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Abstract

The Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris have served as an important source base for historians of both female prostitution and male homosexuality during the nineteenth century. Although the archives often place these two forms of sexual marginality in the same series, cartons, and dossiers, historians have almost always treated the two as distinct social categories. This article argues that this separation results from an overreliance on the modern sexual identity categories that serve as our point of departure. Instead, we should approach the archive without identifying with it in order to formulate a vision of the sexual past that may or may not reflect our own sexual organization. In dialogue with a broader discourse that conflated male same-sex sexual activity with female prostitution, these archives participate in the production of a sexual category that has as much to do with the selling of sex as it does with same-sex sexual desire.

Les historiens de la prostitution féminine et de l’homosexualité masculine au dix-neuvième siècle ont abondamment utilisé les archives de la Préfecture de police de Paris. Bien que les archives situent souvent de ces deux formes de marginalité sexuelle dans les mêmes séries, cartons, et dossiers, les historiens les ont presque toujours traitées comme des catégories sociales distinctes. Le présent article affirme que cette séparation repose sur une dépendance des catégories qui fournissent le point de départ des enquêtes historiques. Le refus de s’identifier à l’archive est une étape nécessaire pour formuler une vision du passé sexuel qui peut—ou pas—refléter notre propre organisation sexuelle. En dialogue avec un discours combinant les activités sexuelles entre hommes avec la prostitution féminine, ces archives participent en effet à la production d’une catégorie sexuelle qui a autant à voir avec le commerce du sexe qu’avec le désir homosexuel.

The 1889 “Cleveland Street Scandal” in London, which exposed a male brothel offering telegraph boys to elite men for sexual services, has long been recognized and evaluated as a window into late Victorian homoerotic subcultures and regulatory legislation. By focusing on the telegraph boys’ contribution to the scandal, particularly their roles as information service providers in relation to the broader ideologies associated with telecommunications work in this period, the scandal takes on new meanings for queer history. It reveals the relationship between queer urban encounters and the growth of clandestine communications surveillance in Britain and opens up possibilities for re-prioritizing service labor in historical accounts of queer interactions and subjectivities.

Wright, Micah. “‘Protection against the Lust of Men’: Progressivism, Prostitution and Rape in the Dominican Republic under US Occupation, 1916–24.” Gender & History 28, no. 3 (November 1, 2016): 623–40. doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12242.
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This article explains the disparity between the United States (US) military government’s efforts to defend and empower local women during the first occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–24) and its reputation for tolerating sexual assault. It argues that US officials, inspired by a progressive ideology that linked the social, economic and political spheres, set out to reshape Dominican sexual and gender norms as a means to ensure political stability. Yet, these efforts fell victim to both Dominican and US Marines’ conceptions of gender and normative sexuality. Building upon a thriving body of scholarship that addresses the significance of US efforts to redefine Dominican gender norms, this article analyses the military government’s policies towards women and provost courts’ responses to sexual assault. It concludes that, combined with an aggressive anti-prostitution campaign, the military government’s reforms succeeded only in creating an atmosphere favourable to crimes against women. Moreover, rape and the way it was prosecuted revitalised the patriarchal norms that US officials had set out to transform, thus setting the stage for the regime of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, whose thirty-year dictatorship depended on the conspicuous control of women. Thus, US policies and attitudes not only ensured the failure of progressive reform but also contributed to the ongoing subjugation of the very women the military government had pledged to empower.
Röger, Maren, and Emmanuel Debruyne. “From Control to Terror: German Prostitution Policies in Eastern and Western European Territories during Both World Wars.” Gender & History 28, no. 3 (November 1, 2016): 687–708. doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12245.
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In both World Wars, the German armies enacted a prostitution policy in all the occupied territories of Western and Eastern Europe. Through a comparative study, this article uses archival research in Poland, France, Belgium and Germany as well as existing studies in five languages to examine the continuities and discontinuities in German prostitution policies between the Western and the Eastern territories during both wars. In exploring the question of continuity, we consider the interaction of local authorities with occupation forces and how prostitution policies in Western and Eastern countries differed from the German ‘home front’. Strong continuities existed between the First and Second World War, including a severe backlash against the abolitionist trend in Europe and the extension of regulatory controls beyond the prostitutes to include other ‘suspect’ women, often justified by concerns over the spread of venereal diseases and public morality and health. Despite these continuities, prostitution policies were even more regressive during the Second World War, with the racial ideology of Nazism as the main trigger for the brutalisation of prostitution policies. German authorities pushed the system to greater extremes, overseeing its evolution from control to terror.
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Research conducted at the New York State Reformatory for Women at Bedford under the direction of founding superintendent Katharine Bement Davis produced some of the most influential data on prostitution in the Progressive Era. While Davis and Bedford have figured prominently in histories of the women’s prison reform movement, historical studies of the social response to prostitution in the Progressive Era, and feminist biographical accounts of women in early twentieth century reform crusades, the relationship between penal reform and the changing social organization of labor has been overlooked. This paper undertakes a critical reexamination of the Bedford data, demonstrating that while Davis advocated a social scientific approach to reform, she systematically displaced the significance of structural factors at two crucial levels: her studies of inmates and her own philosophy and practice of reform. Studies of inmates discounted the role of economic factors for women’s entry into prostitution in favor of explanations that emphasized familial and personal weakness. The institutionalization, training, and parole of inmates functioned not simply to place inmates in domestic service but to effectively disqualify them from other sources of respectable employment. Viewed through the lens of a social organization of labor perspective, a previously neglected dimension of the logic and practice of reform is illuminated.
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The article explores how Czechoslovakia reacted to the persistence of prostitution during State Socialism (1948-1989) when its underlying Marxist-Leninist ideology predicted that it should disappear with the overthrow of capitalism. The paper adopts a law in context approach, critically analysing legal instruments as well as expert commentaries by social scientists, legal scholars, judges and prosecutors from the period.

It argues that while the Czechoslovak state attempted to suppress prostitution through criminal law, conceptualizing it as ‘parasitism’, many of the State Socialist experts ultimately fell back on the extra-legal normative system of gender. Women in prostitution were condemned for their sexually promiscuous behaviour while all women were blamed for failing in their gender roles as good women, wives and mothers. Whereas the official policy was thus enforcing socialist morality, the experts reverted to traditional bourgeois morality, in clear betrayal of the promises of both Marxism-Leninism and the State Socialist ideology as regards the equality of the sexes.

The heightened responsibility all women were given to prevent prostitution was unique. State Socialist Czechoslovakia is thus more than yet another case study of a repressive regime that controls and punishes the more vulnerable side of the prostitution transaction and apportions blame in a gendered way. Instead, it demonstrates how prostitution can become a vehicle for promoting and upholding traditional gender norms not only towards women in prostitution, but all women in society.

Full article available here.