Juvenile Prostitutionby Waln Brown
Just as there is a long history of prostitution, children have long
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In simple terms, juvenile prostitution is the performance of a sex act for money or other needs such as food, shelter, protection or drugs. Accounts of women and men selling sex appear throughout recorded history. That is why prostitution is often referred to as the oldest "profession."
Just as there is a long history of prostitution, children have long been involved through force, seduction or voluntarily – in various aspects of the sex trade. For example, at one time in the United States some orphans were raised by the unscrupulous to become prostitutes. Likewise, children of the poor sometimes were prostituted to supplement the family income.
Although prostitution is not really a "profession," the sale of sex is a big business; and because it is an illegal act conducted mainly in secrecy, a thorough study of its culture and performers is nearly impossible. Nonetheless, social scientists have learned much about "the life" by observing and interviewing prostitutes. One of the shocking facts is that there is a near epidemic of American kids – both girls and boys – selling their bodies.
Because of the nature of the business, precise numbers do not exist. A recent government report indicates that arrests of boys and girls under age 18 for prostitution and commercial vice numbered just over 1,100, but this figure is a drop in the bucket. Responsible estimates put the number of those involved closer to 500,000. The reason for this difference is that very few juvenile or adult prostitutes are arrested. Prostitution ranks very low among law enforcement priorities, a reflection of the general public attitude toward this offense.
Why juvenile prostitution has ballooned over recent decades (paralleling the rise of gangs, violence, drug abuse and other crimes committed by young people) is a complex matter. Some contributing factors include 1) the number of broken and dysfunctional families, 2) the so-called "sexual revolution," 3) the increase of drug abuse, 4) the breakdown of cultural values and 5) the prevalence of sexual images in music, magazines, television and on the Internet.
A main cause of juvenile prostitution is the number of young people who take to the streets as runaways or "throwaways." Up to one million American children run away from home each year, and parents throw out another 150,000 from their homes. Finding themselves unprepared to get and keep jobs, some of these kids turn to prostitution as a way to survive.
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