Sex Trade, Sex Industry

June 29, 2010Sex Industryby EconomyWatch


The sex trade involves the recruitment, provision and transportation of individuals for commercial sex. The legal status of the sex industry varies among countries. Most sex workers are forced into the industry.

The main forms of the sex trade include:

  • Street prostitution

  • Escort agencies

  • Sex tourism

  • Internet trade

  • Child prostitution

  • Male prostitution
  • History of the sex trade

    The sex trade can be traced back to the Sumerians and Babylonians. It flourished in the urban regions during the Middle Ages. It was considered sinful by all religious entities. The Roman Catholic Church exhibited some tolerance to the sex trade, with the aim of preventing the bigger evils of rape and sodomy. Regulations against the sex trade increased across Europe after the outbreak of syphilis in Naples during the fifteenth century. Sex trafficking increased across the world in the 19th century. The trade boomed in the latter half of the 20th century as a result of globalization and western tourism.

    The Sex Trade: Demand and Supply Drivers

    Demand and supply are influenced significantly by the legal status of the sex trade in the region. Regions that have legalized the sex trade have higher demand and supply. Moreover, this allows governments to set regulations for the protection of individuals and sex workers, which also boosts demand and supply. Education has a role to play as well. Awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, impacts demand to a large extent. Poverty and unemployment tend to fuel the supply of sex workers. Demand and supply surge during special occasions (such as New Year’s Eve) and events (such as the 2006 football World Cup in Germany).

    The Sex Trade: Major Players

    The sex trade is legal in a number of countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Israel and most of Europe and South America. Popular destinations for the sex trade include South Korea, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The sex trade is flourishing in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. According to a report published by The Age in 2003, the sex trade in Thailand alone generates revenues of more than US$ 4.3 billion annually (3% of the nation’s economy).

    However, it is difficult to estimate the revenues from this industry as a large portion of it functions underground.

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