The commerce of carnal activities, though abundant in society, is still perceived as morally degrading to human civilization. This business of worldly exchange has undergone a long debate and battle for its eradication. Throughout the history of humankind, prostitution has existed for the pursuit of satisfying this particular human need. The long-term fight to put a stop to this still-growing business reflected of prostitution’s hardcore stigmatization to a society. This stigmatization rooted from different aspects of societies more specifically the Western society.
These aspects determine why laws are being made and thus resulting into how prostitution is viewed as morally unacceptable. To classify something as morally acceptable or not, most of the time, people turn to religion. In history, the Western civilization had been pre-dominantly motivated by religious faith. This particular spread of religion within the European continent heavily influenced even state laws, especially in the monarchical era. Catholicism shaped the culture of Western societies using the Bible as instrument. This book became the official basis of moral standards and definition of the roles of people in a society.
The texts indicated in each book of the Bible placed sectors of society into different roles. The Bible became a written constitution for people who believed in the faith and thus influenced their lifestyle. One aspect from the Bible that has been clearly related in reality would be the role of gender. The cultural context of the book narrated the function of men and women in the early tribal society. The stories from the Bible were proven to have huge similarities with the development of ancient western civilization. The story of the creation would be a good example of portraying the role of a man and a woman.
Depiction of gender in the Bible reflected how a man and a woman were situated in the society. It was stated in the Bible that man was first created in the likeness of God, and woman on the other hand, was made out of the man’s rib. From that particular aspect, the status of the woman was interpreted that she was not made as man’s equal for she was made out of his body part. This entailed women’s subordination in society. The Fall of Man made the interpretation even less favorable to women. When the serpent became successful in tempting Eve, she went to Adam and lured him to temptation.
This event in Biblical mankind became the strongest metaphor for seeing women as inferior to men. Stories in the Bible depicted the lifestyle of the families as highly patriarchal. God, itself has been interpreted in the form of male gender and it symbolized that males were equated with authority and power just like the creator. As for the women, they were viewed as man’s co-helper and as man’s property. Even the Ten Commandments stated that one should not covet another man’s wife for a woman is solely for a man bounded by the marriage.
A focus on the status of women in history is important because they are the first victim of prostitution. Their stature from the early civilization can give us a clear picture of how prostitution began. Prostitutions may have begun when there was an unregulated business of slavery. During the tribal period, early civilizations allowed men to engage freely in sexual intercourse with various partners. The Biblical scholar Louis Epstein was able to further describe the condition of sexual activity in ancient societies.
He stated that, “If slave wives were his own, not given to him by his the primary wife, he could present them to other members of the family…after tiring them himself. ” Since there was no single unit of law that was implemented uniting the different tribes at that time, this sexual culture existed into society without much regulation. The formation of the state prompted for control mechanisms to be implemented. These mechanisms in the form of state laws were able to establish a more orderly function in the society.
It was in the monarchical era where laws were made to govern the actions of the kingdom’s constituents. Royal leaders were heavily influenced by Catholicism, thus it made the laws similarly close to what the Bible contained and the church was a major key player in influencing the process of law-making. The instability of moral grounds during the tribal period was organized with the laws closely related with religious ethics. Laws against prostitution were made because the Catholic mainly viewed prostitution as something ‘dirty’.
Since women were mostly involved in prostitution, early Christianity had metaphors for women associating them with dirt. This actually originated from the story of creation where Eve was portrayed as a temptress. In the early centuries of Christianity, the Latin Fathers of the Church used this root sense of obscene to describe the gender that enticed men to experience sexual desire. Jerome referred to woman as “a sack of filth,” Tertullian called her “a temple on top of a sewer,” and Augustine pointed out that she gave birth “between urine and feces. (Davis 1983, 88)
Considering these factors, women only have two identities in the society. They can only be labeled as either a virgin or a whore. Whore is most commonly associated with prostitutes. The ‘virgin’ is compared to purity because a woman is still untouched and inexperienced with sexual intercourse. On the other hand, the ‘whore’ has multiple sexual experiences and thus labeled as dirty because of the exchange of body fluids with unknown partners. The labeling of prostitution as ‘dirty’ stigmatized it and being dirty is also compared with animal behavior.
Like animals, prostitution does not recognize sexual partners. It exists for the sake of having sexual intercourse to fulfill and release fantasies in exchange for money. Humans, being the highest form of God’s creation cannot be equal with animals. For this very reason, prostitution is seen as a taboo under the law and within the society. Prostitution kills a person’s rationality and emotions thus voiding that person to be the human that God made people to be. Prostitution is a business which uses sex and the prostitute as a product.
This is another factor of dehumanization in prostitution. Aside from being compared to animals, people engaged in this field become a form of commodity. Sexual intercourse is being stripped off of its purpose of procreation and human relation; it just becomes a payable service. Prostitution changes a human into mere objects and according to Karl Marx, “…whoever performs a human activity for money is transformed into a thing. ” Since prostitution is viewed as dirty, society is well aware that if prostitution will be allowed it will spread like a wildfire.
Allowing it will increase the number of people engaging it and thus many people will be contaminated and be ‘dirty’. Allowing prostitution is viewed as like opening the gates to an ‘epidemic disease’ that will psychologically and morally disrupt the society. One of the remedies that the state made to fight off prostitution is to require marriage. Marriage is to unite two people legally. This is also a way to contain boundaries of sexual practice and to avoid fornication.
By marriage, it delimits human’s sexual desires to just one person and there is an actual purpose of procreation. A deeper human relationship becomes present and it gives a more morally dignified citizen status for humans in the society. Marriage can be considered as a protection of humans exploiting their bodies by means of fornication. Since the human body is created under the likeness of God, it is humans’ responsibility to take care of it. These laws are patterned out from religious teachings to legalize its basis of what is morally wrong or right.
Every law created “set norms for desirable conduct” in the society and by citing religion, prostitution becomes one of the most detested social problems. The metaphors that are drawn out from the Bible are incorporated into state laws, making the view of prostitution deeply entrenched into the mankind as something dirty and immoral. The fight for prostitution is a continuous process for it is still an active business up until today. State laws backed up by religion, by far, are proven to be effective in convincing people to shun it and create a strong stigma for it.