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Wed Feb 20, 2013, 05:41 AM

When Prostitution Wasn't a Crime: The Fascinating History of Sex Work in America

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/when-prostitution-wasnt-crime-fascinating-history-sex-work-america



You've heard this before: “What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is their own business.” In the United States, it's even almost true – arguments guarding sexual rights and privacy won out in the landmark Supreme Court ruling Lawrence v. Texas, in which state sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional. But that does not apply to people who wish to exchange sex for money. Sex workers' rights are largely unprotected, and remain a political battleground; meanwhile, people who buy and sell sexual services are arrested, shamed, compelled into “rehabilitation” programs, and branded with criminal records.

But there was a time in American history when it wasn't quite so. Laws against selling sex are fairly new – just about 100 years old – and came onto the books long after the sex trade took root in American cities. Does that mean there was a time when selling sex was more tolerated? Or did the law simply take some time to catch up to the new American people's prejudices?

First Ladies
“The miners came in forty-nine,
The whores in fifty-one;
And when they got together
They produced the native son.”
- 19th century San Francisco song

From New Amsterdam to the Louisiana colony to San Francisco's Gold Rush founding, historians have identified prostitutes, or women who make some or all of their earnings selling sex, as some of the first women in early American settlements. (I'm using the word “prostitute,” because it's historically accurate to the time. The term “sex worker” only became popular in the 1970s, when it was invented by Scarlot Harlot, a prostitute and activist living in San Francisco.) But we shouldn't forget that the women who immigrated here to sell sex arrived on land already populated and governed by indigenous peoples. What would become the United States is intimately connected to colonial European ideas about the “value” – both sexual and economic – of the new migrants and of Native American women.

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Reply When Prostitution Wasn't a Crime: The Fascinating History of Sex Work in America (Original post)
xchrom Feb 2013 OP
davidn3600 Feb 2013 #1
Arkansas Granny Feb 2013 #2
Demo_Chris Feb 2013 #6
appal_jack Feb 2013 #7
pokerfan Feb 2013 #8
davidpdx Feb 2013 #3
Gorp Feb 2013 #4
marmar Feb 2013 #5
LadyHawkAZ Feb 2013 #9

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 06:12 AM

1. Legislating morality

That's what it's about. We live in a country where Christians feel it is their duty to enforce their moral beliefs upon the population.

The amount of money wasted on this and the war on drugs is mind-boggling. We are talking billions and billions of dollars being spent, and we are accomplishing absolutely nothing.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 06:41 AM

2. It really seems silly that an adult can engage in

numerous consenting sexual acts with numerous partners, but if he/she accepts any compensation for those acts, they are breaking them law. So, you can give it away legally, but you can't sell it. Is any other commodity treated in this fashion?

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Response to Arkansas Granny (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:44 PM

6. A government vote

 

Like sex, you can only buy it indirectly.

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:20 PM

7. Good point. The parallels boggle the mind! n/t

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Response to Arkansas Granny (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:35 PM

8. Carlin said it best



I do not understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? Why should it be illegal to sell something that's perfectly legal to give away? I can't follow the logic on that at all. Of all the things you can do to a person, giving someone an orgasm is hardly the worst thing in the world. In the army they give you a medal for spraying napalm on people. Civilian life, you go to jail for giving someone an orgasm. Maybe I'm not supposed to understand it.

George Carlin, Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics, 1990

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 07:07 AM

3. Prostitution has been a big problem here in Korea for a long time

When my wife went to college, she had to walk up a street from the subway to the school. Essentially the whole block was a red light district. Fast forward 15 years and I got a job at the same university she graduated from and we moved to the area. Most of it has been redeveloped (a new subway/train station with a mall opened next to the very old one) and only some of the old signs were left in front of buildings that were locked up.

The thing is that they chase the brothels (or whatever you prefer to call them) out of one neighborhood and they pop up in another.

There was a story in the paper here not too long ago about the police shutting down a brothel in an area where there is a high concentration of foreigners including a US base. They came in and literally took out all the toilets, sinks, and bathtubs. Just gutted the place.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 11:33 AM

4. World's oldest profession. Even great apes have been seen engaging in it.

 

I find that a bit weird. Males will bribe females with food in exchange for sex, but as I understand it, the only non-human males to have sex for pleasure are dolphins. It's a curious dynamic with the apes.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 11:37 AM

5. k/r

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 05:11 PM

9. K&R

Love Melissa Gira Grant!

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