"Oppression tries to defend itself by its utility."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Final Project: Two Viewpoints of Female Teen Prostitutes

This final project analyzes two perceptions of female teen prostitutes in the media. The first viewpoint is female teenage prostitutes are victims of abuse, trafficking, and other forms of sexual slavery. The second viewpoint is of female teenage girls willingly and knowingly prostituting themselves for material gain. Both viewpoints are the most common representations in today’s media whether it’s film, news, television, or advertisements.

Throughout the media, many teen female prostitutes are viewed as victims. Within this role, we often see lower class girls being from homes where they have ran away from abuse, neglect, or other problems. In order to support themselves, they use their bodies as a way to gain finances. Unfortunately, this leaves females vulnerable to being hustled by pimps, being abused by Johns, and being vulnerable to the darker elements of American Society whether it is trafficking, drugs, alcohol, or disappearances-these girls are particularly vulnerable.

The media viewpoint of girls as victims comes with a double-edged sword. Media often highlights the girls vulnerability to violence yet rarely introduces the fact that many prostitutes report being raped repeatedly day in and out. Further, for girls under the age of consent, every sexual act between this girl and an adult is an illegal act of statutory rape. Yet the girls who are referred to as victims are also penalized for being “used”. This idea is reminiscent of an article by Tolman and Higgins, How Being a Good Girl Can be Bad. The authors state, “the story of male aggression and female responsibility suffuses the culture and operates to regulate human sexuality…by discouraging women’s sexual agency and men’s sexual responsibility, these culture norms encourage coercion and violence.” Media portrayal in this light still holds the female teenaged prostitute responsible for the actions of Johns and pimps.

The alternative viewpoints of female teenaged prostitutes are middle class females who sell their bodies in exchange for high-end goods or money. These prostitutes choose other venues to sell their bodies. For example, some use Craigslist or backpage.com as a place to sell themselves to upper class clientele. They also advertise by word of mouth and choose particular events in order to have access to higher pay in exchange for sex. This sort of media representation affirms SCWAAMP’s hold even in “alternative forms of employment”. These prostitutes are often white, from middle class to upper class households whose parents swear by their family’s high moral standing, affluence, and straightness. These girls are using their abled bodies to gain property and power through capitalistic ideas of female power. This may not be exclusively an American idea however, in very few other places in the world are females able to choose this as a means of status.

Further, these girls are an example of the very problems we see during the post-feminist era. Susan Douglas acknowledges these consumer issues in her piece Enlighted Sexism. Douglas notes that there are ways to earn power and money however, “television, the movies, and in advertising also insist that purchasing power and sexual power are much more gratifying than political or economic power. Buying stuff-the right stuff, a lot of stuff-emerged as the dominant way to empower.” Teenaged female prostitution is a byproduct of the idea of sexual and commoditized empowerment. Since teen girls are the targets of marketers and advertisers, it only makes sense that females would feel empowered to sell their bodies in order to be able to keep up with the media enforced ideas of power for girls.

Both of these media viewpoints of female teenaged prostitutes may be different but are still not fully analyzed by root of the problem within society. Media sends messages to girls and men about sexuality constantly. In the piece, Master Your Johnson, the authors examination of the media describe the essential argument from male and female magazines: “a man who has a difficulty finding sexual partners should feel free to manipulate or target vulnerable women, or seek sexual entertainment through strip clubs, pornography, and prostitution. Sating one’s sexual appetite is the only important consideration.”

The American society has a fixation on sexual acts and sexuality but it is regulated through patriarchy. Female teenaged prostitution is one symptom of the greater illness that patriarchy instills. Female bodies are the victims of this patriarchy and media is the chief weapon in the oppression of female teenaged prostitutes. Due to the lack of power these females have, men who are almost always the recipient are not held accountable for their participation. They are not held accountable for the exploitation of girls' bodies whether it's as a pimp or as a marketing executive.


  1. Katherine,
    What a interesting topic to pick, I never would have thought of this because it wasn't something we talking about in class. But its a great topic. Before watching your video I couldn't think of many examples of prostitutes in the media. I feel like this isn't something we hear of on the news. I honestly have never seen a prostitute, but this could be from growing up in a country setting, and not a city. I learned alot from your post on prostitutes, but from watching your video first i didn't pick up on your argument statement, maybe next time start off with that. I think with your topic you can also show many examples of how the discourses play into act. Great job with showing how SCWAAMP played into your topic, and also other class readings. If I understood your argument, then females are the victims in this.

  2. Your video is awesome! I am so against the prostitutes going to jail while their pimps and john are set free. I think that if a girl who is twenty-one and who wants to sell her body willingly and is not pressured into it, let her do it. Its her body and she can do what she wants. Who are we to set laws against this or tell them they shouldn't have sex for money. People buy and sell clothing for money. I also think that the victims who have been forced or manipulated into prostitution, should be provided with help and resources to escape that lifestyle and be free. I also think that sexual slavery must stop and more people should be aware of this huge problem in today's world. There should be more education and prevention efforts so that no more people will be enslaved.

  3. Your topic and video is very interesting. The topic it self was never really something that I really thought about because I didn't hear much about it in the media, but after seeing your video gain alot of interest in now knowing that teenage prostitution is a big issue. Personally I believe that prostitution is horrible, especially when dealing with children. I couldn't believe that middle class teen were actually prostituting for material things. Also the part in the you tube video that i agreed with was when the woman says that they couldn't believe that instead of taking the girl to the hospital, they charged her for prostitution. This also relates to what u stated about Tolman and Higgins and how women are responsible for the men's actions, even pimps.

  4. Katherine very interesting topic. I have seen some documentaries on teenage prostitution but i would have never thought to look at this. Great job. You raised so many wonderful points in your movie. i dont think alot of people realize that some of theses girls afr forced into prostitution by older men, women, and sometimes even family members. And at such a young age they are so vulnerable and it gets hard for them to stop when this is the only life they know. But on the other hand you have the girls who choose to do this as a living because it;s what they want. I believe that help is what these girls need. love support and guidance. not going to jail. Like your video said "Any other time she would be too young to consent to sex" but in this circumstance their not and can be sent to jail. I think thats a contradiction. As far as child trafficking it sickens me that anyone would even want to do such things to a child. Unfortunately there are such horrible people in the world. Great movie. You did an Excellent job!!

  5. I liked the topic of your video. However, I feel like besides the news no other media really covers this topic. I think child prostitution is so looked passed and nobody stops and really thinks about what is happening. In the United States though it's not s big as an issue as in other countries. Here, there are at least some laws protecting children. However, other places don't do that for their kids. Great topic!!

  6. I really enjoyed the topic you chose for your project. Child Prostitution is a very delicate case that i feel no one pays much attention to. I think that all media needs to put a word out for child prostitution since sad fully it still goes on today. I fee that the only one that covers topics like these is Lifetime. Like commented before this is a topic much tougher to find and I believe you did an amazing job with this video!

  7. It is funny the media makes it seem like all prostitutes as runaways or homeless without any family and your findings really surprised me.