delve a little deeper....
It's not a new observation, but not one I have written about before. People are uncomfortable by the word prostitute. I say people, I mainly refer to others in the sex industry. Go and look at any number of sex workers website, no one refers to themselves as a prostitute and most clients refer to 'seeing an escort'. Prostitute is used as an insult, we may jokingly refer to 'prossying' , but very few women actually stand up and proclaim to be a prostitute. If I'm honest, I prefer 'escort' or 'sex worker' over prostitute, but I don't have any qualms in referring to prostitution as a concept and it's fine when the industry is referred to in academic terms, although sex worker is the accepted term these days and the media are also shifting to sex worker (unless it's a shitty tabloid piece).
So, why are people squeamish about the word prostitute? The dictionary definition of prostitute is:
1. One who solicits and accepts payment for sex acts.
2. One who sells one's abilities, talent, or name for an unworthy purpose.
tr.v. pros·ti·tut·ed, pros·ti·tut·ing, pros·ti·tutes
1. To offer (oneself or another) for sexual hire.
2. To sell (oneself or one's talent, for example) for an unworthy purpose.
The etymology of the word is in is derived from the Latin prostituta. Some sources cite the verb as a composition of "pro" meaning "up front" or "forward" and "situere", defined as "to offer up for sale".
Another explanation is that "prostituta" is a composition of pro and statuere-to cause to stand, to station, place erect with derivatives meaning "place or thing that is standing"
The Online Etymology Dictionary states the definition, as used from the 1520's as meaning
"to offer to indiscriminate sexual intercourse (usually in exchange for money)," from Latin prostitutus, past participle of prostituere "to expose to prostitution, expose publicly," from pro- "before" + statuere "cause to stand, establish," from PIE root *sta- "to stand," with derivatives meaning "place or thing that is standing"
The Online Etymology Dictionary states that prostitute as a noun means "harlot, woman who offers her body indiscriminately" (usually for money).
Interestingly, if I may pop off at a tangent for a second; pornography etymologically denotes the "depiction of prostitutes" Originally, porno meant, "bought, purchased, exported, sold".
According to Ernest Klein, in his Klein's Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, "The Greek element originally meant 'bought, purchased', and is related to another Greek word that meant, 'I sell', or 'I give for equal value.'
What strikes me is the use of the word indiscriminate. This means without care, or randomly, without thought which to be fair is how a lot of people view prostitutes, that's we'll let whoever wants to come along and fuck us. Whilst I appreciate there are some women in that position, usually though desperate poverty or because they are being forced to; for most UK based sex workers this isn't the case at all.
Most of us are very careful who they see and most have some kind of screening. Personally, if someone can't send a proper email or text mentioning a date or time and some kind of politeness then I won't entertain them. In fact, being called 'babe' can be enough for me to ignore a potential punter! (I really hate it). I also have other work which I do around escorting so if I'm on a deadline or have a meeting then no can do.
I wonder if the implication that prostitution is someone who fucks anyone is why so many women feel awkward about the word or whether it's simply because they feel it lumps us all together with those women who are standing on street corners trying to get enough money for their next fix. Clients can be icky about it too. I've had men tell me 'you're not a prostitute! You're an escort, that's different!' It's sweet I suppose, but more about their internalised squickiness about what they are doing...
It isn't really, a prostitute sells sexual services for cash whether she is charging £20 or £2000. But, essentially most people are left slightly queasy about the word prostitute; escort, call girl, companion, courtesan, concubine and so on are far nicer words that imply luxury, class and I think choice. Choice to offer sex yet turn down those they don't want to see. Don't get me started on sugar babies who tend to be in total denial that they are sex workers let alone prostitutes!
Whilst I am sure there are plenty of women who are happy to say 'I am a prostitute', in some kind of reclaiming of the word you won't see it in any of their marketing!