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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

Prostitution

69. How to Prevent Prostitution, 1843

Texte intégral

1The Victorian age was an age of marked differences between the classes in their sexual behaviour. Prostitution was a major problem – according to a survey carried out by William Tait in 1842 there were 200 brothels in Edinburgh alone employing around 800 girls and women. Most contributors to the debate on the ‘great Evil’ thought that women became prostitutes because of their individual character flaws and not because of social factors such as poverty or lack of education. Prostitutes were allowed to ply their trade freely up to the mid-nineteenth century; it was only in the 1860s that the government started addressing the issue with the passing of the Contagious Diseases Acts (see introduction to text 71). In the following extract, William Logan, a clergyman, explains how prostitution can be prevented.

2William Logan, An Exposure, from Observation, of Female Prostitution in London, Leeds, and Rochdale, and especially in the City of Glasgow with Remarks on the Cause, Extent, Results and Remedy of the Evil, Glasgow: G. Gallie and R. Fleckfield, 1843, p. 36-38.

IV. REMEDY FOR PROSTITUTION.—Having given an idea of the regular workings of prostitution, I shall now proceed to point out what can be done to prevent and suppress it.

1. In the first place, both Houses of Parliament should be petitioned on the subject. But some may enquire, what can parliament do?

First, Establish a law that would give magistrates the power of punishing procuresses.— This class of persons are allowed to proceed in decoying girls, without fear of detection.

Second, Establish a law for inditing known houses of ill-fame.

Three years ago, I called upon Edward Baines, Esq., then MP for Leeds, to inform him of several troublesome brothels in town, and he immediately said, “I am sorry that magistrates have little or no power over houses of ill-fame, but I shall give the police orders to look strictly after the houses now referred to. I have no hope of any permanent good being accomplished, so long as the law continues indefinite on the subject.”

2. In the second place the principle of Abstinence from all intoxicating liquors should be propagated.

I have stated, that “one-fourth of the girls have been servants in inns or public-houses, where they were seduced by men frequenting such places;” but the fact is, the remaining three-fourths fly to drink before attempting the fearful act! This will appear from what follows: – A mother, in Leeds, gave her two daughters intoxicating liquors in order to prepare them for an officer and sea captain. The youngest daughter, fourteen years of age, wept bitterly, which produced such an effect upon the captain’s mind, that, instead of seducing the child, he gave her half a sovereign; but the unnatural mother being determined upon her daughter’s ruin, made an engagement with a more hardened villain, who accomplished the girl’s destruction. The mother soon died in a miserable condition, and, according to the last account I heard of the two sisters, they were keeping a house of ill-fame. I once visited an orphan, fifteen years of age, for about six months, in an hospital. Her only sister got her intoxicated and then a monster in human form accomplished his hellish purpose. I visited another unfortunate female about three months ago, who was seduced in the following manner:—Her father was a servant to the public, and another person sent him out of town for the night upon business, and this person being aware that the mother was in the country, went down a second time to the house—sent out the innocent daughter for wine and brandy, and after getting her partly intoxicated, accomplished his satanic purpose. He remained until early in the morning, and when he left he gave the girl two guineas as a compensation for her destroyed virtue! Such

  • 22 Quote taken from Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5.

“Can smile, and smile, and be a villain.”22

The mother came home next day, and finding her once blooming child out of order, with plenty of money, she enquired how she got it. The girl burst into tears, and told her what had happened. The mother soon died, and the daughter went farther astray. I always found her grateful for a visit, and seemingly anxious to hear about Christ. Having attended a Sabbath school, she possessed a knowledge of many parts of the Bible. When conversing one day, she said, “Oh! If I had but attended to the instructions of my kind Sabbath school teacher, I should not have been in such an awful condition as this. Oh, sir, do you think I shall get better? I should like to do so, that I might lead a different life; but I fear death is approaching! I cannot move that poor hand! Will you take hold of it? Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me—, for I ain a poor sinner. O pray for me, for I cannot pray for myself!” About two weeks before she died, she stated the following circumstance to a friend, after he had, at her own request, engaged in prayer:—“Now, sir, I feel obliged to you: Go and tell ——•—— that he was the first man that ruined me.’ O, do tell him that he has ruined me!” No person was referring to the subject, but conscience was awakened. Several persons were around the bed when she stated this. She had been a good-looking person, but, what a change in about two years! She has died at twenty-two years of age, a victim to that dreadful malady which infects unfortunate females. The whole surface of her body was covered with ulcers, which sent forth such an effluvia, that it was impossible to remain many minutes at the bed-side.

Were it not for the intoxicating draught, neither of the parties could continue in their deeds of darkness. The mistress has acknowledged this, and often have the poor girls said to me, while the tears trickled down their pallid cheeks, “Ah, sir, we never could go on in our miserable course, were it not for intoxicating liquors. It is the last thing at night, and generally the first thing in the morning.” Banish intemperance, and in a short time prostitution would be almost unknown amongst us.

Notes

22 Quote taken from Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5.

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