‘Prostitution is the oldest profession’, is a statement voiced by people who pride themselves on their tolerance of sex work. They utter jokingly this phrase or with a tongue in the cheek. These people also mean to say that prostitution will never disappear.
Without realizing it they are basing themselves on a prejudice. It is the old prejudice that prostitution is an evil, but a necessary evil to satisfy the natural needs of males. It stems from the nineteenth century when physicians feared that in the absence of prostitution men would turn to chaste women or even worse, would take recourse to masturbation. In those days masturbation was considered a health risk. (Nater, 1986, Stemvers, 1985). Another idea about the notion the oldest profession is that only women work as sex worker. No one would call ‘gigolo’ the oldest profession.
It is the task of archeologists to determine the oldest profession women engaged in. Could it be picking of apples?