I see that function and role prostitution has major has had its affects on any society.
Prostitution is sometimes referred to as "the world's oldest profession." Indeed, there is evidence of prostitution occurring throughout history, all the way back to ancient societies.
In the ancient world
One of the earliest forms was sacred prostitution, supposedly practiced among the Sumerians. In ancient sources (Herodotus, Thucydides) there are many traces of sacred prostitution. In Babylon, each woman had to reach, once in their lives, the sanctuary of Militta (Aphrodite or Nana/Anahita) and there have sex with a foreigner for a symbolic price as a sign of hospitality.
Within the religion of Canaan, a significant portion of temple prostitutes were male. It was widely used in Sardinia and in some of the Phoenician cultures, usually in honor of the goddess 'Ashtart. Presumably under the influence of the Phoenicians, this practice was developed in other ports of the Mediterranean Sea, such as Erice (Sicily), Locri Epizephiri, Croton, Rossano Vaglio, and Sicca Veneria.
Prostitution was common in ancient Israel, despite being tacitly forbidden by Jewish Law. It is recorded in the Bible that a prostitute in Jericho named Rahab assisted Israelite spies with her knowledge of the current socio-cultural and military situation due to her popularity with the high-ranking nobles she serviced. The spies, in return for the information, promised to save her and her family during the planned military invasion, as long as she fulfilled her part of the deal by keeping the details of the contact with them secret and leaving a sign on her residence that would be a marker for the advancing soldiers to avoid. When the people of Israel conquered Canaan, she left prostitution, converted to Judaism, and married a prominent member of the people.
In ancient Greek society, prostitution was engaged in by both women and boys. The Greek word for prostitute is porne, derived from the verb pernemi (to sell), with the evident modern evolution. Female prostitutes could be independent and sometimes influential women. They were required to wear distinctive dresses and had to pay taxes. Some similarities have been found between the Greek hetaera and the Japanese oiran, complex figures that are perhaps in an intermediate position between prostitution and courtisanerie. Some prostitutes in ancient Greece were as famous for their company as their beauty, and some of these women charged extraordinary sums for their services.
Solon instituted the first of Athens' brothels (oik'iskoi) in the sixth century B.C.E., and with the earnings of this business he built a temple dedicated to Aprodites Pandemo (or Qedesh), patron goddess of this commerce. Procuring, however, was strictly forbidden. In Cyprus (Paphus) and in Corinth, a type of religious prostitution was practiced where the temple counted more than a thousand prostitutes (hierodules), according to Strabo.
Each specialized category had its proper name, so there were the chamaitypa'i, working outdoor (lie-down), the perepatetikes who met their customers while walking (and then worked in their houses), and the gephyrides, who worked near the bridges. In the fifth century, Ateneo informs us that the price was of 1 obole, a sixth of a drachma and the equivalent of an ordinary worker's day salary.
Male prostitution was also common in Greece. It was usually practiced by adolescent boys, a reflection of the pederastic tastes of Greek men. Slave boys worked the male brothels in Athens, while free boys who sold their favors risked losing their political rights as adults.
In ancient Rome, while there were some commonalities with the Greek system. As the Empire grew, prostitutes were often foreign slaves, captured, purchased, or raised for that purpose, sometimes by large-scale "prostitute farmers" who took abandoned children. Indeed, abandoned children were almost always raised as prostitutes.
Enslavement into prostitution was sometimes used as a legal punishment against criminal free women. Buyers were allowed to inspect naked men and women for sale in private and there was no stigma attached to the purchase of males by a male aristocrat. A large brothel, called the Lupanar, found in Pompeii attests to the widespread use of prostitutes in Rome around the turn of the century. Like Greece, Roman prostitution was highly categorized, with titles for prostitutes and their places of trade.
After the decline of organized prostitution of the Roman empire, many prostitutes were slaves. However, religious campaigns against slavery, and the growing marketization of the economy, turned prostitution back into a business. Although all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage were regarded as sinful by the Roman Catholic Church, prostitution was tolerated because it was held to prevent the greater evils of rape, sodomy, and masturbation. Augustine of Hippo held that: "If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts." The general tolerance of prostitution was for the most part reluctant, and many canonists urged prostitutes to reform.
During the Middle Ages prostitution was commonly found in urban contexts. By the High Middle Ages it was common to find town governments ruling that prostitutes were not to ply their trade within the town walls, but they were tolerated outside, if only because these areas were beyond the jurisdiction of the authorities. In many areas of France and Germany town governments came to set aside certain streets as areas where prostitution could be tolerated. In London the brothels of Southwark were even owned by the Bishop of Winchester. Still later it became common in the major towns and cities of Southern Europe to establish civic brothels, whilst outlawing any prostitution taking place outside these brothels. In much of Northern Europe a more laissez faire attitude tended to be found. Prostitutes also found a fruitful market in the Crusades.
By the very end of the fifteenth century, attitudes hardened against prostitution. With the advent of the Protestant Reformation numbers of Southern German towns closed their brothels in an attempt to eradicate prostitution. The prevalence of sexually transmitted disease from the earlier sixteenth century may also have influenced attitudes. An outbreak of syphilis in Naples 1494, which later swept across Europe, and which may have originated from the Columbian Exchange, appears to have been the one of the causes of this change in attitude.
Köçek troupe at a fair. Recruited from the ranks of colonized ethnic groups, köçeks were entertainers and sex workers in the Ottoman empire.
In some periods, prostitutes had to distinguish themselves by particular signs, sometimes wearing very short hair or no hair at all, or wearing veils in societies where other women did not wear them. In some cultures, prostitutes were the only women allowed to sing in public or act in theatrical performances.
Eighteenth century to present
In the eighteenth century, probably in Venice, prostitutes started using condoms, made with catgut or cow bowel.
Many of the women who posed in nineteenth and early twentieth century vintage erotica were prostitutes. The most famous were the New Orleans women who posed for E. J. Bellocq.
In the nineteenth century, legalized prostitution became a public controversy as France and then the United Kingdom passed the Contagious Diseases Acts, legislation mandating pelvic examinations for suspected prostitutes. Many early feminists fought for their repeal, either on the grounds that prostitution should be illegal and therefore not government regulated or because it forced degrading medical examinations upon women. This legislation applied not only to the United Kingdom and France, but also to their overseas colonies.
Originally, prostitution was widely legal in the United States. Prostitution was made illegal in almost all states between 1910 and 1915 largely due to the influence of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union which was influential in the banning of drug use and was also a major force in the prohibition of alcohol. In 1917, the legally defined prostitution district Storyville in New Orleans was closed down by the Federal government over local objections. Prostitution remained legal in Alaska until 1953 (while not yet a U.S. state), and is still legal in some counties of Nevada.
In Asia, there has been a tradition of forcing the women of an occupied land into prostitution, as was the case with Japanese-occupied China and Korea in World War II. These specific women were called "Comfort Women."
Beginning in the late 1980s, many states increased the penalties for prostitution in cases where the prostitute is knowingly HIV-positive. These laws, often known as felony prostitution laws, require anyone arrested for prostitution to be tested for HIV, and if the test comes back positive, the suspect is then informed that any future arrest for prostitution will be a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Penalties for felony prostitution vary in the states that have such laws, typically with maximum sentences of 10 to 15 years in prison.