Introduction: Criminalizing Commercial Sex

  • Julia Laite
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


‘The prostitute is the scapegoat for everyone’s sins, and few people care whether she is justly treated or not,’ wrote Alison Neilans, the outspoken feminist campaigner who led early twentieth-century campaigns to repeal laws directed against prostitutes, end the government regulation of prostitution, promote sexual health without coercive measures, and overturn the double standard of sexual morality.1 Like Josephine Butler a generation before, Neilans worked in relative obscurity, addressing a social problem that many were keen to denigrate or romanticize, but few were willing to examine carefully. ‘Good people have spent thousands of pounds in efforts to reform her;’ she continued. ‘Poets have written about her; essayists and orators have made her the subject of some of their most striking rhetoric; perhaps no class of people have been abused, persecuted, hated, or, alternatively, sentimentalized over as prostitutes have been, but one thing they have never had yet, and that is simple legal justice. Ought we not to secure legal justice for the “common prostitute” before we set out to reform her?’2


Criminal Justice System Ordinary Citizen Metropolitan Police Police Division Police Commissioner 
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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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