top of page

Why do Boys & Girls Engage in Sex for Money

Updated: Dec 14, 2023


In simple terms, juvenile prostitution is the performance of a sex act for money or other needs

such as food, shelter, protection or drugs. Accounts of women and men selling sex appear

throughout recorded history. That is why prostitution is often referred to as the oldest “profession.”

Just as there is a long history of prostitution, children have long been involved through force,

seduction or voluntarily – in various aspects of the sex trade. For example, at one time in the

United States some orphans were raised by the unscrupulous to become prostitutes. Likewise,

children of the poor sometimes were prostituted to supplement the family income.

Although prostitution is not really a “profession,” the sale of sex is a big business; and because it is an illegal act conducted mainly in secrecy, a thorough study of its culture and performers is nearly impossible. Nonetheless, social scientists have learned much about “the life” by observing and interviewing prostitutes. One of the shocking facts is that there is a near epidemic of American kids – both girls and boys – selling their bodies.

Because of the nature of the business, precise numbers do not exist. A recent government report indicates that arrests of boys and girls under age 18 for prostitution and commercial vice numbered just over 1,100, but this figure is a drop in the bucket. Responsible estimates put the number of those involved closer to 500,000. The reason for this difference is that very few juvenile or adult prostitutes are arrested. Prostitution ranks very low among law enforcement priorities, a reflection of the general public attitude toward this offense.

Why juvenile prostitution has ballooned over recent decades (paralleling the rise of gangs,

violence, drug abuse and other crimes committed by young people) is a complex matter. Some

contributing factors include 1) the number of broken and dysfunctional families, 2) the so-called “sexual revolution,” 3) the increase of drug abuse, 4) the breakdown of cultural values and 5) the prevalence of sexual images in music, magazines, television and on the Internet.

A main cause of juvenile prostitution is the number of young people who take to the streets as

runaways or “throwaways.” About 1.5 million American children run away from home each

year, and parents throw out another 150,000 or more from their homes. Finding themselves

unprepared to get and keep jobs, some of these kids turn to prostitution as a way to survive.

Common Experiences of Juvenile Prostitutes

Juvenile prostitutes come from all social, economic, ethnic and family backgrounds. Because a

boy or girl has the following experiences DOES NOT necessarily mean she or he will become a prostitute. Likewise, not having these experiences does not necessarily mean a boy or girl will not become a prostitute. The following list represents the more common experiences shared by juvenile prostitutes.

  • Demanding, hard-to-please fathers or stepfathers

  • Domestic violence

  • Emotional abuse

  • Emotional neglect

  • Foster care or institutional placement

  • Homelessness or poverty

  • Involvement in pornography

  • Lack of appropriate gender or sexual role models

  • Lack of appropriate moral or ethical training

  • Overcrowding in the home

  • Parental alcohol or other drug abuse

  • Parental mental health problems

  • Parental prostitution

  • Parental separation or divorce

  • Physical abuse

  • Physical neglect

  • Poor communication between family members

  • Problems at school

  • Problems with the law

  • Seductive, domineering or self-indulgent mothers

  • Severe parental rejection

  • Sexual abuse

  • Sexual promiscuity by a family member, especially the mother

  • Sexual victimization by a family member

  • Single-parenting

  • Thrown out of the home by parents because of disagreements, incorrigibility or as unwanted

  • Unclear or confused sex role

  • Weak and ineffectual mothers or stepmothers

Common Personal Characteristics of Juvenile Prostitutes

Juvenile prostitutes represent a range of personality types, intelligence levels and other personal characteristics. Because a girl or boy has the following personal characteristics DOES NOT necessarily mean he or she will become a prostitute. Likewise, not having these personal characteristics does not necessarily mean a boy or girl will not become a prostitute. The following list represents the more common personal characteristics shared by many juvenile prostitutes.

  • Abuse of or addiction to alcohol or other drugs

  • Aggressive, deviant and violent behavior

  • Desire for independence

  • Desire to be loved, appreciated and cared for

  • Economic dependency

  • Emotional dependency

  • Ill-defined sex-role, especially among boy prostitutes

  • Impulsivity

  • Involvement in delinquent or criminal activities

  • Lack of education, work experience or job skills

  • Lack of goal orientation

  • Lack of meaningful relationships

  • Like excitement, adventure and risk-taking

  • Low self-esteem

  • Mistrust adults, authority and “do-gooders”

  • Need money, food, shelter, protection

  • Poorly defined goals

  • Poor school adjustment, attendance or grades

  • Rebelliousness, sometimes prompted by family rigidity

  • Running away from home

  • Self-destructive behavior

  • Unrealistic view of life, romance, work *

99 views1 comment

1 Comment

Denis Mercier
Denis Mercier
Oct 18, 2023

This is a mini-course in all aspects of this unfortunate downside of the foster children tragedy. The candor, brevity and thoroughness of its content distinguish it from anyhting I've ever read about this subject. (And I've read quite a bit!)

This topic deserves a wider audience and adequare funding. Thanks again to Dr. Brown and the William Gladden Foundation!

bottom of page