Tuesday, November 6, 2007

This presentation is part of : Women's Health and Social Issues
Determinants of Behavior in Women Choosing to Engage in Street-Level Prostitution
Lyn Stankiewicz Murphy, PhD, MBA, MS, RN, Department of Organizational Systems and Adult Health, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA
Learning Objective #1: identify key determinants as to why women choose to engage in street-level prostitution.
Learning Objective #2: construct components of a program that may assist a woman in disengaging from prostitution.

Prostitution involves the exchange of sexual services for economic compensation. Due to the sexual promiscuity surrounding prostitution, women involved in prostitution constitute a high-risk group for the contraction and transmission of STDs and HIV. Prostitution is not only a public health concern, but also an economic one. Cities spent an average of $11 million per year enforcing prostitution laws and $4.5 billion per year to treat the negative outcomes associated with prostitution. Thus, women involved in prostitution are a cause for concern from a public health and an economic perspective. However, despite the enormity of this issue, little is known about how to interrupt the cycle of prostitution, and less is known about why women choose to engage in prostitution given the risks prostitution presents.
        The purpose of this descriptive study was to begin to identify some of the determinants that prompt women to engage in prostitution. A series of three interviews were conducted with twelve women engaged in street-level prostitution. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Results of the study revealed that women enter into prostitution for two reasons: support of an existing drug addiction and economic necessity. Drug use not only spurs entry into prostitution, but also contributes to the tenure of prostitution. Drug use is also used as a method for the women to detach themselves from the realities of the behavior. Further, social support and economic stability are plausible reasons that women remain in prostitution.    
         The implications of these findings include recommendations for policy, program development, and research. Women involved in prostitution are a highly marginalized population who are rarely recognized as individuals with life histories. Understanding why women choose to prostitute is important, because until these determinants are known, effective programs designed to interrupt the cycle, and ultimately prevent prostitution, cannot be formulated.