In sociology, the term deviance refers to all violations of social rules, regardless of their seriousness (Essentials of Sociology 136). Deviance is an individual or organizational behavior that violates societal norms and is usually accompanied by negative reactions from others. According to a sociologist S. Becker, he stated that it is not the act itself that makes an action deviant, but rather how society reacts to it.
A particular state of being that has been labeled as being deviant in the U.S. is prostitution. Prostitution is the direct selling of sexual acts for financial gains.
In some form or other, prostitution has been recognized throughout history and all over the world. There has been alternating phases of repression and toleration of prostitution. Official Christian morality has always opposed prostitution, but in big cities prostitution has been rather open and tolerated in Christian societies until the sixteenth century when venereal disease became a major public problem. At that time public authorities began denouncing prostitution and took severe measures to eliminate it. By the nineteenth century, official enforcement of rules against prostitution had become lax in the U.S. and England; while in nations such as France had rather wide open houses of prostitution in major cities. The U.S. launched a campaign to suppress prostitution. Industrialization and mass communication seem to have been associated with increased repression of deviance in general and sexual deviance in particular.
During the twentieth century, repression and toleration continued, but today in urban areas the trend seems to be toward toleration, and prostitution is becoming increasingly visible.
There have been strong movements to legalize prostitution in the U.S. but it still remains illegal except in some counties in Nevada. According to Dr. Marshall B. Clinard of the University of Wisconsin, prostitution is opposed for five reasons. First, the degradation of women is involved. Second, the threat to public health because of transmission of venereal disease. Third, the effect on general law enforcement through police protection that includes protection of prostitutes who steal from their patrons and use narcotics. Fourth, the effect on marital relations where recourse is had to prostitutes. Finally, the patronage of prostitutes by young persons, soldiers in particular, and its effect on national values (Sexual Deviation in American Society 168).
Deviance is relative, which means that what is considered deviant to one society is not to others. Nowadays, prostitution is regarded as an evil in virtually all societies; but in most societies, it is regarded as an evil that cannot be eliminated. On the other hand, in ancient civilizations, prostitution was not condemned as evil. It was considered sacred by some religious sects. In primitive societies among African peoples, certain women were available in the market place at the end of the normal trading hours for commercialized sex. Other African tribes used prostitutes in some instances as a part of a religious ceremony to initiate the young men of the village to sexual intercourse. Another example is the Anglo Saxon society. Five hundred years ago this society had a custom to lend his wife or daughter to a guest. In return for her kindness, the family or the clan expected to receive his good will, or even sometimes the good will of the gods, expressed in fertility of crops and people.
Today, prostitution is legal, but public solicitation for it is not as in the case of many European and Asian countries such as Denmark, France, Iceland, Norway, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan etc.
In other countries it is illegal but the law is not strictly enforced as in the case of Thailand, U.S., Nigeria etc.
Eventhough, many people oppose prostitution, there are still some parts of the world were prostitution seems not to be deviant. For instance, in Johannesburg in Africa, daily newspapers carry a full list of services. In East Africa, sex is free from cultural and social restrictions. Africa in particular, prostitution is socially accepted to a degree completely unknown to any Western country. Men get open offers in bars and nightclubs. This is true for all African countries that are non-Muslims. In South Korea, being a prostitute is referred as being a businesswoman. It is not a respected profession but not disrespected either. In Netherlands prostitution has always been legal. Since 1988, it has been officially defined as a legal profession and prostitutes joined the Service Sector Union.
As a conclusion, I think prostitution could be tolerated but not culturally accepted. Every one has different perspectives about life and how we should act, but we should respect the way people think as we like others to respect the way each of us think.