In some cultures of the world, prostitution is still treated as a legitimate business. The author of websites such as Liberated Christians.com and Sexwork.com, known only as “Dave in Phoenix” says, ”Prostitution is LEGAL (with some restrictions that aren't that bad) in Canada, most all of Europe including England, France, Wales, Denmark, etc., most of South America including most of Mexico (often in special zones), Brazil, Israel (Tel Aviv known as the brothel capital of the world), Australia, and many other countries. It is either legal or very tolerated in most all of Asia and even Iran has ‘temporary wives’ which can be for only a few hours! New Zealand passed in 2003 one of the most comprehensive decriminalization acts which even made street hookers legal” (Dave, 2009). At one time in the United States, the profession was considered a legitimate, albeit ill-chosen profession. People who chose to be prostitutes were considered of loose morality, but it was not illegal and even those who thought it was evil and morally degrading had to concede that prostitutes provided a useful service. Many prostitutes chose their profession because they had no other options. Prostitutions were sometimes the only women in a newly settled mining town. Some ended up marrying one of their clients and settling down to a “respectable” life.
In the nineteenth century, the view on prostitution shifted. Instead of being considered at worst a necessary evil and a best a legitimate business for unskilled, unmarried women, it became a criminal act to sell one’s body and/or a sex act for money. As medical science progressed after the Civil War, doctors discovered that one way that disease, especially venereal disease, was spread was through sexual contact. Doctors urged the formal legalization and regulation of prostitution so that men, who the doctors argued “needed” sexual release, would not catch something from “unclean harlots.” Those who opposed any sort of activity that they considered evil such as drinking, gambling, dancing, and, of course, selling one’s body for money, wanted prostitution criminalized. They joined with clergy from across a wide swath of denominations and urged social reform. Shoshanna Erlich explains, “The newly created New York Committee for the Prevention of State Regulation of Vice, a loosely connected group of clergy and social reformers joined together to challenge the pro-regulation forces. Seeking to dislodge the doctors’ hegemonic authority over the transgresive (sic) body of the prostitute, these social purity reformers, as they came to be known, engaged in a searing critique of the ‘radical physiological error’ of male desire, which they dismissed as a socially constructed myth that served to excuse licentious male behavior” (Ehrlich, 2011). The social reformation groups framed prostitution as wickedness and exploitation of women which would take men straight down a moral road to hell. Thus, the prevailing view of prostitution was constructed in the United States.