Science and Medicine

For hundreds of years, prostitutes have made significant contributions to the social sciences and the science and practice of medicine.

Prostitutes have long cooperated with large-scale studies. Interviews with at least 5,183 sex workers in the brothels of Paris, along with medical records from their doctors' examinations, provided Alexandre Parent-Duchatelet with information for his 1836 book Prostitution in the City of Paris. Similarly, Dr. William Sanger obtained a wealth of data from New York prostitutes for his classic work The History of Prostitution: Its Extent, Causes, and Effects Throughout the World (1859). Significantly, both researchers concluded that prostitution should be regulated rather than banned or ignored by government authorities.

Sexologists William H. Masters, M.D., and Viginia E. Johnson began research for their groundbreaking study Human Sexual Response (1966) with prostitutes of great intelligence, experience, and cooperativeness. Their suggestions for experimental methods, knowledge of sexual technique, and participation as early test subjects, proved invaluable both in Masters and Johnson's original clinical research and later work as pioneering sex therapists. The sex lives of countless married couples were thereby improved by the efforts of prostitutes.

Sex surrogates work in conjunction with therapists to help sexually dysfunctional men who do not have partners. Though their duties include sexual intercourse, legitimate sex surrogates have training in medicine and psychology that other prostitutes lack. Sex surrogates also spend much more time with their patients, and can thus provide highly individualized care beyond the abilities of other prostitutes.

The voluminous statistics from regular medical checkups of legal prostitutes in Germany, the Netherlands, Nevada, Greece, and other countries provide vital information to epidemiologists. During the 1980s, for example, such data supplied early proof that AIDS would not annihilate the industrial nations' heterosexual populations--contrary to the popular proclamations of doomsayers. And the almost complete absence of all types of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) among legal sex workers worldwide attests to the efficacy of condoms, proper hygiene, and other preventive measures. We can learn much from the example set by prostitutes who remain healthy through sexual contacts with thousands of partners. And, in fact, we do: prostitutes impart practical knowledge of STD prevention to their customers.

Forty-four licensed prostitutes working near Reno volunteered for the Emory University study "Condom Use Among Female Commercial Sex Workers in Nevada's Legal Brothels" (American Journal of Public Health, November 1995). In 353 acts of intercourse, the sex workers encountered zero condom breakage and minimal condom slippage. This study demonstrated that, when used by experts, condoms are more effective than had been previously believed. In a subsequent study, "Facilitating Condom Use with Clients during Commercial Sex in Nevada's Legal Brothels" (American Journal of Public Health, April 1998), 40 licensed prostitutes shared their methods of convincing customers to wear condoms.

Legal Nevada prostitutes led by former prostitute Jessi Winchester hold an annual "Bordello Ball" fundraising event to benefit numerous charities. These charities have included an AIDS organization and at least one veterans' hospital.

Compassionate prostitutes provide therapeutic companionship for lonely handicapped men whose deformities repulse other women. For example, "Mireille" spent much of her time with the crippled dwarf French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. (She is the central figure of his work "In the Salon at the Rue des Moulins".) Today, several legal brothels in Nevada are equipped for the physically challenged, and VA hospitals recommend their services to disabled veterans.

Brave New Orleans prostitutes battled outbreaks of yellow fever in the 1830s. In the days of the pioneer West, prostitutes of Saltese, Montana saved many lives caring for victims of a flu epidemic. And around 1915, give or take a few years, a prostitute in a West Virginia town came to the house of a gravely ill teenage boy and nursed him back to health and life. That boy's name was Clarman J. Wilfong, but more than half a century later I came to know him simply as Granddad.

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