By Julia Laite (auth.)
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Extra info for Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885–1960
1). 83 In other words, many of the features of prostitution control in place there were in part determined by its municipal idiosyncrasies, especially the administration and enforcement of prostitution law in London by Metropolitan Police, the Police Court Magistrates and the local authorities. The geography of London was almost incoherent, divided by the new borders of Boroughs, the more ancient divisions of vestry and parish, the administrative lines of police divisions, court districts, railway lines and public services, and the multiplicity of cultural geographies overlaid onto these more quantifiable maps (see Map 1).
Caught up within the language of ‘bad homes’ were intimations that future prostitutes were more likely to have suffered sexual abuse as juveniles or to have had a consensual, but too early, sexual experience with boys or men of their own class. ’35 ‘Walter’s’ comments are a powerful reminder of the subtle and not-so-subtle forces of 32 Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens sexual coercion that led many young women to sell sex, which can get lost in our efforts to articulate it as a choice and as a form of labour.
I use ‘women who sold sex’, ‘women who worked as prostitutes’, but also, occasionally and out of expediency, ‘prostitute women’ or ‘prostitutes’. 13 Others are also sticklers with words. 14 However, the range of experiences my research has uncovered has made me rather reluctant to apply a simplistic equation of passivity, victimhood and exploitation to any individual woman who chooses, though not in conditions of her choosing, to sell sex. In contrast to this typically radical feminist approach is the insistence on the part of prostitutes’ rights Selling Sex 27 advocates and other liberal or sex-radical feminists to refer to prostitutes as ‘sex workers’, arguing that prostitution must be understood as a form of labour within a larger sexualized economy (while recognizing in turn that prostitution, like other labour, can be exploitative).
Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885–1960 by Julia Laite (auth.)