Tag Archives: France


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.

Author: Daniela Danna, Researcher in sociology at the Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di scienze sociali e politiche, Report on prostitution laws in the European Union, Autumn 2013 – revised 5th February 2014

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
Creative Commons License

Click here to read the full report on this blog.

Read More

Mathieu, Lilian (2003): The Emergence and Uncertain Outcomes of Prostitutes’ Social Movements, in: The European Journal of Women’s Studies, 10(1), S. 29–50.

Full article


This article is a comparative study of five prostitutes’ social movements. The emergence of these movements is one of the major developments in the politics of prostitution: for the first time, prostitutes are politically organizing and expressing their claims and grievances in the public debate about prostitution – a debate from which they are usually excluded. But, as is the case for most stigmatized populations, this pretension to enter into the public debate is faced with many difficulties. Some of these are inherent to the world of prostitution, which is an informal, competitive and violent world, in which leaders face constant challenges to establish and maintain their authority and legitimacy. The article also emphasizes the crucial, but ambiguous, role played by alliances between prostitutes and people from other parts of society (especially feminists). Prostitutes’ dependence on these supporters leads the author to consider their social movements to be heteronomous mobilizations.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013 , pp. 81-101(21)


This essay seeks to analyze the recent reconfigurations of French nationalism, taking as an entry point the legal treatment of veiled Muslim women and prostitutes over the past two decades. We argue that the bodies of prostitutes and veiled Muslim women, both of which have been targeted by successive legal interventions in order to exclude them from the public space, have become central political sites for the state to assert its sovereign power and trigger nationalist feelings. This comparative analysis of gendered “lawfare“ (which John Comaroff has defined as the judicialization of politics and the resort to legal instruments to commit acts of political coercion) provides insights into a new form of nationalism that strives to foster “sexual liberalism“ as a core value of citizenship in order to enforce a virile nationalism, prescribe new sexual normativities, and criminalize immigrants and those living at the social margins.

Mathieu, Lilian (2012): An Ambiguous Compassion: Policing and Debating Prostitution in Contemporary France, in: Sexuality Research and Social Policy 9(3), pp 203-211.

Full article 


Since 1960, prostitution is defined by the French law as incompatible with human dignity. Prostitutes are considered as victims of social maladjustment who should be rescued by social workers and protected from pimps by the police. Major changes in prostitution policies have nevertheless been introduced in 2003, without fundamentally changing the law. Extended means have been given to the police to repress street prostitutes, and, crucially, to arrest and expel those prostitutes who are undocumented migrants. Surprisingly, this coercive turn has not been perceived as contradictory with the former compassionate approach, as repression is deemed to guarantee the protection of prostitutes’ human dignity. This paradox stands at the core of the article that explores the public controversies on the issue—and especially the new project to criminalize the purchase of sexual services—among social movements, politicians, government agencies, and intellectuals, as they are expressed in the media and in parliamentary debates.

Mathieu, Lilian(2004) ‘The Debate on Prostitution in France: A Conflict between Abolitionism,
Regulation and Prohibition’, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 12: 2, 153 — 163.
A heated debate on the issue of prostitution took place during the summer of 2002. Intellectuals, politicians, feminist activists, associations supporting prostitutes, and associations against prostitution opposed their conflicting ideas about prostitution and the measures that should be introduced in order to manage it or, on the contrary, to abolish it. Although it was provoked by the measures against soliciting announced in June 2002 by the new Minister for the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, this debate did not come out of the blue. It brought into conflict views that were already established and fuelled oppositions between groups that, in the past, had already voiced their disagreement. The aim of this article is to present the debate, focusing on the following aspects: the law on prostitution in France; disagreements between associations on the services that should be available to prostitutes; the intellectual debate between advocates of ‘prostitution-as-a-job’ and those who condemn ‘prostitution-as-slavery’; and, finally, the new policies recently adopted in other European countries, and the changes in prostitution itself, characterised by a severe deterioration in prostitutes’ living conditions and by the appearance of international prostitution rings.