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The Case for Prostitution

There was much ado about Amnesty International’s call to legalize prostitution, with Nigerian bodies reliably condemning it as another sign of Western moral decay. At first blush, it’s easy to be aghast at the very thought of such a proposition. Sex is the most impolite of topics, especially in these parts, and the fundamental idea that trading sex for money, goods, services, or benefits is abhorrent is one that we have always held dear as a society… or have we?

Transactional sex has existed since the dawn of human civilization, and has always been an established feature of all of Nigeria’s hundreds of cultures, from karuwai and ‘yan dauda in northern Nigeria, to a multitude of southern Nigerian ethnicities, all of whom engaged openly in prostitution until it fell out of favour following the colonization of our country.

Fast forward to 2017, and Nigerian women are still being constantly told to “know their worth” and not to “cheapen” themselves by engaging in sexual activity with men, implying that their sexuality is valuable. Yet paradoxically, we are expected to give sex away to men for free, and women who do not, who “know their worth” and insist on being paid their monetary due for access to their vaginas are pilloried as whores, hoes, and “runs girls”.

Society is in contradiction with itself. You cannot simultaneously be “cheap” for having sex with men for free, and “cheap” for having sex with men for money. Neither can you be “expensive” or “worthy” for not having sex with men, if the the end result is that you are still going to have sex with a man for free anyway.

Therefore, if a woman is devalued every time she opens her legs to have sex, then it is in her interest to gain as much from each sexual encounter as she possibly can.

In the patriarchal society that we live in, whether women have sex for free or for profit, they are still subject to the same slut shaming, and reputation damaging consequences for being sexual. If a woman refuses to have sex, she becomes an “uptight bitch”, a “goody-goody virgin”, or a “deeper life prayer warrior”. If she does have sex, she becomes “loose”, an “ashawo”, a “hoe”, etc.

It doesn’t matter if a woman only has sex with one man. The fate of her reputation is always in the hands of others, and it takes very little to destroy a woman’s reputation in Nigeria, whereas Nigerian men can do and undo with barely any effect on their social standing.

Perhaps men are secretly afraid that if more women start to charge for access to their vaginas, then the free and plentiful sex that they are so accustomed to will become much harder to come by. You see, throughout history, men have always gone to extreme lengths to secure their supply of sex, as evinced by many oppressive customs against women like Female Genital Mutilation, which are centered on controlling the sexual behaviour of women.

While with any sexual encounter, both parties run the risk of STDs, the distribution of total risk is lopsided as women alone bear the brunt of near indelible socio-cultural damage to their reputations, and consequently, their quality of life.

In life, and in business, we are all familiar and accepting of the idea that whomever takes on more risk should be rewarded with greater compensation. This is why banks charge interest on loans, why in the USA, you’re made to sign a 2 year contract to buy a phone, and end up paying over one and a half times the actual price of the phone.

Yet somehow, when women choose to monetize the enormous risks they run in their social and sexual interactions with men, everyone balks.

Legalizing prostitution would enable women to do just that by allowing sex workers take control of the revenue they make from sex work instead of being exploited by traffickers and brothels.

It would also allow women engaged in sex work to lobby for and receive resources from the government, such as free routine STI/STD testing, condom enforcement backed up by the law and police officers in their places of work, and particularly resources to protect them from violence and rape by way of official police protection/ security detail.

This is something that is sorely needed as sex workers are often the victims of violence at a rate much higher than the general population, and in Nigeria, are often targeted by ritualists and other criminals due to them being easy targets, and the assumption that nobody will miss them (poverty being a major reason why people become involved in sex work) or come to their aid.

The argument of religion or morality has not prevented prostitution from existing or thriving. If anything, all it has succeeded in doing is driving transactional sex underground, thereby making it more dangerous for everybody involved, and society at large. Reversing this attitude would bring many women (and other sex workers) out of the shadows, and allow them to make an honest living, safe from bodily and psychological harm.

Prostitution’s ancientness and pervasive ubiquity is due to the fact that it is the one profession that women have always been able to turn to to support themselves in times of extreme need. The world could literally end, and there would still be more than a few men looking for sex.

Why not make them pay?



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  1. Junior

    That is very brave of you Sugabelly to make this case. Then again you have never shied away from speaking your mind so its not surprising. However I want to ask whether sex is not for the enjoyment of both men and women. If thats the case then why do men have to pay for it? But then if a man is willing to pay for it then there is a market for such a service and it becomes a business transaction. But it seems a cheap and short sighted to make money. How long will such a “profession” last? These are just my thoughts. But I respect your courage to bring this subject up.

      • junior

        I am talking of its longevity with regards to the ladies involved. After a certain again arguably the demand for their services will dwindle giving way to the younger ones entering the market. Thats what I mean by the profession not lasting for the individual. With regards to the profession as a whole I agree that it is the oldest profession and probably outlast many other professions.

        • sugabelly

          You’re mistaken if you think old women aren’t prostitutes.

          Also, most people do not hold the same job throughout their lives. Some people have multiple jobs at the same time.

          Why can’t someone be a doctor and a prostitute? Or a teacher and a prostitute? Or a software engineer and a prostitute?

          I don’t think you or most other people who react to the idea of prostitution have thought about it beyond defining women by one occupational choice that they’ve made that might not even be their main or longest means of financially sustaining themselves.

          To a lot of people once you collect money in exchange for sex you are a prostitute FOREVER.

          That’s so ridiculous and stupid not to mention highly unrealistic and inaccurate.

          • Junior

            I think you are widening the definition of what a prostitute is. Most relationships with sex involved also include exchange of money but we don’t call it prostitution if it is a monogamous and steady relationship. It is only when a man or woman engages is multiple sexual relationships simultaneosly with the view to extracting money from their partners that can be classified as prostitution. But if a woman is a doctor or software engineer and can make her own money why will she go into prostitution. Pursuing sexual pleasure not for money is however, not prostitution. Perhaps we can coin another word for it. Men have always pursued it and uses all techniques including giving out money and other luxuries to entice women to go to bed with them. I don’t agree with slut shaming women who have sex with men when the men are left off the hook.

          • sugabelly

            No. Prostitution is defined as collecting money or other compensation in exchange for sexual activity. It doesn’t have to be multiple people. It can be one person one time or one person on a recurring basis.

            Moralists like to shy away from this because if you think about it even the respectable relationships like marriage are a form of prostitution. Marriages primarily for love are a fairly recent development in overall human history. Majority of the time, people have been marrying in exchange for some sort of financial or non-financial compensation like food, shelter, power, economic resources or even status.

            None of it is inherently any more respectable than collecting money.

          • sugabelly

            Also if a woman is a doctor or an engineer that doesn’t make prostitution unattractive to her financially.

            Sure you may earn the same amount of money as a doctor or engineer, but at the cost of your time and energy whereas if we go by the figures in that Sex is Sex article I linked to, the girl in the article was earning $500 for a hand job which is less than 3 minutes of work.

      • junior

        I am talking of its longevity with regards to the ladies involved. After a certain age arguably the demand for a lady’s services will dwindle giving way to the younger ones entering the market. Thats what I mean by the profession not lasting for the individual. With regards to the profession as a whole I agree that it is the oldest profession and probably outlast many other professions.

  2. Susie

    First, people who look down on prostitutes are ridiculous. The men who do so are often the same persons who patronize their services & yet due to double standards, the men somehow feel superior. Meanwhile, the women who look down on prostitutes may themselves have exchanged sex for some material benefit, one way or the other. Having said that, I am one of those people who find the whole institution of prostitution to be largely premised on sexism. Men are socialized to feel entitled to sex anytime. They can even buy it with money if they want & the girl has to do what they say. The bodies of women become like meat on the market-something to be transacted.

    This is why women are often the ones doing these kinds of jobs. Moreover, in these sexual encounters, the sexual desires of the woman are secondary. It is her duty to please the client. Even her getting an orgasm isn’t considered important unless that is what will turn the client on. In my younger days, to pay for school, I basically slept with rich men & there’s nothing empowering about it. Having sex with men you wouldn’t sleep with if they didn’t have money isn’t fulfilling. It’s just sad. Probably this is why pimps & men are often the ones who benefit when the State sanctions prostitution. That is why I support the Nordic model of criminalizing prostitution for patrons but not prosecuting the women who are pushed to it. Simultaneously, social services are provided to empower these lower income women & so that they have the money rather than having to sleep with a man for it.


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