Monday, March 1, 2010

Mix it Up Mondays: S.L.C.- Love for Sale

 Our next guest writer for Mix It Up Mondays is S.L.C. one of the bloggers from In Poppy's Closet

In “Love for Sale: Courting, Treating, and Prostitution in New York City, 1900-1945” Elizabeth Alice Clement explores the shift from traditional parental controlled courtship to a new element introduced during this time called treating. Treating existed in a realm somewhere in between chastity and prostitution, and surfaced primarily from an increase in independent women’s work and the emergence of amusements made available to the youth without strict parental supervision. Clement argues that that the new existence of treating in New York culture “changed ideas about courtship and notions of sexual morality and disturbed the place that prostitution held” (3).
Treating was the act of women exchanging a variety of sexual favors with men in return for goods such as dates, access to cheap amusements, or clothes instead of money. Treaters, or charity girls as they were also called, strictly separated themselves from prostitutes, who they viewed as low and amoral girls. Prostitutes accepted money and endangered those who surrounded them, where as charity girls went out just for fun. Women controlled treating in juxtaposition to prostitution. This was important, as this was a time when women held little control over themselves and their activities.
At the turn of the century leading into World War I brothel-led prostitution declined, which led to the integration of prostitution in working class New York neighborhoods. Some prostitutes took the closing of the brothels as an opportunity to gain economic independence. They began operating out of bars, hotels, tenements, and created a small business culture that revolved around residential working class neighborhoods of the city. Others took advantage of prostitution being not quite so visible, and turned tricks in secret. These clandestine prostitutes valued their reputations, and many “felt a genuine concern for the people in their neighborhoods” (110).  The shift in prostitution-based activity during this time period allowed prostitutes (if they wished) to blend in as working class women and enjoy some economic advantages.

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