Thursday, February 21, 2013

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

From the Louisiana colony to the California Gold Rush, prostitutes were some of the first women in early American settlements.

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?  

Read on....

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