This question is from Joe J. in San Francisco's Mission District: "What's your view on prostitution?"
For a moment forget about whether it's right or wrong or the fact that it's illegal. Since the Great Recession began about 25% of single women in San Francisco have become part time sex workers and it's keeping them from becoming homeless. Ironically, prostitution is keeping them off the street.
You've probably heard the rumor that most sex workers in San Francisco are from South Korea. It's known as "sex trafficking." Rumor has it that the women were kidnapped overseas and brought here against their will and then held hostage in massage parlors and in houses that are located in residential neighborhoods. It's true that there are cases like that, but most of the women were already prostitutes in South Korea and they moved here to make more money.
Other than them, most sex workers have real jobs or they go to school full time. They have entry level clerical jobs such as receptionists and accounting clerks, or in retail and food service. Many are full time students in college, and I know of one who is an undergrad at Stanford University. The reason why their jobs and financial aid from school is not enough money is because the rents are too high throughout the entire San Francisco metropolitan region, and moving outside of the area where the rents are cheaper won't solve their problem because there aren't any four year universities or large employers out there. They'll get stuck working as a cashier at a gas station for the rest of their lives.
In Europe there's an old tradition of married men supporting a mistress. It's very common there. Over the last ten years it has exploded in the United States and now there are several different dating websites for that purpose. I heard that the guys try to get "free samples" from all of the women. They tell women that it's necessary to have sex a few times before deciding whether to hire them. This part is really important to women: The men state that they earn over $200,00 a year and own over two million dollars of assets, and then later when it comes time to negotiate with his mistress he'll give her a lowball salary offer. In other words, she's already had sex with him a dozen times for free (and he couldn't find a new sugar baby to give him more free samples) and so in order to keep getting sex he'll have to pay her. When they met he told her that he earns a million dollars a year and that he'll pay her $3,000 per month, and then later when it comes time to pay her it will be a hundred and fifty bucks. He'll do that once a week and keep searching for a new sugar baby who will give him free samples. These guys don't have any money. It's an old con artist trick that's called "bait and switch."
Some men drive up the women's personal expenses (buying clothes, lingerie, making appointments at the hair salon) and they make her pay for it up front and promise that they'll reimburse her later, and then when it's time to give her the money they disappear.
Some men tell women that they own prime real estate that they don't own, and companies too. If she catches him lying than he'll tell her that he's in the process of buying it. These guys are so clever that they'll even meet with the seller and close the deal right in front of her face, and then when she's not around they'll silently back out of the deal. And then he'll tell her that escrow will take 90 days. That way he can lead her on for three months. That is a textbook con artist.
To get legal advice on mistress arrangements you'd have to ask a criminal defense attorney. I've never had a conversation with one about it and so I don't know what's on the books. I assume that if a Sugar Daddy offers someone a traditional mistress arrangement than it's legal, but if he renegotiates with her ("bait & switch") and offers to pay her $200 per visit than it's prostitution, and I'm 100% certain that's illegal.
Police officers are human like everyone else and for some prostitution is strictly a legal issue, not a moral one, and they figured out how to make it legal. It boils down to jurisdiction. Interstate crime is handled by the FBI and so they do it in foreign countries. I know a married officer who has a "companion" in China whom he goes on vacation with once or twice a year.
There's one other way they do it but it's rare. Soldiers do it to get a better compensation package from the military, and cops do it to get sex and a free babysitter for his kids if he's a single parent. Here it is: They marry a prostitute. It's the kind of marriage that comes with a strong prenuptial agreement, separate banking, a vasectomy, and no shared assets or community property of any kind. Clearly it's a one sided agreement, and a woman who is desperate for a place to live would be under duress when she signs it. Sadly, if they stay married and they develop a real relationship than the original terms of their marriage will stay the same. Unless he changes it which is unlikely, even if they have kids together.
There is a wide variety of different reasons why prostitution exists and so I wouldn't focus on just the prostitutes and their clients. Contributing factors are the high rents, employers who pay their female employees less than they should, and all of the families out there who refuse to help their adult daughters/sisters. Additionally, there are all of the boyfriends out there who refuse to help their longtime girlfriends when they're in financial crisis. Some guys dump their girlfriends when they ask them for money even after they've been together for years.
I believe that prostitutes did not chose that lifestyle. Like most women they probably wanted to get married. Therefore, the real question is why they haven't found a husband. To me the answer is clear; they don't have the contemporary American version of a traditional English dowry. In the Bay Area, guys look for women who earn over $50,000 and have parents who will contribute $100,000 towards the down payment on a house. They date poor women and they have long term relationships with them but they don't marry them. If they invite her to move in than it won't last for very long because eventually she'll want to get engaged and he won't.
Some guys are unmarriageable. For example, there are men who hire prostitutes because they want them to leave in the morning instead of staying with him like a real girlfriend would. (All of the married clients fall into that category). Additionally, are those who wish they had a real girlfriend but they have an undiagnosed/untreated mental illness or a personality disorder that sabotages their relationships. Some of them are chronically unemployed or they work in straight commission jobs that keep them on the edge of a financial crisis. There are womanizers who feel the need to sample every single female to make sure that they're exploring all of their options. All of the guys in this paragraph might as well move to Nevada where prostitution is legal because their relationships won't last.