“No kissing on the lips. It’s too personal,” this is probably the most notable line from Vivian, played by Julia Roberts in the 1990 movie Pretty Woman with Edward played by Richard Gere, if you are an aspiring sexologist, quipped a clinician kibitzer friend.
The scene gives us a glimpse of a profession that stresses the regulation of emotional participation, which seems to lower the sexual act to a mechanical function, so we are told. Vivian is a female prostitute, while Edward is a wealthy businessman who fall hard for each another.
The movie was a blockbuster that critics thought was modern Cinderella. Edward, the rich guy, who picks up Vivian, a hooker on a lark for the weekend, ends up marrying her in spite of their different worlds. It is about the “oldest profession” in the world, churlishly butted a kibitzer friend.
A prostitute is commonly dismissed simply as a person given to indiscriminate lewdness. However, to encapsulate the person, the profession, the legal and moral implications in one perfunctory phrase is just like seeing only the tip of an iceberg, quipped an omniscient-kibitzer friend.
The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, for instance states that a prostitute is a person who, for money or profit, habitually indulges in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct. In the ancient Roman law, prostitutes wantonly offered themselves passim et sine delecto (everywhere and without pleasure).
Sexologists Drs. W. H. Masters and V. E. Johnson defined them as persons who, for immediate payment in money or valuables, will engage in sexual activity with any other person, known or unknown, who meets minimal requirements as to gender, age, cleanliness, sobriety, ethnic group, and health.
Sex experts contend that this is not limited to the common hooker on a street comer; a rather extreme example would be anyone who “intentionally” marries an heir, a wealthy sport- or movie-star for an aristocratic title, money and prestige..
This should include personalities (sometimes a.k.a., “celebrities,” “influencers”) who use their “charms” or “x-factors” to gain or earn material or psychic rewards, quipped a media-influencer kibitzer friend.
Historians tell us that the origins of prostitution can be traced traditionally to ancient Athens, Greece. Two distinct classes of Greek prostitutes are recorded, the hetaerae and pornai, which today are probably renamed differently, quipped my crass-kibitzer friend.
A pornai was Greek prostitute who provided sex for a large number of clients in brothels or on the street; while the hetaera or “a companion” (today’s “escort?”) tended only to a few clients at a time, often providing long-term relationships, companionship, intellectual stimulation and, of course, sex.
An English art historian, Dr. C. T. Seltman wrote, “…hetaeras were certainly in a very different class, often highly educated persons.” They were believed to have been accomplished courtesans, sometimes surprisingly even more educated than the respectable wives and daughters of society.
A second century AD writer, Lucian wrote in his “Dialogues of the Courtesans” that one “… dresses attractively and looks neat … smiles in a sweet bewitching way … never cheats a visitor or as escort, and never throws himself at the client…”
However, the basic “purpose” of such a person is clear: “… their only aim is to attract the client and make him lovehim…” Historical records also suggest that the acceptance of a monetary reward or in kind was not always characteristic of prostitution as previously stated.
Empirical studies show that many adolescents patronize prostitutes out of curiosity, desire for experience or “experimentation” and to quench an adolescent’s biological need.
Adults on the other hand may prefer a prostitute because of aversion to deep relationships. Studies reveal him to be biologically grown up, who manifests lack of emotional attachment upon sensing signs of an impending commitment. With a prostitute, sexual needs are gratified without the sense of responsibility.
Then there are individuals who merely feel the need for sex to boost his ego. These include “respectable” men (and women) envied for having wealth, status, and power. Today many are apparently being exposed by the #MeToo zeitgeist.
Experts tell us that most laws pertaining to sexual behaviors in the US and most of the Western World can be traced back to sexual prohibitions from the Judaic-Christian tradition. A Catholic kibitzer friend inquired, “Was this a part of the Spanish Christianization of the Philippines?”
The original intent of these prohibitions was to preserve moral order as defined by particular sets of religious values.
Drs. Masters and Johnson remind or forewarn us that it safe to say that in any 24-hour period, millions of ordinary Americans unwittingly engage in sexual acts definable as illegal or criminal, whereby some practices warrant imprisonment.
Nevertheless, empirical studies also suggest that if the current laws regulating sexual behaviors are strictly, uniformly, and fully enforced, prisons would be bursting at the seams. There will always be existential, religious, clinical, philosophical dimensions to legal disputes.
In the Philippines, raids on brothels for “cleansing” purposes are now arresting not only the prostitute but also the “client.” This law was passed many years ago. The rationale: this sex behavior (others call “immoral”) is a fundamental cooperative act, quipped a law-abiding kibitzer friend.
Is there an explicable explanation why this oldest profession thrives despite the attacks against it by dedicated moralists, lawmakers, and implementers. How many careers and lives have been ruined or lost because of this profession?
Pondering the psychology of the female prostitute and the male client, an obscure writer kibitzer friend quipped that the proliferation of the “imperfect women” only answers the needs of the “imperfect men.”
Who then is the true recipient of the joy, or misery, that commercial sex brings; who is perfect? You be the judge.
Dr. Aggie Carson-Arenas is a Certified Clinical Psychology Specialist, a former associate professor and university research director. He is a Behavior Analyst Specialist in Nevada, an educator, clinician, researcher, consultant, columnist, and a published author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.