Risking the Dangers: Reconsidering Commercial Sex in ‘Permissive Britain’

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


The establishment of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in 1954 reconfirmed that the controversies surrounding the best way to respond to the problems of prostitution remained after many decades of attempts at repression. Both the Victorian speakers and writers who campaigned for the Criminal Law Amendment Act and those who discussed prostitution in 1950s Britain had their own diverse understandings of its causes, opinions about its worst features, and solutions for its control and repression. Despite the lack of consensus, the outcome of the Wolfenden Committee was surprisingly clear-cut: almost all of its recommendations about street prostitution appeared in the Street Offences Act of 1959, which marked the most important legislative change in the way Great Britain dealt with prostitution since the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885.


Sexual Offence Probation Officer Ordinary Citizen Moral Panic Police Commissioner 
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  1. 1.
    Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 (London, 1989), p. 239 and Mort, Capital Affairs, chapter 4.Google Scholar
  2. 35.
    T. Kemp, ‘A Study of the Causes of Prostitution, Especially Concerning Hereditary Factors’, in A Decade of Progress in Eugenics, Scientific Papers of the Third International Congress of Eugenics (New York, 1932).Google Scholar
  3. 49.
    R.L. Archdale, Prostitution and Persecution, Some Comments on the Street Offences Act, 1959: Pamphlet Number 8 (London, 1959), p. 21.Google Scholar

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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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