Sociological Perspective

Sociological Perspective

A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay, written for SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology.


Sociological Perspective



The practice of prostitution involves a person, usually a woman, selling the use of her body in exchange for money or for services.  Akpom and King (2002) define prostitution as ""the act or practice of engaging in sexual activity for money or its equivalent" (para. 1).  A conflict theorist might interpret prostitution as a reflection of gender inequality, which permits men to exploit women's need to support themselves.  A man, it might be argued, can work at a job that not only supports him and his family, but that also allows him to pay for sexual favors.  A conflict theorist might argue that women who cannot get such jobs are forced to sell what they have to get by.

A functionalist view of prostitution might see the practice as fulfilling the third functional prerequisite: that of providing a service.  So long as some members of society wish to purchase sexual activity, there is a need for prostitutes to provide this service.  In that view, prostitution ceases to be a shameful, illicit activity, and becomes a necessary profession.  Where conflict theory cast prostitutes in the dim and demeaning light of women who can do no better for themselves, functionalist theory casts women in the strong, steady light of providing a necessary service.

The feminist view, in this instance, would likely agree with the conflict view.  The feminist view sees society treating women as inferior to men, which matches the view of prostitution as being the result of women having to struggle to survive in a male-dominated world.

On the other hand, a feminist might view prostitution as a form of female empowerment.  Whereas men have historically taken sexual satisfaction with women who had no choice but to submit, prostitution gives women the power to choose with whom they will have sex and under what circumstances.  A prostitute can make a man pay for sex, instead of submitting to him taking what he wants for free.



Akpom, K. and King, T.A..  (2002).  "Prostitution." Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health [Electronic Version].  Retrieved July 1, 2010, from           edium=mw&utm_campaign=article#hl2

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Initial reactions and constructive criticism welcome.

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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: essay, sociology, perspective

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..