Sometimes called “the oldest profession,” prostitution is known by many names, from streetwalkers and brothels to sophisticated call-girl or escort services. However, whatever name it goes by, prostitution is illegal in almost all fifty states.
At its most basic definition, prostitution is the exchange of a sexual act for money. State laws have expanded the definition to make it a crime to offer, agree to, or engage in a sexual act for compensation of any kind.
Prostitution is illegal in all states except certain parts of Nevada, where it is strictly regulated.
The term “people who exchange sex for money or nonmonetary items” (hereinafter referred to as “people who exchange sex”) includes a broad range of persons who trade sex for income or other items including food, drugs, medicine, and shelter. Persons who exchange sex are at increased risk of getting or transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors (e.g., sex without a condom, sex with multiple partners) and substance use. Persons who engage in such activities include escorts; people who work in massage parlors, brothels, and the adult film industry; exotic dancers; state-regulated prostitutes (in Nevada); and men, women, and transgender persons who participate in survival sex, i.e., trading sex to meet basic needs of daily life. For any of the above, sex can be consensual or non-consensual. It is important for people who exchange sex to get tested for HIV regularly and know their status.
Prostitution laws prohibit anyone from providing or offering to provide sexual conduct in exchange for money or any other form of compensation. They also punish those who offer sex for money (that is, solicit) or who purchase any sexual service. These laws are not confined to people who directly participate in the proscribed sexual activity; they also penalize those who arrange or benefit financially from prostitution arrangements.
In Maryland, prostitution, pimping (receiving the earnings of a prostitute), and pandering (procuring a sexual act for pay from another) of adults are misdemeanor crimes. The crimes are increased to felonies, with greater penalties, where they involve minors. A person convicted of certain prostitution-related crimes may have to register as a sex offender under Maryland law.
Maryland law defines prostitution as a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse exchanged for money. In Maryland, a person commits the misdemeanor when he or she knowingly:
• engages in prostitution or “assignation”
• operates or sets up a building or other structure for prostitution or assignation
• allows a building or other structure that he or she owns or controls to be used for prostitution or assignation
• allows a person into a building or other structure for prostitution or assignation, or
• procures or solicits, or offers to procure or solicit, another for prostitution or assignation (pandering or soliciting, as a “john,” or pimping).