A variety of factors determine why individuals choose to enter the sex industry. Migrants, minorities and in some societies, the uneducated, are often overrepresented.
Many sex workers are self-employed and operate independently of managed premises. Others work concurrently with other professions. Some have changed careers several times. They also differ in starting ages and quitting ages.
African American Escorts
As early as the Harlem Renaissance, African American women were depicted in sexual settings. This image, known as adultification, causes young Black girls to be perceived as sexual commodities and less innocent than white girls.
Many sex workers do not service Black men because of the fear that they will be lured away from the pimp. This logic ignores the fact that a well-endowed Black man is a desirable customer and would bring in more money.
Sex worker Gloria Lockett opined that as soon as people stopped scapegoating gay men for AIDS, they would turn their attention to Black communities and sex workers. She helped to form a group called CAL-PEP that provided HIV education and prevention services.
One classic stereotype of Asian women is that of conniving kung-fu/wushu temptresses and prostitutes. This is probably a holdover from the influx of First World tourists and ‘sex tourists’ to Indochina during and after America’s heavy involvement there.
It is also true that sex trafficking, sex slaves and pedophilia are real problems in many parts of Asia. However, this tends to be a problem in the more secretive Asian sex market geared to Asian men and often takes place in places that Western visitors would find hard to find such as beer bars, massage parlors or closed brothels. This is partly because the women working there often feel it’s a moral obligation to earn money for their families.
Many European sex workers work in managed premises rather than the more visible forms of street and window prostitution. They are motivated by a combination of constraints and opportunities, including reduced labor market options, financial pressures and a desire to earn a living in the service sector. Policy initiatives that recognise sex work as legitimate labor and address exploitation could facilitate safer and more supportive working conditions in both independent and managed premises.
However, some sex workers oppose such measures. They fear that criminalizing the purchase of sex would make it more difficult for them to maintain positive relationships with clients and exacerbate their social exclusion.
Latin American Escorts
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, women engaged in sex work struggle for alternative visions of justice. Their entry into prostitution is usually shaped by a lack of alternatives and economic pressures, but may also be an active choice that allows them to live as gente decente in conditions relegated to the margins of society.
Contrary to the dominant narrative of sex worker movements as passive recipients and beneficiaries of feminist and worker ideologies from Global North, Latin American and Caribbean sex workers have developed a consciousness and praxis to confront their own issues. Examples include a campaign that elected a prostitute to public office and a newspaper staffed by sex workers.
Middle Eastern Escorts
While lack of alternatives and economic pressures are often cited as motivations for entering the sex industry, participants also indicated that they actively chose sex work. These factors included a desire to support their families, an interest in personal exploration and enjoyment, and the possibility of gaining a reputation as a desirable sexual partner.
Many men in the Middle East continue to enjoy the pleasures of sex without fear of reprisal. Indeed, sex is so popular that major parks and downtown districts in cities such as Damascus are constant hives of cruising activity. In addition, sex establishments provide employment opportunities and financial benefits.