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Prostitution is the sale of sexual services. A person selling sexual services is a prostitute.


  • To you, a prostitute is some kind of beautiful object. You respect her as you do the Mona Lisa, in front of whom you also would not make an obscene gesture. But in so doing, you think nothing of depriving thousands of women of their souls and relegating them to an existence in an art gallery. As if we consort with them so artistically! Are we being honest when we call prostitution "poetic." I protest in the name of poetry. And we are being infinitely smug when, with subjective self-promotion, we believe we are able to endow the prostitute's life with meaning. I would like you to acknowledge the shallow aestheticism of what you write. You yourself do not want to relinquish humanity. Yet you would have us believe that there are people who are objects. You arrogate human dignity to yourself. As for the rest, they are pretty things. And why? So that we have a noble gesture for ignoble deeds.
    • Walter Benjamin, Letter to Herbert Belmore, June 23, 1913, in The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, p. 35
  • On the evening of the last day of October, 1501, Cesare Borgia arranged a banquet in his chambers in the Vatican with "fifty honest prostitutes", called courtesans, who danced after dinner with the attendants and others who were present, at first in their garments, then naked. After dinner the candelabra with the burning candles were taken from the tables and placed on the floor, and chestnuts were strewn around, which the naked courtesans picked up, creeping on hands and knees between the chandeliers, while the Pope, Cesare, and his sister Lucretia looked on. Finally, prizes were announced for those who could perform the act most often with the courtesans, such as tunics of silk, shoes, barrets, and other things.
    • Cesare Borgia's Diary, as quoted in Johann Burchard, Pope Alexander VI and His Court: Extracts from the Latin Diary of Johannes Burchardus, 1921, F.L. Glaser, ed., New York, N.L. Brown, pp. 154-155
  • If you are a Christian, no earthly city is yours. Of our City ‘the Builder and Maker is God.’ Though we may gain possession of the whole world, we are withal but strangers and sojourners in it all. We are enrolled in heaven: our citizenship is there! Let us not, after the manner of little children, despise things that are great, and admire those which are little! Not our city’s greatness, but virtue of soul is our ornament and defence. If you suppose dignity to belong to a city, think how many persons must partake in this dignity, who are whoremongers, effeminate, depraved and full of ten thousand evil things, and at last despise such honour! But that City above is not of this kind; for it is impossible that he can be a partaker of it, who has not exhibited every virtue.
  • None of the daughters of Israel shall be a kedeshah, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a kadesh. You shall not bring the hire of a prostitute (zonah) or the wages of a dog (kelev) into the house of the Lord your God to pay a vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.
    • Deuteronomy 23:17-18
  • Do you understand, gentlemen, that all the horror is in just this—that there is no horror!
  • I can enjoy her while she's kind;
    But when she dances in the wind,
    And shakes the wings and will not stay,
    I puff the prostitute away:
    The little or the much she gave is quietly resign'd:
    Content with poverty, my soul I arm;
    And virtue, though in rags, will keep me warm.
    • John Dryden, Imitation of Horace (1685), "On Fortune", Book III, Ode 29, l. 81 - 87.
  • Prostitutes are the inevitable product of a society that places ultimate importance on money, possessions, and competition.
    • Jane Fonda, in Thomas Kiernan, Jane: An Intimate Biography of Jane Fonda (1970).
  • The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger at least once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfil the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus
    • Herodotus, The Histories 1.199, tr A.D. Godley (1920)
  • I think it proves that if my business could be made legal, the way off-track betting is in New York, I and women like me could make a big contribution to what Mayor John Lindsay calls Fun City, and the city and state could derive the money in taxes and licensing fees that I pay off to crooked cops and political figures.
  • [in Kenya]...any woman who is single and has multiple male sex partners is considered to be a prostitute, whether or not money changes hands.
    • New Internationalist, Issue 252 - February 1994.
  • [in India] Any sexual intercourse outside socially acceptable unions is likely to be regarded as prostitution.
    • New Internationalist, Issue 252 - February 1994.
  • [In Iran] Under mut'a, it is possible to be 'married' for as little as half an hour.
    • New Internationalist, Issue 252 - February 1994.
  • Egyptian law states that a man who is caught with a prostitute is not imprisoned; instead, his testimony is used to convict and imprison the prostitute.
    • New Internationalist, Issue 252 - February 1994.
  • She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. What did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?

It is clear, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She had coveted with earthly eyes, but now through penitence these are consumed with tears. She displayed her hair to set off her face, but now her hair dries her tears. She had spoken proud things with her mouth, but in kissing the Lord’s feet, she now planted her mouth on the Redeemer’s feet. For every delight, therefore, she had had in herself, she now immolated herself. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance.

    • Pope Gregory the Great (homily XXXIII)[
  • A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.
    • Muhammad Bukhari 4:538 This is an extraordinary hadith, because following the Sunnah of Muhammad (peace be upon him), prostitutes can be extremely despised figures among most Muslims, yet it expresses the idea that even someone working in one of the most despised of professions, in showing mercy to an animal, can merit the forgiveness of Allah, and the wise.
  • What I am saying is that truth is usually more complicated than any one perspective can capture. Prostitution is not a monolith. Each woman experiences the profession in a different manner. And nothing can be gained by having different groups of feminists or prostitutes — all of whom are probably telling the truth of their own experiences — attempting to discredit each other.
  • The only way to prevent prostitution altogether would be to imprison one half of the human race.
  • When we see a woman bartering beauty for gold, we look upon such a one as no other than a common prostitute; but she who rewards the passion of some worthy youth with it, gains at the same time our approbation and esteem. It is the very same with philosophy: he who sets it forth for public sale, to be disposed of to the highest bidder, is a sophist, a public prostitute.
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.6.11, T. Stanley, trans., p. 535.

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