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Who Is A Prostitute?

SEXOf all the messages and reactions I received last week, this contribution by Mr. Emeka Nwadiora caught my attention. He wanted to know my views about prostitution and if the ‘lazy girl’ who resorts to prostitution as a genuine way of living can be excused.

Dear Yetunde,

Your piece on this topic (The sex of a woman) is well researched and carefully written, without omitting anything about a woman. You have represented the womenfolk very well, presenting their condition to the male chauvinists that descend on them with loads of blame at every instance. This beautiful piece calls for pity on women at all times, maybe some day someone will present the men’s angle for the world to see and either admire or scorn them. All the points projected by you notwithstanding, I am tempted to ask you to make suggestions to the world on how to view that lazy girl that resorts to prostitution as a genuine way of living in this modern times.

Emeka Nwadiaro wrote from Lagos

Thank you sir. A couple of years back, I had conducted an extensive research and interviews on prostitution and from my findings, this is not something that can be easily discarded with a wave of the hand as right or wrong, or good or bad. In understanding prostitution, you will need to take into cognisance many factors, ranging from the circumstances, psychology, economy etc, rather than just a moral and religious posture.

What exactly is prostitution? According to Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary, it is the act, practice or profession of offering the body for sexual relations for money. In a broader term, prostitution is described as the act of exchanging sex for money, favour or gratification. It is not in all cases that money is the lure.

So, simply put, a prostitute is that woman who uses her body or sexuality in the manner described above. Today, men are also into big time prostitution all over the world. And how is this act perpetuated? In Nigeria, as in many other countries of the world, prostitution thrives in many forms.

There are several categories of prostitutes. Unfortunately, the more crass and visible, the more condemnation by the society. From the dingy walls of a brothel to the most complex glamorous and sophisticated high societies. From the prostitute in the brothel to the street walker, the escort and the professional who lives a double life, prostituting in the shadows and those who simply have no obvious compelling reason for doing it.

Perhaps with the exception of the last group, every class of prostitute will have a reason and a circumstance to her story.
Princess Adetola Adesida, CEO, Lydia Grace Foundation, an NGO with several years’ experience in counselling, rehabilitation and empowerment of young women, listed the several categories of women who prostitute as follows:

Brothel-based prostitutes: These are more likely to be women without education or vocation to pursue any other means of sustenance. Most of the time, they live in the brothels and wait for potential clients who want to patronise their wares. Many of them come from the villages and rural areas. According to her, we must understand that apart from the South West, for many years, priority was not given to the education of the girl child. Most young girls went to the farms and also, as they grew up, the responsibility of the families fell on their shoulders. So, for them, it is mainly for survival reasons.

The street walkers: This category of girls often have some basic education but lack the financial capacity or support to pursue their next goal. This could be vocation or education or a form of trade. Many of them engage in prostitution in order to save up to be able to move on. Sexual curiosity does sometimes get the better of some girls and they go in for the experience with the hindsight that they can also make money from it. Some street walkers are recruited by others voluntarily, by force, or blackmail. It could be a pimp or madam who will manage their affairs and provide protection for them. Some, like those trafficked to other locations or countries are forced to take to the streets to offset phantom huge sums of debts by their traffickers.

Escorts: This is a big money spinning business enterprise that caters for a cross-section of sexual preferences across societies. The innovation of the Internet has added to the sophistication of escorts. Like some street walkers, escorts are managed by pimps and madams who act as the contact points for business. They act as middlemen, negotiating between the women and the potential customers. Most of the women are educated and/or employed, while large percentages are also university students. The money from this trade is used for whatever is of value to them and this could range from payment of school fees to pursuing a certain lifestyle and taste.

However, sexologists are finding it increasingly difficult to classify what constitutes prostitution and who a prostitute is today. It is not all the time that women who engage in sex for money are in dire need of money. It is not because they are poor and helpless but for sundry other motives. Take, for instance, a Nigerian girl in her teens schooling abroad, all bills paid by her parents, yet is in a sexual relationship with a married man who pays for her holiday trips around the world and buys her exotic designer labels. Or her counterpart in a Nigerian university who is an ardent follower of the Aristo movement? Yet, this form of prostitution has been excused by critics as peer pressure influence and a result of our dwindling moral and societal values. Neither the girls nor their clients think of this as prostitution, but a mutually satisfying and benefitting arrangement.

So, what do you call a woman who agrees to sleep with the boss for a raise or promotion in the office? A married woman carrying on a relationship with her boss to secure her position? A student having sex with the lecturer to raise her scores? Can a married woman who offers sex in exchange for groceries to feed her family be compared with a man who turns a blind eye to his wife’s adultery with a highly influential political godfather in exchange for a juicy post of his own? Is he her pimp or her husband? The truth is that sex is a very potent weapon. Those who engage in it do so for a reason, obvious or remote. Even marital sex is manipulative most of the time, especially by the woman.

While I do not know this described ‘lazy’ girl’s circumstance and background, I am in no way justifying prostitution either. There are no doubts many dangers associated with prostitution, especially sexually transmitted diseases and those who expose themselves, do so with knowledge of its implications. But faced with severe economic hardship and no helper in sight, people tend to switch to survival mode. It is unfortunate that most of us are self-seeking hypocrites and many live double lives while applying double standards in judgment of others. The story of Jesus and the prostitute who was about to be stoned to death aptly captures my views on prostitution. He who has no sin should cast the first stone!




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