The social purity ‘crusade’ that gathered force after 1885 initiated a change both in ways of representing prostitution and in public opinion about ways of dealing with the sexually deviant woman. Since the 1860s the police had been granted the power under the Contagious Diseases Acts to apprehend women of doubtful virtue in the streets and insist that they be medically examined; if found to be diseased, they could then be detained in lock hospitals. Once these acts were repealed in 1885, prostitutes had greater freedom but were also kept under surveillance by philanthropists and the medical profession. A variety of discourses constructed the prostitute either as an innocent victim of male lust or as a ‘demon’ and ‘contagion of evil’. Judith Walkowitz has argued that such an ideological framework excluded the experience of women who drifted into this lifestyle temporarily, and provided ‘a restrictive and moralistic image’ of the fallen woman. Arguably, literary representations of prostitutes tended to flesh out the potentially restrictive images used in feminist, medical and periodical writing on the subject, though no form of discourse was immune to the strong influence of the language of purity used by the members of the National Vigilance Association (NVA) and its advocates.
This article investigates how the second-wave feminist emphasis on women's experience and first-person testimony manifests itself in feminist use of new technologies, in particular the web log or blog. Drawing on feminist theories of testimony and witnessing, as well as academic literature on the internet and new media, I analyse a number of feminist anti-prostitution and anti-pornography blogs in which the blogger positions herself as witness to the suffering of female sex workers. Although such blogs challenge different forms of exploitation in the sex industry, they tend to ignore the complexity of that industry and simplify the stories of women working in it, privileging experiences of suffering and victimhood and discrediting testimonies of sex workers who do not identify as victims. I conclude that although the blogosphere creates new fora for feminist networking and the creation of community, it simultaneously re-creates old forms of exclusion and divisions within feminism.
Sexual encounters, migration and desire in post-socialist context(s)
Judy Whitehead and Hülya Demirdirek
This introduction explores the contested issue of 'prostitution' and the transnational flow of sex labor. Drawing on the experiences of female migrants described in this issue, we rethink the impact of socialist transition and examine larger themes such as the role of discursive practices in the establishment of national boundaries and in various forms of international intervention. We problematize the 'traffic in women' as well as the conceptualization of and dichotomies surrounding sex labor. Key points in the current debates on transnational sex work are highlighted and an approach is suggested which conceives of agency and structure not in oppositional terms, but as a continuum. Considering the structural conditions imposed by neoliberal policies, we argue that ethnographic accounts can help explain how transnational openings in the market for sex work are internalized as opportunities for young women in post-socialist contexts and how economic liberalization becomes accepted as 'natural' and 'inevitable'.
Parcours de femmes à l’origine du CNFF (1880–1901)
This article aims to show that the foundation in 1901 of one of the most prominent French feminist associations, the Conseil national des femmes françaises (CNFF), was the result of the encounter between republican and feminist activist networks. Studying the trajectories of the CNFF’s pioneers, using biographical and archival sources, permits us to better evaluate the influences of free-thinkers, freemasons, and liberal Protestants on the movement. The author shows that these networks, which came together in the fight for the abolition of the regulation on prostitution, were at the heart of first wave feminist struggles for gender equality and the democratization of the Third Republic. Their intervention in the public sphere, especially in this movement, led to an unexpected interplay between feminists and republicans. This feminist moment must also be understood as a republican moment.
Sex Trade in the Borderlands of Europe
Tracie L. Wilson
In this article I analyze accounts from police and women’s activist documents from the turn of the twentieth century, which present narratives of sex trafficking in and from Galicia, an eastern borderland region of the Habsburg Empire. Both police and activist accounts underscore the image of innocent women forced into prostitution, although police accounts provide more variety and nuance regarding degrees of coercion and agency demonstrated by women. I examine what such narratives reveal about the role of crossing boundaries—an act central to both sex trafficking and efforts to maintain empire. In this context, I consider how the Habsburg authorities coped with and attempted to manage populations whose mobility appeared especially problematic. Although this research draws extensively from historical archives, my analysis is guided by perspectives from folklore studies and the anthropological concept of liminality.
The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism
Julie Billaud and Julie Castro
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.
This article provides a reassessment of the Berlin socialist women's movement of the mid-1890s as a historically significant attempt to establish a new kind of gender politics. The article shows how the movement provides an entry point to a broader, richer, more complicated feminist resistance than previously recognized. The historiographical processes that have narrowed interpretations of the movement are explored through a feminist-Foucauldian lens, which reveals the more collaborative activities and fluid alliances both among the women's groups and between them and a wider circle of social democratic men. A feminist-Foucauldian approach shifts attention to the movement's formation as an effect of power, highlighting its innovative organizational style, leadership, theorists, ideas, and resistance activities.
The specter of jineterismo in late 'special period' Cuba
Mette Louise Berg
Cuba's economic restructuring in the past decade has involved the country's reinsertion into the global tourist market. One of the undesired consequences of the new tourism based economy has been the phenomenon of jineterismo, literally horseback riding, but used to indicate hustling or prostitution. Prostitution is associated with the pre-revolution era and is therefore a sensitive issue for the socialist government. At the same time, sex tourism has become an important source of hard currency income. This article proposes to see jineterismo as a complex social phenomenon that brings issues of race, class, gender and nation into play, ultimately challenging the revolutionary narrative of social and racial equality.
What is that?
Kamala Kempadoo, Trafficking and prostitution reconsidered: New perspectives on migration, sex work, and human rights. London and Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2005, 247 pp., ISBN 1-59451-096-2 (paperback).
Kathryn Farr, Sex trafficking: The global market in women and children. New York: Worth Publishers, 2005, 262 pp., ISBN 0-71675-548-3 (paperback).
The basic human right to sexual autonomy and self‐determination encompasses two sides: it enshrines both the right to engage in wanted sexuality on the one hand, and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexuality, from sexual abuse and sexual violence on the other. This concept elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights, in the light of European legal consensus, suggests that the age of consent for sexual relations (outside of relationships of authority and outside of pornography and prostitution) should be set between 12 and 16 years. In any event the age of criminal responsibility should be the same as the age of sexual consent.