I would like to ask a question from a Theravada Buddhism perspective.

In the Sutta it's said having sex with particular people is considered as sexual misconduct:

He has no intercourse with girls who are still under the protection of father or mother, brother, sister, or relative; nor with married women, nor female convicts; nor lastly with betrothed girls.

My question is, why prostitute does not include in the prohibited person? Does it mean having sex with prostitute does not considered sexual misconduct?

Second question is, from my understanding for married people having sex with their partner is not an offense but how about having oral sex or sodomy with your own wife or husband? Is it true that oral sex and sodomy will make you take rebirth as an animal?

  • Hello Gr3 and welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some information to help you get started here.
    – Robin111
    May 30, 2015 at 11:39
  • See also buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/5979/… for a discussion about prostitution and Buddhism which you may find interesting May 30, 2015 at 11:45
  • Thanks guys. @CrabBucket, I've checked that discussion previously but decided to started more specific topic, thanks.
    – Gr3
    May 30, 2015 at 11:55

7 Answers 7


Does it mean having sex with prostitute does not considered sexual misconduct?

It does not break the 3rd precept, if both parties are proper(not belonging to the 20 kinds of improper partners). However, not breaking the 3rd precept does not mean you are not committing unwholesome Kamma. All sexual activities are unwholesome regardless of if you are not breaking the 3rd precept. Because the root causes are always lust and delusion.

The five precepts are given as the minimal moral standard that is required for spiritual development. A person who keeps to the 5 precepts can still commit many unwholesome Kammas. But doing it with your spouse can potentially be less unwholesome compared to doing it with a prostitute. Because the relationship with your spouse can involve wholesome feelings as well. With your spouse you are not trying to have pleasure regardless of if she/he is enjoying it. You are usually more gentle and if she/he isn't ready or finds a certain method uncomfortable, you get to practice self restraint. That comes from Metta & Karuna. So it's not all lust. But with a prostitute, you are mostly trying to get your money's worth. Usually you don't care much for the other person. The focus is on extracting the maximum enjoyment you can, in whichever way you so desire during the time you get. The lust involved here can be much more stronger. So it can cause greater unwholesome Kamma. Also, there are other disadvantages to consider like your reputation being sullied and the higher possibility of catching STDs.

Is it true that oral sex and sodomy will make you take rebirth as an animal?

Any kind of sexual activity has the potential to give you a unfavorable birth, if it comes forward at the time of your death. Read more about how the mind works at the of death. However, engaging in unorthodox sexual activities usually requires a greater degree of lust and delusion. So the said methods can potentially cause stronger unwholesome Kamma.

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    Thanks a lot for your reply. I agree that the practice of five precepts doesn’t mean that one is free from unwholesome actions, in this example sexual activities with prostitute. However, it’s said that practising five precepts will deliver someone to a lower level of heaven or rebirth as a human being. How is that possible? As for the delusion of unorthodox sexual activities, do you think the delusion is depend on the individual rather than the sexual activity per se?
    – Gr3
    May 30, 2015 at 11:51
  • Practicing five precepts gives you a higher chance to be born in one of the the happy destinations of the sensual sphere. But there's no 100% guarantee. It is possible because usually the strongest Kamma(good or bad) comes forward to determine the next birth. The sexual activity is an indication of the strength of the lust and delusion at the moment. ex: It takes stronger lust to have intercourse than just to kiss. May 30, 2015 at 12:00
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    One thing I didn't understand about this answer was your statement that "unorthodox sexual activities usually requires a greater degree of lust and delusion": are you sure that's true? And indeed is oral sex "unorthodox" sexual activity? In some societies it's not uncommon or taboo e.g. these CDC statistics (table 5 and 6 on page 21 and 22) seem to claim that 99% of middle-aged men and women in the (non-Buddhist) United States of America have experienced intercourse, and about 90% of them have at some point in their lives engaged in oral sex.
    – ChrisW
    May 30, 2015 at 12:24
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    By unorthodox I was merely referring to oral and sodomy. Yes, oral isn't uncommon even in Asia. But usually it takes a greater degree of lust and ignorance to use your mouth on someone's urinal area. Same can be said about sodomy May 30, 2015 at 13:03
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    Keeping to the 5 precepts greatly improves your chances of not being born in lower realms. But you have to attain the state of Sothapanna to never to be born again in lower realms. Sila is an essential part of the practice. Sila helps the mind to be tamed. It is very difficult to develop concentration and wisdom if you don't have morality. Also, keeping to the Sila prevents you from doing a lot a bad deeds. So it is greatly beneficial. You can get a hell rebirth by breaking the all 5 precepts. Not just the 3rd. That's what the monk meant. May 31, 2015 at 7:39

Oral sex and sodomy will make you take rebirth as an animal?

These kind of ideas can be seen in other religions.In Buddhism we do not label sexual activities as good or bad,sex is sex it is not extremely bad as long as you remain to your partner.But Buddhism consider sex as a distraction from the path of nirvana.

Please note that people who reached higher levels of mind (Sovaan/Sothapanna) like "vishaka" had many children.so it is more of a distraction not a deadly sin.

Question - why prostitute does not include in the prohibited person? Does it mean having sex with prostitute does not considered sexual misconduct?

Imagine a person Single,Adult,Independent. Now you have a natural need to have sex,but you do not want to marry just yet.Now you might think Buddhism instruct its followers to either marry or not to have sex at all.That is not true because we are only mindful not extremists as Buddhists.

Say this person find a lady who is single,in the right age and currently willing to provide sexual services to him.So they are both eligible! Now your question must be if this person hire her will it be bad karma?

There is only one mention in Theravada about prostitution and bad karma and it goes like this (i am simplifying the details)

"If a prostitute take money from a person to provide services and serve someone else before serving that person it would be a violation of the third (sexual misconduct)"

Please understand,we are a religion of cause and effect our good & bad is only defined i a completely logical manner (Not like many other religions in which the rules are already set).

So the conclusion is.

As you already know how the third (sexual misconduct) happens,a purchase of sexual services from a prostitute (within the borders mentioned above) it would not be a "sin". I would recommend you to learn about the life story of "Ambapali" who was a sexual service provider later on became a follower of Lord Buddha and reached nirvana.


I can only offer a small partial answer here. My understanding from general reading is that historical Buddhism tolerated prostitution because of the difficult financial situation of widows in post-Vedic India. How early this toleration manifested itself I do not know, but it seems likely that it was early for the same reason that the whole Pali Canon accurately manifests the tenor of the time of the Buddha. Thus, it may have influenced the writing of the Pali Canon (3rd-1st cent. BCE).


GR3 1st learn about Basic Guidelines of Buddhism as a Start..

  1. Do not take life

  2. Do not take what is not given

  3. Do not distort facts

  4. Refrain from misuse of the senses

  5. Refrain from self-intoxication through alcohol or drugs

in Buddhas time also their was Prostitutes. having sex others (including Prostitute) beside your wife as per Buddhism its WRONG

find below the meaning of the Guide line 4

  1. Refrain from misuse of the senses

The senses in Buddhism include not only the five generally thought of: touch, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting, but also the mind: thinking. This means overindulgence in touching (for instance sex), hearing ( overindulging in listening to music for instance), seeing (too much focuss on beauty or ugliness around us), smelling and tasting (overindulgence in food preparation for instance). Lay people aren't expected to refrain from sex, yet they are expected to refrain from overdoing it. Moderation in this respect has become highly unpopular, with kids having sex at earlier ages every year and sexual crime becoming almost usual. To be a virgin equals being ashamed, these days. Buddhist morality is old-fashioned in this respect. The the last sense which can be overindulged is thinking or thought, or use of the mind. One often meets people who think so much, they forget to practice. Or they out-think any morality one can come up with. The mind is a highly deceptive tool and overuse makes it overly powerful over us. When thoughts start seeming real, and control ones life, beyond what is reasonable, it is perhaps time to consider whether perhaps one has overindulged in thinking.


My question is, why prostitute does not include in the prohibited person? Does it mean having sex with prostitute does not considered sexual misconduct?

Based on its definition, the 3rd precept is obviously a teaching about social (rather than personal) morality. Its essence is to not have sex in a way that harms existing relationships or reputations.

Therefore, to not have sex with those living under the protection of their family is to avoid harming the family relationship or to not have sex with those living in institutions is to avoid harming the social reputation of the institution.

That is why, even today, to have sex in the workplace is generally prohibited by employers & corporations.

That said, having sex with prostitutes falls under the Six Roads That Can Ruin A Man, found in the Sigalovada Sutta

Second question is, from my understanding for married people having sex with their partner is not an offense but how about having oral sex or sodomy with your own wife or husband? Is it true that oral sex and sodomy will make you take rebirth as an animal?

For most worldly people, sex is a necessity. For me, 'rebirth' is a metaphor & rebirth as an 'animal' means to develop the mental state of lacking reason (reflective intelligence) & emotional self-control, just as animals cannot reflect with objective intelligence or control their emotions.

In my opinion, sodomy is 'rebirth' as an animal (i.e., stupidity) since sodomy can be a dangerous activity (since the anus & intestines are not physically designed for sexual activity).

Also, often, women do not actually enjoy anal sex but do it to please the voyeuristic wants of their male partners. At least in past generations, before the era of universal birth control, many women in certain cultures abhorred being forced to have anal sex to satisfy their husbands & avoid pregnancy.

When a man forces or coerces his wife to do an act she really does not want to do, this is 'animal' behaviour & thus 'rebirth' as an animal.

In Buddhism, 'death' is not a requirement for taking 'birth' as an animal, as shown below:

Bhikkhus, these two bright principles protect the world. What are the two? Shame and fear of wrongdoing. If, bhikkhus, these two bright principles did not protect the world, there would not be discerned respect for mother or maternal aunt or maternal uncle's wife or a teacher's wife or the wives of other honored persons, and the world would have fallen into promiscuity, as with goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, and jackals. But as these two bright principles protect the world, there is discerned respect for mother... and the wives of other honored persons."

Lokapala Sutta: The Bright Protectors

In the history of Buddhism, some 'authorised Buddhist teachers' (for example, Chögyam Trungpa & his authorised heir Ösel Tendzin) often took 'birth' in this world as 'animals', as demonstrated by their sexual & other social behaviours. For example, Ösel Tendzin had unprotected sex with students while knowing he had AIDS.

Any Buddhist teacher that has sexual relations with a student transgresses the 3rd precept & is immediately ('opapatika') reborn as an 'animal'.

In summary, to preach immorality & to engage in immorality is also 'spontaneous birth' ('opapatika') as an 'animal', even for so-called 'authorised Buddhist teachers'.


The Malavagga said: Unchastity is the taint of a woman.

I dated a woman who a masseuse who practices certain functions one might consider prostitution. I've been with her for 2 years. She has tried to stop, but I can't afford to support her family in the necessary way. I know she loved me deeply and I her, but what she did tortures me and hurts me. She is not a drug addict. She doesn't drink. She supports a mother, a son, and others, and sometimes it's quite extravagant with gifts to me and for herself. What she did hurts her and it hurts me. If her son knows it would devastate him. Even though she is a consenting adult doing her work for a good cause, the effects on herself and others are problematic. It involves lying, often selfishness, and hurting herself and others. It is not a victimless act. I understand the potential poverty but it doesn't invalidate the inconsistencies and harm.


I'm an authorised Buddhist teacher and I don't know of anywhere in the texts where it is said or implied that sex or wanting sex is bad, that fornication is wrong, that homosexuality or being transexual are wrong, or that prostitution is wrong - in fact the quote mentioned above suggests that it is seen as being like any other business- or that anal or oral sex are wrong. The Dalai Lama himself has said he is not able to discover any such thing in the texts. The above answers are cultural myths only, and if you ask Theravada teachers to point out the relevant passages in the texts, they cannot.

Neither will normal desire, which is natural to humans, lead to a bad rebirth. Only very serious acts like killing your father or mother automatically lead to a bad rebirth. The word 'tanha', which is translated as craving, actually means a very unhealthy, obsessive desire, a real stalker mentality. The Victorian translators understood 'craving' as the nearest equivalent to a quite horrible word.

During the Buddha's life, many laypeople both married and unmarried became Enlightened, some of whom it seems implied in the texts, led an active sexual life.

  • Hi Tom and welcome to Buddhism SE. I have some questions for your answer. Questions are not a critique of you but instead a search for clarification and elaboration together with relevant references to back up statements.
    – user2424
    Jul 19, 2016 at 15:43
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    1. What is an authorised Buddhist teacher? 2. You write: "...if you ask Theravada teachers to point out the relevant passages in the texts, they cannot...." - that seems like a broad comparison. 3. What is normal desire? 4. Do you have a source for your translation of Tanha?. 5. Which texts imply that enlightened people had an active sexual life?.
    – user2424
    Jul 19, 2016 at 15:44
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    @Dhammadhatu I think it's my duty to ask, please be moderate when you comment on other people's answer. This site is intended to be open to all schools of Buddhism and policy is to avoid sectarian arguments. I suppose Tom is Mahayana and, for all I know, may be giving an answer that is orthodox to his school. Though you might want to warn people that an answer doesn't match your preconceptions, a gentler way to phrase that might be to say e.g. "According to this reference, Tanha means so-and-so. When you say that it means such-and-such instead, could you give me a reference for that please?"
    – ChrisW
    Jul 19, 2016 at 19:39
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    Prostitution is often not a particularly healthy occupation, which is why many prostitutes have drug habits & addiction to suppress unwholesome emotions. Imo, these tormenting emotions themselves are 'rebirth' in hell (since I only believe in 'internal' hells). In Pali Buddhism, there are many acts that lead to 'rebirth' in hell. For example, Dhammapada 306 states: "the liar goes to hell'. In Pali Buddhism, 'tanha' represents all forms of worldly craving, be they gross or subtle, as defined in the 2nd Noble Truth. Jul 19, 2016 at 19:49

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