People who work in the field of prostitution are called prostitutes and are sex workers. The legality of this profession varies from country to country, and sometimes even from region to region within a country. Although the majority of prostitutes are female with male clients, there are also gay male prostitutes, lesbian prostitutes, and heterosexual male prostitutes.
Prostitution exists in a variety of forms.
- Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution. They are often confined to special red-light districts in big cities. Other names for brothels include bordello, whorehouse, cathouse, knocking shop, and general houses. Prostitution can also occur in some rather illicit massage parlors.
- Escorts prostitute themselves at a client's residence or hotel room rented by or for the escort. They may be distinguished from prostitution in that sexual activities are not necessarily included in these services; rather, payment is often noted as being for an escort's time and companionship only, although sexual activities are typically expected. The escort may be independent or working as part of an escort agency. Services may be advertised over the internet, in regional publications, or in local telephone listings.
- Street Prostitution is where a prostitute solicits customers while waiting at street corners, sometimes called "the track" by pimps and prostitutes alike. Street prostitutes are often called "streetwalkers" while their customers are referred to as "tricks" or "johns." Servicing the customers is described as "turning tricks." The sex is usually performed in the customer's car, a nearby alley, or a rented room.
Prostitution also has a history of violence associated with it, to both prostitutes and their clients alike. The enslavement of people for prostitution is not uncommon, and even the use of children as sex workers is not unheard of.