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How Do You Account For the Fact That the Regulation of Prostitution Has Usually Seen the Prostitute As the Problem? Discuss With Reference To Mid 19th Century Britain.

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Introduction

HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE FACT THAT THE REGULATION OF PROSTITUTION HAS USUALLY SEEN THE PROSTITUTE AS THE PROBLEM? DISCUSS WITH REFERENCE TO MID 19TH CENTURY BRITAIN. The Victorian era saw the increase of regulation in all spheres of life. The discipline enforced in the factories and other working places was soon extended to make society ordered as well. The notions of prudence, thrift, and control extended from economic to the domestic, sexual and other areas of social life. The regulation of prostitution was another aspect of this widespread control. It was meant to control sexuality, and the Contagious Diseases Acts were first introduced in the 1860's, which enjoined the forcible inspection of prostitutes carrying venereal diseases. As Walkowitz says, ' through the control of sexuality, the acts reinforced existing patterns of class and gender domination. They illustrate the obsessive preoccupation with and codification of sex that, according to Michel Foucault, distinguished Victorian sexuality from the official sexual code of the earlier epochs.' [Walkowitz, 1995,4] The prostitute was seen as the problem, dangerous and threatening - a sexual creature, defying the Victorian ideology of women being sexually passive. Along side this was the question of morality, 'prostitution was immoral and seditious; it was seen as a subversive system which could destroy the very roots of bourgeois society.' ...read more.

Middle

They were also considered dangerous, and were a symbol of underlying social anxieties. As this was a period of widespread social unrest, the prostitute symbolised an internal and external threat to society. The upper classes, and those passing the regulation connected prostitution with Owenism and Socialism. The Evangelicals, out to 'reform', in the earlier Victorian period had constructed prostitution as an evil that threatened the sanctity of the family and the order of society. But, by the later half of the 19th century, though, these same arguments were further developed, the 'problem' of prostitution was reformulated such that it still remained a 'social evil', but one that could be regulated and controlled by a system of police and medical supervision. Legal regulations were passed in Britain, the most notable being the Vagrancy Acts of 1824 and C.D. Acts - that were passed in 1864, 1866, and 1869, these legislations were extremely punitive and demeanign to women, and those who were recognized as prostitutes faced severe humiliating penalties. The 1824 Act was 'formulated to control soliciting in streets and public highways.' [Nead,1988,116] It affected the streetwalkers and the common East End prostitute - stopping them from behaving riotously and indecently in public places. ...read more.

Conclusion

The prostitute was seen as the cause of miasma and the invisible infection itself.' Venereal diseases soon stood as a symbol of moral and physical connotations of ill health and class disaffection. Prostitution also constituted an invisible danger. As they moved in between classes.[Nead, 1988,120-121] This gave rise to another fear - that of the mixing of the middle and the working classes. The connection between prostitution and social chaos and unrest was also very prominent.' Within the ruling classes prostitution and socialism were perceived as the two major forces threatening social advancement...The sexual excesses of prostitution was often seen as the vanguard of socialism and ensuing revolution.' [Nead, 1988, 110-111] All these reasons were responsible for the threat that the Middle class gentility felt from the prostitutes. Alongside there emerged a new enthusiasm for state intervention in the lives of the 'Great Unwashed' - the social residuum. The prostitutes belonged to this 'nether regions' of society and were just a source of cheap, illicit pleasure for middle calss Victorians. This social underworld however, as mentioned earlier was the focus of deep seated social fears and insecurities.[Walkowiz,1995.3-4] Thus 'sexual and social ideologies became embedded in laws, institutions, and social policies.' The Victorian ideals regarding prostitutes led to the problematisations of them in the regulation of prostitution. ------------X----------- ...read more.

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