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A prostitute–also called a sex worker–is a person who performs sexual acts in exchange for money as an occupation. Sometimes called “the oldest profession,” there are records mentioning prostitution dating as far back as 2,400 BC. Today, it is estimated that up to 42 million people throughout the world are prostitutes, with around 80% of those individuals being female. That being said, prostitution is illegal in most countries, though it is either decriminalized or legal and regulated in some. However–even in countries where prostitution is legal–it is always a crime if the act is coerced, with a minor, or for the sole monetary benefit of a third party. In this scenario, the person is a victim of sex trafficking and not a person engaging in sex work as an occupation.

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]