Sociology 2105A/B Lecture Notes - Multiple Sex Partners, Cunnilingus, Fellatio

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1 Feb 2013
Sociological Perspectives on Prostitution
The Functionalist Perspective
• The functionalist perspective argues that the presence of a certain amount of deviance in society
contributes to its overall stability. According to Emile Durkheim, deviance clarifies social norms and
helps societies to maintain social control over people’s behavior. By punishing those who engage in
deviant behavior such as prostitution, the society reaffirms its commitment to its sexual norms and
creates loyalty to the society as people bind together to oppose this behavior.
• According to Kingsley Davis, in societies that have restrictive norms governing sexual conduct
including the United Statesprostitution will always exist because it serves important functions:
1) Prostitution provides quick, impersonal sexual gratification that does not require emotional
attachment or a continuing relationship with another person
2) Prostitution provides a sexual outlet for men who do not have ongoing sexual relationships because
they are not married or have heavy work schedules
3) It provides people with the opportunity to engage in sexual practices (e.g., multiple sex partners,
fellatio, cunnilingus, anal intercourse, sadomasochism) that regular sex partners or spouses may view as
distasteful or immoral
4) Prostitution protects the family as a social institution by making a distinction between “bad girls” and
“bad boys”—with whom one engages in promiscuous sexual behavior—and those “good girls” and
“good boys” with whom one establishes a family
5) Prostitution benefits the economy by providing jobs for people who have limited formal education
and job skills
The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
• The symbolic interactionist perspective examines people’s lived experiences to determine such things
as why people become prostitutes, whether prostitutes like their work, and why men seek out
prostitutesin short, how people define social realities.
• According to Howard Becker, entering a deviant career is similar in many ways to entering any other
occupation. The primary difference is the labeling that goes with a deviant career. Public labeling of
people as deviant and their acceptance or rejection of that label are crucial factors in determining
whether or not a person stays in a deviant career.
• Symbolic interactionists suggest that the need of men to validate their sexual prowess or reaffirm their
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