Prostitution has been practiced throughout ancient and modern culture. Sumerian records dating back to ca. 2400 BCE are the earliest recorded mention of sex work as an occupation. Prostitution has been described as “the world’s oldest profession” although the oldest professions are most likely farmers, hunters, and shepherds,
In the United States, sex work was originally widely legal. Prostitution was made illegal in almost all states between 1910 and 1915 largely due to the influence of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which was influential in the banning of drug use and was a major force in the prohibition of alcohol.
This type of work is illegal in the vast majority of the United States as a result of state laws rather than federal laws. It is, however, legal in some rural counties within the state of Nevada. Prostitution nevertheless occurs elsewhere in the country.
Prostitution laws vary widely from country to country, and between jurisdictions within a country. At one extreme, prostitution or sex work is legal in some places and regarded as a profession, while at the other extreme, it is a crime punishable by death in some other places.
Sex work has been a significant issue in feminist thought and activism. Many feminists are opposed to prostitution, which they see as a form of exploitation of women and male dominance over women, and as a practice that is the result of the existing patriarchal societal order.