Patty's introduction to prostitution certainly reinforces this notion: it became a part of her life as a result of her social situation and a perceived necessity. Still, more fervent moral positions against prostitution, in the Untied States, often come from Christianity. Obviously, it violates the general principles of Christianity to pay for sexual intercourse; however, it is also a violation of Christian principles to engage in premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexual sex, or even masturbation. Notably, none of these actions are illegal in the United States -- or at least the antiquated laws pertaining to them are not enforced -- and of them, only homosexuality is ever regularly regarded as a form of social deviance; though this too is a matter of debate. Ultimately, viewing prostitution as a moral crime from the standpoint of Christianity fails miserably, because doing so would require accepting that law should be solely determined by Christian ethics. Fundamentally, such a position is unacceptable because "Christian law" would inevitably impinge upon the rights of individuals both to act freely -- if they wanted to masturbate, for instance -- and to choose the nature of their religious lives.
Nevertheless, the moral problems with Patty's particular situation are somewhat more complex than the general moral status of prostitution as a practice between two consenting adults. This is both because she was exposed to it as such an early age, and because although she is HIV positive, she continues to work as a prostitute without making use of safer-sex practices -- specifically condoms. Patty contends that she does not insist upon her clients' use of condoms and she does not inform them of her disease because they should automatically assume that she is HIV positive because of her lifestyle; specifically, she is a middle-aged, heroin addicted prostitute: "I'm selling sex for money for drugs,' she continues. 'I don't care if they use a condom or not. Just pay me my money! It's up to them to use a condom," (Dash 189). This is another potentially criminal behavior that Patty willingly engages in and, potentially, could avoid. Her mother expresses her concern that Patty will bring retribution upon them by infecting a man without his knowing, but Patty seems largely unconcerned with the consequences of her actions -- so long as they result in the acquisition of heroin.
There can be little doubt that sex in many different forms is socially accepted by the mainstream of American culture. Despite the fact that the Christian Protestant dominant culture in the United States aggressively supports the notion that sexual activity before marriage is morally wrong, people's individual behaviors and the influence of the media strongly suggest that sex is very acceptable. Sex appears to be absolutely everywhere: it is on billboards, on television, all over the internet, and constantly on people's minds. The fact of the matter is that young, unmarried people have been engaging in sexual intercourse for ages. The only differences are that today we possess the technology to minimize the consequences of this sex, and today common strains of cultural morality object to it. Apparently, individuals are forced to make a choice between the increasing call for cultural tolerance and the moral perspective of a large portion of American society.
Some theorists have contended that prostitution, irrespective of its moral status, is actually a powerful gauge for measuring the widespread patters of moral behavior in society: "The history of prostitution... shows attitudes toward the institution varying from approval, through acceptance and tolerance, to violent opposition. Whenever the institution of marriage weakened, prostitution declined because gratification could be obtained without payment. Thus prostitution in a way is an index of 'morality' rather than 'immorality," (Taft 250). Taft el al. go on to argue that in the United States one of the major contributors to the continuance of prostitution is the ideal of the profit-making individual (Taft 251). In other words, the perceived possibility of improving one's social station is what impels certain individuals to commodify their sexuality -- it becomes their own skewed version of the "American dream." Once again, this way of looking at the problem of prostitution implicates the social system within which it operates; because a large number of prostitutes are destitute, they are forced to turn to the only mode of income that they can manage. Meanwhile, growing-up in Rosa Lee's household, prostitution for Patty began as a way to help her mother and her family, but with the addition of heroin into the equation, it emerged simply as a way to purchase the drug and use it.
One offered reason for why individuals might choose to engage in prostitution despite the moral objections to in and the laws against it comes from conflict theory: "The norm-sending process may be plagued by conflict situations... these conflict situations may determine the weakness or strength of a particular criminal law norm in regulating the relevant behavior of an individual and indicate thus the extent to which the individual is ready for the differential identification-association process," (Shoham 47). In other words, the continuing problem of prostitution may imply that the criminal law norms in the United States are perceived to be inconsistent by many members of society; people might see prostitution as a victimless crime, and accordingly, decide to deviate from the norms set by society by becoming a john. Because the inconsistency is believed to exist, they can still view themselves as behaving morally, despite their deviance.
This, however, is inconsistent with Patty as a case study. Patty does not seek any form of broad moral justification for her actions. Although her prostitution initially began with what might be perceived to be a moral goal -- helping her mother -- it has ended in the simple drive to further her drug habit. This fact further illustrates the fundamental importance of social setting in the case of Patty: all of the problems of her adolescence and childhood have conglomerated to feed each other in new, and in increasingly destructive manners. The mere elimination of one of the social factors leading to this situation would vastly improve her overall circumstances. Even if her addiction could not be overcome, but she somehow gained the economic means to purchase heroin without prostitution, she would no longer be putter herself, her mother, and her partners at risk. Yet, of course, the elimination of a setting in which heroin use is tolerated would likely result in the cessation or minimization of all these behaviors.
Nevertheless, it is often argued that prostitution is, indeed, a crime that directly victimizes women. This is because johns and pimps routinely brutalize, assault, and occasionally murder prostitutes. From this standpoint, many contend that prostitution in the United States is an institution that should not be tolerated, in the interest of protecting women from violence (Taft 257). It is often noted that the very nature of prostitution in America lends itself nicely to other criminal activities, including murder, rape, and drugs. Yet it is historically problematic to assert that the solution to these auxiliary social problems is repression of prostitution: additional repression will only force prostitution deeper into hiding. This, clearly, contradicts the idea that the women involved in the profession should be protected. It is far more reasonable to eliminate the clandestine nature of prostitution rather than the act itself -- the latter will never go away. By requiring prostitutes to be legally licensed, documented, and monitored for disease and drug use means that the more serious crimes associated with the institution and which thrive upon it will not be able to express themselves without legal ramifications. Overall, Patty's case is not completely unique in this respect: her lack of social support combined with the need to be self-reliant have forced her into prostitution and further added to her heroin addiction.
There are numerous factors that have led to the prevalence of heroin use among impoverished people in the inner-city United States. Essentially, the use of heroin can often develop into addiction based upon three major factors: social environment, genetic disposition, and mental health. As a result, three general types of addiction apply to the nature of heroin: psychological addiction, neurochemical addiction, and metabolic addiction. Yet, to a greater extent than many other drugs and heroin, psychological addiction, combined with social environment tend to exert the greatest amount of control upon heroin users. Since its physically addictive qualities are so powerful, the elimination of opportunity and a social situation in which it is tolerated become of the utmost importance; this is because relapse, following detoxification, is very common.
The fact that heroin tends to impart these multiple influences upon individuals means that it is often difficult to treat; commonly, heroin addiction must be treated by addressing each of these three effects of the substance individually. Medications and therapy stand as methods by which heroin addiction is sometimes battled; it is widely believed that these techniques, used in…