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Lies About Prostitution - 8) Once a Prostitute, Always a Prostitute

How the myth of sexual purity leads to the stigmatization of sex workers

Seductive blonde dressed up as old time saloon girl or prostitute.
Shutterstock Photo ID: 43012906 by Stephen Orsillo

Prostitution is a job, not a permanent blemish

One of the worst parts of the prostitute stereotype is that, once a woman crosses that line, being a prostitute becomes a part of her identity. It is impossible to erase.

Prostitution is not something you do. It’s who you are.

She is not eligible to marry a decent man. In fact, decent people would avoid any social contact with her. She is a perpetual outcast, even after she stops practicing prostitution. For many women, the sex work they did in their youth is a skeleton in the closet, to be hidden even from their closest friends, spouse and children.

Prostitution and the myth of sexual purity

The adage “once a prostitute, always a prostitute” means that, by doing sex work, a woman has soiled herself with a stain that would remain the rest of her life.

It would seem that sex work is an unforgiveable crime, as serious as murder or treason. But the issue is slightly different. It’s that sex is considered something sacred, some kind of essence that attaches itself to the very soul of a person. Especially for women.

Christian culture has turned sexual purity into the highest virtue of women. The Virgin Mary is worshipped almost as a goddess, taking the place of the female deities of the old pagan religions. Unlike these goddesses, the virgin archetype erases women’s sexuality, replacing it with an exclusive dedication to motherhood. That’s why opposing contraception and abortion is such a fundamental issue for Christians. They put women’s sexuality above the sacrifices they are supposed to make to become mothers.

Virginity is a magical quality that is lost once and for all, completely changing the social status of a woman. It gives women who preserve it a special aura of sanctity.

Prostitutes are the anti-virgins. Not only they have lost their sexual purity by giving away their virginity; they lose again and again, becoming ever more soiled with every man with whom they have sex.

Nowadays, we know that sexual purity is mystical nonsense. Women can have many sexual partners without being considered soiled. In fact, more and more, being sexually experienced is considered as a desirable in both men and women.

Casual sex as a perversion of love

One version of the sexual purity idea is that sex is only valid when done as an expression of love. Then, prostitution represents a perversion of sex because it’s done for money and not for love.

But, again, casual sex in the absence of love or a relationship is very common these days, and increasingly accepted. Then, condemning casual sex only in the case of prostitution becomes a hypocritical double standard.

Prostitutes see their job as temporary

Prostitutes see their job as something they do to make money during a particular phase of their lives. It’s not a permanent occupation, and much less a part of who they are.

For example, the book Legal Tender - True Tales of a Brothel Madam, by Laraine Russo Harper, says:

“There were lots of ladies who worked in the brothel just for a specific amount of time. They had goals of how much they wanted to earn or needed to earn, and once they reached their goal, they got out of the business. One lady in particular who had such a goal was Mackenzie. She was twenty-two when she came to the brothel. She had long blond hair, green eyes, and a perfect body. She wanted to make as much money as she could in five years. Then it was her plan to retire. And that’s exactly what Makenzie did.”
“During her five-year tenure, she owned a $3 million home in one state, a $2 million condo in another, and a $1 million loft in yet another state. She retired five years later with more money than she would ever need and no one would ever know what she had been doing to earn her living. At twenty-seven Mackenzie retired.”
Legal Tender - True Tales of a Brothel Madam, Laraine Russo Harper

Of course, not all prostitutes make as much money as the ones in the expensive Nevada brothels described in Legal Tender. The range of income of sex workers is probably as wide as that of writers.

Still, escorts and other high-level prostitutes make enough money during their youth to get savings for the rest of their life, pay for college, or launch a small business.

Instead of being exploited and outcast, like they are portrayed in the media, young women find in prostitution a way out of poverty and low social status.

If prostitution were legalized and afforded some minimal protection, it could become empowering for many young women. Perhaps for some men, too.

The sad image of the old, destitute prostitute that we see in some movies doesn’t reflect reality.

The ‘Lies About Prostitution’ series

This article is part of a series about that the lies that conservatives and radical feminists tell about sex work and prostitution.

Previous articles in these series are:

Lie 7: Prostitutes Are Drug Addicts

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