Debunking The Ancient Myth About The Oldest Profession


For centuries, the phrase “the oldest profession” has been used to refer to prostitution. It’s a common belief that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, dating back to ancient times. However, recent research and scholarship have challenged this myth, revealing that the history of sex work is far more complex than previously believed. In this article, we will delve into the origins of the “oldest profession” myth, examine the evidence behind it, and explore the truth about the history of sex work.

The origins

The origin of the myth that prostitution is the “oldest profession” can be traced back to Rudyard Kipling’s 1888 story “On the City Wall.” The story begins with the line “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world.” Lalun is a character in the story who is a high-class prostitute in a fictional Indian city.


This line has been cited as the source of the idea that prostitution is the oldest profession, and it has been repeated in countless works of literature, film, and popular culture ever since. However, the historical accuracy of this claim has been called into question by scholars and book-readers alike.

What constitutes a profession?

A profession is generally understood to be a vocation or occupation that requires specialized knowledge and provides a service to others. Professions are often associated with high levels of skill, and they typically require a significant investment of time and resources to enter and advance. There are different kinds of professionals that you can work with throughout the modern world.


Historically, women’s work has often been undervalued and set aside, and many “professions” that were primarily performed by women, such as caregiving, domestic work, and sex work, were not considered to be professions in general. women who did engage in sex work or other “immoral” occupations were often stigmatized, and their work was not recognized as a real profession by mainstream society. As a result, the idea of prostitution as the “oldest profession” might notreflect a historical fact, but rather a cultural bias.

Prostitution in ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, prostitution was legal and considered a normal part of everyday life. Sex work was regulated by the state, with licensed brothels and prostitutes operating in designated areas of the city. However, the women who engaged in prostitution were typically from lower social classes and were not respected by the broader society.


They were often viewed as objects of desire rather than individuals with agency and autonomy, and they faced a great deal of stigma and discrimination. Despite the legal status of prostitution, sex workers were vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and their work was often associated with crime and disease.

Prostitution today

Prostitution continues to be a common and controversial issue in many countries around the world today. While some nations have legalized or decriminalized sex work in an effort to protect the health and safety of sex workers, others have banned it outright, often with the aim of curbing human trafficking and exploitation.


In some countries, prostitution exists in a legal gray area, with varying degrees of regulation and enforcement. For example, in Australia, prostitution is legal in most states and territories, and there are many licensed brothels and independent sex workers operating across the country. Reputable Sydney brothels, such as Liaisons, are among the most well-known and respected establishments of their kind in Australia.

Truly old professions

While the phrase “oldest profession” is commonly associated with prostitution, there are many other professions that have been practiced for much longer periods of time. For example, agriculture is often considered to be one of the oldest professions in the world, dating back to the beginnings of human civilization.


Other ancient professions include fishing, hunting, and toolmaking, which have been practiced by humans for thousands of years. Many traditional crafts and trades, such as weaving, pottery, and metalworking, have been passed down through generations for centuries or even millennia, surpassing prostitution’s legacy by quite a bit.


The idea that prostitution is the “oldest profession” is a pervasive myth that has endured for centuries. However, as we have seen, the historical accuracy of this claim is highly debatable. While prostitution has undoubtedly been practiced throughout human history, it is just one of many professions that have existed for millennia. The origins and evolution of sex work, as well as its social and cultural meanings, are complex and multifaceted, and require a nuanced and critical approach.



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