The "world's oldest profession" shows no signs of giving up the game but it remains as controversial as ever.
For some, prostitution is simply a way of satisfying natural sexual needs and should be accepted as a normal part of any human society.
But for others, selling sex is an evil which leads to the degradation and exploitation of vulnerable women and children who have little or no choice about what they do.
The Government's new prostitution strategy steers a middle course by legalising small-scale brothels but cracking down on kerb-crawling.
In taking this line it will be attacked by those on either side of the debate, who will argue that Britain's sex workers are neither being sufficiently protected nor taken seriously enough.
Introducing the policy, Home Office Minister Fiona Mactaggart summed up the Government's dilemma when she said: "I'm not encouraging the commercial sale of women's bodies. I don't think that is something the law should do.
"I don't think it proper for us to encourage that kind of activity. However, I think the evidence that women working on their own are putting themselves in danger is powerful, and recognise that this is not something that is going to be solved instantly."
Popular culture often glamorises prostitution, as typified by the 1990 film Pretty Woman, in which a beautiful hooker played by Julia Roberts enraptures Richard Gere's lonely businessman.
The reality is, of course, much less seductive, with some prostitutes in this country the victims of drug addiction, human trafficking, child abuse, violence and rape.
Sex workers have always been vulnerable, as highlighted by Jack The Ripper's reign of terror in London's East End in 1888, when at least four prostitutes were murdered.
The Home Office estimates 80,000 people currently work in the British sex trade, many of them young women brought in illegally from overseas, especially Eastern Europe.
Niki Adams, from the English Collective of Prostitutes, a lobby and support group, said: "We are not for prostitution. We have never glamorised it, and we never promote it.
"But we do think in many cases it is the best choice out of a set of very bad choices. We won't get rid of prostitution until we get rid of of exploitation and poverty."
She said the new proposals unveiled by Ms Mactaggart - including fresh calls for kerbcrawlers to be "prosecuted rigorously" - were the "same old story".
Ana Lopes, from the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW), which has about 300 members and has been affiliated to the GMB trade union since 2002, accused the Government of having a "totally black and white picture" of prostitution.
She said: "Once again our voice has not been heard. Sex work is not being treated as work - sex workers are being treated as victims."
Ms Lopes added that research showed that attempts in Sweden to tackle prostitution by focusing on kerb-crawlers had only a negative impact on sex workers.
Both she and Ms Adams would like to see Britain adopting the more open approach towards prostitution seen in some other countries like New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Visitors to Amsterdam's red light district are often taken aback by the sight of prostitutes standing in windows soliciting for clients.
New Zealand decriminalised the sex trade in 2003 and now prostitutes can ply their trade in regulated brothels and on the streets without fear of prosecution.
Ms Adams drew a distinction between New Zealand's decriminalisation of prostitution and the legal regulation of the sex trade found in Germany.
She claimed that only 12 per cent of prostitutes in Germany now work in state-registered brothels, with most preferring to remain outside the law.