Paris has always been known as “the city of love” for many reasons; how beautiful and romantic the city is, and the amount of sex workers that are in the city. In France, many women work as sex workers because they get paid much more than what they would be getting paid for having a “real job”. That doesn’t make it okay for them to work like that though. Many women who are prostitutes are in dangerous conditions, not knowing what their nights are going to be like or whom they are going to be with. Many women continue to work regardless of the terrible conditions because they need to make a living somehow. Per the article, “it’s not against the law to take money for sex in France, the new legislation—passed on Wednesday by the National Assembly—makes almost everything connected with the trade, including paying the money illegal.”  This is supposed to cause less prostitutes in France, but no matter what there will always be women doing this kind of work. Most people believe women go into prostitution for their benefit and sexual desires but this is not true. Women and young girls get involved with prostitution because they need to find some substantial work. Prostitution has been relevant in society and culture, mainly focused on French culture, involving many young girls and older women. Women and young girls go into prostitution because they are born into poverty and can’t afford to go attend school, and need to find work to earn money for a way of living. These women are being forced into this labor because they need to feel significant and have a sense of worth in their lives. The book, Writing with a Vengeance, is an account of a young girl, Céleste, who goes through life and becomes a prostitute. Mossman, the author, writes, “in 1840 Céleste Vénard registered herself with the Parisian police as a prostitute in accordance with the regulations (Mossman, 6)”.  She was at a such a young and vulnerable age that she didn’t really know what she was doing. She needed to find a job and earn a living, and this was the only job she could find. Women are being forced into working in such a harsh way because they cannot afford to obtain a different job, since they aren’t qualified or they need more money than the job can provide. These women are being sexualized for money. Kilvington, Day, and Ward write, “the major problems of prostitution for the workers remain exploitation, stigma, abuse and criminalization.”  Women are performing this work in dangerous conditions that they shouldn’t have to endure.
Prostitution in France stared way back, when many girls were being kicked out of their home due to various reasons, needing to find a job quickly that would support themselves and most times, their children or families. There have been many preconceptions about France and prostitution, being that women only do it for their sexual desires, but that is incorrect. Women get involved with it because they need to support themselves some way, and cannot get a job because they lack an education. Since prostitution arose in France, and other parts of the world, there have been many events, laws created or lacked, and different theatrical components that have influenced prostitution in many ways. Prostitution has continued today through these major events, making it become a long-kept idea that will never diminish. Prostitution was formed due to major events like, the creation of brothels, rise of diseases among prostitutes, the birth of the cabaret and the multiple wars, which all shaped it to a longer lasting idea today, that has gotten worse over time.
Today, there are many women in France that go into prostitution because they cannot obtain a decent job since they aren’t qualified or they don’t have an education that can help them achieve a job. So, their last resort is prostitution. This happens from ages ranging from as young as 15 to as old as 40. Many women are struggling into finding work that can pay a decent amount and help them achieve a better life. In recent years, there hasn’t been much stop to prostitution in France. Many women work in brothels, private areas, or even in the public because those are only some of the places that they can go to perform these sexual acts without being criminalized. Brothels started to become regulated around the 1800’s, with many men and women engaging in them, both having different ideas entering into this place. Women are trying to earn a living by performing sexual acts in these regulated places, while men are going to brothels for social engagement. Governments in France knew that prostitution was a problem, but they also knew that they could never get rid of it completely. Since they couldn’t end the problem right away, they started to regulate brothels with the Morals Brigade. According to Rachel Fuchs, an author who wrote Gender and Poverty in the Nineteenth Century Europe, “the police in these countries attempted to regulate the pay and living conditions of prostitutes, licensing them to work in brothels or in certain areas of the cities (Fuchs, 193)”.  Everyone knew that prostitution was a job for many young, unsuccessful women, that they needed to regulate it somehow. They weren’t trying necessarily to get rid of it, but instead finding a way that would both benefit the social aspect of France and the young women who were selling themselves. This essentially didn’t end prostitution, but instead made it continue throughout time, leading to much worse events.
With so many women engaging in prostitution and men too, many diseases were going to be passed around from one person to another. With so many women working in the brothels, throughout the streets, and other areas, nothing was ever clean. Men didn’t care how clean these areas were, they were only there to have their satisfactions met. The police, or Morals Brigade, weren’t there to clean either. They were there to keep an eye out and make sure all prostitutes that were engaging in work, were registered with the police. There were so many germs flying around in these places that no one ever really cared to clean up after. Around 1850, many diseases were becoming aware among men and women. According to the Feminizing Venereal Disease, a book written by Mary Spongberg, she writes, “women were the main source of venereal “poison’ (Spongberg, 9)”.  These young girls and women couldn’t afford to see a doctor and get routine checkups. They had to rely on the police who “forced them to appear at dispensaries to have regular pelvic medical examinations for venereal disease (Fuchs, 193).”  If women didn’t show up to these appointments then they would be arrested right away and thrown into jail. No matter what, women couldn’t win. They were objectifying themselves by engaging in prostitution and weren’t given any rights. And then they were seen as objects because men didn’t care about them. All they needed was money, while men needed to satisfy their pleasures because they couldn’t receive these kinds of sexual acts from their wives. Women were putting their lives in danger, especially obtaining venereal disease or any other diseases that contributed to society. Since men didn’t care about them, they didn’t mind asking if they had any kind of disease. Women weren’t going to tell them either because then they couldn’t get paid. It was a cycle that kept going around and around, contributing to why women are still engaging in prostitution today. Getting a disease is not going to stop them from working, they will continue working while acquired with these diseases, because they have no other form of work. This continued throughout France and other parts of the world, with the creation of the cabaret and Moulin Rouge.
Throughout the next couple of years, after many diseases were being spread around, prostitution became more looked at as a theatrical idea. Now, in the 1870’s new ways of entertainment were being formed. Prostitution didn’t end, but started to become more as a way of life for many women. They started opening more theaters where men could go and watch women dance, and if they both enjoyed each other, women would go home with the men and get paid for sexual favors. This was a new form of entertainment in France. Cabarets were theaters that included dances, shows, and much more. They were mainly focused on women who’d dance for men. These clubs would be for higher up men in society because they were a lot nicer than brothels. Brothels were for low-societal men who couldn’t afford much, but these women would work in the cabarets because they knew they’d get paid much more than working in the brothels. A paper written by Professor Holley, stated that “the cabaret reversed the growing pattern of bigger and bigger entertainment by focusing on intimacy and very specific artistic goals.”  These men would go to the cabarets to get away from their families and find a new form of intimacy. This ties in with the idea that women were still involving themselves in prostitution some way, making it a prominent idea today. The creation of cabarets didn’t end prostitution but made it easier for women to get involved. One cabaret that was
most famous for women to get involved with was the Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge was another cabaret that had many women dance, perform shows, and showed many different forms of entertainment. An artist that would paint many pictures of prostitutes and different dancers that went to the Moulin Rouge and find different women to paint. According to France in the Age of Les Miserable, “Lautrec also frequented the theater, the circus, Parisian brothels and often dance halls along with prostitutes, who mingled among the clientele in search of business.”  He would find women to look for and paint, while parading with other women around the cabaret. The Moulin Rouge affected many women throughout France, and men. It was a place that many women could find a job at and still get paid a ton of money by involving themselves in prostitution. The formation of these cabarets didn’t end prostitution, but again, made it more socially acceptable. These women were selling themselves for money, so that they could live and enjoy life.
From the 1870’s till the 1930’s not much was happening with prostitution in France. It was still going on, around France, but no one was finding a way to end it. Then, in the 1930’s Hitler rose to power and started World War II. Though, much before the war there were some laws that regulated prostitution. According to the book, written by Colin Jones, Prostitution and the Ruling Class in Eighteenth-Century Montpellier, the government imposed many measures to try and end prostitution. These measures were focused on the middle class, and didn’t really end prostitution. They only reduced it. First, they write, “a series of laws between 1684 and 1687 attempted to eradicate the problem of prostitutes following the army (Jones, 8).”  They wanted to diminish the chance of obtaining a disease from these “sex workers”. They didn’t care about these women, but instead wanted to do everything that they could to get rid of them. Throughout the war, prostitution was becoming more prominent around France. Many women were getting back into business because they had so many men coming around their country that they found “new work”. Once the United States got involved, that’s when prostitution sky rocketed. Many Americans were looking for prostitutes to help end their sexual desires. A book, The Price of Discretion, written by Mary Roberts talks about how the Americans went to France and needed to have their desires fulfilled before going into the war. She writes, “in September 1944, while leading the 29th Infantry Division across Brittany to liberate France, the American general Charles Gerhardt decided that his boys needed sex. So, he instructed his chief of staff to start a house of prostitution”.  These men all thought that they needed sex before freeing France, so they’re general got it for them. This was a huge success for the prostitutes because they were finding more work. The beginning of the war caused them to go into hiding because there was a war happening around them. They weren’t safe from all the men protruding their town, but instead waited until men came to free France. Prostitution was never going to end. No matter what, women would find somewhere and some way to sell themselves for money. They didn’t have an education so, they couldn’t find a real job, making prostitution their last resort. Prostitution continued throughout time, making it much worse today because so many women are still engaging in this type of work.
Before 1980, France had occurred many problems with prostitution and today, still does. In 1960, there was an article published in The New York times explaining the measures they are taking to prevent prostitution and have women obtain a “more normal life.”  The article was written for people who were paying for prostitution and, or prostitutes in general. The purpose of the article is to inform people who are paying for prostitution that the government and police are taking serious measures to end prostitution. The New York times writes, “broader powers have been given to the police to control hotels and bars frequented by prostitutes. Such establishments may now be closed for periods of three months to five years and the proprietor faces possible loss of his driver’s license and passport.”  Anybody found with a prostitute will face huge consequences. Prostitution today has become a large part of French culture because of its past and present events. Many women become a part of prostitution, like earlier stated, because they need to find some substantial form of work, without an education. Prostitution in the early 1800’s was dirty, filthy, and very unsafe. It is still dirty, filthy, and very unsafe today because women do not know what they are getting themselves into. Women are being forced into working in such a harsh way because they cannot afford to obtain a different job, since they aren’t qualified or they need more money than the job can provide. These women are being sexualized for money. The British Medical Journal, written in 1957, wrote about prostitution saying that “Lombroso regarded prostitution in women as the equivalent of crime in men.”  This is comparing men committing actual crimes, like burglary or arson, to women who are trying to make money to support themselves. This is unfair. There was also another newspaper article, written by the New York Times in 1975, talking about several prostitutes that are calling federation and fighting for what they want. A quote written in the newspaper from a prostitute reads, “As a result, some of us have been getting arrested for or five times a night. Usually that means a $40 fine, or several nights in jail. What is particularly intolerable, is that then they send us to prison, they take our children away from us.”  Women aren’t receiving care from France, but instead being objectified. They need to end prostitution all around the world and finally come up with a plan that will end it. Some measures were taken, according to CNN, “The French National Assembly outlawed the hiring of prostitutes while eliminating penalties for sex workers”.  Prostitution is finally going to be recognized in the favor of the women, instead of the men. This is a huge event that is happening in France today because so many women are forcing themselves into this work.
Starting around the 1800’s, major events throughout time have affected what prostitution is like today. With the creation of brothels, many more young women entered this type of work. These brothels were filthy, thus leading to the rise of diseases. Many men and women didn’t know who had which disease because no one would tell whom and the police wouldn’t regulate it very well. Though, the Morals Brigade affected prostitution by restricting women to sign a registrar stating what they were engaging in and such. As the amount of people who obtained diseases rose, the creation of cabarets and the Moulin Rouge made prostitution a more socially accepted idea, which caused it to spread even more throughout the years. Though, after a couple of years’ prostitution was on the down low because not many things were happening around the world, but then the second world war began and caused prostitution to rise again. Ever since the war, prostitution has been on the rise and continues today. These events contributed to what prostitution is today, causing it to become a way of life for women that is unacceptable.
 Dickey, C “France’s New Prostitution Law Targets Johns, Ignites National Debate” 5 December 2013 https://search.proquest.com/docview/1662703172?accoundtid=14902
(assessed 20 January 2017)
: Mossman, Carol. Writing with a Vengeance. Canada: University of Toronto, 2009
:Kilvington, Judith, Sophie Day, and Helen Ward. “Prostitution Policy in Europe: A Time of Change?” Feminist Review, no. 67 (2001): 78-93.
: Fuchs, Rachel G. Gender and poverty in nineteenth-century Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 2005.
: Spongberg, Mary. Feminizing venereal disease: the body of the prostitute in nineteenth-century medical discourse. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1997.
: Holley, Professor David. “A Historical and Musical Perspective of a Struggling Era.” 2010.
: “France in the Age of Les Miserables.” Toulouse-Lautrec: Painting prostitution as it was. Accessed April 28, 2017. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/courtesans/Toulouse-Lautrec-painting-prostitiution-as-it-was.htm.
: Jones, Colin. “Prostitution and the Ruling Class in Eighteenth-Century Montpellier.” History Workshop, no. 6 (1978): 7-28. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4288189.
: Mary Louise Roberts; The Price of Discretion: Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and the American Military in France, 1944–1946. Am Hist Rev 2010; 115 (4): 1002-1030. doi: 10.1086/ahr.115.4.1002
: “Prostitution Curbs Posed in France” New York Times, November 28 1960 (Assessed February 6 2017) https://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:6117/docview/115114525?accountid=14902
: “Prostitution.” The British Medical Journal 2, no. 5041 (1957): 399-400. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25383562.
: “FRENCH PROSTITUTES FORM A FEDERATION.” 1975.New York Times (1923-Current File), Jun 18, 23. https://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:6117/docview/120383873?accountid=14902.
: Yan, Holly. “France: Prostitution legal, paying for sex illegal.” CNN. April 07, 2016. Accessed April 28, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/07/europe/france-prostitution/
Figure 1: Edmonds, Mandee. “HIGHLY RATED FRENCH PROSTITUTE, ALICE MAROT ON A WINDOW SILL IN PARIS, FRANCE.” Pinterest. April 27, 2011. Accessed April 28, 2017. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/132152570289115315/.
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