Prostitution and causes 1858

Sadly prostitution is still here in the 21st century and no matter how many laws that are thrown at it this terrible trade in bodies remains.

I have never been to prostitute and have always remined adamant that I would never will…I would rather have no sex than pay for it as I have no wish to perpetuate this most distasteful business, but I do know just one person who has paid for sex on a fairly regular basis. He doesn’t have two heads, nor does he smell or anything out of the ordinary…he is just shy and awkward when it comes to the fairer sex, paying for sex is a business transaction and is viewed by him as quite different from sex with a girlfriend or spouse and so it goes on.

Last best guess  back in 2009 was that there were 100,000 prostitutes in the United Kingdom which should really be of concern to all of us as it was back in the Victorian Era.

In 1859 James Miller FRSE, FRCSE (Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh) published a book about prostitution, it’s causes and cure.

His best guess back then was that there was between 8000 to 80,000 prostitutes in London alone although that figure was more likely to have been around 10,000.

The sum is a terrible one, pregnant of vast results in debauchery, disease, and death to individuals—of degradation and danger to the community at large. Let any one walk certain streets of London, Glasgow, or Edinburgh, of a night, and, without troubling his head with statistics, his eyes and ears will tell him at once what a multitudinous amazonian army thedevil keeps in constant field service, for advancing his own ends. The stones seem alive with lust, and the very atmosphere is tainted.

According to Miller thereare several reasons why prostitution is such a problem and the number one issue is:

An abundant cause of prostitution, in the lower ranks, is the force of early habits and education—education, not in knowledge, but in vice and crime. Children are born to unchastity. Their parents are the offscourings of the earth: the first words a daughter hears are those of cursing and blasphemy; the only example her childhood sees is that of obscenity and vice; such youth is an apt learner; and, at the age of ten or twelve, she may be both a prostitute and a thief—her lapsed state having proved rather a simple progress than a fall.

Followed very closers by:

A more painful, and perhaps equally prolific cause, is poverty. Look to the female operatives in large towns—the sewing girls, milliners, factory workers, etc. It is generally understood, so as to be quite proverbial, that out of these the ranks of the fallen are mainly recruited. How? In some cases, no doubt, from the cause previously stated—evil and early associations; in some, also, from vanity, imprudent acquaintanceships, intemperance, etc.; but, in a very large number, from sheer want.

Poverty and a lack of education…funny isn’t that the reason given for the riots last year?

Henry Mayhew in his book London Labour and the London Poor quotes one poor girl:

“I struggled very hard to keep myself chaste,but I found that I could not get food and clothing for myself and mother, so I took to live with a young man. He said he’d make me his lawful wife, but I hardly cared so long as I could get food for myself and mother . .

Quite simply if you were poor you could not earn enough to live on. Another mother:

“I earn clear just about 3 shillings. At times I was so badly off, me and my boy, that I was forced to resort to prostitution to keep us from starving. I do the best I can with what little money I earn and the rest I am obligated to go to the streets for. I can’t get a rag to wear without flying to prostitution for it. My wages will hardly find me in food. Indeed, I eat more than I earn.”

Within poverty was what Miller called ‘a sense of decency’ with whole families, lodgers and even newly married couples living in the same room.

Another reason was alcohol:

“A woman that drinks will do anything,” is too true a proverb; and its interpretation is easy”

It was a vicious circle for many women who drank because their lives were so wretched, they turned to selling their bodies to pay for alcohol and carried the guilt of prostitution which they would try and drink away..and the circle only ceased when the woman was dead.

Miller also claims that:

First and foremost stands irreligion—prolific parent of every vice and crime. Without its restraining power in the heart, the creature is impelled to all sensual indulgence without let or hindrance.

A lack of faith? Maybe but as far as I was aware all are ‘sinners’ and all sin treated as equal!

His final cause is a:

“slackness of our civic rule in permitting prostitution, brazen-faced and open-handed, to prowl upon our streets for prey. The thief is dogged anxiously by the detective, and even mere suspicion of his craft is sufficient for arrest; but the prostitute, though such by habit and repute, and seen in the act of ensnaring the silly one, is left undisturbed in her vocation.”

Not policed enough, many prostitutes were a simply allowed to go about there business.

So what were the solutions that Miller put forward? His remedies for prostitution are as follows:

We would continue and greatly increase the efforts made for elevating the masses. Education must be sown far more broadcast than it is; and with it religion, as the true fertilising and fructifying power. Secular and religious teaching must go hand in hand. Let these run to and fro together over all our borders; then true knowledge shall be increased; and then, too, as already stated, we may look for prevalence of self-respect and self-control.

Education, education, education…sounds somewhat familiar part of today’s political landscape in the UK.

Accommodation was also at the top of the agenda:

Better houses must be provided for the working-men and women, in both town and country, but specially in the former. Oh, that some magic power were given to the monied and respectable classes, so that they might have but one brief comprehensive glimpse of all the frightful orgies that are transacted, night after night, in the squalid lairs of the sunken and depraved!

and the country did eventually make some headway with housing although we are once on the brink. Instil some morals and values into the those scrounging, idle parents and thus there parents:

Let every means be used to restore vicious and idle parents to habits of industry, and virtue, and honesty. And into the children let us ingraft right principles, so that they may grow up, at least in the knowledge of right and wrong, and with a consciousness on the part of the female, that she carries a priceless jewel in her honour— however plain her person—however humble her rank may be—which, without deepest shame and detriment, she dare not give away.

A ban on alcohol:

The masses will not be elevated, unless along with many other changes intemperance be put away; and this demands special opposition, as we have seen. Were the disuse of alcoholic drinks, except under medical requirement, to become general, in six months we should be rid of prostitution by at least a half.

It’s amazing how much this is starting to sounds like a political broadcast for our current masters in government…my how thing don’t change!

The question of womens pay which was eventually adressed some 120 years later and yet even today women in the UK earn 10% less than men

In this country, the whole question of female labour and wages stands urgently in need of revision. It is a shame that in these enlightened days, honest, industrious, able-bodied women, labouring with painful industry from morning to night, or oft-times far into night, cannot make a living; and may, from this cause alone, be driven into vice and self-debasement.

Clearly there were some who were mentally ill and lived on the streets very much like today although this is not mentioned by Miller. He does go on to say that the moral tone of general society must be raised and with the Penny Dreadfuls, Penny Gaffes, lack of education and extreme poverty that is really par for the course…mind you it probably wouldn’t do our society to raise the bar a bit whne you look at the awful celebrity culture that has risen up in the last 20 years.

And of course Miller is not in favour of regulation of prostitution but of the full repression of so that it is removed from the streets altogether…and I for one can only agree with him.