a natural history of the prostitute

The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet (he had the right idea)

The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet

Prostitutes are born.

Not every sex worker in the world enters the work because she has always felt a pull towards it. Many have. I know a number of women who have felt the interest from a young age, including myself (and this was before I even had a clear idea of what sex was). Conversations with these women reveal that we all say the same things about our early interest, we all became interested right before entering puberty and common myths about prostitution were not enough to dissuade us from desiring that life-path.

This is a very small sampling and it’s highly unscientific. Given what we know about genes and hard-wired behaviors — it seems more than plausible. Just as homosexual people are born, I am convinced prostitutes are born too.

My inspiration came last year after reading a US-based survey about attitudes toward gay people. The discovery of “gay genes” seems to have really turned the tide in popular thinking and acceptance of homosexuality. It sounds like an argument of convenience for prostitution. But if the range of human sexual orientation is, in fact, genetic; then how come prostitution — an extremely common sexual behavior — supposedly isn’t? What if prostitution isn’t merely a sexual behavior but is actually a sexual orientation? Why has prostitution always been viewed as a deviant behavior? How come people aren’t willing to examine the idea that a prostitute is a perfectly natural occurrence and that it’s society which has formed the deviant behavior around the prostitute?

If being a prostitute is a natural tendency for a percentage of women, then how can laws be made against who they are?

biology of a genetic prostitute

Aside from personal thought and talking with other sex workers; in the last two years I’ve read two books on reproductive biology that may offer an answer as to why nature creates prostitutes. Sperm Wars (sorry about the title) and The Story of V clearly illustrate the incredible reproductive choice women exercise and the power of our biology. (Woman is also an old favorite, though its theories are more social than biological — great reading regardless). It makes absolute sense to me that nature — in its constant drive for survival with creative reproductive strategies — would create the genetic prostitute.

It’s well-known that all range of animals engage in prostitution. While it’s difficult to figure out an animal’s deep-seated desires by asking them questions, I’m wondering if these animals are genetic prostitutes too. After all, not all the prostitute-animals are that way because it’s somehow socially-acceptable or because Dad got laid off. There is a biological advantage to a certain percentage of animals being genetic prostitutes. So too for us — the most defenseless, brainiest animals of them all.

I have always thought myself and women like me were wired “like a man.” I think the truth is far more subtle: we’re absolutely female. Our strategy for reproductive success leads us to scour our locales (and plenty of foreign locales) for the most genetically-suitable mates. Granted, condom-usage cuts down on having children through a career in sex work. Condoms haven’t been around long enough for our basic biology to really adapt.

Prostitution is supposedly the oldest profession and it’s not because women are simply lazy or it’s “easy” work. If there wasn’t a compelling biological reason for prostitution, there would not be a percentage of women born every year who are drawn to the work. As to why nature also creates homosexual and transgender prostitutes…More reproductive diversity? Prostitution is a survival strategy that works for a percentage of the population regardless of gender? Or are they simply the natural result of mixing between genetic prostitutes and those lacking the prostitution gene — much like the genetic differences between blue, brown and hazel eyes within a family tree. (Given that bi-sexual men are supposed to be highly reproductively-successful, then it’s even more obvious where gay and transgender prostitutes come from.)

What percentage of women are genetic prostitutes? My guess is there is usually a small percentage of full genetic prostitutes (no more than 10%?) and a much larger percentage of prostitutes who have some part of the gene (up to 30%?) within the female population. There is probably a much larger number of partial genetic prostitutes than full genetic prostitutes because not only can they blend better, they have a lot more options open to them (not just talking about sex work, but mistress arrangements, marrying up, entertainment careers, etc.) in which they can fulfill their biological destiny without paying the high social price. One problem with full genetic prostitutes is that they probably never blend very well.

From a biological perspective, having children is an extremely expensive proposition for the woman and it’s all about choosing the right mate. (The right genetic mate is often not the right domestic mate, by the way.) This is why genetic prostitutes are successful. They have every possible chance to find their genetic equal. They also have access to almost every male in their vicinity, including the alpha males most other women never get to touch.

Advances in biological research makes it clear that women employ a range of natural family-planning methods. This doesn’t mean a woman can have sex without condoms and not get pregnant — she most certainly will become a mother. It does mean that a woman’s body picks and chooses exactly who the father of each of her children will be. The more genetic material (sperm) she can collect, the greater her choice, the higher the likelihood of her children surviving and being reproductively-successful — leading to the natural existence of a percentage of genetic prostitutes. They take advantage of their own natural abilities in mate-selection and their availability to a large pool of potential mates — thereby passing on their successful, whorish genes.

Even “accidental” pregnancies are quite planned. Everything I’ve read indicates that a woman’s body gets pregnant exactly when it wants to. This does not mean that body and conscious mind are always in agreement about the correct moment; simply that the female body follows its own biological agenda with great determination.

Prostitution is also an excellent strategy for raising children because it offers viable options: a steady supply of financial support from a variety of men (no worries about putting all of one’s valuable eggs into one unstable basket); a ready-made community of women to assist in child-rearing; or simply having the natural abilities to charm a very socially-suitable mate to be the sole supporter of her and her child regardless of actual paternity. I would love to read about the survival rates of the children of prostitutes, if they follow any sort of societal trending (especially through boom/bust cycles) — though it would be hard to separate that data from those who entered prostitution merely as a financial means to an end.

If tests could be done on genetic prostitutes, I’m going to guess they start out life healthier and with a greater chance of successful pregnancies than non-prostitute women. They probably entered puberty earlier than their peers.

But did they begin sexual activity any earlier? For men, early sexual activity leads to greater reproductive success. With women bearing the high cost of pregnancy and childbirth, it makes sense for women programmed to be reproductively successful via many partners to delay sexual activity until their bodies are a little more mature and their immune system completely developed. (“Mature” being a relative term, of course.) Disease is an obvious biological cost of being a genetic prostitute. Nature would make allowances for this by giving genetic prostitutes stronger immune systems and perhaps earlier immune development. But…have enough unprotected sex with the wrong men and she will get a disease. That’s why the strategy is risky regardless of the society in which the prostitute operates. Having a strong immune system would also make genetic prostitutes very appealing men as well.

I’m also going to guess that genetic prostitutes are very fertile women. Unlucky ones may be rendered sterile through disease — part of the high cost of this path.

Genetic prostitutes are probably more orgasmic than those lacking the genes entirely. There are theories on how female orgasm leads to successful reproduction, so I would assume the most successful mothers are probably the most sexually-responsive. This isn’t saying that non-prostitute women lack sexual response, only that genetic prostitutes are more responsive.

Because of the high social cost and risk of harm, do genetic prostitutes have sharper instincts and read people better than non-genetic prostitutes or non-prostitute women? Obviously, work experience makes students of all prostitutes; I’m simply wondering if genetic prostitutes have a slight edge in detecting dangerous situations.

Sperm Wars did discuss prostitution, but oddly, he mostly fixated on social costs and women who turn to prostitution — as opposed to the idea of genetic prostitutes. I think he needed to talk to a few more sex workers than he did before writing his chapter. He also seems to think that “prostitute” automatically equals “drug-user,” which is just not true.

I’m going to guess substance abuse is very low among genetic prostitutes: not only are they choosing a career that is deeply satisfying regardless of the social costs, they’re likely to be more health-conscious than non-genetic prostitutes because it would make sense to be hard-wired this way to offset the possible health effects of a risky reproductive strategy.

the oldest profession

My guess is that prostitution began because that’s what genetic prostitutes were compelled to do with their lives. Obviously. As they successfully created more genetic prostitutes, they also created half and partial genetic prostitutes. These are women who don’t feel drawn to prostitution yet try it later in life and suddenly realize they’ve found their calling. Or they may be drawn to other forms of sex work. They probably blend with society fairly well and this lowers their social cost. This gives them a reproductive advantage over non-prostitute women, but not nearly so much as full genetic prostitutes.

And, of course, all women would have children who completely lack the prostitute gene. After all, if everyone is a prostitute, there is no big advantage in being one.

Non-genetic prostitutes entered the work because humans can think for themselves. If they saw the advantages of being a prostitute (as displayed by genetic prostitutes) as outweighing the social costs, they would become prostitutes too. (More on this in a moment.)

What happens when a mother finds out her daughter is a prostitute? First, the social conditioning kicks in (the high social cost). There may be a primal feeling that this daughter is going to be more reproductively successful than any non-prostitute daughters. This has got to create enormous conflict for the mother. Are mothers who have a bit of the prostitute gene more likely to be tolerant of daughters who are genetic prostitutes? Are mothers who entirely lack the prostitute gene able to understand prostitute daughters at all? What if both mother and daughter lack the gene — the daughter is simply a prostitute for the social advantage — is that more palatable to the mother? It’s fairly easy to assume that a mother and daughter who are both full genetic prostitutes will have a much easier time with their relationship.

the social cost

But why the heavy social stigma against prostitution? Sperm Wars in fact, talks about this very issue. The higher the likelihood of a deviant reproductive strategy being successful, the higher the social cost. He deconstructs the huge stigma against bi/gay men this way (according to his theory, it’s actually bi-sexual men who have higher-than-hetero reproductive success rates; gay men are a predictable genetic result of that success — the stigma against gay men is actually a warning to the bi-sexual men who blend better with society).

Based on the extremely high social cost, I’m going to assume there is no other more-successful reproductive strategy known to humankind than being a prostitute. (This strategy is most threatening to other women, usually far less threatening to men from a biological standpoint.)

It depends on the society too, of course. There are great social benefits to be had by living outside the reach of traditional male control but the cost is equally high in a repressive society. I imagine the genetic prostitutes in these societies are probably very strong (biologically-speaking) but fewer in number. In repressive societies there are probably more half genetic prostitutes in the general population following their destiny through more subtle means.

In a society where prostitution is tolerated there are probably a glut of genetic prostitutes. This doesn’t give them much of an advantage. They may actually give birth to children lacking the prostitution gene in an effort to redress the balance. A sexual-disease epidemic in a society that once tolerated prostitutes might change its social structure and genetic prostitutes would once again have to be able to succeed in difficult conditions, making their genes stronger (and leading to more half genetic prostitutes).

The women lacking the gene who enter prostitution (or other forms of sex work) are biological imitators. They lack the prostitute gene, but are likely to have genes that allow them to take advantage of the benefits of being a prostitute: less aversion to risk, higher levels of ambition, a streak of non-conformity, a determination to be a successful mother or any number of other factors. Biological imitation is done for a number of reasons, the reason I’m focusing on is the advantage being a prostitute gives to women who lack the prostitute gene: access to resources.

This becomes obvious when you look at women in poorer countries. Not every poverty-stricken women becomes a prostitute. Hardly. And even among those who do become prostitutes, a lot will say they’re only doing it for the money. So why did they make the choice compared to their equally-poor peers who decided not to? The simple answer seems to be that these women are more adventurous, more willing to take risks and perhaps more future-thinking than their non-prostitute peers. The overwhelming majority of these women (who would rather do other work) will say they entered prostitution to provide for their children. They may not be genetic prostitutes but their genes certainly seem to compel them to make the most of any advantage they can gain for their progeny.

The issue of coercion is an issue of exploitation by others. It has nothing to do with the woman’s personal biology. If she really wanted to be doing the work – she would be.

the origin of the hierarchy

Though I planned on discussing this at length later on, a lot of my theories about its origins crumble in the face of the idea of genetic prostitutes. The hierarchy exists for a reason, but not what I originally thought. The vehemence of non-prostitute women against the prostitute tells me that it’s a highly-successful and very threatening biological advantage. This also naturally points to the creation of the hierarchy.

The full genetic prostitute is going to be just as threatening to non-genetic prostitutes as she is the non-prostitute female population. But how can non-genetic prostitutes level the playing field and neutralize the threat of competing against colleagues naturally programmed for success? By creating the hierarchy.

The basic tenet of the entire sex work hierarchy is that those who actually have sex with clients are at the bottom and those who make money without having to engage in sex are at the top. Within that is the sub-hierarchy specific to prostitutes. In very simple terms, those who have the most sex with clients are at the bottom, those who can financially succeed without a lot of sex are at the top. Within the prostitution hierarchy is contempt for the women who enjoy their work a little too much. Genetic prostitutes have a deeply-sexual/reproductive reason for doing what they do. Non-genetic prostitutes do not and therefore see no reason to pursue sex with the same vigor as the genetic prostitutes do. Genetic prostitutes are not only threatening to non-genetic prostitutes but probably a bit repugnant as well.

While the hierarchy certainly smacks of trying to imitate the “good,” socially-acceptable [non-prostitute] women in society, it’s also a way of creating class distinctions in order to give the financial advantage back to the women who are only in it for the money. (This is not a judgment against anyone who wants the financial advantages of prostitution.)

I think that full genetic prostitutes will be fairly non-competitive. The ones who have the most to lose by not financially-succeeding (the ones who dislike the job the most) are going to be very competitive. Generally, the more unhappy someone is, the more likely they are to make everyone around them miserable as well.

Oddly, I also believe that prostitutes lacking the gene entirely are going to befriend women with the gene. Part of it may just be that genetic prostitutes are personable (it’s in their best interest to be); a large part of it may be trying to learn about the business from those who seem to have success or who seem to manage the business easily. Non-genetic prostitutes are going to be the ones with the most job-related issues.

the question of money

Which begs the question of which genes are more economically successful? Being a genetic prostitute doesn’t automatically guarantee financial success.

A woman who does not care for the work may charge higher rates, see fewer clients (thereby lowering a lot of risk factors) and manage her money more carefully. She may make greater effort to blend with society.

Or maybe genetic prostitutes are very economically-successful because they enjoy their job, charm their clients and have a very high client-retention rate over a very long career. Her regulars may also give her more material gifts than non-genetic prostitutes. Because they are comfortable with their work, they may be more adventurous than non-genetic prostitutes and try new avenues of making money (were the first porn actresses genetic prostitutes?).

Even if the population of prostitutes stays the same, do economic cycles influence how many genetic prostitutes are in the prostitute population? Are there more genetic prostitutes working during boom years because non-prostitute women can find financial advantage elsewhere? Do genetic prostitutes produce more or less half genetic prostitutes during lean years and more full genetic prostitutes during boom years? Or not produce children at all during lean years?

the clients

I’m honestly not paying attention to theorizing about clients. It’s an easy assumption that it’s a simple biological decision for a man to have sex with someone who could possibly father his child without him ever having to take care of it. Plus, he got to have sex.

Social stigma is very low for men because it’s a non-threatening reproductive strategy for them – few resources are expended on the chance he’ll pass along his genes. There’s the threat of disease but it’s a far greater threat for women than men. If he’s having sex with a genetic prostitute, chances are good that his potential child will be successfully reared. If not…no great loss. Plus, he got to have sex.

I’m overlooking a whole lot of socio-sexual issues here because I just want to focus on biology. And biology offers a pretty simple explanation for the existence of male clients.

personally

This might seem like a lot of contortions to rationalize my own behavior. It’s not. The light bulb only really turned on a year ago and just this week all the pieces I needed fell into place, everything in the space of about 5 seconds (I live for these moments).

This isn’t all about me. If it was, I wouldn’t have bothered spending three full days working on this post. I can quickly think of half a dozen other escorts whom I know well enough to feel they fit the profile of a full genetic prostitute, tons of girls who could posses part of the prostitute gene and plenty of girls who apparently lack the gene entirely. I’m also writing this from a historical perspective of what I know about prostitution through human history. This is why I don’t address the issues of condoms very much or mention most modern forms of sex work.

To me, this is a completely logical answer to why I feel the way I do, why I think the way I do, why my body functions in certain ways, why my life can never be any other way. I am certainly a lot more than just my theoretical hooker genes, but if that is who I am then why try to pretend anything else?

I’ve had these questions from a young age when the morality my parents attempted to instill in me did not make a dent, why the problems at school wouldn’t go away (well, there were a lot of reasons for that; one of them was for being a girl who wasn’t ashamed about being called a slut or a whore), why I’ve always looked at men and marriage completely differently than my friends did, why I am deadened by monogamy. Lamely trying to explain “I’m made this way” doesn’t work if you just pull it out of your ass. There has to be a reason. Did I inherit a recessive gene for prostitution that my sister did not?

Nature (or God, if you prefer) loves a chaotic variety all pointing to the same goal: creating more life. There is always a need for balance and there is always a need for more life. Many people find nothing more life-affirming than sex and the ultimate embodiment of sex is the prostitute. I think about the ancient goddess-societies and how they must’ve been teeming with genetic prostitutes.

It’s all well and good until the human thought process comes along and wrecks that lovely balance of life and variety (or perhaps it’s the less-successful humans being primally-jealous). But the prostitute gene is a tough one — not willing to go away just because it’s supposed to.

This theorizing doesn’t mean I think all women are whores. I think very few women are whores. There are a large number who have a little whore in them (more or less). And then the entire rest of the female population does not — not one tiny bit. But the whores are undoubtedly not alone.

I’m not a biologist, geneticist, anthropologist or statistician. I’m just theorizing in one protracted, shining fit of inspiration. Regardless of what you think about my various theories (and I’ve covered quite a bit of turf), the basic idea of a prostitute existing as a genetically-determined sexual orientation making up part of the population is not out of the question. Not by any stretch.

Yes, it’s unapologetically female-centric. (See the picture above if you don’t get it.)

PS: I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t spell “prostitute” no matter how many times I write it.

56 thoughts on “a natural history of the prostitute

  1. Sabrina Morgan

    Interesting! You know, this is actually not far-fetched at all. There’s been a goodly amount of (reputable) research done indicating an inclination towards nonmonogamy is genetic; we know certain genetic markers tend to crop up together, even if we don’t always know why; why wouldn’t a combination of early puberty, nonmonogamy, high sexual responsiveness, and good people-reading skills – a combination that would be very successful over the generations – crop up often? It’s certainly a lot more likely than a lot of popular evolutionary psychology theories…

    Those who are the best suited to their careers use the talents they were born with and the skills they’ve acquired in a role that fits their personality. I’ve absolutely met some sex workers that have the mindset that tells you they were born for this and couldn’t live any other way, including that ability to genuinely be into whatever the client likes, for the duration of the session (it was described to me as almost a form of trance). I know I’m not the first woman in my family to have the inclinations I do.

    It would be so interesting to do a genetic study on batches of us from different areas of sex work, and see what commonalities crop up…

  2. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Sabrina — No, it’s not far-fetched at all. That’s the point.

    And it certainly quiets a lot of the debate between the “I do it instead of working at McDonald’s” crowd and the “It’s a calling” crowd.

    Can’t wait for the day when scientists pinpoint the prostitute gene. I know it’s there.

    XX

  3. Furry Girl

    I’m not well-versed enough in the issue to offer any strong opinions either way on this sort of biological determinism. For example, I know that genetically-speaking, I am at high risk for heroin addiction, but I am not a heroin addict. There’s all sorts of things a personal can be genetically predisposed to, but don’t manifest – but like I said, it’s not something I really think about much.

    I’ve read a little on the DRD4 gene before but never really looked into it. I have my genetic info, so how do I actually figure out if I have the famous slutty/risk-taking gene? It would be fascinating to get a lot sex workers to shell out for their genetic info and compare DRD4 results, or any other gene we could think to look at. We don’t need to outsource this to some vague “The Scientists”, anyone can shell out a few hundred dollars and then compare data amongst themselves if there was the interest.

    I’m a 23andme.com customer, but I’m not sure how to translate a paper I skimmed in Google Scholar that graphs DRD4 stuff by repeating alleles, to my genotype data from 23andme. If someone can decipher it for me, I’ll share my results. (23andme.com lets you look things up by SNP, gene, and position, and then gives you your genotype as pairs of GATC.)

    Wahhh. Maybe if I’d become a doctor instead of a professional slut, I’d know how to do this myself. Makes me wish I had more than just a pop-science-level understanding of genetics.

  4. Amanda Brooks Post author

    FG — I’m not talking about a predisposition, I’m talking about basic sexual hard-wiring. It’s a very different thing. The reproductive drive is secondary only to our food/survival drive — as I understand it.

    I have no idea what gene a theoretical prostitute gene would be on. I’m assuming the same one that controls sexual orientation. Is that DRD4? Or something different?

    XX

  5. Amanda Brooks Post author

    All — If you leave a very long comment and it doesn’t get posted, you may have to post it in smaller chunks. WordPress can get weird about this sometimes and I’m not sure why. Not sure if it’s my server, WordPress or some setting I need to change.

    XX

  6. Belle de Jour

    FG: I’m not familiar with 23andme, I guess from your description it’s a total listing of all the base pairs? In which case you’d look up DRD4’s location at 11p15.5 and check the locations of associated polymorphisms at a base pair location (specifically -521C/T, but there are others).

    It’s an interesting idea Amanda, and there’s so much to chew on here – and early stages thinking, as you yourself indicated. Research would probably start with sibling and twin studies and go from there, keeping it small. I’m not sure I would necessarily focus on DRD4. Also, the one gene/one syndrome thing is possibly a red herring. I’m no extrovert, and extremely risk averse, but my god do I love connecting with people one-on-one. Surely if there is a genetic or epigenetic profile at play mine would be different from other people who are “born” hookers.

    Science disclaimer: I studied genetic epidemiology (maths/programming discipline), not genetics, so if an actual geneticist is in the house please feel free to correct/contradict.

    Also usual ethical disclaimer: I’m not a fan of assigning genetic origins to behaviours, as it could potentially be used against people. But I totally get your point that if society accepted promiscuity of this type as an orientation it could help kill a lot of the anti-sex work rhetoric.

    Aside: do we ever want to not be outlaws? Is there a gene for enjoying being in the minority?

  7. David

    Amanda,

    Very interesting post. I think you are on to something here.You might be interestedin some of David Buss’ work (he’s at U. Texas -Austin) on the evolutionary adaptiveness of complex human behaviors.

    Be well,

    David

  8. Pingback: craschworks » Blog Archive » Just as homosexual people are born, I am convinced prostitutes are born too.

  9. Aspasia

    Very interesting, Amanda… Short response: Sure, why not? Long response: Yeah, but…

    @Belle de Jour: Genes for enjoying being in the minority… I guess some people are born to be serial contrarians.

  10. J

    Interesting post. I’m sure it’s not farfetched, even if I don’t think it applies to me or many of the escorts I have met. If a study were conducted, I think there would be a very small percentage of genetic prostitutes. And then I wonder if this behavior were studied at a young age, would genetic prostitutes be promiscuous in exchange for something like a box of crayons? I would think a genetic prostitute would need to show consistency throughout her life for giving it up in exchange for something tangible rather than just being a “slut” for free? As an adult, I made a choice to become an escort for monetary gain. I love money and since I’ve always been promiscuous, it was a no-brainer and seemed adventurous too. I certainly would not do this for free though. But at 12 years old, I frolicked around having sex with boys and men without an exchange other than their attention (nothing tangible). A study showing that throughout a genetic prostitute’s life she only had sex for a tangible gain would definitely support her being born this way like someone who is born LGBTQ. Certainly if she just loved to have sex as a girl, she would enjoy it as an adult WITHOUT commanding a price for it. Right? Or perhaps wrong, but definitely interesting post and idea.

  11. Furry Girl

    Belle: I’m going to email you a screenshot of the DRD4 information 23andme.com has for my genome. (Oh, what a future we live in!) Dunno if that’s something I’d link to a sex worker gene, but I also don’t even know how to interpret my existing DRD4 results anyway. (Which I think of in my head as “the fun gene”, since it has to do with promiscuity, risk-taking, and social drinking habits. I’m definitely a slutty risk-taker, and I’m curious if it’s genetic.)

  12. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Belle — I have no idea what gene would be where. :)

    Since this is such a strong, basic behavior, I’m assuming it does indeed have pretty direct genetic origins. I don’t believe the job came first; I think prostitutes came first and created the job to suit themselves. I only use the term “prostitute” because I can’t think of anything else to describe the behavior — though it seems to be confusing people.

    I think most sex workers would rather be accepted members of society than outlaws. Outlaw status gets your kids taken away and you killed, among other niceties.

    David — Someone else I talked to about this idea recommended I read Buss too!

    Aspasia — Yeah but…??

    J — I just got through saying there are a small percentage of full genetic prostitutes and a larger percentage of women who have some of the gene, then the rest do not (regardless of whether they pursue prostitution). I also said that genetic prostitutes would likely start sexual activity after maturity. They would select mates who had something of real value to offer — not crayons. I’m postulating this as a reproductive strategy because the prostitute is looking for high-value genes and high-value mates to support her children. I see this as slightly different than mere promiscuity. Or maybe it’s not…I’m just thinking of people I know who I think are full genetic prostitutes and thinking of their behaviors. I’m thinking of famous historical prostitutes too.

    FG — Risk-taking is probably genetic, but again, I see it as different than the theoretical prostitute gene. Prostitutes are not necessarily risk-takers. Having sex with lots of partners is risky biologically, but is it seen as “risky” to a genetic prostitute? Or do only those lacking the gene see it as “risky” behavior because of the high social cost involved?

    XX

  13. J

    “The basic tenet of the entire sex work hierarchy is that those who actually have sex with clients are at the bottom and those who make money without having to engage in sex are at the top. Within that is the sub-hierarchy specific to prostitutes. In very simple terms, those who have the most sex with clients are at the bottom, those who can financially succeed without a lot of sex are at the top. Within the prostitution hierarchy is contempt for the women who enjoy their work a little too much. Genetic prostitutes have a deeply-sexual/reproductive reason for doing what they do. Non-genetic prostitutes do not and therefore see no reason to pursue sex with the same vigor as the genetic prostitutes do. Genetic prostitutes are not only threatening to non-genetic prostitutes but probably a bit repugnant as well.” ***
    I have noticed a hierarchy in the industry too. It’s not just about how much money a lady asks per hour (or several hours) but if she has a lot of sex or not. I truly thought I had arrived as a companion when I started doing monthly overnights with a gentleman in which sex consisted of maybe 30 minutes total out of 14 hours together (six of which were completely asleep). Perhaps it is knowing that a woman can charm a man out of money for hours at a time without having sex that is intriguing and causes the hierarchy. It definitely isn’t easier than having lots of sex. I recall touring and seeing at least five guys in a day at one point in my career. That was a lot easier mentally than holding hands and carrying on a witty conversation with the same person for hours at a time (at least for me). So then why is sex looked down upon? I enjoy sex though, but not so much when having it with multiple people in a day. Some people actually enjoy the sex when there is less of it probably because their nipples aren’t being constantly tugged on while on tour or their clitoris being flicked several hours a day during a 2-3 tour period. I think some of the hierarchy has to do with feeling a companion can make more money for doing less PHYSICAL work though it is certainly mental, while I also think the hierarchy just exists because we are human and hierarchies are in the real world, so they exist within this subset of people. Perhaps it is genetic that people need to create a hierarchy or system of haves and have nots because if everyone had, then having would no longer be desirable. Hmmm…great post. xoxo.:)

  14. J

    “I also said that genetic prostitutes would likely start sexual activity after maturity.” Oopsie, I missed that point. Makes sense.:)

  15. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Maggie — It’s a framework that covers the gamut we see within sex workers. It’s the first theory that answers the questions with a solid framework. Socialization (or lack of it) does not hold all the keys — I’ve found these theories to be severely lacking because they ALWAYS overlook the natural possibilities.

    J — I agree the hierarchy is also a social thing because humans just like to put down someone else. But the reason for needing to put someone else down? Because that person feels threatened. There could be a real biological reason for the beginning of the hierarchy. Of course, prostitution and the hierarchy has had quite a long time to develop, as have various societies and their various socio-sexual structures. It’s not easy to untangle all the strands, really.

    XX

  16. CriticalAlpha

    Amanda…why not go the whole hog and get us really thinking -;)

    There were two things that kept going through my mind: firstly I think there’s a great discussion to be had (red wine probably required!) about whether the words should be “genetic prostitute” or “genetic promiscuity”. It just came to me that what you were talking about did not necessarily require the transfer of money – the reproductive success bit. I acknowledge that part of reproductive success is financial security so there maybe is an interesting conversation.

    The second thing that went through my mind was the notion that there is a difference between genetically determined traits and and those traits that are otherwise biologically determined.

    For instance there is evidence that sexual orientation may be determined by hormone exposure in utero. Take that to its natural conclusion (particularly given your discussion about the impacts of hard times on the occurrence of the “prostitution gene”) and it may go a long way to explaining determination of the trait at a much later point in the reproductive cycle than if it were genetically determined.

    Thanks for so much food for thought, and I love the pic.

  17. Amanda Brooks Post author

    CA — Why not indeed???

    At first, I would agree with you about the promiscuity part. But…in looking at animal behavior (and we’re not far removed), it’s clear that the exchange of resources is an important part of their strategy. So too with the original genetic prostitutes. Prostitution as a social institution is muddying the waters of the discussion, unfortunately. I’m trying to look at it as a pure behavior, hard-wired into a certain percentage of the population. That behavior includes promiscuity as well as the interest in resources helpful to successful child-rearing.

    Ah…biologically-determined vs genetically-determined. I didn’t think about that (obviously). Truly possible. But it would stand to reason that some (still a small percentage) would have it in their genes, yes? Otherwise it could not be a possibility at all. I really don’t know.

    What I would love are some scientists devoting some time to figuring this out. It could change a lot of things for the better. I can let the scientists sort it out, with plenty of wine-fueled discussions for myself. 😉

    I like the picture too. I did actually see it a few years ago in the Musée d’Orsay and it was the only painting in the entire place that interested me.

    XX

  18. Critical Alpha

    Hi Amanda,

    “But it would stand to reason that some (still a small percentage) would have it in their genes, yes? Otherwise it could not be a possibility at all. I really don’t know.”

    I’m not enough of a biologist/geneticist to know, though I have a lot of that kind of stuff in my educational/professional background.

    My limited understanding is that many traits are expressed or not as a result of conditions in utero. So if we follow that, our basic sexual stuff is embryonically determined but then how we use it appears to be amenable to modification by conditions in utero.

    An example is that a person can be embryonically male and we would therefore have an expectation that the majority of males would be heterosexual. However there appears to be an argument that the “decision” about heterosexuality/homosexuality is not one of genetics but dependent on the conditions which the foetus is subjected to in utero – the balance of hormones etc.

    Taking that a step further that gives good support for the continuum of human behaviour. People are not necessarily “heterosexual” or “homosexual”, rather they live somewhere on a continuum – rather like your prostitute argument. Could this be an effect of the exact “cocktail” of hormones that they experienced in utero? It seems entirely possible.

    Anyway, some musings on my part. I’d be interested, like you, in the views of the real scientists…not bozos like me -;)

  19. Furry Girl

    To update my aside, the lovely Belle looked at my genome, and I am a split result on the 4 DRD4 SNPs. I am obviously not a geneticist, but I would wonder if a sex work gene would be on DRD4, which is associated with genetic likelihood of promiscuity. Sluttiness, as we now know, has evolutionary advantages for womenfolk. If anyone’s curious what I look like deep inside, this is my DRD4 info:

    http://www.furrygirl.com/share/drd4.jpg

    23andme.com is pretty cool. The big thing that made it worth the money to me was finding out I’m not of the racial background I was told I was. (Not 1/4 Spanish – I’m 1/4 First Nations, on my maternal grandma’s side. Someone in that part of the family had to of lied about their heritage at some point, perhaps to avoid persecution.)

  20. Kelly James

    Now that’s a topic of a different colour! Very interesting.

    I was so interested in sex work from an early age that on my eighteenth birthday I packed my bags and hopped on the city bus to a strip club I found in the Yellow Pages. Or perhaps I was simply interested in escaping my ultra controlling parents. Likely both. Regardless, a well thought out and unique explanation to offer my dad next time he bemoans my choices in life for sure :-)

  21. Pingback: Born to be a hooker? « I SELL SEX!

  22. The Prostitute

    Thank you. A very interesting post, I am grateful for the time you spent on this subject, my opinion is that what you call a genetic prostitute would instead be a woman with a high sex drive and more need for adrenalin and power. Some people do bungee jumping to get an adrenalin rush, others sell sex!

  23. Amanda Brooks Post author

    CA — Certain conditions in utero causing the prostitute gene to be expressed or not is certainly probable. It goes along with the very first sentence of my post! Though I admit I’m more wedded to the genetic explanation, I’m a genes person.

    Whatever the root cause I now believe that some percentage of women are made to be prostitutes and that it’s not a pure social construct. I don’t see myself readily changing my mind on that — it answers all the questions I’ve had. To me, it seems so damn obvious but everyone along the way has always had their minds clouded with prostitution as a deviancy, we’ve lost whatever wisdom ancient societies might’ve had about natural prostitutes. This is what reinventing the wheel feels like, I think.

    FG — Good to know! And good to know about 23andme. I had not realized that looking at your own genes was so accessible.

    Kelly — That’s why it’s interesting! :)

    Prostitute — I don’t agree about adrenalin and power. If it’s something naturally innate in you — why would you get a rush? Rushes come from doing something you shouldn’t be doing (taboos) or something contrary to your nature. Nor do a lot of women feel “power.” It just is. I’d say the same goes for anyone being who they are meant to be: it simply provides the deepest sense of satisfaction and rightness possible in their lives.

    XX

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  25. Asehpe

    Hi Amanda — what an interesting discussion you have here! (By the way, maybe you would add Ryan & Jethá’s book Sex at Dawn to your list of literature; it also looks at issues such as prostitution and homosexuality, but more from an Evolutionary Psychology perspective.

    Belle de Jour: like you, I am wary of deriving specific behaviors from genes, not only because of the problem of this being usable against people, but also because (as far as I know) so little is known in most cases about the exact causal chain linking a gene to its phenotypical expression that this kind of thing (outside of statistical correlation studies of the “gene for X” kind) that I feel like approaching such questions with care.

    But I had an idea that I would like your opinion on, since you are more knowledgeable with the field than I am. I wondered if the “hooker gene” couldn’t be better seen as a personality type (given much speculation about genetic condition for at least certain personality traits). It seems to me that women who are more sensitive to / attracted by the “giving” part of sexuality, and who feel the “power” that this gives to them, are more likely to enjoy prostitution. Often, it seems to me, the women who Amanda mentions — those who feel prostitution is a calling –, also feel attracted by the idea of sacred or religious prostitution (e.g. devadassi), ancient goddesses of sex and love (Astarte, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus), and similar ideas; they like it when they can see their clients as ‘admirers’ (/ worshippers) whom they help, etc.

    This is also reminiscent of “fetishes” or “kinks” (which to an extent may be on a continuum with traditional personality cultures), which may have a similar developmental arch to the one Amanda describes (e.g., onset in early childhood, usually even before the notion of ‘sex’ is clearly understood).

    (I note, at the end, that several of the comments here suggest a connection between prostitution-as-a-calling and ‘sluttiness’. And yet at least one prostitute — Maggie McNeill of the An Honest Courtesan blog — actually reports low levels of ‘sluttiness’/autonomous, self-centered sexual drive. It would seem that strong attraction to sex and strong attraction to prostitution don’t necessarily go hand in hand. In fact one might imagine that they could go against each other: a baker who likes his own sweets too much doesn’t have that many left to sell, etc.)

  26. Maggie McNeill

    “It would seem that strong attraction to sex and strong attraction to prostitution don’t necessarily go hand in hand. In fact one might imagine that they could go against each other: a baker who likes his own sweets too much doesn’t have that many left to sell, etc.”

    Interesting analogy!

  27. Beth

    What a fine piece of work! Kudos for a thoroughly engaging, smart and comprehensive essay. Submit this! Utne, Marie Claire, Feministe, Open Salon, Salon, etc.

    And thank god for a different take on this topic – a FEMALE’s voice – on what is deemed evolutionary psychology.

  28. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Asephe — I’ll look up the book for sure. Thanks for the recommendation!

    The reasoning behind my theory of prostitution as biologically-determined (as I state over and over again), is reproductive reason hard-wired into a certain percentage of the population. That includes a level of sexual promiscuity. It doesn’t disclude pickiness — being “slutty” does not automatically equal “screw everything that moves.”

    I assume genetic prostitutes were the original temple prostitutes. It only makes sense that they would be. The women I consider genetic prostitutes also have these traits, along with a fairly submissive, service-oriented nature.

    The women that I consider to be genetic prostitutes like sex a LOT. Women who are attracted to prostitution for the other benefits aren’t always strongly sexual (or able to easily sexually connect with their clients), they’re reacting with a whole different set of traits not linked to reproduction. This explains the differences in the gamut of experiences — which is what I’ve already said. I’m looking at prostitution as a natural occurrence and not a social institution — I realize this is not the usual view of things and it clouds the discussion because most people are still putting societal stereotypes first.

    Beth — Thank you for that!! I’m glad you like it!

    Indeed, “Sperm Wars” often irritated me because it was obviously written/researched from a very male perspective (the chapters on rape had me fuming).

    XX

  29. Asehpe

    Hi Amanda! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. (I’ll admit I’m a bit long-winded and I tend to ask too many questions; so if you feel that I’m being too inquisitive or annoying, do tell me. I’m really just very curious. :-)

    The women I consider genetic prostitutes also have these traits, along with a fairly submissive, service-oriented nature.

    It seems to me more and more that this is indeed the best personality for someone to be a happy prostitute. Inasmuch as personality traits can have genetic components (and the discussions are all a bit confusing, but there is some real evidence in favor of it), then your idea of a genetic basis for the kind of ‘sluttiness’ that leads to prostitution-as-calling looks actually quite attractive.

    That includes a level of sexual promiscuity. It doesn’t disclude pickiness — being “slutty” does not automatically equal “screw everything that moves.”

    Oh, I don’t mean that; I mean autonomous/self-oriented sex drive (i.e. when you find someone/something that you want to screw, then you rejoice also in the pleasure you get by screwing him, rather than simply enjoying his satisfaction and the attention he gives you.

    Maggie McNeill and I have had a couple of (sometimes quite passionate) discussions about the basis of male and female desire. From her descriptions of her own sexuality, it would seem that what she really enjoys is the man’s reaction. Her capacity for connecting with john (‘finding something in him to love’, as she put it) is nothing short of amazing (and actually very moving and touching), and goes a long way, I think, towards explaining why prostitution felt like a calling to her. (There are other things, too, of course, like the part that comes from interest in and identification with older religious forms of prostitution-as-worship, its numinous, ‘power’ element, etc.)

    The women that I consider to be genetic prostitutes like sex a LOT. Women who are attracted to prostitution for the other benefits aren’t always strongly sexual (or able to easily sexually connect with their clients), they’re reacting with a whole different set of traits not linked to reproduction.

    By ‘liking sex a lot’, do you mean the self-oriented part of it — they like what they take from sex (arousal? touching? kissing? copulation? cunnilingus? orgasm?), or do you mean that they (like Maggie) enjoy being part of the process whereby the john achieves his pleasure? Both things qualify, in a sense, as ‘liking sex’; in the former case, the ‘taking’ part, in the latter, the ‘giving’ part.

    It probably is always a bit mixed. But Maggie does seem to be claiming that, at least in her case, her interest is not in the ‘taking’, but only (or mostly) in the ‘giving’ — or so it seemed to me. That would indicate that it’s possible to connect sexually with the client not so much by liking ‘taking’ sex, but by liking ‘giving’ sex. Does this difference make sense to you? And does that relate to your experience, and to what you know about other ‘genetic prostitutes’? (This might be yet another factor to explain the difference in experiences, not simply the ‘genetic’ vs. ‘non-genetic’ prostitution part.)

    I realize this is not the usual view of things and it clouds the discussion because most people are still putting societal stereotypes first.

    Indeed, and this is a pity. But I think what you’re saying here is very interesting, as it relates to the nature of the human sexual drive. It’s as if your genetic prostitutes had a certain kind of relationship to sex (a certain ‘kink’, you might say) that may cast more light on female (and human) desire in general. I love it!

  30. Parker

    I’ve been mulling this over and have a long response that might be better by email (and I like our private discussions) but this comment does link in with a thought that I’ve had:

    “The women I consider genetic prostitutes also have these traits, along with a fairly submissive, service-oriented nature.”

    Ok, so *my* little observation going back several years connects with my experiments in sexuality with dominance and submission (started in 2005), tie in to my enjoyment of dancing which started as genuine pleasure in objectification and correlate with my observation of gay men’s culture. I noticed that gay men deeply enjoy sexual objectification AND that sexual health messages take this into consideration when designing sexual health promotion from a community perspective.

    So…while studying for my MS degree within a social psychology department from a community health angle with a sexual health focus…well, I thought, why don’t women have this message?

    Why is it that gay men are accpeted within community health as culturally being normal for their desires while women have to deal with a basic, straight message? Why can’t some women also enjoy being objectified and being slutty? Why can’t women enjoy sex work and submission? Why do we have to be seen as fucked in the head by health professionals? (btw, my answer that i came with was feminism, which sees submission as a threat to the cause for equality as it does sex work).

    I don’t have sex with lots of partners but when I let go, I REALLY let go. I did enjoy my one hard core submissive relationship (slave-like actually). It’s just too bad he got so abusive. :( I enjoyed dancing. I enjoyed being a mistress–the sexual person to a married man. I do seek out alpha men.

    I wouldn’t take the evolutionary psychology angle you’re taking on this but I understand what you’re saying. I wouldn’t call it the prostitute gene. I just say that some women love being ojectified and that there isn’t sexual health information for women like that like there is for gay men.

    These women might take part in sex work. They might become mistresses. They might become submissives or get into kink. But they are poorly understood and are marginalized for sure.

  31. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Asehpe — Yes, women who feel prostitution is a calling can find something appealing in everyone. Yes, they like to give and get enjoyment out of their client’s pleasure. Yes, they can easily enjoy sex with a variety of partners too. I think genetic prostitutes are masters of both the give and take aspects of sex, but their main delight is in the giving. If someone has a gift, they generally enjoy sharing it with others. (This is why I’m very sure the first temple prostitutes were genetic ones and why devadasis exist even today.)

    Having talked to more sex workers than you (presumably), I can assure you the joy of giving/connecting and service-oriented nature come up over and over again with the women whom I consider likely genetic prostitutes. They also like sex a LOT and are what we call “people-persons.” These are great traits for the work, not always great traits for every aspect of life.

    Parker — I don’t claim that ALL submissive women are genetic prostitutes, only that genetic prostitutes seem to have that wrapped into their sexuality. There are a lot of traits genetic prostitutes have that you do not (which means you probably aren’t a genetic prostitute — which probably doesn’t surprise you). My argument is that genetic prostitutes have a very deep urge to be a prostitute, often starting at a young age. Other sexual traits (like fetishes) develop as the individual person develops and experiences life. I’m not sure where a woman’s enjoyment of being sexually-objectified develops (please people — I don’t want a friggin debate on it!) but I see that as part of each individual’s sexual development, not the same as genetic hard-wiring (which is explained in the post). There is a distinct difference between innate and learned behaviors.

    Understand that being a prostitute is NOT the same as sexual objectification.

    :)

    XX

  32. Asehpe

    I think genetic prostitutes are masters of both the give and take aspects of sex, but their main delight is in the giving. […] Having talked to more sex workers than you (presumably), I can assure you the joy of giving/connecting and service-oriented nature come up over and over again with the women whom I consider likely genetic prostitutes. They also like sex a LOT and are what we call “people-persons.” These are great traits for the work, not always great traits for every aspect of life.

    Indeed, your experience is much larger than mine; I have seen a prostitute only once, and it wasn’t as a client, but rather as a friendly neighbor. (I actually never was a client and probably never will be, for personal reasons.) That one was clearly not a ‘genetic prostitute’, even though she did see positive aspects to her work.

    Your observations tend to agree with my gut feelings on the topic. Interesting. Thanks for the info. :-)

  33. Parker

    I don’t think submission and objectification go hand in hand with women naturally geared towards sex work–that wasn’t my point. I do think I understand your arguement. But your argument does–I think–support my own argument/observations that there are plenty of women out there who do enjoy being sexually objectified and submissive (paid or not) and that these women aren’t understood or being served by social science and are being marginalized.

  34. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Parker — If we’re talking about science overlooking two large segments of female sexuality — yes, very much so. I would argue science generally overlooks the female body and mind in most studies about the human experience. It’s changing but has a long way to go.

    Jill — I’m glad you liked this. Fuel for your fire, huh? :)

    Asehpe — :)

    XX

  35. Meg

    Absolutely! I’m not sure if it’s genetic or cultural. More inclined towards the later…but then again, I like Judith Butler a lot…

    But if you take the evolutionary-advantage thing too far, than it’s easy to say that men are hardwired to look for sex without commitment, and women are either hardwired to seek commited sexual relationships or to seek lots of sexual relationships that offer material gain… and that women who just want casual sex is a huge evolutionary advantage…which draws into question the whole sexual revolution…

  36. meg

    To add some data to your impromptu study:

    I’m really independent. I like submissive relationships. And I get more pleasure, I think, out of pleasing a partner than getting pleasure out of a partner.

    I found the dynamics of escorting to be a lot more rewarding than casual sex for a few reasons: I felt more “free” to be myself and I think guys felt more free to be themselves when money was being exchanged. I felt more appreciated/respected when working than just having casual sex…I think selling sex gives a bigger sense of value to the interaction than not, and that, since I really enjoy making the experience as good as possible for the guy, a lot of guys I’d have casual sex with assumed I wanted something more involved which always felt ambiguous. And maybe paying for time symbolizes respect/the idea that the other person is of value. I also felt that sex work allowed me to be submissive without really being submissive: in other words, since the guy selected me and was paying me, I really had control over how intimate the interaction was and what I would do and wouldn’t do; I controlled the tone and content of the services…

    I read an article called “The sexual cost of female sex” in Salon: the basic idea was that since successful, college-educated women now outnumber successful, college-educated men, and since more women are having casual sex, the real-world price of sex has dropped to an all-time low. In other words, men buy sex with commitment/affection, and no longer really have to pay for it. And the only solution is for women to stop having casual sex and hold onto relationships for dear life…

    For me, working as an escort was a great way to have a lot of sex and feel like I was offering something valuable without getting stuck in a relationship with someone I didn’t want to be involved with…it wasn’t about needing the money, it was more about the respect/value the money symbolized, although the money was quite nice!

  37. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Meg — I’ve never believed that there is an absolute genetic sexual-hardwiring. I think there is a huge mix of types because the mixing is what creates success (as far as reproduction goes). That includes the range of asexual to complete slut (male or female).

    Emotionally-speaking though, men are no more into non-committed sex than women are; likewise with monogamy.

    I read a reaction to that article on another site, it totally skewered that stupid argument! They completely forget to factor in what the women in question actually want, as opposed to what they’re SUPPOSED to want. Another topic, another day.

    I’ll never say that escort work is a substitute for a sex life. I still have a fairly high percentage of non-sex (or very little sex) appointments. But there are a lot of emotional/mental benefits that I wouldn’t get with any other job and it’s something I’ve always been drawn to. Though I can also see where that “calling” might be redirected as I get older into something maybe more strictly theraputic. Or who knows?

    XX

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  40. Herbert Pepper

    I have been doing some research into borderline personality disorder and genetics. BPD is being looked at for a possible genetic connection. I came up with the following websites which could be linked together with what is being discussed on this website. ‘Lesbians, BPD and genetics’, ‘BPD family.com’. Also google searches on prostitute genetics and nymphomania genetics. My wife of 33 plus years is a good candidate for BPD. It has taken me this long to figure it out because I have Asperger’s syndrome. We Aspy’s have a hard enough time figuring out normal people.

  41. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Herbert — BPD is a trendy diagnosis right now. Wait 5 years and see what’s next.

    Also consider that someone who lives their life against the grain of society might well develop emotional problems that have absolutely nothing to do with their genetics (other than being compelled to live they life they choose).

    Prostitution and nymphomania (if you even choose to believe that’s a valid disorder) are two different things. Any prostitute can tell you that the work is not a substitute for an actual sex life, genetically-wired or no.

    XX

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  44. Aphrodite

    ‘I know a number of women who have felt the interest from a young age, including myself (and this was before I even had a clear idea of what sex was).’
    That’s so apposite for me!
    I didn’t have a good idea what sex was yet, let alone prostitution.
    And still it was ‘something’ I was drawn to, even without exactly knowing what that ‘something’ was.
    There were several occasions when I had some accidental encounters with a prostitute. One was when I was running in the wrong street, and when I bumped into a woman with very high heels, red lips, dyed hair etc…Yes, the stereotipical image of a prostitute. And from that moment I’ve been intrigued by ‘them’, the prostitutes. When I became older, I started having a vague and somewhat romanticized image of prostitution. I knew about the dangers the profession can entail, but this still didn’t stop me from fantasizing and…yes glamorizing prostitution.
    And I don’t apologize for the last sentence I wrote, because the glamorized image, condemned by many, is the ideal image I want to have of prostitution.
    That I want to have for prostitutes, by the way.
    Honestly, I don’t like to see images of misery in prostitution, ’cause I simply don’t like to see misery, not because I don’t recognize there are very unfortunate souls out there.
    But I digress…

  45. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Aphrodite — I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and for sharing your own thoughts.

    I agree with your ideal of prostitution. At its very best, it is glamorous like nothing else and it is attainable for a large number of women (not all, but not a rarity either).

    Showing the misery of victims is important because it shows what needs to be done to improve the situation. Most of the time, changing the laws would improve the situation. Getting that through lawmakers’ heads is the issue.

  46. Aspasia

    I’ve come back to this article after Aphrodite blogged about it and I’ve absorbed it a lot better on the second reading. I think my initial reaction was a bit knee-jerk because I didn’t give it due consideration and I was reading way too much sociology stuff at the time which tends to favor cultural influence over biological influence. Comparing what you stated here with my own behaviors and that of many of my female family members (who would never label themselves prostitutes) this theory makes a lot of sense. Not too few of my more distant paternal ancestresses were placées, my maternal grandmother is definitely an experienced mistress, and my mother’s half-sister was the same in about three or four of her relationships in between marriages.

  47. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Aspasia — Thanks for returning!

    More than one person has pointed out my science is bunk. I admit, I’m not a scientist. But I still think I’m onto something here. If sexuality can be determined by genes, I feel strongly that a sexuality leaning towards what we define as “prostitution” can be innate. Again, I don’t claim this is a large portion of the population, not at all. But I do feel it’s there. And you’re not the first person to talk about a family lineage of prostitution or prostitution-like behaviors. Other families have none of that in their line. Just like I assume some families have a lineage of homosexuality and others do not.

    When it’s a strong, innate drive in a person far too young to have developed much of a sexual image of themselves — I have to believe it’s their biology talking.

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  49. punterthoughts

    I have employed a variety of cleaners over the years. They all receive just above the minimum wage (I pay £6.50 an hour) and as young attractive women they could earn a great deal more money in escorting than in cleaning, however they choose not to do so. Is this because they are not “genetic prostitutes?” I also see escorts and pay, on average £150. If an escort agency is involved then the sex worker only gets a percentage of the money, however she is still getting far more cash, for an hours work than is my cleaner. Having conversed with many sex workers over the years I have come across many (I wouldn’t say a majority) who have been abused in childhood. There is a theory that those who are sexually abused in childhood are more prone to turning to prostitution than are people who did not suffer abuse. There is, I believe some truth in this hypothesis (although many who have been abused don’t turn to prostitution). The temptation of money exercises great power. Why should I work in Mcdonalds earning on or around the Minimum wage when with my looks I can take home £1000 a month? Many women do not turn to prostitution despite the lure of money which might be put down to them not having the “prostitute gene”. However it might equally be explained by the religious and/or other belief systems of those who do not embrace prostitution. An interesting and thought provoking post.

    1. Amanda Brooks Post author

      Punter — I would think the conclusions are obvious and I’ve certainly stated them before, but here we go yet again:
      1. I never claimed anyone who is a prostitute has a genetic predisposition to it. I claimed a very small minority do might.
      2. Poverty is indeed a great motivating factor for women entering prostitution, but as you noted, not everyone makes this choice. Which means that for the most part, even among the most desperate of people, prostitution is still a choice. Something I’ve pointed out for years because abolitionists are convinced prostitution is not a choice, especially if poverty plays a part.
      3. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused before the age of 18. So it stands to reason that any job that attracts a large number of women will also have a large number of abuse victims. No one asks the child abuse question of teachers, nurses, hair stylists, waitresses, actresses, etc and I’m willing to bet they have even larger numbers of child abuse victims among them. You know why? Because a lot of child abuse victims do not want to have sex with huge numbers of random men so they seek out professions that don’t require having sex with men.
      3b. I don’t know that child sexual abuse is a huge motivating factor for women entering prostitution, especially as many, many women enter it well into adulthood. Financial reasons are usually the biggest factor. As the old saying goes, “A prostitute is a woman who hates poverty more than she hates sin.”

  50. Lionel

    Dear Ms Brooks:
    I am wondering when did you know that you were psychologically predisposed to becoming a sex worker? Also when did you first start to seriously consider the business and how did you values play a role in this choice? Also when did you first start to notice that you begun to view certain issues regarding women and sex differently than most women who are in the mainstream? Finally what do you see within your DNA which would make you uniquely qualified to do what you do?

    1. Amanda Brooks Post author

      Lionel — The essay here answers most of those questions. They’ve also been addressed in other blog posts I’ve written. As for the rest, some of it I may one day reveal, or not.

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