Farming: World's Oldest Profession (Why not?)

How can people justify calling prostitution the ‘oldest profession’ when people have been farming since before there were towns or, indeed, recognizable levels of civilization? And if farming doesn’t count, surely hunting must. Is it just an old euphemism?

I’ve heard three different jobs cited as the “world’s oldest”:

  1. prostitute
  2. teacher
  3. shaman/witch doctor

Of the three, I’d say that #3 is the closest to being correct, since I doubt that an individual in the very earliest groups of humans could earn a living by either prostitution or teaching exclusively. But, maybe that’s just me. I’d bet all three preceded farming, though.

If you take the Bible as literal (and I don’t intend to argue that one way or the other), then I would say the oldest profession is screwing shit up for the rest of mankind. It took Adam & Eve how long to say, “Oh, this whole Garden of Eden thing is so cool. Look at all of the pretty stuff. What’s that, God? Don’t touch that 1 tree out of all of the fabulous trees in the garden. Sorry, just can’t do it.”

But, I would have to agree that hunter/gatherer would be the oldest.

However, if you consider the literal meaning of the word profession, then at what point did people start making their living by farming? Not just sustenance, but actually making a profit… If you take that argument, then… i have no clue.

Well let’s say you have two groups of hunter-gatherers wandering around. One group has an abundance of males and can hunt and gather more than what they need for sustenance. They run across another group that is a little short on food but has a couple of extra women hanging around. The group trades food for women maybe for permanent companionship or perhaps just for an evening or two. I can see how it can be claimed to be the oldest profession though it would be tough to prove it one way or another. I suppose if you call hunter a profession that goes out the window though.

On the other hand perhaps they mean that a woman trades sex for food that the man provides. The woman stays in the cave barefoot and pregnant in exchange for the man bringing home the bacon or mammoth as the case may be. A skewed look at things considering women probably gathered right alongside the men along with other chores of skinning and preparing meat etc.

Scientist now say that prostitution is practiced by penguins, and undoubtedly was long before there were mammals.
That would put it ahead of farming, surely. :wink:

I would think it has to do with the defintion of “profession”. I always thought of a profession means getting paid for doing a service. So early farming would not be a profession as the people were not doing it for pay but for subsistence. Whereas prostitution involves a fee for service and is therefore a profession.

I agree. I feel certain that the first time some subsistence farmer scraped together a few shekels to go to town with, there was some hoochie there waiting to take it away from him.

Flintknapping (chipping flint stones into tool shapes) is the oldest according to some book I read years ago. In some areas it is practiced by bonobos.

Yeah, but there was some gal smiling at him while he chipped and offering him a good time for two arrowheads.

Bonobos definitely come close to practicing prostitution, swapping sexual favors for food. It seems more common among them than other great apes, but the others are either mostly solitary (orangutangs) or have a harem system (gorillas and pan troglodytes) where the dominant male(s) is (are) the only one(s) that get to mate (or are supposed to, apparently a lot of opportunistic mating occurs behind their backs).

In order to be considered a profession or professional, you have to be paid for your services. Originally farmers were not paid neither were hunters. Farmers grew crops for their own use and hunters hunted for the same reason. Most early farming was done by the females (after the ground was tilled) while the males did the hunting. If you grow crops for your own use and hunt for your own food, that is not a profession. However, if you offer sexual services, even if it is just for food or shelter, then that can be considered a profession.

Only those that are willing to make prostitutes villains or those that engage prostitutes as villains make these outrageous claims. It doesn’t matter if prostitution is the oldest profession, that is debatable, what does matter is people that try to force their morals (religious) standards on others. Make no mistake, morals are a religious concept, therefore anyone that pushes his/her morals on others are also pushing their religious beliefs on others.

I served as a minister for over 26 years and I can tell you with some certainty that forcing religious/moral ideas on others has been one of the greatest causes of wars in history. I’d have to say that no less than 75% (and that might be a low percentage) of all wars in history were a result of one religion trying to force their moral beliefs on others.

Now I am not a big fan or supporter of prostitution, however I am even less of a fan on religious zealots forcing their moral attitudes on others. In point of fact, prostitution has a great contribution to a society. If a person (usually a man) wants sexual gratification he is going to find a way to get it. If he cannot find a willing partner then he will force some poor unsuspecting person to gratify his sexual desire. Therefore prostitution is one of the greatest deterrence to rape and those that try to eliminate prostitution must then want to see incidents of rape increase (or at least are the proximal cause of the increase of rape).

Case on point, Sweden has had legalized prostitution for over a century and they also have the lowest violent sex crimes in the world. They also have the lowest sex crimes against children. Most of this is directly related to the legalization of prostitution. In fact, every country that has either legalized prostitution or has decriminalized it has lower incidents of violent sex crimes that those of countries that have made it illegal.

So, those of you that think it is acceptable to make prostitution illegal must also want to see incidents of rape and violent sex crimes (including child rape) increase. You are not going to get anyone to ignore their sexual impulses, that is asking the impossible, so why not give them a way to ventilate their sexual impulses in a safe and legal manner.

“When you make more that 15% of the population criminals then you have a bad law”

Where is the line drawn between a true prostitute, serving multiple customers in a day or week etc, and some lone hunter gatherer who runs into another and says you know what we’re both lonely and horny and we could probably do a better living together?

Given that this thread is over 14 years old and the post that raised it is better suited to Great Debates than GQ, I’m going to close it. Those who wish to discuss moral aspects of prostitution or legalization can open a new thread in Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator