Military service is traditionally by men, usually younger men separated from their wives, girlfriends and families for extended periods in foreign places and under hard conditions. Sexual relations are sought for many reasons, including missing female company, comfort, loneliness, sexual desire, and recreation. There is considerable peer pressure and expectation that this is appropriate behaviour for soldiers, even for those who would not go to prostitutes at home. Local women cooperate, usually for financial reward but sometimes for other reasons such as security or favours. Many have not been prostitutes prior to war conditions. The economic activity and social fabric of entire cities used as "rest and recreation" centres can be affected, as happened in the case of Saigon during the Vietnamese war. It is also reported that soldiers keep prostitutes with them in field camps, sometimes under force. Some practices verge on slavery and institutionalized rape.
A lawsuit that three Korean women brought against the Japanese government in 1992, brought to international attention that comfort women were recruited in Southeast Asian countries to provide sexual service to the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. The number of women so used was estimated at up to 200,000, most of whom were children and teenagers from Korea and China. According to allegations, the women were rotated through the "comfort stations" at 15-minute intervals.