There are many common misconceptions surrounding prostitution. Below are the most common myths.
Street prostitution is not illegal in Britain, though it is a criminal offence to ‘solicit or loiter in a public place for the purpose of prostitution’.
Single men aged 25 to 34, in managerial or professional occupations and those with high numbers of sexual partners were the most likely to say that they had paid for sex.
In addition, 3.6% of the 6,000 men surveyed admitted going to prostitutes in the past five years. This does not fit the stereotype of ‘dirty old men in raincoats’. (National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), conducted between 2010–2012, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.
There is no such thing as a typical female street prostitute. Like all women, they are all shapes and sizes, from all classes of society and from lots of different ethnic backgrounds. The majority of women involved in street prostitution in Sheffield though are white between 22–40 plus years & poly drug users inc Class A drugs, legal highs & alcohol. Remember drug use like domestic abuse is not exclusive to class or ethnicity.
Whilst some ‘Pimps’ are criminals, for most of the women in Sheffield, the ‘Pimp’ is usually their boyfriend or partner. Some of them take the money, some don’t.
Most women become involved in street prostitution because of lack of choice, have been groomed, pressured and/or coerced by pimps or traffickers. It is well documented that a majority of women in street prostitution are poor, homeless and have already suffered violence and abuse throughout their life. 70% of those involved in street prostitution have a history of local authority care and 45% report experiencing sexual abuse during their childhoods (Home Office 2006). Many enter prostitution before age 18. It is the men who buy sex who are exercising free choice, and it is this “choice” to purchase vulnerable women and girls that maintains prostitution and fuels trafficking for sexual exploitation.
This is child sexual exploitation, sexual grooming and sexual abuse.
It’s a common misconception that legalising prostitution is better for those with whom prostition effects.
Street prostitution is harmful in and of itself: legalisation doesn’t remove that harm – it simply makes the harm legal. Legalisation or decriminalisation of prostitution does not deal with the long term psychological and physical effects of having unwanted and often violent and abusive sex numerous times a day and having to act like you enjoy it. Many women involved in prostitution report having to disconnect and “separate it off” in their heads – one of the reasons why drug and alcohol abuse is so widespread.
Women involved in street prostitution put themselves at risk of:
Abuse from public, punters, kids, partners, and sometimes other women involved in street prostitution.
Violence towards the women includes rape, gang rape, robbery from ‘punters’, other members of the public including women, other street prostitutes, drug dealers and sometimes the violence has ended in murder.
Kidnapping can include internal trafficking from town to town to other cities by punters, drug dealers and other pimps.
Arrest and involvement in the criminal justice system, drug and alcohol use, unsafe sex, lifestyle/social circumstances (homelessness, lack of food, clothes, warmth, shelter, can’t shower, no money for anything but drugs, isolated, no friends or family networks).
Street prostitution is seen by the majority of women involved as an alternative option for obtaining money than shoplifting/burglary, etc. They won’t get sent to prison and it doesn’t hurt anyone but themselves.