How Prostitution Worked In England’s More Than a Hundred Years Ago

How Prostitution Worked In England’s More Than a Hundred Years Ago

England’s Victorian era was mostly characterized by people being very upright and bright. Yet rarely do romantic novels and history books mention how sexually obsessed the culture really was. You could actually find a brothel sooner than you could find a school. This was because people thought that men should have an outlet to their sexual desires. They should be able to experience the fantasies they were forced to repress within their day-to-day lives.

Even though there were more than 80 000 prostitutes working in London, they were still stigmatized by society. They were viewed as the “fallen women”, because no proper lady would become like them. Yet prostitution was completely legal and even encouraged. The demand was high and it allowed women to live much better lives and earn better wages that would have been impossible by other means. Let’s see what else England’s Victorian era had going on!

Prostitutes Had Three Different Classes

Since there was an insane number of prostitutes working in each city, there was a lot to choose from. So just in any level of society, women were classified. The lowest class was the girls who worked in a brothel. They had no control over who they slept with and most of their earnings went into a madam’s or a pimp’s pockets.

The middle-class was women who worked privately and had their own apartment. They only slept with men who they wanted to sleep with and could keep all of their earnings. But they didn’t have access to the safety of the establishment and the medical checkups provided by it.

Finally, the highest class of prostitutes only worked with members of the parliament and aristocrats. They were the most beautiful and most well-educated among prostitutes. If a man was rich, he could afford to have a prostitute all to himself, which often ended up in marriage later on.

Beautiful woman

Almost Half of the Married Women Were Part-Time Prostitutes

Most men had no problem with their wives sleeping with other men for money. In fact, most of the street vendors had their wives working as prostitutes on the side. Them providing sexual services helped to keep their families going and run the business. It was the perfect supplement for their low income.

Some husbands abused their wives and treated them as property, renting it to whoever they wanted to. Other women worked out of their own choice and were happy to earn their income. They were also in charge of who they would sleep with. The greatest issue they faced, however, is that they couldn’t lose their virginity before marriage. Otherwise, it would mean that they are doomed to a life of prostitution.

Prostitution Was The Best Paid-Job Women Could Have

Even though prostitution isn’t the most glamorous job, it certainly is one of the most high-paying ones even today. The women of that time didn’t have many career options. They either became shopkeepers, factory workers or servants in a best-case scenario. Even if they got a better education and a better job, they still only earned £25 per year. It wasn’t nearly enough to support their families. Becoming a prostitute allowed women to work less time and get a higher pay. It allowed them to carry a lot more weight, support their families or even become financially independent.

Prostitutes Were Shown Off in Catalogues

Even Maxim Vien has a catalogue for the girls you can have sex with. It’s a great way to decide who you want to visit before you walk into the brothel. These catalogs were present even in the Victorian Era. Although it was mostly rich men who had access to them, they could look through many of the girls. It wrote their age, height, weight, bodily features, and their personality, along with their wage which was about £2–£3.

Quick Tip: If you’re curious about other facts regarding prostitution in the Victorian era, read this article for more in-detail facts:

Themed Brothels Already Existed

As always, men couldn’t fully express what they wanted out of sex within the confines of marriage. Women didn’t have any encouragement to be sexual and they mostly reserved sex for having children. But there was still a dire need for men to explicitly express their desires.

Which is why there were numerous brothels themed as, S&M, gay brothels, cross-dressing and numerous others. They all specialized in fulfilling different kinds of kinky fantasies, just like they do today. The tragic fact was that there were also brothels that specialized in very young girls and virgins as well.

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