Male Needs & Prostitution Sectors
The needs and constraints of sex-buying men determine the logic and structure of the different prostitution sectors. Though most analyst's focus on female sellers, it is the johns who actually determine the shape of each prostitution niche.
For instance, the dockside sex sector caters explicitly to the needs and constraints of transient foreign seamen. Their transience and foreignness, as well as their work life and social demands, forces prostitutes to accommodate them in certain ways. Truck-stop women cater to truckers who also have special work-related constraints. Courtesans cater to international businessmen. Call-girls cater to local middle- and upper-class men. It is not that the women who dictate the profile of the sector; they participate in a sector that is already structured around the needs of men. It's a case of sellers meeting the buyers' demands.
So what are the sailors' needs and constraints? How might they compare to johns' needs of other sectors?
SAFETY: Foreign sailors are particularly vulnerable to local predators who can take advantage of their relative ignorance of the city. They can rob, abuse, or injure them. Thus sailors demand safe places for their social and sexual recreation. Without safety and security, they will not proceed with sexual negotiations.
From the 1970s, dockside nightclubs have provided a safe space for foreign seamen to drink and socialize with their mates, to enjoy the companionship of local women through dancing and conversation, and to engage in negotiations with a women for a post-club tryst. (Before this time, brothels were more common for dockside sexual recreation, but due to the containerization of cargo which obliterated the traditional dockside community—and the declining numbers of seamen—downtown nightclubs have become the norm.) The clubs maintain the safety of the sailors by discouraging local men from entering and by enforcing strict rules against theft and violence (by sailors and women).
Safety concerns are not a high priority for men in other sectors because they are rarely targets of abuse. The women are.
SOCIAL OPPORTUNITIES: Sailors usually arrive at the clubs in groups with a crucial social agenda: male-bonding. Nightclubs recognize the importance that sailors place on creating affective bonds outside the workplace. It enhances their trust, esprit de corps, and teamwork capacity when they're back on the ship. So the clubs give them a space to drink, dance, sing, shoot pool, watch TV, call home, etc. They can enjoy camaraderie with their mates while tasting the pleasures of female companionship.
The women who solicit from them must accommodate their activities to this larger need. This is not a problem. For the men, success with females—even if they are prostitutes and, by definition, available for hire—has long been a staple of male bonding. So most of the women's efforts actually complements the male-bonding sessions at the club.
OTHER SECTORS: In contrast to foreign sailors, local curb-crawlers who pick up streetwalkers (usually in cars) do not strive for safety or social opportunities. They already enjoy safety. And they prefer to roam solo. Their nocturnal dalliance is explicitly focused on finding a sexually available woman and having sex with her. Curb-crawlers have a more concentrated view of what he wants from a prostitute: streetwalkers strip their services to the bare minimum to accommodate these sex-buyers. No need for a brothel, a club, a male-bonding situation, or sophisticated conversation for them: just a body to satisfy their sexual urges.
Guys who seek instant availability and a level of discretion often choose brothels. Then they do not have to drive the women around (like curbcrawlers), take them to their homes (curbcrawlers, sometimes), don't have to socialize with men (like sailors), nor engage in conversation. They don't want the hassle of wooing a woman at a normal nightclub because that can imply relationship entanglements which he seeks to avoid. The brothel offers available women behind closed doors.
All of this is to say that different prostitution sectors cater to the needs and constraints of sex-buying males. It is important to understand this when considering prostitution and the role that women play within it.