On a collective level, the mistreatment of female sex workers by police, johns and society represents a vicious form of sexism and misogyny. Sex workers’ customers, the vast majority of whom are men, may be vilified by their spouses or communities when it is discovered that they regularly visit or have visited sex workers, but this behavior is treated as an individual act, not a condemnation of the man’s entire existence.

Women, on the other hand, are treated as if sex work is not just their “job” or even their “crime,” but their entire existence. Police officers and judges don’t treat sex workers as women who have violated a law, they treat them as “prostitutes,” actually often referring to them in much cruder terms. Likewise for johns who see them only as bodies or specific body parts at that; and for the homeowners or angry wives who want them out of their neighborhoods, seeing them as eyesores, temptresses or carriers of disease rather than human beings.

This societal treatment of sex workers on the moral level is mirrored on the judicial level, where sex workers bear the brunt of the criminal justice system while johns usually get off relatively lightly. In 2002, the Chicago police department made 4,486 arrests for prostitution-related offenses. That included 953 john-related arrests and 67 arrests for pimping/pandering, so with the exception of some men arrested for male prostitution, women were arrested at about four times the rate men were.

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