It’s the most tried and true — arguably — one of the most lucrative, and not to mention, oldest professions in the world. The reputation of those who participate in it has been sullied since time immemorial. But the morality of it is, at best, nebulous, in my opinion.

The dictionary defines prostitution as, “the act or practice of engaging in sexual intercourse for money.” But this definition, which most people subscribe to, supplies no meaning for those who choose to engage in pro bono sex. What is the antonym for the word prostitute, and why isn’t there a pejorative connotation associated with giving away free sex?

We all do it. Our mamas, our grandmamas, and our grandmama’s mamas before that. An elder woman, old enough to be my grandmama, once told me quite matter-of-factly that “a lady should never be wet between the legs with dry palms.” It wasn’t until many years later that I deciphered the meaning of her cryptic message. This was a woman who had been married for 40-plus years, respectable by all of society’s arbitrary standards, bore children who wed and graduated from college, attended church regularly, and was a doting grandmother — sage advice. Another friend, who also happens to be a married, educated mother, politely interjected into one of our conversations about dating and courtship: “Well you’re not supposed to have sex with a man if you don’t have his social security number.” Both of these remarks by these married women imply their feelings that sex should not be had without some form of recompense. But I have a feeling that neither of these ladies would view themselves as women of ill repute — and neither do I. However, if the very definition of prostitution presupposes a monetary transaction of some kind, are these married women engaging in a form of prostitution?

Some years ago a college coed garnered news headlines, which received national attention. She had devised a plan, a quite savvy one in fact, to sell her virginity online (I would have guessed she was a business student, turns out she was a Women’s Studies major, go figure). Bids reached up to 3.7 million dollars for one night of pleasure with the unsullied virgin. She eventually brokered a deal to be ‘deflowered’ at the infamous Moonlite BunnyRanch where the suitor paid a reported $1 million dollars to have sex with the young coed. She, in turn, received $600,000 from the deal. Before they consummated the deal, the guy was sent through a rigorous background check and was free of venereal diseases. I know a lot of ladies must have been thinking to themselves, “With all the bad free sex I’ve had in my life, that wasn’t such a bad idea.”

There are countless examples of the exchange of money and material items for sex that inundate our television sets daily. Marlo Hampton, the newest addition to the Real Housewives of Atlanta admitted that her ‘Big Poppa’ was a “Billionaire with a B.” I guess ‘Big Poppa’ in this instance is a euphemism for a ‘trick’ or a ‘John.’ She appears to be compensated very well for her services, boasting an immaculately designed townhome, a paid for Aston Martin, and an endless collection of designer attire. These are obviously material items that she holds in high esteem and is willing to work for in the form of sexual favors. But again, would she refer to herself as a prostitute? Probably not, but — by definition — that essentially is what it is.

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