They're selling sex. Can you blame them?

The New York Timesreported yesterday that in Japan, young women are suddenly hot to become hostesses -- a once-scorned job that falls halfway between shot girl and stripper.

At gentlemen's clubs, hostesses wear skimpy outfits, pour drinks and coo and purr over their customers; they're there to make every guy feel like the most desirable man on earth. They also make an astounding amount of money -- the Times story mentions a woman who makes $16,000 a month.

The story falls into a file of similar trend reports that's been building since the recession began -- a mass of information that suggests that worldwide, women are turning to professions that require them to sell sex in capacities that range from relatively innocent to darkly literal.

Back in January, Walletpop's Geoff Williams wrote about on the expansion and financial success of Hooters-knockoffs Twin Peaks and Bone Daddy's; I assume that if those restaurants are able to keep opening new franchises, they're not having any problem fleshing out their waitress rosters. Here in New York, the Post ran a story about women who had lost their jobs on Wall Street and in bakeries turning to stripping. In Scotland, prostitutes are experiencing a certain form of workplace tension as more women flood the sex profession and increase competition for clients. (They're also experiencing a terrifying rise in attacks, as the article points out, fueled by customers who are unwilling or unable to pay for services -- perhaps Scotland's sex industry should consider adopting the flat-rate recession plan German brothels recently debuted).

It's an ugly series of events, for sure -- a surge of applicants in professions that no one wants to see their daughter, mother or best friend get into. And the debate over the moral soundness of women who take such jobs is as old as the oldest profession itself. But what's important to remember is that many of the women turning to these industries for the first time are probably driven by a recession-specific impetus: burnout. After working their tails off at normal nine-to-fives -- and getting the ax anyway -- there must lie an undeniable appeal in jobs that allow them to use their bodies and turn off their brains. And $16K a month doesn't hurt, either.
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