ladies. Don’t trade elegance and dignity for anything, much less a beer. Indifferent sex still leads to depression, but this time we don’t even get paid for it.