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Lecture

Prostitution

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Department
History
Course
History 2185
Professor
Monda Helpern
Semester
Winter

Description
Jan, 21, 2013 Prostitution th -In the late 19 century prostitution was a leading problem in urban centres and it caused a lot of anxiety for the middle class and they saw it as part of a larger problem of general immorality -Also part of a larger problem of the commoditisation of sex and this was in the context of a large urban centre where there were many entertainment and amusement industries that relied on sex like theatres and dancehalls -The commoditisation of sex was seen a lot in the press with advertisements for birth control and other sex related objects and the state, police, and social reformers were not concerned with what caused prostitution but more with the weak moral character of prostitutes (now know it is part of greater social issues) -They wondered how they could alleviate the issue of prostitution and one way was to make efforts to work with them women themselves who needed fixing (were men prostituting but it was more secretive) -One solution was to create rescue homes (rehab) for them where they could come clean and escape that life, and another way was through legislation like “The Contagious Diseases Act(s)” which were directed at them and focusing on venereal diseases like syphilis -Social commentators talked about prostitutes a lot and they were referred to as fallen women (reference to the Adam and Eve story) and it implied they had no moral code and had fallen to the bottom of society -Fallen women also speaks to the idea that prostitutes were part of the cause for the fall of man and they were analyzed extensively from socio-economically, where she grew up and in what class and also her motivation for entering a life of prostitution -Men made a family wage and women made a living wage during this period and this hugely impacted the decisions of many women to get into prostitution and men would make enough money to support a nuclear family because it was assumed they would have dependants -Women made just enough money to support themselves (this was not the case many times although employers said this) because they were believed to already be someone’s dependant and supported by their wages -There were many men supporting no one and there were many women supporting families that had been abandoned by their male partners so the wages did not fit the real situation -Prostitution was so popular because of the passionless doctrine where middle class women were not supposed to have sex with their husbands who would then seek it out elsewhere and it was very hard to regulate them because of their numbers th -In the 19 century a new generation of social scientists gathered statistics on their numbers and they observed them and saw how they were living and they categorized them according to race, religion, attractiveness, etc -This was difficult because no all prostitutes were recognizable because some women with jobs would dabble in it just to make ends meet they would appear respectable and the women themselves wouldn’t have thought of themselves as prostitutes -There were others that were blatantly obvious about their occupation and there was another category called the sly prostitute who was not identifiable easily and they were seen as even more as a moral threat because they were sneaky and immoral and more likely to spread disease than even the most blatant prostitutes -This division shows how hard it was to define and there were many women from the working class that would go one dates with men in exchange for food or gifts but again the line was blurred between what they were doing -Charlotte Perkins Gillman compared middle class marriages to prostitution much to the revulsion of many because wives were entering economic arrangements where they provided labour and sexual services in exchange for funds and status -Prostitutes were considered to be of a lower class but there is also a defined racist streak in the rhetoric concerning prostitution and women who were black or foreign (usually meaning Asian) were seen as especially morally weak and physically dirty and diseased -At the time cleanliness was a sign of femininity and they really took seriously the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” but this was only attainable by white middle class women because foreign women were naturally dirty and this really highlights the race and class differences -Foreigners usually lived in poverty and thus were dirtier but this was just a way of justifying the idea of moral inferiority and another major concern was white slavery (which implies that black slavery was normal) Jan, 21, 2013 -White slavery involved the involuntary confinement of white women of some status that were then used as sex slaves and this was seen as involuntary compared to prostitution even though many prostitutes had no other option to support themselves) -There was great fear about the victimization and kidnapping of white women in America and there was great concern women were being taken by foreign men and sold but this really didn’t exist to the extent they were worried about it -The paranoia resulted largely from racism towards foreign men and the fear was used to keep women in line because they were seen as needing containment and chaperoning -In reality most of the women who were kidnappe
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