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Working girls : prostitutes, their life and social control

The social lives of prostitutes

Abstract

A sample of Sydney prostitutes is compared with female health workers and female university students, with a view to determining the extent of difference between them, especially in their demographic and class perceptions, their familial and other social relations, and their early sexual experiences.

Introduction

Having examined the social artifacts of morality, scientific theory and the law as the means of distinguishing prostitutes in society, we will now examine the evidence for determining the extent of social difference between prostitutes and other women. In other words, are the moral ideologists, the social theorists and the legislators justified in singling prostitute women out as a special female group without reference to the findings from comparative studies of prostitutes and other women?

A number of studies within the past two decades have arrived at various conclusions using comparative samples. James and Meyerding ( 1977) compared their findings on street prostitutes to some general studies of non-prostitute women and found significant differences in early sexual characteristics. James and Davis (1982) compared 136 street prostitutes and 133 non-prostitute female offenders and found the prostitutes with significantly higher drug usage, juvenile crime records, incomplete pregnancies, early school leaving and broken natal homelives. Vitaliano et al. (1981) compared 152 prostitutes with 117 female property offenders and found the prostitutes were more often perceived as "deviants" with a higher ratio of sexual and criminal labels, and possessed longer records of juvenile offences, as well as earlier departures from their parental homes. These studies depended on crime statistics and prison populations for their comparative samples and therefore must be perceived as possessing a bias towards prostitutes as criminals.

Psychological testing of comparative samples resulted in some diverse findings. Maiuro et al. (1983) applied the Bem Sex Role Inventory test to determine gender identification of 101 prostitutes and 78 non-prostitutes, and found the prostitutes to possess a significantly higher "masculine" orientation. There is a close resemblance here with the now generally refuted theories of social Darwinist. Cesare Lombroso (see pp 35-6). Polonsky (1974) used the Tennessee Self Concept Scale and Thematic Appreciation Test with 2 1 prostitutes and an equal sample of non-prostitutes, but found no significant differences between them. Exner et al. (1977) divided a sample of 95 prostitutes into five types, ranging from "call-girls" to street addicts, and compared each type with socio-economically matched non-prostitute types. They found no significant differences between "call girls" and brothel workers and their respective control groups, while non-addict "streetwalkers" were more immature than their control group, and street addicts had significantly higher psychopathological indices than their control group. These results were determined with the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and Rorschach tests.

Potterat et al. (1984) surveyed 14 prostitute and 15 non--prostitute gonorrhoea patients for a comparison of social characteristics, and found a differentiation in only three of 30 standard characteristics: prostitutes were more often the firstborn; they remained at school longer; they were more often involved in volatile love relationships. Whilst the samples here were small, enough evidence exists to demonstrate that findings in empirical studies of prostitutes are far from corresponding. The psychological tests are not always a true indication of social differences, and the studies mentioned earlier are far from a correct assessment of the overall situation of prostitutes in general by their concentration on street juvenile prostitutes and criminalised women.

Ideally, prostitutes should be matched with similar socio-econimically situated non-prostitute women, or compared to a large sample of women in general, for more realistic assessments. However, this is not always practical within a limited time-frame and with limited financial resources. What I have done, though, is to take the opposite (and rare) position to most small-scale sampling of prostitutes with other "deviant" and low-status women controls by comparing a sample of prostitutes to two samples of traditionally considered high status women types, professional health-workers and university students. Health-workers and students provide excellent benchmarks for comparison with prostitution since they may provide prima facie indices of normality and diversity in the wider female population, as well as provide a yardstick for measuring normality and diversity in prostitution.

For this study a random sample of Sydney prostitute women, numbering 128 in all, was selected as representative of sex workers in general. Although most of them came from 36 brothels across the Sydney metropolitan area (see Table 3.1), the experiences of these women in commercial sex were quite diverse and closer to the distribution of prostitute types and employment location of the general Sydney sex worker population (see Table 3.2). A questionnaire containing 84 questions was distributed widely in the prostitute population; the sample of 128 prostitutes represents those women who completed and returned the questionnaire. (See Appendix 1)

Table 3.1 : Distribution of sample of 128 prostitutes in this study
  %
Street prostitutes 3.9
East Sydney brothel workers 3.9
Kings Cross parlour workers 26.6
Suburban parlour workers 41.4
Escorts only 8.6
Bondage mistresses 7.8
Private workers (call girls) 3.1
Not disclosed 4.7
Table 3.2 : Previous occupations of a sample of 128 prostitutes
  %
Street prostitutes 11.3
Brothel or parlour prostitution 38.9
Escort work 20.8
Bondage and discipline 2.7
Private prostitution (call girl) 12.2
Hotel/club/coffee lounge prostitution 1.8
Never worked in any previous sex industry occupation 12.2
Note: responses numbered 221 due to multiple past occupations of some women in the sample. Thus percentages above are of 221.

Of the control groups, 115 health-workers and 120 students took part, representing those women who completed and returned a modified questionnaire of 58 questions (the questions on sex work in the prostitutes' questionnaire were deleted, otherwise the questionnaires to all three groups were the same). Interestingly, 13 of the returned questionnaires of health-workers and students had to be discarded because the respondents admitted to having worked as prostitutes in the past. These controls consisted of nurses, doctors and counsellors from a number of community health centres and hospitals about Sydney, and behavioural science undergraduates from one of Sydney's major universities (see Appendix 2 for greater detail on the methodology of this study).

The following study, then, consists of a comparison between three groups of women - 128 prostitutes, 115 health-workers, 120 university students - by which a measure of difference in social conditions and backgrounds between them might be determined. Since the prostitutes are the focal group, our concern here is to ascertain to what extent they are differentiated from health-workers and university students, and, by implication, from the population at large.

Prostitutes in the class system

Before exploring the social indices for determining the social class of prostitutes, some demographical features of the three samples should be outlined. Table 3.3 compares ages. The students are slightly younger as a group than the prostitutes, who are slightly younger than the health-workers. No inferences may be drawn from this configuration, except that the traditional view of prostitutes as teenagers and very young women is challenged. The prostitutes' ages cluster in late adolescence and throughout the 20s; three-quarters of the sample are between 18 and 30 years, while only a few may be described as middle adolescents and little more than a fifth are over 30. In addition, girls of 12 to 16 sometimes also work as prostitutes, but in Sydney these are a very small minority of all prostitutes and usually confined to the minority area of the streets.

Marital status in Table 3.4 shows the prostitutes as being more often married and having higher ratios of marriage breakdowns than the other two groups, although there exists a pattern between them that is a continuum of married to single and marriage stability to instability from prostitutes to students. Many people might be surprised to discover that nearly half of the prostitutes are or had been married. It indicates that prostitutes are conventional women in their tendency to aspire to marriage and traditional family life. Since about a fifth of the prostitutes were married while working, this would indicate an extraordinary tolerance on the part of their husbands (only a few prostitutes work without their husband's awareness). On the other hand the relatively high ratio of marriage dislocations indicates one of two things: the husbands in these cases found their wives' prostitution unbearable; or, some of these women turned to prostitution for survival after the breakdown in marriage.

Table 3.3 : Age groups of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Age groupProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Under 16 00.00 00.00 00.00
16-17 02.30 00.00 06.60
18-20 18.80 00.90 41.60
21-25 35.90 22.60 16.60
26-30 19.50 30.40 10.10
31-35 11.70 13.10 10.80
36-40 09.40 17.40 11.80
Over 40 01.60 15.60 02.50
Not disclosed 00.8000.00 00.00
Table 3.4 : Marital status of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Marital statusProstitutes
(n=118)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Married once only 14.10 17.40 19.10
Second marriage 05.50 06.10 02.50
Divorced 08.60 11.03 02.50
Separated 10.90 01.70 04.10
Deserted 02.30 00.00 00.00
Single 58.60 63.50 71.80

In Table 3.5 the higher ratio of children among the prostitutes is a further indication of these women's aspirations for conventional family life. The ages of these children, seen in Table 3.6 show the prostitutes as having more young children. Since many of these are single mothers, prostitution is an economic imperative for the children as much as the mothers. Some of the prostitutes' children are well into their adolescence, which creates another kind of anxiety in the mothers. As street prostitute Kelly explains:

My oldest son will be 13 this year and I don't want to be at work much after that. He will soon be at the stage where he will be going out, venturing into the Cross. I wouldn't like to be working at a time when he is likely to come into the Cross and spot me on the street.

The prostitutes had their children to men who were not their current husbands or lovers more often than the health-workers and students (Table 3.7). Rather than suggestive of promiscuity among prostitutes resulting in pregnancies, it is more likely that the prostitutes, with higher rates of divorce, separation and desertion, have sought emotional comfort from men who are prepared to accept their prostitution and replace the estranged father in these women's family units.

Table 3.5 : Number of children of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Number of childrenProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
One only 21.10 10.40 06.70
Two 19.50 07.80 11.60
Three 04.70 04.40 04.20
Four 00.80 02.50 02.60
No children 52.30 74.80 75.00
Not disclosed 01.60 00.00 00.00
Table 3.6 : Ages of children of prostitutes, health-workers, students
AgeProstitutes
(n=72)*
%
Health-workers
(n=38)*
%
Students
(n=45)*
%
Under one year 08.30 05.20 04.40
2-5 years 36.10 18.40 22.20
6-10 years 23.60 15.80 24.50
11-15 years 20.80 21.10 28.90
16-20 years 05.60 18.40 17.80
Over 20 years 05.60 21.10 02.20
* Actual number of children
Table 3.7 : Current husband/lover of prostitutes, health-workers, students as the natural father of the children
Where current husband/lover isProstitutes
(n=56)
%
Health-workers
(n=29)
%
Students
(n=26)
%
the natural father 30.40 61.50 75.90
not the natural father 64.30 38.50 20.70
the natural father of only some 05.30 00.00 03.40

Turning now to the social position of prostitutes in the Modern class system it is important to understand that a historical tradition of prostitutes in Western societies reflects a two or three-tier structure approximating the social position of women in mainstream society. Thus, for example, as we have already noted, in Ancient Greece, the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, there existed on the one hand slaves and poor women surviving by working in taverns, on the streets and in brothels, while on the other hand, courtesans plied their subtle trade in clandestine aristocratic social circles. On the lower level women from the peasant class entered prostitution for economic survival; but at the highest level women from the merchant class or the lower aristocrat echelon aspired to greater power and wealth through lovers at the political pinnacle. In either case, though, women were aspiring to improve their economic position by overcoming starvation or increasing their social standing. Though prostitution may have been one avenue for women to improve their economic position, it was usually at the expense of lowering their social status as women, so that while a woman's socioeconomic class might elevate as she acquires wealth through commercial sex, she attained none of the corresponding class privileges as her status slid into the "deviant" class or as outcasts.

We had, then, a situation peculiar to women. To obtain wealth and independence, the criteria for male power, a woman had to trade sex for it and lose social status at the same time (unless, as in the case of some clever courtesans, she could disguise her methods). Friedrich Engels, more than 100 years ago, assessed the situation perfectly when he said:

Prostitution is as much a social institution as all others. It continues the old sexual freedom for the benefit of men. In reality not only permitted but assiduously practised by the ruling class, it is denounced only nominally. Still, in practice, this denunciation strikes by no means the men who indulge in it, but only the women. These are ostracised and cast out of society in order to proclaim once more the fundamental law of unconditional male supremacy over the female sex. (Engels 1978, p. 740).

In his day, though, as early 19th century researchers Parent-Duchatelet and Sanger fully noted, the vast bulk of prostitutes were working-class women in an age of industrialisation and meagre employment opportunities. The "ostracism and casting out" that Engels spoke of also became judicial punishment in the 20th century as an outcome of translating late 19th century puritanism into criminal law.

The ancient tradition of high "class" whores and lowly harlots survived into the 20th century. Remarking on prostitution in New York, Gail Sheehy commented:

There is probably no vocation which operates with such a fierce system of social distinctions... [where] the street hooker is at the bottom of the blue collar end of the ladder... [and] the white collar end of the business begins with the call girls (Sheehy 1974, pp. 117-19).

She mentions the rivalry that exists, with street prostitutes referring to call girls as "those lazy flatbackers" and call girls expressing contempt for "street hookers" for an assumed ignorance and tendency to disease, as a "natural" division in the industry. Although prostitution was a means of gaining wealth for a woman a century ago, Sheehy (1974, p. 119) notes that "it is not uncommon now to find young call girls from wealthy families." Perhaps economic independence, even if this means less money, is more important to these women than wealth without personal freedom.

Eileen McLeod (1982, p. 23), in her study of English prostitutes in Birmingham, notes that "women working on the streets do tend to be women who have fewer material resources, such as telephones, rooms, flats or homes of their own to use" than prostitutes in indoor trades. As in New York and Birmingham, in Sydney it seems to be the case that women from lower socioeconomic families are more often found working on the streets, whereas women from higher socioeconomic backgrounds more often gravitate to private prostitution (or call girl), even though street prostitution is the most lucrative form of commercial sex. Suburban brothels (or parlours) tend to be much less class specific, in that they employ local women and reflect the nature of the predominant classes in their areas of location.

It also seems to be the case that women of middle-class backgrounds are more sensitive to public exposure and are attracted to the most clandestine commercial sex in an effort to minimise the chances of discovery. Also, the ambience, sexual preliminaries and romantic dialogue found in private prostitution are more appealing to the bourgeois socio-sexual tastes of these women. On the other hand, women from working-class backgrounds seem to be less anxious about disclosures and are less inhibited in the more visible forms of prostitution. This is even more apparent among drug-addicted women, regardless of their class backgrounds. Working-class women are also less intimidated by the "hot" or "raw" sex without the trimmings of street prostitution than middle-class women. These are not hard and fast rules in Sydney prostitution, and, if anything, the class snobbery in prostitution is in decline as the traditional class divisions begin to blur with more middle-class women moving onto the streets and more working-class women establishing their own private operations.

To determine the class origins of the sample of 128 prostitutes I used four variables as indices: education; father's occupations original religion; and, permanent residence. The findings in these variables will indicate to what extent class diversity exists among prostitutes and how much this might differ from findings for the health-workers and the students. Table 3.8 compares the education of all three groups.

Table 3.8 : Education levels of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Education levelProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=133)*
%
Students
(n=130)*
%
Below School Certificate 34.40 01.50 00.00
School Certificate 26.60 09.00 01.50
Higher School Certificate 14.10 15.00 15.40
Matriculation 07.80 14.3058.40
Diploma/Trade Certificate 13.90 33.10 18.50
Degree 03.10 27.10 06.20
Not disclosed 00.80 00.00 00.00
* These numbers indicate more than one level for some participants
Table 3.9 : Education achievements of women in Australia, 1986
Education achievementNumber of women% of female qualifications
No school level 627,797 10.36
School level only 4,029,740 66.49
Post-school training 821,521 13.55
Trade certificate 118,211 1.95
Diploma 230,145 3.80
Degree 233,605 3.85
Total 6,061,019 100.00

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 1986, Census figures supplied by Sydney office

Not surprisingly the prostitutes have not attained as high a level of education as the other two groups, whose occupations and academic training depend on higher than average qualifications. However, as Table 3.9 indicates, the prostitutes' education approximates that of the general population of women. Some people, who are influenced by the popular culture image of prostitutes as women of low intelligence, will be surprised to learn so many of the prostitutes achieved either matriculation standard education, diplomas, trade certificates or degrees. It is not rare to find university or college students, nurses and other highly qualified women working as prostitutes to supplement a grant or low income.

It is still plausible to accept the father's occupation as an index of class for the family, since people of similar socioeconomic backgrounds tend to marry and the husband's occupation is regarded as more important than the wife's. In February 1989, 4,235,200 males were in full-time employment across Australia, compared to only 1,898,500 females, of whom 1,027,600 were married (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1989). In Australia the average weekly male earnings in August. 1989 was $529.20, compared to that for females at $343.20 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1989). Table 3.10 compares fathers' occupations for the three sample groups.

Table 3.10 : Occupations of fathers of prostitutes, health-workers, students
OccupationProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=117)*
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Managing director 04.70 04.30 10.10
Executive position 08.60 12.00 09.20
Professional 13.30 23.90 21.70
Clerical 03.90 04.30 14.20
Self-employed 21.90 17.10 15.00
Skilled Labourer 17.20 06.80 10.10
Farmer 03.10 12.00 03.30
Transport/bus driver 10.90 03.40 02.40
Unskilled Labourer 03.90 06.00 05.80
Unemployed/ pensioner 03.10 03.40 00.70
Other** 08.60 06.80 07.50
Not disclosed 00.80 00.00 00.00
* Two of the health workers gave equal weight to two occupations of their respective fathers.
** Included a diversity of occupations, e.g. artist, entertainer, musician, serviceman, policeman, media personality

Once again, it is probably no surprise to discover that fathers of the health-workers and students have higher status careers with higher incomes than the prostitutes' fathers. But it will also come as a surprise to those influenced by popular culture images of prostitution to find so many of the prostitutes' fathers in careers and high-level employment. Less than a third of these men are in blue-collar employment compared to about 15 per cent of the health workers' fathers and a little less of the students' fathers. It is interesting to note the similarities and dissimilarities that occur between all groups, such as prostitutes' and health-workers' fathers corresponding pro rata as "managing directors", "clerks" and "unemployed/pensioners", or the equal numbers of prostitutes' and students' fathers as "farmers". Table 3.11 which shows male occupations in general in Australia provides an interesting comparison to this data.

Table 3.11 : Male occupations in Australia, 1989
OccupationNumber of men % of male wage earners
Managers/administrators 631,400 13.07
Professionals 585,500 12.12
Para-professionals (technicians, police, etc.) 251,500 5.20
Tradespersons 1,115,400 23.08
Clerks 306,200 6.34
Salespersons/ personal service workers 399,800 8.27
Plant/ machinery operators/ transport driver 501,700 10.38
Labourers (factory hands, rural workers, miners, etc.) 780,300 16.15
Unemployed 260,700 5.39

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 1989

Taking these averages, it is apparent that the fathers of the women in all three groups are more often employed in high level occupations (male average 25 per cent, prostitutes' fathers 27 per cent, health-workers' fathers 40 per cent, students' fathers 41 per cent) and less often in blue-collar occupations (male average 50 per cent, prostitutes' fathers 32 per cent, health-workers' fathers 21 per cent, students' fathers 18 per cent). It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that all three groups of women were more often raised in middle-class homes than the average woman.

Religion of origin can also be an index of class, since in Australia Catholicism has been traditionally associated with the Irish convict labourers of the 19th century, and Anglicanism more with the religion of the colonial ruling class and landed gentry. Although religious tastes may have changed considerably in the succeeding generations of the 20th century, religious institutions, at least until the present generation with its growing radicalism can still be a clue to one's class inheritance. Table 3.12 lists the inherited religions of the three groups.

Table 3.12 : Inherited religion(s) of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Religion Prostitutes
(n=142)*
%
Health-workers
(n=129)*
%
Students
(n=144)*
%
Church of England 36.60 38.00 35.50
Catholic 42.90 32.00 29.10
Other Protestant Churches 09.90 23.20 20.80
Jewish 00.70 00.80 03.50
Islam 01.40 00.00 00.70
Buddhism 00.00 00.00 01.40
Hinduism 00.70 00.00 00.00
Other Christian (Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah Witness) 07.80 05.40 09.00
* In some cases individuals inherited two religions, one from each parent.

Significantly more prostitutes were raised in Catholic homes than health-workers and students, and significantly less came from Protestant (apart from Anglican) homes. However, due to the lesser relevance of religion to class today, this difference is not a sufficient indicator of class for each group. At most, the presence of inherited Catholicism might be a clue to one's Irish ancestry. A comparison of this data with an official census in Table 3.13 is instructive.

Taking this average, prostitutes were raised in considerably more Catholic homes and considerably less Protestant (apart from Anglican) homes than most women in New South Wales. However, many people do not continue to adhere to the religions of their parents throughout their lives. For many reasons, not the least of which are marriage to partners of other and stronger beliefs, or changes in ideological perception, certain people either change their religious beliefs or reject religion altogether. The prostitutes, health-workers and students are no exception as a comparison of Table 3.12 and 3.14 indicates.

Table 3.13 : Religious followings in Australia, 1986
ReligionNumber of adherents % of total
Church of England 3,723,419 23.90
Catholic 4,064,413 26.10
Other Protestant 2,559,001 16.40
Orthodox 427,445 2.70
Other Christian 607,630 3.90
Islam 109,523 0.70
Jewish 69,087 0.40
Hindu 21,454 0.10
Buddhist 80,387 0.50
Other non-Christian 35,742 0.20
Other religions 62,949 0.40
No religion 1,977,464 12.70
No details 1,863,642 11.90
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 1986, Census figures supplied by Sydney office.

The immediate impact of this comparison is the striking decline in traditional beliefs and institutional religions. Obviously, many prostitutes had been disillusioned with traditional religious condemnation of prostitution and sought another more tolerant form of belief. The few prostitutes who have embraced Buddhism might reflect this. The only prostitute in the sample who was raised in a Jehovah Witness family was so repelled by this religion's idea of excommunicating its members who indulged in commercial sex that she not only rejected the religion but her family as well. With traditional religion's strong views on prostitution it is amazing that any prostitutes continue to acknowledge these systems of belief. Just as many of the prostitutes have repudiated their inherited religions, so have well over half the health-workers and students. Most of the latter would have done so on ideological and academic grounds. However, the fact that most of those who have jettisoned institutional religions adhere to a form of agnosticism and not atheism indicates that they have lost faith in orthodox religious beliefs but not in God.

Table 3.14 : Systems of belief at present of prostitutes, health-workers, students
System of beliefProstitutes
(n = 128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Church of England 10.20 11.30 15.10
Catholic 20.30 09.60 13.30
Other Protestant Churches 05.50 07.80 08.30
Jewish 01.60 00.00 01.70
Islam 00.00 00.00 00.80
Buddhism 02.30 00.00 02.50
Hinduism 00.00 00.90 00.00
Other Christian (Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah Witness) 04.70 08.70 03.30
Agnostic 39.10 40.00 40.80
Atheist 07.00 13.00 06.70
Other (Spiritualism, etc.) 09.40 08.70 07.50

As an index of class, residential patterns are even more difficult to analyse than inherited religions. In the 19th century spatial divisions or an urban population corresponded more closely to class divisions. But in the late 20th century the class lines have blurred and there is greater residential mobility as the earning power of blue-collar employees draws closer to that of white collar workers, enabling upwardly mobile working-class individuals to purchase property in traditional middle-class areas. However, cultural familiarity is still a predominant factor in an individual's selection of residential location, so that people of working-class upbringing will be attracted to areas predominated by others of working-class origin. Thus, as a rule of thumb, index of class in Sydney could be described as: the western and southern suburbs are predominantly working-class areas, the northern and eastern suburbs predominantly middle class, while such inner city locations as Kings Cross and Balmain are indeterminate. By using such a rough guide, the residential pattern of Table 3.15 might indicate a class configuration for the three sample groups.

No clues to the class proportions in university students generally should be drawn from this residential pattern since the student sample came from a university in the metropolitan northwest, and it must be expected that most of these women would have residences in the northern and western suburbs. To a lesser extent the same applies to the health-workers, none of whom worked in a southern hospital or community centre. However, the distribution of brothels in which the prostitutes worked was randomly selected across the metropolitan area. The fact that most brothels exist in Kings Cross and the western suburbs and only a few exist in the northern and eastern suburbs is itself a reflection of class snobbery.

But, in any case, there is a more even distribution of prostitutes' residences than in the other two groups, which might indicate that prostitutes are more likely to seek employment beyond their general residential environs.

Table 3.15 : Permanent residential areas of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Residential areaProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Western suburbs 27.30 15.70 29.10
Southern suburbs11.70 01.70 01.70
Northern suburbs08.60 29.60 50.00
Eastern suburbs 10.90 16.50 03.40
Kings Cross and environs 23.40 03.50 00.80
Surry Hills, Redfern and Balmain09.9027.80 05.00
NSW country areas 05.00 04.30 07.50
Interstate 00.80 00.90 00.00
Overseas 00.00 00.00 01.70
Not disclosed 02.30 00.00 00.80

What might we conclude from the above statistical profile? Referring once to again to the findings for education (Table 3.8), fathers's occupation (Table 3.10), inherited religion (Table 3.12) and residence (Table 3.15), two facts stand out most clearly. Firstly, and perhaps not too surprisingly, is the more middle-class situation of the health-workers and students, with their higher education, more fathers in white collar occupations, predominantly Protestant (including Anglican) upbringings, and greater tendency to choose middle-class suburbs for residency. Secondly, the prostitutes are inclined towards a diverse or mixed class delineation. With 61 per cent of them attaining no higher education than the School Certificate, 30 per cent with fathers in clearly white collar occupations compared to 32 per cent with fathers in blue-collar jobs, 43 per cent of them raised in Catholic homes compared to 46 per cent in Protestant (including Anglican) homes, and 39 per cent living in the predominantly working-class western and southern suburbs of Sydney compared to 20 per cent in the predominantly middle-class eastern and northern suburbs, it seems that prostitutes as a group do not vary much from the average class divisions of the broader female population. Certainly, it can no longer be said with certainty that prostitutes are predominantly from working-class backgrounds. If anything, by comparing the prostitutes' own motivated determinants, education achievement and choice of residential area, with their inherited determinants, father's socioeconomic position and parental religions, the prostitutes have slightly descended in social class. This, though, may have nothing to do with the fact that they are prostitutes, and more to do with a general female position when she finds herself sliding towards poverty as an outcome of her attempts at independence or due to dislocation of marriage. Prostitution then would be her effort to reverse this trend.

The family and social relations of prostitutes

A popular perception of prostitutes assumes them to have been victims of a negative parental homelife. Indeed, some serious studies have supported this view. A common finding among psychoanalysts has been that prostitutes are products of an unresolved Oedipal Complex leading to an uneasy mother-daughter relationship, and this is offered as an explanation for the subject's adult propensity towards commercial sex (see Greenwald 1958; Glover 1960; Lichtenstein 1961). More recent empirical studies in America have shown a high incidence of parental problems in the early homelives of prostitutes. Jennifer James (1979), for example, found that 51 per cent of 200 women in the sex industry had had past problems with their parents. In another sample of 200 prostitutes, Mimi Silbert and Ayala Pines found 60 per cent of these women were raised in broken homes and two-thirds were physically beaten (Silbert & Pines 1982a, p. 471ff). These studies, however, were based on samples of street prostitutes with a larger number of juveniles, and should not be considered representative of prostitutes per se. In an earlier study of mine (Perkins & Bennett 1985, p. 217), eight of nine women I interviewed at random in a sample of prostitutes expressed having distant or absent relations with their fathers. In view of these scientific findings as well as the popular assumption about the homelife of prostitutes, a comparison between the sample of 128 prostitutes and the two control groups of 115 health workers and 120 university students in the present study with respect to their relationships with their parents seems a good place to start this Section.

Table 3.16 : Relationships between mothers and prostitutes, health-workers, students
RelationshipProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Very close 33.60 45.20 45.80
Fairly close 36.70 35.70 35.80
Not very close 10.20 11.30 10.00
Not at all close 07.00 02.60 01.60
Very distant 07.80 00.90 05.80
Never really knew her 04.70 02.60 00.80
Not disclosed 00.00 01.70 00.00
Table 3.17 : Relationships between fathers and prostitutes, health-workers, students
RelationshipProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Very close 27.30 27.00 26.70
Fairly close 33.60 34.80 40.10
Not very close 15.60 19.10 20.00
Not at all close 05.50 05.00 05.00
Very distant 09.40 01.70 04.10
Never really knew him 08.60 12.20 04.10

Tables 3.16 and 3.17 illustrate the responses of the prostitutes, health-workers and students to questions on their relationships to their mothers and fathers at present. These relations are not always the same as childhood reactions to each parent, but in most cases adult responses to their parents do reflect the nature of an ongoing relationship beginning in early childhood.

A significantly higher ratio of prostitutes had dislocated relationships with their mothers than the other two groups, while the pattern of relationships with fathers is similar across all three groups. However, even in the case of prostitutes' mothers the dysphoria in relationships with their daughters is not high enough to assume this as a causal factor in prostitution. In any case, overall, more of the prostitutes were closer to their mothers than their fathers. Only a few of the prostitutes had extremely strained relationships with both parents. This indicates a negative homelife for these particular women, who as girls must have had unhappy dispositions with neither parent to confide in. It is this situation, rather than a dislocated relationship with one parent only, which is more likely to lead the adolescent girl into leaving home and becoming involved with juvenile street subcultures, including prostitution, as a means of survival. Since this applies to only a small minority of the women in this study, this process cannot be considered common to most prostitutes. It may, though, be much more frequent among the minority sub-group of sex workers, the streetwalkers, and most prominent among juvenile prostitutes, which is why the adolescent "drift" into prostitution appears as a high incidence in studies of street and juvenile prostitutes, such as conducted by James (1977), Silbert and Pines (1982), Nanette Davis (197 1) and others. What this study indicates is that, in general, prostitutes come from relatively stable natal home environments.

Table 3.18 : Relationships between parents of prostitutes, health-workers, students
RelationshipProstitutes
(n=133)*
%
Health-workers
(n=125)*
%
Students
(n=125)*
%
Happily married 45.10 48.10 63.50
Unhappily married 08.30 14.80 13.60
Separated 05.30 03.70 01.50
Divorced: Neither parent remarried 01.50 00.00 00.70
Divorced: Both parents remarried 09.90 03.70 07.40
Divorced: Mother only remarried 09.00 02.30 01.50
Divorced: Father only remarried 06.00 07.40 04.70
Deceased: Mother only deceased 01.50 05.20 00.70
Deceased: Father only deceased 10.50 08.90 04.00
Deceased: Both parents deceased 03.00 05.90 02.40
* Refers to more than one of the situations listed in some cases.

Table 3.18 compares the relationships between the parents of all three groups.

Very little separates the three groups in terms of their parents relationships. Nearly half of the prostitutes and health-workers and almost two-thirds of the students felt their parents were happily mar-ried, while less than 15 per cent of the health-workers and students and less than 10 per cent of the prostitutes thought their parents marriage was an unhappy one. There does not appear to be any evidence here of the prostitutes having a higher frequency of broken homes, although it seems apparent by the IO per cent higher ratio of divorces among the prostitutes' parents that earlier dislocations of marriage had occurred, but these were terminated by divorce and remarriage rather than enduring an intolerable situation, such as seems more the case among the parents of the health-workers and students with their higher ratios of unhappy marriages. Nor can it be concluded here that the prostitutes were any more influenced by parental example in divorce trends than the other two (compare divorce figures in Tables 3.4 and 3.18). Other factors are involved here.

Popular mythology on prostitutes perceive these women as the products of broken homes. If we measure a "broken home" by the divorce of the parents (which, of course, only recognises the final manifestation of marriage breakdown, while it overlooks the hundreds more homes in constant turmoil without a termination of marriage), we find that for every three homes that are made, one breaks up, or, in 1987 114,113 marriages and 39,725 divorces took place across Australia in 1987 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1988 and 1986). Considering that only 26 per cent of marriages ended in divorce among the parents of the prostitute sample, it would seem that the prostitutes had come from relatively happy homelives.

One study suggests that prostitutes were more often the firstborn in their natal families (Potterat et al. 1984). But as Table 3.19 illustrates this was not the case in the present study. The prostitutes were neither more often firstborn than the other positions in the natal family order, nor more often firstborn than the health-workers or students. Prevalence of firstborn in the aforementioned study is probably an isolated example.

Table 3.19 : Position in natal family of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Position in familyProstitutes
(n=123)*
%
Health-workers
(n=108)*
%
Students
(n=117)*
%
Oldest child 31.70 34.30 33.30
Second oldest child 18.70 14.80 06.80
Middle child 18.70 15.70 16.20
Second youngest child 08.90 06.50 09.50
Youngest child 21.20 28.70 34.20
Not disclosed 00.80 00.00 00.00
* Those who were the only child in their families not included.
Table 3.20 : Relationships between prostitutes, health-workers, students and their siblings
RelationshipProstitutes
(n=123)*
%
Health-workers
(n=108)*
%
Students
(n=117)*
%
Close to all siblings 48.80 55.60 57.20
Close to some only 16.30 20.40 18.00
Close to sister(s) only 05.70 04.60 05.10
Close to brother(s) only 03.30 03.70 00.00
Not close to any 25.20 15.70 18.00
Not disclosed 00.80 00.00 01.70
*Those who were the only child in their families not included.

Very little attention has been paid in past studies to the rela-tionships between siblings among prostitutes. It might be supposed that poor sibling relations coupled with poor relations with parents could lead to an individual's isolation in their natal family, resulting in some psychopathological factor that might presuppose prostitu-tion. Table 3.20 compares sibling relations in the three sample groups.

Significantly less of the prostitutes are close to all or some of their siblings, and significantly more are not close to any of them, than the other two groups, whose patterns are similar to each other. But this difference is not sufficient enough to place any importance on sibling relations as a determining factor for prostitution. Undoubtedly there are a few individuals isolated from both their parents and siblings in their natal family who were socially disturbed enough by this situation to lead them into an early departure from their parental homes and a consequent "drift" into commercial sex for survival. However, they represent such a minority that this problem could not be considered as a cause of prostitution. Incidences of dysfunctioning sibling relations and isolation in the natal family might, nevertheless, appear with higher regularity among juvenile street prostitutes.

Social isolation can be a precursor for an antisocial or psycho-logically disturbed way of life. Behavioural theorists have alerted us to the effects of social environment on one's social perceptions and modes of behaviour. Behavioural psychologists have shown in ani-mal experiments that monkeys, for instance, isolated from their kin and others act differently and appear more disturbed than those raised in normal surroundings with mothers, siblings and others (Harlow 1962); or in studies of dogs, pups reared in isolation were more timid. excitable and generally immature than pups raised with their siblings and other puppies (Thompson & Melzak 1956, pp. 38-42). In a sociological context "isolation" means estrangement from normative social needs and cultural goals. while "normlessness" re-fers to a feeling by an individual that illegitimate means are necessary for attaining socially desirable goals (Seeman 1959). The psychoanalytical, psychological and sociological literature on pros-titution has often carried the implication that social isolation in the formative years of a prostitute's life leads to anti-social behaviour, "alienation" or "anomie". By "antisocial" is meant prostitution, while "anomie" is the condition of disjunction with society leading to social alienation. We have already seen that there does not appear to be any apparent dislocations within the natal families of most prostitutes to enable isolation and a sense of "normlessness" to develop in adulthood. The nature of relationships with perceived friends throughout life has also been measured in this study. Table 3.21 compares childhood relationships.

Over 60 per cent from each group had many or a few friends in childhood, while more of the prostitutes were friendless as children. But little separates the three groups, and nothing can be gained to indicate significantly more prostitutes were isolated as children than women in general. Thus, for all intents and purposes those girls who became prostitutes as adults experienced average childhood relations.

Table 3.22 compares relationships of the three groups in their adolescence.

Table 3.21 : Close childhood friends of prostitutes, health-workers, students
No. of friendsProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Many friends 19.50 16.50 23.30
A few friends 42.20 55.60 40.80
Two or three friends 16.40 13.90 15.90
One friend only 14.10 12.20 15.90
No friends 07.00 00.90 03.30
Not disclosed 00.80 00.90 00.80
Table 3.22 : Close adolescent friends of prostitutes, health-workers, students
No. of friendsProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Many friends 22.60 16.50 16.70
A few friends 42.90 63.50 53.30
Two or three friends 16.40 11.30 19.20
One friend only 12.50 06.10 08.10
No friends 05.50 01.70 01.70
Not disclosed 00.00 00.90 00.80

The pattern of adolescent friendships resembles that in childhood, although there is a slight increase in all three groups acquiring many or a few friends and a slight decrease overall in the number choosing only one close friend. This is probably a development not unfamiliar in friendship selection in adolescence, with its emphasis on group bonding, affirmation of sexual and gender identity and cult conformity. The important point to make in the context of this study, though, is that the prostitutes vary little from the other two sample groups.

By adulthood, individuals tend to develop close friendships with others of their gender, while the opposite gender tends to be perceived more as sexual objects. Table 3.23, then, measures close friendships between women, rather than both genders.

Table 3.23 : Close women friends of prostitutes, health-workers, students
No. of friendsProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Many women friends 21.90 53.90 63.30
A few women friends 42.90 36.50 24.20
Two or three women friends 27.30 07.80 08.30
Only one woman friend 04.70 01.80 02.50
No women friends 03.20 00.00 01.70

In the adult pattern the health-workers and students have in-creased their close friendships considerably, while the prostitutes have stabilised their numbers of friends, except for an increase in two or three friends and a decrease in only one woman friend. This vari-ation by the prostitutes might be explained by their preference for a small coterie of trusted friends, rather than large numbers, since it may reflect a need to minimise the number of women confidants once the prostitutes had begun work in commercial sex. In my expe-rience with prostitute women, many of them seem to have lonely lives in social isolation outside the sex industry. They will often form close friendships with other women working with them, and these friendships continue beyond the context of work into their everyday lives. Obviously, for many prostitutes there is a strong need to have at least one other woman with whom they can confide in and trust, and another prostitute is the ideal companion for this purpose.

For many women love relationships are as essential for social well-being as friendships, and prostitutes are no exception. As we have seen (p. 175), the prostitute sample married more often than the other two groups and experienced a higher pro rata breakdown in marriage. The possibility of a higher aspiration for conventionality among the prostitutes by their persistence with marriage even after divorce and separation has already been noted. It would be essential for them to choose a mate (particularly after a first marriage breakdown due to their prostitution) with an exceptionally tolerant attitude, not only for their own sake but also for any children from a previous marriage. One might assume that their clients would be an obvious choice here, but, as we shall see, very few prostitutes develop relationships with their clients, let alone marry them. Most clients are already married, and besides, perceptions about one another as "whore" and "client" stereotypes usually prevents relationships de-veloping beyond that of commercial pleasantries. Prostitutes, therefore, seek exceptional men (or women, in the case of lesbians) as lovers or second husbands; not only men with understanding and high tolerance, but often also trustworthy and devoted, and (since clients could not be trusted because they cheat on their wives) as different in personality and attitudes to the women's clients as possible.

One method of comparing the nature of love relationships in the three groups is by measuring the duration of the women's current love or marriage relationship. Table 3.24 is the result of this comparison.

Although variations exist from group to group, overall the pattern is not dissimilar, with a third each of the prostitutes and students in a relationship of more than three years duration, a quarter of the health-workers in a similar situation, and about a third of all three groups in no present relationship. Considerably fewer of the prostitutes have relationships beyond ten years duration, which may reflect breakdowns in earlier marriages when these women took up prostitution for a living. On the other hand, more of the prostitutes managed relationships of more than three years duration than the health-workers, indicating high stability in second marriages and more carefully selected lovers among the prostitutes. But in the overall analysis of the findings for this variable there is little that might clearly demark prostitutes from other women on the basis of greater instability in love relationships.

Finally, there is a need to illustrate an overall circumstance of social relations vis-a-vis social isolation in the daily lives of the three sample groups. This might best be demonstrated by measuring the extent of shared living quarters with others. Table 3.25 compares the three groups' companions in these living circumstances.

Table 3.24 : Duration of present love/marriage relationships of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Duration of relationshipProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Over 1O years 04.70 13.90 15.00
5-10 years 12.50 07.80 04.20
3-5 years 19.50 13.90 05.00
1-3 years 07.80 08.70 15.00
6 months to a year 10.20 09.60 05.00
1-6 months 06.30 07.00 13.30
Less than a month 03.90 01.70 05.00
No present relationship 29.70 34.90 35.80
Not disclosed 05.40 02.60 01.70
Table 3.25 : Companions in present shared accommodations of prostitutes, health-workers, students
CompanionsProstitutes
(n=132)*
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Husband and children 09.10 12.20 17.50
Lover and children 06.80 01.80 00.80
Husband only 05.30 07.80 04.20
Lover only 14.4014.80 07.50
Children only 09.10 05.20 04.20
Natal family 09.10 05.20 44.20
Friends/flatmates 30.30 33.90 15.80
Lives alone 15.90 19.1005.80
*Some respondents gave multiple answers.

In this configuration there is a lack of overall uniformity. In some instances the prostitutes and health-workers are similar, in others the health-workers and students are similar. One explanation for the high incidence of students living in their parental homes is a need for financial support from their natal families in the process of tertiary learning. Somewhat surprising are the number of prostitutes who have remained attached to their natal families;it is difficult to imagine many parents approving of their daughters' prostitution, so the subterfuge necessary within this living environment can only be imagined. Considerable numbers of the prostitutes and health-workers are living alone. But rather than suggesting loneliness, it is more likely a choice by the individuals involved to have living quarters entirely to themselves. For prostitutes. the social isolation, if it occurs at all, is an outcome of a public disclosure of their prostitution and is as much a group, as an individual experience. Thus, it is likely that many of the friends and flatmates sharing accommodation with the prostitutes are also prostitutes; at the very least, they are likely to be empathetic living companions. In sum, the prostitutes' pattern of sharing accommodation is only slightly differentiated from the other groups, and certainly not enough to indicate any strikingly diverse social circumstance to the norm for most women.

What conclusions might we draw from the prostitutes' statistical profile on family and social relations'? To begin with, they have better relations with their mothers than their fathers, although not quite as close to their mothers as the health-workers and students. It does not appear that the prostitutes have emerged from more broken homes or turbulent homelives than the average population of women. Their relations with their siblings seems to be slightly better than with their parents, but a considerable number of them have negative relations with all their siblings.

In the patterns of friendships the prostitutes do not diverge much from the health-workers or students in childhood and adolescent relations, but seem to have less women friends in adulthood. This may be due to a preference for close and trusted confidants rather than a wide circle of female companions, which would increase the risk of disclosure and disapproval for their occupational lifestyles.

Contrary to popular thought, prostitutes are neither loveless nor particularly promiscuous women in their private social lives. The sample in this study indicates a high level of stable love relationships, even if there is also a high level of breakdowns in earlier marriages. It would appear that these women are much more careful in selecting mates in subsequent relationships.

In their pattern of shared accommodation, the prostitutes are not markedly different to the health-workers. It refutes any suggestion that prostitutes are social isolates, living lonely lives devoid of other human contact apart from workmates and clients. Like most women they share their living quarters with husbands or lovers and their children, or, as with many young single women, with friends and chosen flatmates. Some, like some women in general, choose to live alone, probably for the same reasons: quietude, their own living space, or having a home to which they might retreat from the hassles of social and occupational life.

Most importantly, this study is representative of a broad population of prostitute women, and as such contrasts with findings from American street and juvenile prostitutes, with their bleak family backgrounds, as seen in the studies of Jennifer James (1977), Mimi Silbert and Ayala Pines (1982), and Nanette Davis (1971). This is not to suggest that the prostitutes interviewed in this study did not experience bad and threatening early homelives. Sharleen, a brothel worker in East Sydney, had negative relations with both her parents. Of her father, she says: "All I can remember was him standing in the doorway with a suitcase." Her experiences with her mother were very violent:

Our mother was drunk all the time. She was very cruel to me, and used to beat me a lot. Once she nearly chopped off my finger.

Bondage mistress Fatale feels she acquired a psychological masochism from her childhood experiences:

My childhood was such a hell. I was tortured much of the time. My mother left me when I was four, and so I was with my father a lot of the time, and he had different people looking after me. One man used to chase me around the back yard when I was five or six years old with a slug gun shooting slugs at me, and he locked me in the toilet all day while my father was at work. I used to have these nightmares of being stabbed constantly. I had one small room with my father. and I would wait in there for him to come home from work or from dancing. I had no one else, just him. So I would wait for him to come home; constantly I waited for him.

June, a North Shore parlour worker, had an emotional and a communicative void in her relations with her mother:

We have nothing in common and just don't get along at all. We are very different in terms of personality, what our needs are and what our goals are. We simply don't like each other.

Brothel worker Jeanette's recollections of her mother were of her distant respect and admiration for her:

I can't ever remember my mother coming to visit me at my grandparents' farm, where I lived. until this one time when I was about ten. She was the epitome of everything they talked about. She went out and sat on the veranda and painted her nails red, and she fixed up her hair because she was going out with one of my cousins that night who was as much a floozy as my mother was supposed to be. I was just fascinated. I watched them put on this polish and do their hair, and I thought it was the most wonderful thing. And I never lost this fascination for her, which I think had a lot to do with the fact that I never really knew her.

Any person seeking explanations in the early lives of prostitutes might well point to Sharleen's horrific childhood experiences, or imagine that June's strained relations with her mother is reflected somehow in her unemotional encounters with men in commercial sex, or even suppose that Jeanette's fascination for her mother's floozy ways ended in her emulating her by becoming a prostitute. Like the psychoanalysts early this century they seek any idiosyncrasy as a causal source without considering the possibility that there might not be any relation between these various social circumstances in the early lives of these women. To imagine that prostitution is the outcome of multi-faceted negative childhood experiences is to overlook the many prostitutes who had positive and obviously nurturing natal home environments. Martine, for example, has a deep rapport with her father, in spite of the not uncommon reservations in most father-daughter relations:

I spend a lot of time with my father. I go on annual holidays with him; we go away every year. We are very close but we don't talk about sexual things or very personal things. We tend to keep our conversation on a political and philosophical basis.

Maggie, who works in a small North Shore parlour, is a member of a Jewish extended family with its strong tradition of intra-familial support. She was raised in a nurturing environment in which the oldest generation adopts the caring responsibility for the rest of the family. No better environment existed for developing a sense of security, confidence and belonging in a child. She recalls her childhood with fond reminiscence:

As a child I was close to my grandmother, whereas I felt very competitive with my mother, who was very young, and I think because my grandmother took the mothering role it relieved her of that responsibility. But when my marriage broke up I immediately went back to living with my mother, who took care of my son, looking after him just as my grandmother had looked after me. At the time my mother and I became very close to one another.

These vignettes in the lives of these women provide support to the statistical data earlier in this Section. That data indicate that some prostitutes had negative relations with their parents, and experienced torturous childhoods in their natal family environments. The data also indicate that some led lonely, friendless lives in childhood and adolescence, some have had more than one unstable love relationship, and some live entirely alone out of choice or otherwise. However, the data indicate that more prostitutes experienced relatively stable parental home environments, had a number of friends in childhood and adolescence, have a stable love relationship, and share their living space with others. What all of this suggests is that prostitutes do not appear to have less than average family and social backgrounds.

Sex lives of prostitutes

Not too surprisingly many studies of prostitute women have turned to events in the pre-prostitution sex lives of their subjects in order to determine some predisposing factor for prostitution. James, for instance. found her prostitute sample more involved in incestual relations as children than other women (James & Myerding 1977). Silbert and Pines (1982a) found 60 per cent of their sample of 200 prostitutes were victims of child sexual abuse, and a third had been incest victims. Jennifer James, in fact developed an elaborate theory on causality of prostitution on the basis of her findings on the early sexual experiences of young prostitutes (see pp. 44-5). Other researchers were more intrigued by prostitutes' commercial sexuality compared to their sexuality in private life. Wardell Pomeroy (1965, p. 177ff), for instance, was interested in the extent of orgasmic experience of sex workers, at work and in private. But we shall return to that question later. Firstly, we will compare the three sample groups' sexual experiences in childhood to determine whether, in fact prostitutes had earlier or different such experiences than other women.

Table 3.26 measures the ages of the three groups' earliest sexual experience, and Table 3.27 measures the type of experience.

Table 3.26 : Age of first sexual experience of prostitutes, health-workers, students
AgeProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Under 7 years 21.90 31.30 33.30
7 - 10 years 22.70 34.80 26.70
11 - 13 years 18.70 04.30 18.30
14 - 16 years 28.10 15.70 11.70
17 - 20 years 06.30 08.70 07.50
Over 20 years 01.50 02.60 00.00
Not disclosed 00.80 02.60 02.50
Table 3.27 : Type of first sexual experience of prostitutes, health-workers, students
First sexual experienceProstitutes
(n=131)*
%
Health-workers
(n=117)*
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Children's games 28.20 35.10 41.70
Exploring genitals 20.60 30.80 17.50
Masturbation 13.70 06.80 14.20
Heavy petting 20.60 22.20 23.30
Intercourse 16.80 05.10 02.50
Not disclosed 00.00 00.00 00.80
*Some respondents gave multiple answers.

From this comparison it can be clearly seen that the prostitutes tended to be older than the others when they experienced their first sexual event. More than half, in fact, were more than ten years old when they had their first sexual experience, compared to just over a third of the health-workers and 40 per cent of the students. Thus, it would seem that the prostitutes were, on average, older than the other women with their initial sexual encounters. Of course, children's sexuality is now considered normal and healthy in the development of the human being, but are the prostitutes "normal" here or late developers in experiencing sex? Alfred Kinsey's monumental study of females is still regarded as the guidepost on sexual development, and his data found 48 per cent of females experiencing pre-pubescent sexual games (Kinsey et al. 1953, p. 107). The prostitutes are closer to this figure than the other two groups. Martine recalls her first sexual experience at five years of age, and she remembers this as orgasmic:

My very first sexual experience was with this little girl over the road. We used to go down into this huge garden where we lived and we used to do this fantasy masturbation theme with hoses and stethoscopes. I can remember having orgasms at five. They were definitely orgasms, and she did too. They were definitely sexual because we would take our clothes off and both reach orgasm. Then we weren't interested in the game any more. We used to play these games two or three times a week.

Kings Cross parlour worker Caroline remembers one of her earliest sexual experiences was also with a girl her own age:

I was six and with this little girl across the road we used to play lovers, pretend we were adult lovers and kiss and cuddle. I used to think that was really dirty, and that's why we did it.

Childhood adventures with the opposite sex seem just as common, for example Laura, whose initial sexual experience was "with little Billy; it was a kind of you show me yours and I'll show you mine, and that must have been when I was seven". Katherine is another private call girl, whose earliest sexual experience was much the same and also at the same age:

My sister and I were staying on a farm, and there was this monster of a kid called Bevan. We were up in the hayloft in the barn, and he just got his "willy" out. There was a bit of a fascination there for me. but I can't remember showing him my genitals in return.

One interesting fact stands out in the figures above: the much higher number of prostitutes whose first sexual encounter was intercourse. This might imply a particularly sheltered childhood for some, or, at least, one devoid of sexual experimenting, even of petting as a prelude to future vaginal sex. When these women underwent a coital experience as their first sexual encounter they were likely to have been in their adolescence. Without preparatory sexual experiences, intercourse may have had a deeper than average impact on the individual, loading her with guilt. The internalising shame resulting from this may have convinced some young women of their loose morals, leading them into prostitution. But this is mere speculation based on the flimsiest evidence of a few individual prostitutes and a slightly higher incidence of coitus as the initial sexual contact among the prostitutes. In the overall pattern, however, most of the prostitutes are not too divergent from the other two groups. Their first experiences simply came later, and this alone contradicts a popular myth about prostitutes as promiscuous girls from childhood.

Call girl Laura, whose childhood was spent in America, said that intense sexual passion and orgasm wasn't avoided in adolescence but vaginal intercourse was avoided:

With lots of American girls, particularly Catholic girls, we learn to give a blow-job before intercourse. And that was about a year before my first actual intercourse at 17.

This is probably not too different for many Australian teenagers today. In such instances, though, it is the female who initiates these early sexual encounters. Is this always the case in childhood?

Society is becoming much more aware of the extent of child sexual assaults, and these it seems are much more common sexual experiences with girls than once realised, as some intensive research in this area has shown. A number of studies in America indicate that anywhere between 15 per cent and 35 per cent of females have been sexually assaulted prior to 18 years of age (NSW Government Child Sexual Assault Task Force 1984). Finkelhor (1979, p. 70) found that: "girls rate their experiences more negatively than do boys; 66 per cent compared to 38 per cent". This same study reported that in most instances of child sexual assault the perpetrator was a relative or trusted friend. "Assault" or "molestation" are emotive terms used to describe these forms of adult-child sexual relations, but they do not always assess the situation in reality. Parlour worker Zoe explained her circumstances thus:

My mother's lover was living in our house since I was 11 and he used to give us cuddles. In looking back now, it was sexual molestation I suppose, but my twin sister and I competed for his favours. We fell in love with him, absolutely adored him.

Nevertheless, cases of adult-child sexual contact, if not outright assault, or where the child is a willing participant, are considered to be manipulative, in which the adult persuades the child to go along with the event. In any case, most psychologists seem to feel that the encounter, regardless of who initiated it, is likely to prove negative for the child, if only as an outcome of guilt. Certainly in prostitution studies it is regarded as having a detrimental effect on the child and an important feature predisposing prostitution. In the James (1979) and Silbert (1982) studies, as we have noted earlier, their prostitute samples reported very high incidences of child sexual assault. Table 3.28 compares the ages of child sexual abuse of the three sample groups in the study, and Table 3.29 compares the perpetrators.

Table 3.28 : Ages of those prostitutes, health-workers, students who were sexually abused as children
AgeProstitutes
(n=50)*
%
Health-workers
(n=34)*
%
Students
(n=22)*
%
Under 5 years 10.00 08.80 04.50
5-7 years 16.00 29.40 31.90
7-10 years 26.00 32.40 31.90
10-13 years 34.00 23.50 22.70
13-15 years 14.00 05.90 04.50
Not disclosed 00.00 00.00 04.50
*Actual number of respondents who underwent this experience.
Table 3.29 : Perpetrators of child sexual assault of prostitutes, health-workers, students
Perpertrator relationshipProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Total stranger 03.90 04.30 02.50
Known to victim but not kin 12.50 10.40 05.00
Uncle 04.70 03.50 03.50
Older brother 02.30 01.80 01.70
Stepfather 04.70 00.00 00.00
Natural father 07.00 03.50 03.30
Other kin (e.g. cousin) 03.90 05.20 02.50
Never assaulted as child 60.90 71.30 81.70

In Table 3.29 10 per cent difference separates the ratio of child victims in the three groups (that is 39 per cent of the prostitutes, 29 per cent of the health-workers, 18 per cent of the students). The health-workers and the students fall within the expected ratio for child sexual assault victims, while the prostitutes are only slightly above it. Thus, it is not sufficient to project assumptions about prostitutes as particularly prone to sexual assault in childhood. Once again, as the James (1979) and Silbert (1992) studies indicate, this might be more apparent among the minority sub-groups of street and juvenile prostitutes in the total population of sex workers. The general pattern of perpetrators seem to correlate with Finkelhor's (1979) findings.

A question that might arise from this discussion on child sexual experiences, in view of its relationship to prostitution as a method of economic survival, is whether the prostitutes had been more often offered cash as children to comply with the sexual demands of adults. Were they "trained" as children for the role of a prostitute? Table 3.30 compares the three groups on this issue.

Table 3.30 : Pecuniary gain or the granting of cash or gifts in exchange for sexual favours of prostitutes, health-workers, students as children
GainProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Given cash/ gifts for sex 07.80 01.80 00.00
Never offered cash/ gifts for sexual favours 85.20 88.70 87.50
Uncertain/ cannot recall 07.00 09.50 12.50

Certainly the prostitutes were offered cash or gifts as children in exchange for sexual favours much more often then the other two groups. But since (even if we include the "uncertain" percentage) this only amounts to a handful, no conclusion can be drawn as an indication that this event is a common experience in the lives of prostitutes.

Several of the women interviewed commented on their experience as child sexual assault victims. Streetwalker Kelly, whom you will remember as a victim of her foster brother in the Christian family, was an even earlier victim:

The earliest memory I have is of this man without any clothes on and I was very young, possibly three, and all he had on was a singlet. He was trying to drag me onto a bed. Now that's all I can remember.

Caroline also had an earliest memory of an assault: "The first thing that ever happened was some old man putting his hand up my pants". Obviously, these earliest memories had a lingering impact on some women, but later on it seems to have been less of an impact and more accepted as sexual development. Katherine recalls:

When I was about 11, I had these uncle characters who had a strange attraction for me. One was a friend of the family whom we called "uncle", and the other was my mother's father's brother, whom she called "uncle". Her uncle was an old boy who used to offer me cigarettes for kisses, and would cuddle me when Mum and Dad were out of the room. The friend of the family did much the same thing with me and my sister. They never left any scars with me. It just made me curious.

Some people could suppose that this nonchalance in Katherine as a child predisposed her for prostitution. But she did not enter the sex industry until her early 30s, a relatively late starting date for prostitutes generally. North Shore parlour worker June also was unperturbed by a childhood sexual assault upon her:

I can't remember when it was or anything like that. but it is a memory I have of the boy next door - 19 I think he was - babysitting me. It obviously didn't have much of an impact on me. I suppose I might have been nine or ten.

June didn't rush into prostitution either, entering it at 24 when she was in dire poverty. It would seem that some women are much less traumatised by adult-child sexual contact than others. Of course, this may have a lot to do with the nature of the assault, whether it was violent or threatening to the child or not. But the child's attitude towards sex might be an important factor in her response to the experience. A child raised to fear sex and internalise guilt, for instance, is likely to react with greater alarm and be psychologically affected by an adult attempting to have sex with her than one with a healthy comfortable attitude to sex who is intrigued by it rather than afraid. The forthcoming evidence would suggest that many, if not most, women who become prostitutes are in the latter category.

Marie was raised to accept sex in the normal course of growing up:

Sex was never a big deal in our family. My family walked around in the nude in front of one another. We were quite sexually educated, so when it happened we never made a big thing of it, but it was part of what we were doing, such as playing around with other kids, fingering one another, playing doctor and nurses, mothers and fathers, things like that.

Marie's first love affair has all the earmarks of childhood innocence, until it received the scrutiny of adult society:

I remember having this lesbian relationship with this girl living two doors up. I wrote her this really explicit letter about how much I liked playing with her Mum's vibrator and how much I loved her and loved her breasts. She was about 12 and my first real love affair. Although I was only nine or ten it was intense. When it all came out it was horrible, it really hurt. We weren't even aware that it could be considered sordid. As a matter of fact, my friend came home one day and said to me that one of her school mates had described her as a lesbian. We didn't know what the word meant, so we looked it up in the dictionary and asked around. Only then did we find out that people thought it was really appalling.

Marie's case is not unusual among many lesbians, and I suspect not unique among heterosexual women either. She does not describe herself as lesbian today, but sees herself as bisexual, although she admits that most of her love affairs in adulthood have been with men. Also, Marie, too, did not enter prostitution as a youngster; she was 20 at the time and in economic difficulties.

A number of studies have stressed the high ratio of lesbians working in heterosexual prostitution. This was a not uncommon appraisal by psychoanalysts. Caprio, for example, claimed that lesbians were more likely to become prostitutes than heterosexual women, due to a psychological defence against suppressed homosexual inclinations (Caprio & Brenner 1961). Table 3.31 indicates the sexuality of the three sample groups.

Table 3.31 : Sexuality of prostitutes, health-workers, students
SexualityProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Heterosexual 67.20 69.90 90.80
Homosexual 09.40 21.70 03.30
Bisexual (ambisexual) 21.10 07.80 04.20
Not disclosed 02.30 00.90 01.70

Kinsey and his co-workers (1953, p. 488) found 3 per cent of women exclusively homosexual and 20 per cent with some past homosexual experiences. It is likely to be at least twice that ratio today; but even so, the health-workers have an exceptionally high ratio of lesbians, and the prostitutes have a moderately high ratio. Probably, the prostitutes, with their nearly a third lesbians and bisexuals, are closer to the general population of women than the other two groups.

Some people might argue that prostitutes, by the very nature of their work, can never be described as "exclusive lesbians". But, it might be equally argued that the very nature of their work can reinforce a woman's lesbian identity, given that most prostitutes insist that commercial sex is exclusively work. In fact, it may be easier for a lesbian to separate prostitution as work from private sex as pleasure than many heterosexual women, since, in the lesbian's opinion lovemaking with other women, is her true sexual identity. It might be allegorical to a public executioner or an abattoir slaughterman who would never consider killing people or animals in their private lives. In any case, those who insist that real lesbians could not be involved in heterosexual prostitution probably assume that all lesbians are misanthropic, which, of course, is far from true.

First sexual (vaginal) intercourse, or "loss" of virginity, is considered a highlight of a woman's sexual development and marks the commencement of "mature" sexuality in a penile-heterosexual sense (of course, in a lesbian sense another event might suggest the same level of importance). Here a roughly equal significance in the initial coital experience for all of the samples has been assumed. Table 3.32 compares the age of the event in the three groups.

Table 3.32 : Age at first sexual intercourse of prostitutes, health-workers, students
AgeProstitutes (n=128) %Health-workers (n=115) %Students (n=120) %
Under 12 07.80 00.90 03.30
12-15 years 41.40 10.40 05.00
15-18 years 35.90 31.30 32.60
18-20 years 09.40 31.30 25.80
20-25 years 02.30 17.40 08.30
Over 25 00.80 03.50 00.80
Not disclosed, or still virgins 02.30* 05.20 24.20**
*Obviously none of these prostitutes were virgins.
**In view of the number of adolescent students, many are virgins.

The prostitutes really stand out here. Nearly half of them had experienced coitus by 15 years of age, compared to only 11 per cent of the health-workers and 8 per cent of the students. Between the ages of 15 and 18 about a third of each of the health-workers and about a quarter of the students "lost" their virginity. In other words, the prostitutes had preceded the others in "losing" their virginity by a few years: 85 per cent of the prostitutes had experienced coitus before they reached their late adolescence. Probably this represents a much higher incidence than the average female. Kinsey and his co-workers (1953, p. 288) found that only 3 per cent of their female sample had experienced coitus by 15 years and 20 per cent had done so by 20 years. Undoubtedly the situation is much changed today when probably most women have experienced coitus prior to marriage, compared to Kinsey's 1950 sample of less than half. In any case, the prostitute sample in this present study is extraordinarily diverse compared to the other samples, and nowhere else in the other variables is there such a differentiation. Therefore, some importance must be attached to this finding.

A high ratio of early coital experiences among prostitutes is not in itself unique. Jennifer James (1979), Mimi Silbert (1982) and Nanette Davis (1971 ) all found that their respective samples of street and juvenile prostitutes had undergone coital sex in early adolescence. One might assume that an early coital experience is one of the predetermining factors in prostitution. But, this does not explain it sufficiently for all prostitutes, given, for example, that more than half of the sample followed the "normal" pattern of initial intercourse in mid to late adolescence. The above mentioned researchers viewed their samples' early coitus among the negative factors leading to prostitution. Table 3.33 indicates the context in which the "loss" of virginity occurred.

Table 3.33 : Context of first coital experience of prostitutes, health-workers, students
ContextProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Love affair 42.20 53.90 43.30
A casual encounter 18.00 19.10 10.00
With a friend 18.70 13.90 10.90
In marriage 03.10 07.00 05.80
Incestual contact 06.20 00.00 00.80
In rape 10.20 00.90 05.00
In prostitution 00.00 n/a n/a
Not disclosed, or still virgins 01.60 05.20 24.20

If we take the first four contexts listed in Table 3.33 as "positive" experiences and incest and rape as "negative" experiences (not surprisingly, not one of the prostitutes was a virgin on entering the sex industry), we can clearly see that in most instances in all three samples the first intercourse was in a "positive" context. Admittedly, the prostitutes have higher incidences of "negative" contexts, but these are not sufficient to assume that early coital experiences for prostitutes are mostly negative. Some people may express surprise that four of the prostitutes adhered to the Christian ideal of remaining virgins until marriage. Though positive in that it conforms to social norms, as parlour worker Maggie points out in her own case, it may not have been much of an experience at all:

I was 18 and I was a virgin when I got married. So it happened after I was married. I had known him since I was seven and we had never played doctors and nurses. I wish I had because I would have known what to expect, or rather, not to expect. I remember thinking on our wedding night: "That was it? Oh, well, seeing as he has gone to sleep, I suppose I might as well go to sleep too." We had had no opportunity before marriage, perhaps a little bit of petting but nothing else.

So, what can we make of the anomalous first coitus situation with the prostitute sample? Probably, a large number of prostitutes (perhaps most but certainly as many a half), undergo sexual (vaginal) intercourse in their early adolescence. Perhaps these women are already advanced in maturity, with a psychologically more mature attitude to sex than the average girl. That most of them initiated the sexual encounter as a "positive" experience with a lover, a friend or chosen casual acquaintance would indicate their greater preparation for coitus than most other girls their age. That only a few of them had experienced a brutal or "negative" coital experience, "loss" of virginity was a choice rather than a misfortune. What is important here is that these girls initiated their "loss" of virginity at a time when they were about to move into womanhood and economic independence, and they were equipped with both the experience and the knowledge of the value of sex as a commodity as well as an advanced knowledge of male sexuality, much earlier than most other girls, who were still in awe of coitus and males. In other words, prostitution was no longer an awesome and frightening prospect as imagined by most other girls their age.

We have spoken much about sex and sexuality to date. We will now determine to what extent prostitutes might differ to other women in the experience of love. Are they as emotional and are they more likely to have more love partners in a given time span than most other women? First, let us see if the prostitute sample is as equally advanced in failing in love as they are in having achieved first coitus. Table 3.34 compares the ages of three groups when falling in love for the first time.

Table 3.34 : Age at onset of first love affair of prostitutes, health-workers, students
AgeProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
Under 15 years 25.00 16.50 15.00
15-18 years 47.60 47.80 53.40
18-20 years 13.30 13.00 12.50
20-25 years 04.70 13.90 05.80
25-30 years 00.80 05.20 00.80
30-35 years 00.80 00.00 00.00
Over 35 years 00.00 00.00 00.80
Never been in love 05.50 01.80 10.00
Not disclosed 02.30 01.80 01.70

Once again we find the prostitutes having experienced love earlier than the other two groups, but only by a slight margin and certainly much less of a margin than with initial coitus. In all three groups, it seems, love was more often experienced without necessarily the accompaniment of sex. In any case, love is a young person's experience, with 86 per cent of the prostitutes, 77 per cent of the health-workers and 81 per cent of the students having experienced love by the age of 20. If anything might be drawn from these figures it is possibly that prostitutes might be slightly more emotionally mature in early adolescence than most women. But, returning to Table 3.32 it does suggest that curiosity about sex might be a stronger motive for "losing" virginity among the prostitutes than as a outcome of falling in love in early adolescence.

Most of the prostitutes interviewed seemed to have fallen in love for the first time with boys one to three years their senior, and then fell out of love with them within a year or two. In other words, it was a "puppy" kind of love, with lots of passion and little substance. Jeanette is unusual in having married her first lover. It was, incidentally, a marriage which at first was "made in heaven":

My marriage was very much a love affair. He was a beautiful lover, a wonderful man who gave me the guidelines to the way I am now, considerate and soft in bed rather than passionate. He was nice and gentle, easy and beautiful, and he made me feel that we were one the first time we made love.

Jeanette was 16 and pregnant to him when she married him, and he was then 25 years. Laura also fell in love for the first time at 16, but the circumstance was very different, and, in fact, quite rare as love affairs go:

He was the first boy I had ever kissed. He was very suave and worldly, and 12 years older than me. But I would never have intercourse with him because I became aware that he was my cousin. I gave him blow-jobs instead and didn't consider that incest.

There was a wide assumption that prostitutes were girls who fell in love with older, unscrupulous males, who often turned out to be pimps. Jeanette is such a case. In spite of a marriage of bliss and sexual joy, her husband was anxious to put her on the street still pregnant:

What he had put to me was that if I didn't work for him he would bring all his friends from the hotel around to rape me. He gave me an hour to think about this. I'll never forget it; I was so gullible, and you know what I thought: it would be terrible for him because he had said it would be a terrible thing for him to have to do to me.

Table 3.35 compares the age differences between the first lover and the woman for the three sample groups.

Table 3.35 : First lover's sex and age difference to prostitutes, health-workers, students
 Prostitutes
(n=121)*
%
Health-workers
(n=113)*
%
Students
(n=108)*
%
Male, 10+ years younger 00.80 00.00 00.00
Male, 10-5 years younger 01.60 00.00 00.00
Male, 5-0 years younger 01.60 03.50 00.90
Male of same age 27.30 40.70 44.50
Male, 0-5 years older 28.90 26.60 35.20
Male, 5-10 years older 24.00 10.60 08.30
Male, 10+ years older 05.80 04.40 03.70
Female, 5+ years younger 00.00 00.00 00.00
Female, 5-0 years younger 00.00 00.90 00.00
Female of same age 02.50 04.40 01.90
Female, 0-5 years older 02.50 01.80 00.90
Female, 5-10 years older 03.30 06.20 00.90
Female, 10+ years older 00.80 00.00 00.90
Not disclosed 00.80 00.90 02.80
* Includes only those who have been in love.

Regardless of the individual's sexual orientation in later adult life, some lesbians, particularly among the health-workers, had males as first lovers. What stands out, however, are the higher number of prostitutes with first lovers more than five years their senior. Given that nearly three-quarters of them had fallen in love by 18, this indicates that most of these love affairs consisted of an adult male and an early to mid-adolescent girl. One might well be persuaded by Greenwald's (1958) analysis of prostitutes in search of father figures in these cases. However, since less than a third of the prostitutes fall into this category not a great deal of weight should be attached to this psychoanalytical assessment of prostitutes per se.

If we cannot assume that all of these cases of older men with teenage girls are exploitative situations, some, at least, might be similar to Jeanette's circumstance. Where these older men had led their adoring teenage girlfriends into prostitution, naivety and a certain lack of maturity in love is apparent in the women. So, while they may have achieved more experience in sexual matters they were just as vulnerable as other young females in matters of love with manipulating males. Overall, it seems that the prostitutes were more inclined to fall for much older males than the other two groups. This may have been an outcome of having earlier acquired greater sexual experience, with these women looking for more mature men than boys their own age. However, over half of the prostitutes fell in love with males around their own age or up to five years older in their first love affairs, which is closer to the pattern for the other two groups and most likely women in general. Once again, a myth about prostitutes is brought asunder by empirical facts.

Another popular assumption about prostitutes claims that they are promiscuous in their private and pre-prostitution lives. If this were true it would be apparent in love affairs. Jennifer James (1979) found her sample of juvenile street prostitutes to have been particularly casual with their first coital partner. To measure this in the present study, the duration of the prostitutes' first love affairs were assessed and compared to those of the other two sample groups. Table 3.36 shows the result of this comparison.

Very little separates the three groups in this configuration. Slightly fewer prostitutes had first love affairs of less than six months, but nearly two-thirds of the prostitutes, nearly three-quarters of the health-workers and over 80 per cent of the students ended their first love affairs in two or less years, while more of the prostitutes had initial love affairs that lasted beyond five years. This would indicate that the prostitutes were hardly fickle about their first lovers, even if they had been with their first coital partners. They were no more or less promiscuous as lovers than the other two groups. The fact that less prostitutes managed to retain their first lovers beyond ten years indicates that most likely the lovers were unable to maintain the relationship after the women had taken up prostitution.

On the question of orgasmic experience a useful start might be the study of Wardell Pomeroy (1965). He destroyed any previous notions about prostitutes as being frigid, impassive, insensitive participants in prostitution. Pomeroy compared three groups of prostitutes: 83 gaol inmates, presumedly mostly ex-streetwalkers, with a median age of 30.3; 61 reformatory inmates, also mostly ex-streetwalkers, with a median age of 19.5; and 31 call girls, with a median age of 26.8. Although not truly representative of a prostitution population, Pomeroy's findings in Table 3.37 provide sufficient indication that prostitutes enjoy orgasmic experiences both at work and in private.

The configuration in Table 3.37 confirms the author's knowledge of prostitutes in Australia, that is, prostitutes orgasm more frequently in their private lives. The statement by some prostitutes that they never orgasm at work or they fake orgasms to please their clients is probably true, but it is not the case with a large number of women who seem capable of orgasms on the job. The mistaken belief that female orgasm is an expression of affection often leads to inhibitions with many prostitutes. Probable factors for explaining the difference in sexual responses in Pomeroy's sample groups are age (Group 2 being mostly teenagers) and class morality (Group 3 being mostly middle-class women).

Table 3.36 : Duration of first love affair of prostitutes, health-workers, students
DurationProstitutes
(n=121)*
%
Health-workers
(n=113)*
%
Students
(n=108)*
%
Less than 6 months 19.00 23.00 26.90
6 months to a year 21.50 22.10 24.00
1-2 years 22.30 27.40 29.60
2-5 years 19.80 15.10 09.30
5-10 years 13.20 05.30 02.80
Over 10 years 00.80 05.30 03.70
Not disclosed 03.30 01.80 03.70
* Includes only those who have been in love.
Table 3.37 : Orgasmic experiences of prostitutes
Orgasmic experienceGroup 1
(n=83)
%
Group 2
(n=61)
%
Group 3
(n=31)
%
Never orgasms: At work 21 18 23
Never orgasms: In private 1 9 10
Spasmodically: One to five a week at work 20 5 30
Spasmodically: 26%-50% of time in private 16 14 24
Most frequently: Always at work 14 23 7
Most frequently: 51%-100% of time in private 42 27 31
Multiple orgasms: At work 0 5 0
Multiple orgasms: In private 27 45 28
Source: Pomeroy 1965.

Most of the prostitutes surveyed or interviewed admitted to experiences of orgasm at work. Maggie's response to the question on orgasm reflects the most common experience:

I orgasm more frequently outside of work. I think work is a part of you, but you can't take your hormones for a walk. It all depends on the other person.

Jeanette, too, says she orgasms much more frequently with her husband, "almost every time", but it sometimes happens at work:

It's usually when I'm having French [cunnilingus] done to me, and sometimes when I'm riding a guy especially if I've had lots of guys before. But, when I feel I'm coming I'll generally switch off by thinking of the $20 I've just made and work related things like that.

But there are those women who, for whatever psychological reason, orgasm more at work than in their private lives. Laura is a case in point:

I actually orgasm more with work, perhaps once every 20 times. I don't know why. Out of work I orgasm very seldom, about once a year.

Caroline also experiences orgasm more often at work:

I've only orgasmed outside work once in three years, apart from one relationship in which I used to orgasm all the time. But at work I orgasm about four times a month. It's very much tied up with my cycle and it's never in sexual intercourse but always French [cunnilingus].

Call girl Katherine's response was the most unusual:

I never had an orgasm in my life up to the day I begun to work as a prostitute. I probably have an orgasm in eight out of ten jobs. It's more easy to have an orgasm the more ugly and unattractive the client is. It's really made my sex life great. Because I'm much more in control in prostitution than in usual social sex situations, I respond with greater and more frequent orgasms.

The women working in bondage and discipline or fantasy work seem to be the least inhibited. Marie, for instance, says she orgasms "about 90 per cent of the time" in her private life, while at work ...

As often as I can. If I want to orgasm I just tell them [clients] what they have to do to make me orgasm and they'll do it. But this depends on my mood: sometimes three and four times in a session, sometimes once, and sometimes I don't feel like it. I don't feel guilty about this. Why should I? I enjoy it and it makes the job more pleasant.

Martine, who earlier explained her reasons for enjoying orgasms at work (p. 10), went on to describe her motivations to orgasm in the context of her control over the situation:

I try to orgasm every time I go to work, if possible, and if I'm feeling randy. I usually bring myself on with a vibrator, or I make the clients do oral sex on me. I don't orgasm as frequently at work as I do out of work because I don't orgasm in every session.

These varied responses to the question of orgasm indicate the enormous sexual diversity among prostitutes. As well as disintegrating the myth of the frigid prostitute, it also indicates quite clearly once again the psychological and social heterogeneity of women in a prostitute population. In some ways also, the above studies are compatible with the wider research into female orgasmic experiences. For instance, Pomeroy's (1965) samples of 9 per cent (Group 2) and 10 per cent (Group 3) never reaching orgasm in their private lives are similar to 11 per cent of Kinsey's et al. (1953, pp. 252-4) female sample who had never attained orgasm even after 20 years of marriage and 11.6 per cent of Shere Hite's (1977, pp. 6045) female sample who never orgasm. However, certainly more prostitutes attain more frequent orgasms in their private lives than Hite's third of her sample who attained orgasm regularly with intercourse. Pomeroy's sample also recorded a higher frequency of multiple orgasm than Kinsey's sample of 14-15 per cent who did so regularly. The prostitutes in the present study seemed to confirm Hite's general findings that oral and clitoral stimulation was more likely to provide more frequent, spontaneous and satisfying (or intense) orgasms. Overall, it seems that prostitutes can enjoy orgasms like most women. Interestingly, while sex in their private lives results in more frequent orgasmic experiences than with most women, that occurring in the context of work is closer to the frequency in the general female population's most frequent orgasmic experience (see, for example, Face to Face 1985, p. 275).

Turning now to the more negative aspects of prostitutes' sex lives, rape is one of the most devastating experiences of women in general, and prostitutes, no less than other women, sometimes fall victims outside of their workplace (the incidence of rape at work will be dealt with later). Table 3.38 compares the incidences of rape between the three sample groups.

Table 3.38 : Incidences of rape of prostitutes (beyond work), health-workers, students
No. of incidentsProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Student
(n=120)
%
Never 53.10 79.10 88.30
Once only 21.10 13.90 07.50
Twice 13.30 04.30 01.70
Three times 07.00 00.90 00.00
Four times 00.00 00.00 00.80
More than four times 03.10 01.80 01.07
Not disclosed 02.30 00.00 00.00

The prostitutes were much more often raped than the other groups. Nearly a half of them have been victims at one time or other in their private lives. One researcher claimed that somehow rape victims precipitate rape by their behaviour, demeanour or presence in unusual situations (Amir 1967b, p. 493 ff). If this is the case, it might explain the reason for a higher ratio of prostitute victims in everyday life, especially if these women, through their actions or display, invite sexual interaction with nearby male strangers. This would mean that off-duty prostitutes somehow disclose a desire for seduction, or are ready for sex at any time. It does sound like a common notion of the prostitute stereotype as "once a prostitute always a prostitute", in spite of the evidence in this study so far indicating prostitutes as normal women and their desires for normality in their private lives. It also sounds like a Christian doctrinal judgment about women being naturally sinful and polluting as objects of lust which is reinforced with a patriarchal notion of men at the mercy of their own sexual weakness, preyed upon by "nymphettes", "temptresses", and prostitutes, in particular. This kind of rationale has long been dismissed by intelligent people in favour of the power thesis, best seen in Susan Brownmilier's (1975) analysis of rape. This suggests that women are vulnerable to men exercising power over women by means of violence. It may account for a high incidence of prostitute rape victims in the context of work, but it cannot be assumed that prostitutes are somehow more "sexier" or "saucier" in their private lives, thereby feeding another popular male notion of women "asking for it". What then does account for the higher incidences of rapes in the prostitute sample given that they appear ordinary on their days off?

The answer to this might be found by investigating the nature of the perpetrator. Table 3.39 reveals the result of this investigation.

Table 3.39 : Persons responsible for raping prostitutes, health-workers, students
RelationshipProstitutes
(n=77)*
%
Health-workers
(n=27)*
%
Students
(n=19)*
%
Husband or lover 13.00 18.50 15.80
A friend 15.60 11.10 26.30
Other person known to victim 35.00 37.10 26.30
Lone stranger 22.10 18.50 26.30
Pair or a pack 14.30 14.80 05.30
* Number of rapes (not number of women) per type of rapist.

The configuration in this Table is similar in all groups: that is, most of the women were raped by men known to them. In the case of the prostitutes this was nearly two-thirds of the rapists. Amir (1967a), in a study of rape crimes in Philadelphia in 1967, found that 48 per cent of the rapists were men in primary relationships with the victims. Very likely this was only the tip of the iceberg since many rapes by husbands, lovers and friends are never reported by the victims, who, in these kinds of assaults, are more traumatised by feelings of betrayal than by the physical violation. In 1987-88 nearly 9,000 crimes of sexual assault were reported by police across Australia (Police Reports 1987-88). In 1983 a survey of rape victims found that only 24.7 per cent were reported to police; many victims felt police would do nothing (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1983). What all of this means is that the prostitutes were very likely most often attacked by men who knew that they worked as prostitutes, and the men assumed they had sexual access to them at any time, based on some mistaken notion that whores have less rights than other women.

Another traumatic area in women's sex lives is abortion. Contrary to the beliefs of many moralists, this is often accompanied by serious considerations, guilt and a sense of loss. Prostitutes are no exception here. Table 3.40 compares the number of abortions experienced by the three sample groups.

Once more the prostitutes have a higher ratio of experiences than the other two groups (although one might also assume that the health-workers are exceptionally high for their age groups). Does this mean that the prostitutes take less precautions against pregnancy, or that they simply have a higher number of sex partners, thus increasing their vulnerability for pregnancy? Table 3.41 provides some of the answers to this by comparing the fathers of the aborted foetuses.

Table 3.40 : Incidences of abortions of prostitutes, health-workers, students
No. of incidentsProstitutes
(n=128)
%
Health-workers
(n=115)
%
Students
(n=120)
%
No abortions 43.80 66.90 80.00
Once only 27.30 20.00 10.90
Twice 14.80 05.20 05.80
Three times 07.80 04.30 02.50
Four times 02.40 00.90 00.00
More than four times 01.60 01.80 00.80
Not disclosed 02.30 00.90 00.00
Table 3.4l : Father(s) of aborted foetus of prostitutes, health-workers, students
RelationshipProstitutes
(n=81)*
%
Health-workers
(n=43)*
%
Students
(n=25)*
%
Husband 12.40 25.60 12.00
Lover 51.80 62.80 72.00
Casual acquaintance 28.40 06.90 16.00
A relative (incestual) 02.50 00.00 00.00
A rapist 04.90 04.70 00.00
* Number of abortions (not women) per type of father.

In all three groups abortions occurred most often as a result of an unwanted pregnancy with a lover, but the higher ratio of casual acquaintances as fathers of the foetuses among the prostitutes most likely includes a number of clients. As we will see, the high use of prophylaxis doubling as a contraceptive amongst prostitutes at work keeps pregnancies to an absolute minimum, but the sheer logistics of numbers of sexual partners and condom breakage in prostitution means unwanted pregnancies are still feasible. This then could well be the difference in abortions between prostitutes and other women.

What can we surmise from this statistical profile of the sex lives of prostitutes? It seems that in most aspects little divides the prostitute sample from the other two samples. However, there are a few areas which might be highlighted due to significant differences. Although the prostitutes experienced initial childhood sexual contact a little later then the health-workers and students, as a group they were one or two years earlier in experiencing their first sexual (vaginal) intercourse, which might be seen as a predisposing factor for prostitution. However, contrary to most studies on street and juvenile prostitutes, this experience among the more representative sample of prostitutes was "positive" rather than "negative". This provided the prostitutes with greater, more "mature" sexual experiences by mid-adolescence than the other women, so that by late adolescence or early twenties they were able to make more rational, pragmatic choices about their sexuality, including prostitution as an option.

The prostitutes also slightly led the other women in other sexual experiences, both "positive" and "negative", such as being victims of child sexual assaults, failing in love earlier, having older male lovers in their first love affairs, having longer first love affairs. And, it seems, that prostitutes have more frequent orgasms than women generally. Since these are not excessively higher incidences, the most that might be said is that prostitutes as sexual beings are slightly more sexually experienced, sensual and libidinous in their pre-prostitution sex lives than most other women. The fact that they are raped more often in their private lives and have more abortions seems more closely related to the fact that they are prostitutes rather than to their sensuality or libido. None of this makes them abnormal in their sex lives; simply extra-normal.

Conclusion

Most people today are inclined to accept the popular prostitute mythology. This mythology is based on a mixture of past fact and fable and research which has been ill-informed, biased towards one kind of prostitute or dependent upon insufficient sampling. The persistence of the myths is due to Christianity's need to perpetuate its object lessons. The result is an unjust indictment of a group of women whose only crimes have been a promiscuous sexuality and an economy based on supply and demand. But, in spite of more recent trends in research and pleas for justice from some of society's more rational thinkers, the myths continue to permeate beyond the popular throng to authority and officialdom. Eileen McLeod noted prevailing attitudes among English parole officers, people who had dealt with prostitutes for years, yet still treated them with scorn:

The stereotyped view of street prostitutes at that time (mid seventies) was that they were in some way inferior beings either psychopathological, crude, brazen or a mixture of all these things... The attitude among probation officers... was that if a woman was involved in prostitution there must be something wrong with her - she must be psychologically confused or mixed up, beaten by her father (McLeod 1982,pp.114,120).

With such askant notions widespread among officials on whom prostitutes must, at some time or other, depend, these women are at a distinct disadvantage in our bureaucratic and law bound society.

This Section has sought to remove these notions from the common consciousness by refuting the myths with empirical facts. In the comparative study of prostitutes, health-workers and university students we have seen that prostitutes are not all working-class women, are not products of broken homes, nor loveless, friendless people adrift on a sea of social isolation. Neither were they more sexually active as children, nor significantly more often sexually assaulted in childhood, and their earliest love affairs were not considerably different to those of the other women. Their slightly higher libidos and sensuality are not sufficient to warrant social ostracism, and neither should they be regarded as especially different simply because they enjoyed their first coital experience a year or two earlier than other women.

It is time society removed its tattered and worn blinkers and faced reality with the same enthusiasm it had embraced earlier and much misguided research findings. And it is time it realised the true significance of popular imagery and the myths surrounding the sex industry.