is the business or practice of engaging in sexual relations or sex
acts in exchange for payment or some other benefit. Prostitution is sometimes described as commercial sex
. Depending on the jurisdiction, prostitution can be legal or illegal. A person who works in this field is called a prostitute, and is a kind of sex worker. Prostitution is one of the branches of the sex industry: other branches include pornography, stripping, nude
modelling, and erotic dancing. The legal status of prostitution varies from country to country (sometimes from region to region within a given country), ranging from being permissible but unregulated, to an enforced or unenforced crime, or a regulated profession
. It is sometimes referred to euphemistically as "the world's oldest profession" in the English-speaking world. Estimates place the annual revenue generated by prostitution worldwide to be over $100 billion.
Prostitution occurs in a variety of forms. Brothels
are establishments specifically dedicated
to prostitution. In escort prostitution, the act may take place at the client's residence
or hotel room (referred to as out-call), or at the escort's residence or a hotel room rented for the occasion by the escort (in-call). Another form is street prostitution. Although the majority of prostitutes are female and have male
clients, a prostitute can be, and have clients, of any gender
or sexual orientation
There are about 42 million prostitutes in the world, living all over the world (though most of Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa lacks data, studied countries in that large region rank as top sex tourism
destinations). Sex tourism
refers to the practice of traveling to engage in sexual relations with prostitutes in other countries. Some rich clients may pay for long-term contracts
that may last for years.
Some view prostitution as a form of exploitation of or violence against women, and children, that helps to create a supply of victims for human trafficking. Some critics of prostitution as an institution are supporters of the Swedish approach, which has also been adopted by Canada, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Norway and France.