Archive

Tag Archives: History

Hynson, Rachel. “Count, Capture, and Reeducate”: The Campaign to Rehabilitate Cuba’s Female Sex Workers, 1959–1966, in: Journal of the History of Sexuality 24, 1, January 2015
pp. 125-153

In 1964 Cuba’s fledgling movie industry collaborated with Soviet filmmakers to create Soy Cuba (I am Cuba), a dizzying expressionist tale of four Cubans whose problems were ameliorated by the revolution. One vignette features María, a young prostitute abandoned by her boyfriend after he finds her entertaining a US businessman.1 The film insinuates that sex workers, once victims of US imperialism and capitalism, were rescued and reeducated by the government campaign against prostitution.2 However, Soy Cuba received a cool reception on the island. Moviegoers and critics rejected the dream-like aesthetic of the film and demanded more “realistic” depictions of their revolution.3 This perceived disconnect between cinematic representation and revolutionary reality parallels the disjuncture between the official discourse on prostitution and the complex experiences of female sex workers in early revolutionary Cuba. [End Page 125]

The Cuban government and the standard historical accounts both describe the campaign to rehabilitate prostitutes as one of the great successes of the revolution, a monolithic movement that supposedly originated at the top and was implemented uniformly across the island.4 But this story obscures the lived experiences of state officials, provincial reformers, and sex workers who participated in a campaign that was complex, diverse, and conflictive. The campaign officially lasted from 1959 to 1965, during which time officials in the Department of Social Ills (Departamento de Lacras Sociales) at the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) decided policies, as did regional government officials and members of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), and other state organizations. Policies to combat sex work were initiated in all of the country’s six provinces, and while some provincial reformers acted on their own initiative, efforts at reeducation (reeducación) ultimately complemented the rehabilitation efforts of high-level government agents.

This article examines the revolutionaries’ initial attempts to rehabilitate the island’s thirty to forty thousand sex workers, paying special attention to the rhetoric and strategies deployed by reformers outside of the capital city of Havana.5 It argues that members from groups such as the FMC and National Revolutionary Police (PNR) helped initiate the antiprostitution campaign, often operating without official interference until 1962, when federal officials assumed greater control over the campaign and when penal work farms became a tool of reform. During the first six years of the revolution, official discourse transitioned from viewing sex workers as victims to categorizing them as counterrevolutionaries. Key to this analysis are the methods used to identify prostitutes (prostitutas). Rather than seeking confirmation that women exchanged sex for money, reformers identified sex workers according to their attire, behavior, race, place of residence, and sexual partners. I also demonstrate that the revolutionary campaign adopted a broad and flexible definition of prostituta, one that allowed government officials to target the behavior of all Cuban women, not merely that of those who identified as sex workers.

 

Laite, Julia. 2017. “Between Scylla and Charybdis: Women’s Labour Migration and Sex Trafficking in the Early Twentieth Century.” International Review of Social History:1–29. 

Abstract 

This article explores the discursive and practical entanglements of women’s work and sex trafficking, in Britain and internationally, in the early twentieth century. It examines discussions about trafficking and women’s work during a period that was instrumental in codifying modern, international conceptions of ‘trafficking’ and argues that porous and faulty borders were drawn between sex work, women’s licit work, and their sexual exploitation and their exploitation as workers. These borders were at their thinnest in discussions about two very important sectors of female-dominated migrant labour: domestic and care work, and work in the entertainment industry. The anti-trafficking movement, the international labour movement, and the makers of national laws and policies, attempted to separate sexual labour from other forms of labour. In doing so, they wilfully ignored or suppressed moments when they obviously intersected, and downplayed the role of other exploited and badly-paid licit work that sustained the global economy. But these attempts were rarely successful: despite the careful navigations of international and British officials, work continued to find its way back into discussions of sex trafficking, and sex trafficking remained entangled with the realities of women’s work.

PDF. 

 

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.
.
Abstract
.
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.
.
Abstract
.
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.
.
Abstract
.
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.
.
Abstract
.
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.