Prostitution is the exchange of sexual relations solely for money or other valuable consideration. It is a crime in many jurisdictions. However, in some places and forms it is tolerated in one form or another by the law and even where it is illegal, it is often widely tolerated by law enforcement. It is considered to be a crime against morality. Depending on the jurisdiction, it may be an offence for only the seller (the "prostitute"), only the buyer (the "john"), or by both parties.

Prostitution is considered to be a particularly serious offence when the prostitute is a minor.

Even where prostitution is tolerated, it is often a more serious offence to keep premises where prostitution commonly takes place, such as a brothel. See Keeping a common bawdy house.

Some jurisdictions, notably some counties in Nevada and the Netherlands regulate prostitution instead of outlawing it.

Enforcement of prostitution laws is very controversial. Although such laws have broad public support, the practice is still very common despite the prohibitions against it. Prostitutes often find themselves subject to sexual harassment at the hands of law enforcement officers, and prostitution often leads to police corruption even when there is no sexual contact between law enforcement officials and prostitutes. Prostitutes also often find themselves subject to harassment and dismissal when they do make complaints against police regarding allegations of rape or violent conduct, either by their clients, their agents (pimps) or by persons who object to the profession.