What You Always Wanted to Know About Prostitution in America
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The “business” of prostitution attracts women from all areas of the country and from all economic and ethnic backgrounds.
There is a mistaken belief, deriving especially from the folklore of the religiously dominated heritage of the United States, that all ladies who pursue this most popular of professions are “fallen women.” The indication of such terminology is that prostitutes are women who once enjoyed all the benefits that this democratic country could afford (or at least that such benefits were within their reach, if only they would pursue “honest” work with true Yankee determination), but have, through some basic weakness of character, stumbled and are astray on a path of sin.
This is an obviously romanticized picture of the prostitute, most often portrayed as the “whore with a heart of gold,” essentially a good woman, but one who has been unable to resist the temptation of the flesh and/or of easy money, and has accepted the easy way out of some personal dilemma. In line with this picture, however, she can never forget the real society which is the world outside her house, a society and a world which are better than her own, and to which—as a whore—she can pay only humble homage.
That such delineations are erroneous can be seen in the normal daily newspaper coverage of women arrested for prostitution. Often these articles trace (without using her name or any personal identification) the history of a particular woman who works as a prostitute. Frequently such a woman is one who comes from a relatively typical middle-class background, brought up with all the usual values and dreams so long romanticized in print and on film or video tape. Usually there was nothing in her background to indicate that she might some day turn to prostitution for a living.
That she did is not remarkable, however, at least when one considers not particularly her personal history, but the history of her society. Repeatedly two principal themes recur, both partially based in the “Puritan ethic” of our forefathers: (1) the search for greater wealth, at the expense of the least possible effort; (2) the quest for individual sexual satisfaction, and the belief that such satisfaction is necessarily sinful or “wrong.”
Protestants next most heavily represented. Even the most recent data suggests that prostitutes are fairly consistent in their attendance at religious services. One early study concluded that two-thirds of the prostitutes in a Philadelphia reformatory had unfavorable family lives as children, and more than half had lost at least one parent through death. Many prostitutes today refer to their mothers as having been very strict and complain that they never shared the freedom of other girls. If
out on them she herself could inflict hurt. Since she saw sex as the most reliable instrument at her disposal in holding power over men and ultimately hurting them, she readily accepted the offer of a call-girl organization. On one of her paid visits to men, she discovered that humiliating the man by inflicting physical pain was a most satisfying form of sex. Following that discovery she accepted calls only to masochistic clients. Finally the sadistic streak in her had grown so pronounced that
where they are taught the fundamentals of the trade as well as how to protect themselves from the police and their customers. After entering into their career, they are taught—usually by other prostitutes—how to choose their clientele in such a way that they can remain outside of the knowledge of the law; it is the inexperienced prostitute who most often gets arrested, and who causes the greatest amount of discord in the society. The intent of the laws is to establish working relationships
Board of Governors of the Alms House of New York City. Little, however, was done about the recommendations until after the Civil War. In 1871 a bill providing for the legal regulation of prostitution was passed by the New York legislature, but it received a pocket veto from the governor. In 1875, after the Legislative committee on Crime had reported in favor of a regulation system, another bill was introduced. The measure also failed to pass, in part because various women's groups argued that
save becomes a masochistic figure, collaborating in his own degradation, although he originally set out to end the degradation of the one he loved. The most famous and influential work of this type is Alexandre Dumas' La Dame aus Camelias (Camille) (1848). There is little of erotic content in the novel, the emphasis being on the physical suffering of the heroine and on the mutual emotional and psychological suffering of the lovers. The emphasis throughout is upon life as suffering, a vale of