British Sociological Association Annual Conference location:Glasgow date:7-10 April 2010
One of the puzzles of prostitution is what causes prostitution markets to emerge and to grow. Some assert that this is mainly due to the demand side. For instance, demographic factors (a surplus of men, delayed marriage) are sometimes cited. Others assert that the demand side is crucial, for example the poverty among women. Finally quite some attention has been paid to the hypothetical effects of regulation on prostitution. Strange enough, typical sociological approaches are uncommon among explanations for the existence or magnitude of prostitution markets. In this paper we argue the necessity of this type of explanations. This paper explains the proportion of young female sex workers in a sample of 40 countries worldwide. Two models are tested. An economic model predicts that the sex ratio, urbanization, development and regulation explain market size. The ‘social closure’ model introduces female social closure and migration as factors. Stepwise regressions and bootstraps reject the former model and partly confirm the latter. The traditionalist gender norm hindering women’s access to socio-economic resources has the strongest effect. Where women are expected to stay as mothers and housewives and not to move into work, prostitution markets tend to be bigger.