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The Online Etymology Dictionary states, "The notion of 'sex for hire' is not inherent in the etymology, which rather suggests one 'exposed to lust' or sex 'indiscriminately offered.'" The word prostitute was then carried down through various languages to the present-day Western society.
Most sex worker activists groups reject the word prostitute and since the late 1970s have used the term sex worker instead.
It is sometimes referred to euphemistically as "the world's oldest profession" in the English-speaking world.
There are about 42 million prostitutes in the world, living all over the world (though most of Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa lacks data, studied countries in that large region rank as top sex tourism destinations).
However, sex worker can also mean anyone who works within the sex industry or whose work is of a sexual nature and is not limited solely to prostitutes.
A variety of terms are used for those who engage in prostitution, some of which distinguish between different types of prostitution or imply a value judgment about them.
Women: whore, hooker, call girl, business girl (B-girl), streetwalker, trollop, strumpet, courtesan, escort, lady of the evening, working girl, doxy, scarlet woman, harlot, drab Men: Rent boy, male escort, gigolo, lad model, gent of the night, sporting boy, weeping willy Female clients: janes, Prostitution is sometimes described as commercial sex or hooking. Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution.
The legal status of prostitution varies from country to country (sometimes from region to region within a given country), ranging from being permissible but unregulated, to an enforced or unenforced crime, or a regulated profession.The word "prostitution" can also be used metaphorically to mean debasing oneself or working towards an unworthy cause or "selling out". For the sake of the longed alliance with imperialist democracies [Stalin] has brought the Comintern to the last stages of political prostitution." Besides targeting political figures, the term is used in relation to organizations and even small countries, which "have no choice but to sell themselves", because their voice in world affairs is insignificant.In this sense, "prostituting oneself" or "whoring oneself" the services or acts performed are typically not sexual. In 2007, a Russian caricature depicted the Baltic states as three "ladies of the night", "vying for the attentions of Uncle Sam, since the Russian client has run out of money".Correctly or not, use of the word prostitute without specifying a sex may commonly be assumed to be female; compound terms such as male prostitution or male escort are therefore often used to identify males.Those offering services to female customers are commonly known as gigolos; those offering services to male customers are hustlers or rent boys.
Clients of prostitutes are sometimes known as johns or tricks in North America and punters in the British Isles.