More than 2,000 years ago, in Ancient Greece, the sex trade was not only legal but was also regarded as morally acceptable and an honest way to make a living. It was thanks to legendary lawmaker Solon that the important and coastal cities of Greece, such as Athens, boasted hundreds of state-funded brothels with regulated prices.
With men of the time getting married around 30 years old, it was difficult for them to interact with respectable women that were not part of their own family, so it stands to reason that prostitution was a viable way for young single men to gain sexual experience.
There were four different levels of prostitution a sex worker in Ancient Greece could be in: male prostitutes, lower-class Pornai, middle-class Pornai, and Hetairai (or Hetairae). The lower-class Pornai were of course at the very bottom of the scale and the property of pimps who received a portion of their earnings. These Pornai were comprised mainly of slaves that were sold to the public brothels; they were educated only in sexual techniques and the price charged for their services was small (little more than the price for two loaves of bread). Though regarded in society as less than slave mistresses, the brothel prostitutes were very popular and their combined income brought substantial revenues for the state.
Slightly above the Pornai of the brothels, were the middle-class prostitutes that managed to buy their own freedom or it was granted to them by their owners, thus they worked independently though they had to be registered with the state and pay a tax for their line of work. They walked the streets, literally, putting their bodies on display (which was considered scandalous at the time) and sometimes wore sandals with the words “follow me” carved on their soles so that they left an imprint on the sand wherever they walked. Among this group were the flute-girls; accomplished musicians, singers, dancers and strippers that were hired as entertainment at banquets and other gatherings. Some of these Pornai were so popular that they accumulated wealth and notoriety to rival the Hetairai.
The Hetairai were the courtesans of the time, high-end escorts who were renowned for their elegance, grace, beauty and intelligence. Unlike the Pornai, these women did not limit themselves to offering only sexual services, but they mostly served as companions to the elite and, like Japanese geishas, their level of education enabled them to take part in conversations with a group of men. Hetairai were independent, handled their own affairs, and some of them managed to amass quite a fortune. Unlike their female counterparts (who could work at any age), male prostitutes in Greece were considered appealing only during adolescence, specifically in the period between puberty until the appearance of a beard, since hairlessness was a marked preference among the Ancient Greeks. Though some of these men offered their services towards women, most of them were aimed at a male clientele; and like the women, they had to be registered as prostitutes and pay a tax.
Although prostitution was an accepted business in Ancient Greece, it was still seen as socially shameful since it was the main domain of slaves and non-citizens. Any citizen of Greece that was proven to have dabbled in prostitution consequently lost their public civil rights. However, it was not as bad as committing adultery (sleeping with a married woman); in this case the cuckold had the legal right to kill the offender if he was caught in the act.