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


‘The ordinary citizen who detests exploited prostitution has no unbalanced desire for legislation at any price,’ wrote feminist Teresa Billington Greig in 1912, reflecting on the panics over white slavery that were so influential in the 1910s. She referred here to a different kind of ‘ordinary citizen’ than the one to whom the Wolfenden Committee would appeal four decades later, and, unlike Wolfenden, she was not willing to concede that short-term expedient solutions outweighed the risk of the harm that they might do. She argued instead that the ordinary citizen should realise that ‘the slow way is the only way of advance’ when it came to tackling the problems of prostitution: ‘He, or she, is prepared to face the inescapable truth that the causes of this evil cannot be touched by law,’ she wrote, ‘however perfectly conceived, however perfectly administered.’1 The evidence strongly supports Billington Greig’s convictions. As we have seen throughout this book, legal interventions — imperfectly conceived, imperfectly administered — proved very much unsuccessful in the repression of prostitution, though they did do a great deal to change its contours and to shape — overwhelmingly negatively — the experiences of women who sold sex.


Organize Crime Ordinary Citizen Street Prostitution Prostitution Policy Street Offence 
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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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