The Deviant Act of Prostitution

One night stands are only acceptable if you don’t get paid for them.

Every culture has its different ideas of normal; therefore deviance is varied from place to place. Deviance is considered any act that goes against a societies norms, so from one culture/country to another, the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not, will differ. This is due to the fact that deviance is socially constructed. From a structural functionalist viewpoint, Durkheim believes that some deviance is good for society. In this writing, I will be discussing the deviant act of prostitution from his, and others viewpoints. Prostitution is considered the exchange of sex  or sexual activity for money. In Durkheim’s theory, prostitution is a deviant act that only strengthens societies cultural norms and values, in that it keeps clear boundaries in order to know the difference between good and bad in society. He recognizes that a little bit of deviance holds value and is viewed as OK but a lot of deviance is not accepted. In the case of prostitution, American society tends to view this exchange with disgust and claim it to be extreme and immoral. It sets the bar as to which women are for marrying and which women are just for a good time. They are not interchangeable in our society, even though it is one of the oldest professions in history. In countries like Holland or Germany, there are entire districts dedicated to sexual behaviors that are merely viewed as a necessary need for humankind. Big American cities have these districts as well, but on a much smaller scale than other countries and with very different acceptability. Durkheim would also say that because of the fact that America has added these red light districts, following the steps of other countries, it proves that deviance is necessary for change. That eventually, after time, deviance encourages movement and evolution of society.
In the viewpoint of the Social Conflict Theory, the norms of society reflect the interests of the elite. Therefore, prostitution is only considered deviant because it is an act that is beneath the character of higher society. However, in reality, we know this to be untrue from the Heidi Fleiss case in which over 20,000 businessmen were in her little black book of clients that she provided call girls with. Just with that case alone, we know that the elite will quietly partake in the receiving end of prostitution benefits and never fully admit it, and when caught in the act, colleagues and family members can better accept it under the label of an “Escort Service” rather than something so dirty as “prostitution”. Both are the very same thing, the only difference is that one is more convenient in the fact that you can stay at your home or office and call a sex worker in and have her delivered like a pizza, as opposed to having to drive around and pick one up yourself off the street. It’s also considered more acceptable because the appearances and cleanliness are better than streetwalkers. But the job itself is exactly the same.
This brings us to the Symbolic Interactionism who will look at deviance as a labeling theory. In the case of the escort vs. the whore, the only difference would be the label that makes one more acceptable in society than the other. But once a girl crosses the line, and her label changes, she is no longer eligible to work for the upper class. The labeling theory is also one of the reasons that it is extremely difficult for a woman to leave this way of life behind. It is not considered merely a job she has but more of who she is as a person. Once a woman is labeled, its almost impossible for her to value herself or see herself in any other way, even when surrounded in environments where no one knows about the label. If she does manage to move on into the realm of the norm, it will never be a part of her past that is acceptable to speak about and ever share with others. If so, she will be ostracized and excluded from both work and social groups. Sadly, this will often keep her trapped in her label.


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