Prostitution is closely related to urban life and mobile populations. In primitive tribes it is virtually unknown, although promiscuity before marriage, and polygamy or polyandry, may be accepted. Economic factors are important reasons for going into prostitution, which is often very marked in poverty stricken areas where there is little employment for either men or women, or among indigenous tribes which have suffered cultural invasion and have not been able to adapt economically to a new way of life. Frequently there are social reasons also; broken families, disgrace that comes with abandonment by a boy friend, pregnancy and single parenthood, encouragement or outright sale by parents and violence in the family. Prostitutes may be very young and coerced into prostitution. Children who are gaoled for vagrancy are bailed out by recruiters of prostitutes and forced into the trade. So-called employment agencies recruit women from poor areas, promising jobs, paying their parents in advance and then forcing them into prostitution.
One can approach prostitution from the angle of ethnology, sociology or cultural history. From the point of view of political economy, one can see the world of prostitution as a closed economic system; or, from the point of view of criminology, as a branch of the criminal world because of the procuring involved. Prostitution can also be judged by the standards of public health, religion or morality. From the human rights approach, prostitution can be considered as a form of slavery: like slavery in the usual sense, prostitution has an economic aspect. While being a cultural phenomenon rooted in the masculine and feminine images given currency by society, it is a very lucrative market. The merchandise involved is men's pleasure, or their image of pleasure, and is supplied by physical intimacy with women or children. Thus, the alienation of the person in prostitution is more far-reaching than in slavery in its usual sense, where what is alienated is working strength, not intimacy.