Sample Sociology Paper

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Question

Identify and locate an article on prostitution. Write a 4-page critical evaluation and analysis of the article. Explain the major points made by the article. How has the profession changed over time? Your paper should be no more than 4 pages including the cover sheet and reference page. Make sure your paper is written according to APA format and style.

Answer

Title: Prostitution

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The article under evaluation is entitled: “For Their Own Good?”: Sex Work, Social Control and Social Workers, a Historical Perspective (Wahab, 2002). This article contains an overview of the different social responses to prostitution that have been made since the mid-1800s as well as how these responses by social workers have continued being shaped by changes in social contexts. The article highlights three main constructs that have been influencing responses from social workers to sex work: (a) competing class values, (b) the notion that women should be protected for their own good, and (c), social control.

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The author notes that social work practice with women who exchange sex with material things dates back to the beginning that is referred to today as social work. The areas that social workers targeted included charity organizations, benevolent societies, and settlements. The article is grounded on the premise that the association of social workers with prostitution is a manifestation of the extent to which the practice of social work reflects larger values and social beliefs.

In this article, Wahab (2002) highlights the different ways in which prostitution as a profession has changed, since the days of evangelical reformers. It is noted that most of the engagements that social workers made with prostitutes during the mid-1800s were in the form of evangelical work. Evangelical reformers took it as their responsibility to interact with prostitutes in a society that did not have a place for them merely on the basis of the way they were earning a living. The reformers were keen to defend the power that every society has in influencing every aspect of an individual’s behavior. To the reformers of the 1800s, non-marital sexual relationships were regarded as always being the result of abuse towards women; and never an issue of a woman’s freedom of sexual expression, as is the case in the contemporary world. To them, sexual double standards were merely an extension of the preexisting power imbalance between males and females.

The author also highlights the prominence of ‘White Slavery’ laws, which were prominent during the Progressive Era. The specter of White Slavery turned into an image for depicting commercial sex as one form of slavery. The perceived threat imposed by White Slavery, notes Wahab (2002), is one of the forces that resulted in the creation of laws that regulated prostitution between 1874 and 1910.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, unwed mothers who engaged in sexual relations were believed to have stepped out of the course towards ‘virtuous womanhood’. Laws such as the Mann Act were created by the legislature in efforts to protect women from ‘exploitative and dangerous male desire’. The law also addressed social hygiene concerns posed by prostitution.

Charity Organization Societies (COS) trace their beginnings in Buffalo, New York, in 1877. They made use of volunteers in the middle and upper classes, mostly females, in efforts to transform the moral and social characters in ‘slum’ neighborhoods. Then, Settlement Houses started becoming the norm in London, before finding their way in America in 1886 (Bell, 1994).

The author also reflects on prostitution during World War I, a time when prostitutes were no longer considered victims of White Slavery. Rather, the prostitute was considered the number one enemy whereby her sex and sexuality were viewed as dangerous on the home front. War propaganda depicted the prostitute as exploitative and diseased.

Between 1920s and 1950s, debate on prostitution was shaped largely by psychiatrists, who associated the figure of a prostitute with being ‘neurotic’, ‘frigid’ and ‘masochistic’. During the 1960s, prostitutes spoke out, this time round in feminist arenas. This ushered in the contemporary debate on prostitution, which dwells on the polarized arguments of sex work being either exploitative or liberating, and sex workers as either coerced victims or simply empowered whores.

References

Bell, S. (1994) Reading, writing & rewriting the prostitute body. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Wahab, S.(2002) “For Their Own Good?”: Sex Work, Social Control and Social Workers, a Historical Perspective, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 29(3), 109-174.

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