| Jessica Hughes
Contemporary Social Issues
[Portfolio 1: Sex &Gender]
Class Notes, Activities, Textbook Notes, Journals, and Exam 1
Commonly known as the “World’s Oldest Profession,” it can be traced back to all ancient cultures and societies. Today, it remains one of the most profitable industries in the world. However, the morality and legality of prostitution has resulted in controversy with highly polarized views on its legal status. In the United States, prostitution is illegal; however, debates between the liberal and radical feminists exemplify prostitution as a critical social issue. Gaining its origins in the late nineteenth century, pro-abolition activists and anti-prostitution feminists opposed prostitution completely. They argued that prostitution is an uncivilized, violent act that degrades women and the whole American society. These feminists are often seen as radical for their strong theories. However, they create awareness that prostitution reinforces gender stereotypes and contributes to the oppression of women. Concerned over society’s morality, these radical feminists hold a structural-functionalist perspective on prostitution; by repressing prostitution, the society is able to maintain sexual norms and function properly. In contrast, beginning in the 1970s, liberal feminism reexamined prostitution, finding it to have potential as a career choice. The liberal feminists divided prostitution into forced prostitution and sex work. While against the acts of forced prostitution, liberal feminists believed that sex work is an adequate choice of employment and should receive equal business regulations. With cooperation with the legal system and the sex industry, it is believed that sex work can be tolerated in our society. The sex work feminists hold the conflict and minority perspective of prostitution. They do agree with the anti-prostitution feminists that prostitution is a result of patriarchy and inequality. Nonetheless, criminalizing prostitution is an unjustified solution that creates further inequality. These highly-polarized stakeholders have reinstated prostitution as a critical social issue. The values of gender and economic equality, the right of consent, capitalism, sexual needs, and religion are all conflicted in the issue of prostitution. In result, many social structures have contributed to the social problem of prostitution over time. National governments have been urged from stakeholders to regulate, abolish, decriminalize, and legalize prostitution. Organizations for religion, health, sexism, and racism have all been concerned with the issue. These institutions and their movements have created awareness and reform, and given stakeholders an ability to take action. Like most social issues, the stakeholders of prostitution originated during the Progressive Era, in the late nineteenth century. The Progressive Era was an important time for social purist reformers, who followed the moral framework developed in the Jacksonian era of a “civilized society.” The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was founded by social purist reformers during the temperance movement. They claimed that alcohol contributed to violence against women. Therefore, prostitution was in danger of such violence and was an uncivilized act in which women subjected themselves to the desires of men. They campaigned for alcohol prohibition and prostitution abolition. Also, they did not believe there was any justified compromise to purify prostitution. They were able to raise awareness to prostitution and direct their supporters towards state reform. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union still exists as a national organization today; however, its motives are strictly directed towards alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, the WCTU brought initial awareness to the issue of prostitution in America, and achieved many victories in legislation towards prohibiting prostitution, and moreover, gender...
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