By Julia Laite (auth.)
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First released in 1998. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.
Additional info for Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885–1960
This brings up another important question: do we measure the ‘amount’ of prostitution in terms of the number of women selling sex, the number of men buying it, or the number of times sex is sold? And what does each measurement tell us? What all of this indicates is that, while these estimates and calculations are of great interest to many historians of sexuality, of population and of society more generally, it is an exercise in relative futility to belabour numbers when it comes to the history of prostitution.
British prostitution law did not refer at all to the actual act of prostitution – the exchange of money for sexual service – nor did it require any proof of this transaction or intention to transact when prosecuting women for solicitation or for brothel-keeping. Instead, the control of prostitution relied entirely on the woman’s identity, and, though the term ‘common prostitute’ was never defined in any statute, it was, and remains, absolutely central to the control of prostitution in Britain. So too was another, even more poorly defined, concept, that of the ‘ordinary citizen’: a member of an assumed majority of Londoners and Britons who had increasingly come to understand that, for various reasons, prostitution was inherently criminal and a fitting subject for legal repression.
52 Selling Sex 35 There was no more damning critique of reform homes than that which we can glean from the actions – or lack of action – on the part of prostitutes themselves. 55 For this reason, using the records of reform homes and workhouses to illustrate the realities of prostitution is highly problematic, and not likely to be representative of most of the experiences of prostitute women. 56 This desire for a life that broke away from working-class women’s handto-mouth existence and subscribed gender roles was frequently cited as a cause of prostitution, though usually as a way to denigrate these choices.
Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885–1960 by Julia Laite (auth.)