Experts say the prostutiton arrest of a former college professor this week in an upscale Ellicott City, Md., neighborhood should come as no surprise, reports the Baltimore Sun. “Most prostitution does not occur on the street,” says sociologist Barbara Brents of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Scholars who have studied the sex trade say high-profile figures such as Heidi Fleiss and the “Mayflower Madam” illustrate another dimension to prostitution. “It’s so hidden and only comes to light occasionally,” said sociologist Ronald Weitzer of George Washington University, editor of a book on the sex industry.
Police made about 90,000 arrests for prostitution and “commercial vice” nationwide in 2004. Most researchers have focused on the more visible street prostitution and its public health implications, with the women involved often addicted to drugs, prone to being assaulted by clients and at risk of getting and transmitting diseases, including HIV or AIDS. “Indoor workers” probably exceed those of street prostitutes. “It’s incredibly common; how common, we can’t tell,” said sociologist Janet Lever of California State University, Los Angeles, who spent two years attempting to count the people in the sex industry in her metropolitan area.