November 08, 2006

Prostitution at Westminster

Yet another interesting post by a member of the History and Policy Website. Julia Laite from Cambridge discusses the changing and in particular unchanging face of the law on prostitution. A couple of things emerge from her discussion, firstly that legislation upon prostitutes encourages waves of violence and hatred against prostitutes- she links for instance late 19th Century violence against street walkers with the proffusion of late 19th Century acts about prostitution. The second thing that she suggests is that British law has as the Government thinks been far too aggressive when it comes to deciding that a place where two or three prostitutes live together is a brothel. Such measures encourage women to live apart in vulnerability and recruit pimps of various kinds. Thirdly she points out some truly horrific figures on the conviction of pimps- in 1900 despite a bill having been passed a couple of years earlier against profiting from prostitution only 160 pimps were punished as opposed to 7,000 prostitutes. The one pity about this article is that possibly for reasons of space we never hear from any of the actual prostitutes- this article is one compiled from the outside by the politician or protester looking in and whilst it is happy to annex and argue about the experience of prostitution doesn't actually give us any statements from actual prostitutes. This is an interesting article and well worth reading, it obviously doesn't and can't include much information about prostitution, but it does give some historical background, that's worth a look and consideration.


edmund6 said...

what i found noteworthy in the article was the lack of facts- the only facts discussed were prosecutions

I've heard the claim that mid Victorian london had many more protsitutes than today-whcih sugests that at least from a certian point of view, these laws were a success

shouldn't you expect prosititoes to get prosecuted more than pimps, besides anything else there are almost by defition more of hte former, and if you legalize prostitioe you in practice legalize pimping-since by and large only prostitues can expose pimps. Morover if you have exepmption for the "small struggling , family brothel" you have then to prove that a pimp is not some nice small pimp if you have such an exempriotn-it would be much more honest to legalize prostitiute-and more just since it's hard to see how it can be wrong for 30 but right for 3.

Would she favour criminilzing the purchers of drugs with as heavy a sentence and enforcemtn as the suppliers under the same logic?

and if you're so keen on the voice of the peole why not the users of protistues or the victims of its effect- why aren't their voices just as relevent?

she ignoes what i find the most interresitng aspect of 19th century prosition-the campgin by joesphine butler to ban it to look after the intersts of women and save them from a a degraded life and the enormous and even vicious oppostion she faced.

Gracchi said...

I think the voices of the users would be interesting to hear. Personally though I think that the prostitutes are often the ones who lose most in prostitution and consequently I'd like to hear about interviews with them about the practice. I'm not sure about your drugs analogy- I think its the aspect of prostitution which makes sex a bargain that is particularly worrying to her and lots of feminists- there is a loss of human agency whereas in the case of drugs its merely an exchange of money for a product, like buying sweets if you like. By the way on Victorian London and prostitutes I think to be honest that has a lot more to do with the falling of the age of first sexual contact and the raising of the prohibitions against sex outside marriage so I think that the laws had probably little effect- if you have any studies to the opposite effect that would be interesting. As for Josephine Butler's campaign, I don't think you can indict an article for what it isn't about. This is an article about mainstream attitudes not about feminist attitudes.

edmund said...

why is there a loss of human agency? I mean i can see why it might be wrong on anti-exta mrial/ non "stable-reatihsop sex grunds but how is there any greater loss of human agency than with drugs- sue4ly the entical pborlm is the abuse of human agency not its loss?

i agree though with the point about the prostitues though i think the spouses of those they have sex with are arguably even bigger losers

As i understand since the 50's (where most of the changes you descirbe have happened) there has been a rise in prostititu which would work agaisnt that theory. certa i think by the 50's it was much much lower than the 1 in 12 in victorian london.

the reason why I think josephine butler is relvn is a) that her anti- prosition bieng legal went with her prot-femisit attitudes ( which is al arge prat of the discusison) and b) the massive support ando ppositon she got is hugley importnat for understanding "mainstream" attitudes

Henry said...

I don't think Butler is relevant because I think that feminists now are different from those then- and nobody should have to defend the views of their nineteenth century ideological ancestors.

I'm not sure about your point about the fifties I think the evolution has been much more gradual across the twentieth century- though I'd love to see your evidence.

As to the point about prostitution and agency. Let me formulate this carefully. If I sell a product- say a sweet to you- then my ability to sell it in the future or to keep selling it or not to sell it is not really influenced at all. Selling my body to you though for your usage is a different matter- its strikes me as a much more fundamental sale and we approach here that old dilemma about whether you can sell yourself into slavery.

edmund said...

You misunderstand my point about Butler I'm not trying to smear her by suggesting she's the same as modenr fmintis ,my point was that you have to look at her when talking about the attitudes to prostion in the law.. it's absurd not to

I think the illegitimy and abortion rates helop confirm my point on rates of change

How does protistition differ frmo any ohter form of work in terms of your argument ? (even intellually based endous use the body-for a start the barin is part of it) . I think your arug might start to work if one has a view that sexual intercourse has proper funcions incompatibe with sexual promisy (r indeed much else sicne protio could theorically be onece only) I fail to see how it works otherwise.

Gracchi said...

Alright on Butler you are right- contemporary attitudes do matter.

I need to consider prostitution a bit more- it does seem to me to be more invasive- sex ultimately is more personal than say carrying things for somebody for money but that's a prejudicial judgement and I really can't justify why that's true. I won't abandon a reluctance to criticise promiscuity either.