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?