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Eros Live In New York Essay

3261 words - 14 pages

The book, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex 1790-1920, written by Timothy J. Gilfoyle, explains the sexual transformation New York and its inhabitants experienced. Gilfoyle emphasizes the idea that sex had not been commercialized prior to this time. This new sex industry expanded all throughout New York City. Gilfoyle states that the public saw prostitution in a numerous ways; there were citizens who viewed it as a necessary urban evil and others as a moral disease. Many people thought that prostitution consisted of wretched women, who chose to sell themselves for the thrill of it, a common misconception. A handful of prostitutes became successful madams, acquiring mass amounts of wealth and power. With the increase in commercialized sex, there also was a dramatic increase in violence against women, leading to the creation of the pimp. Gilfoyle also writes about the transition that the male sexual psyche underwent in the 1900s, referred to as the “sporting man” culture. Prostitution’s prevalence in New York City extended from the brothels to other public spaces, such as museums. For some individuals, this sexual freedom resulted in the creation of guidebooks and pornographic literature. During the 1900s, prostitution also became heavily intertwined with law enforcement and its politics. With the visibility of sex exponentially increasing, some citizens resorted to vigilantism to combat it. The ideology of taking matters into one’s own hands led the social Reverend Charles Henry Parkhurst’s successful reform of prostitution.
At the beginning of the 1900s, there was a “sexual revolution” in New York City. During this time, sexual acts and desires were not hidden, but instead they were openly flaunted. It was because of this candidness that New York City was referred to as a “carnal showcase” and a place to where people went to destroy their body and soul. Prostitution was inescapable, because women who were willing to sell their bodies occupied nearly every public space. A common type of prostitute was known as the streetwalker. Streetwalkers were usually immigrant women, who freely roam the streets soliciting men. Due to the visibility of prostitutes and their work, communities would demand immediate police intervention, making it necessary for streetwalkers to seek clients in a more discreet way. This led to a rapid rise in the number of brothels, which was estimated at approximately two hundred during the time.
The expansion of the sex trade was intimately connected to the real estate market, specifically landlords. This tie was created due to the wave of immigrants that New York received in the 1900s. These people who came were often poor and could only work unreliable jobs. Because of this, these immigrants were unable to pay the rent for the spaces they lived in. With the increased need for discrete prostitution, landlords used this to their advantage. By renting to known prostitutes, landlords...

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