Legalizing Prostitution In The 19th Century

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Prior to the 19th century, most people either ignored or encouraged prostitution. They did not try to reform it. Satisfied with their daily lives, Americans left prostitutes alone. The 19th century, however, maintained a completely different storyline. The combination of rapid industrialism and intense religious piety led Americans to scrutinize prostitution in a whole new way, analyzing all of its moral problems and proposing possible solutions. While mayors and police officials tried to regulate prostitution with punitive measures, feminist, religious, and civil libertarian coalition groups attempted to abolish regulation with vocal complaints. As the ideas of regulationists and abolitionists naturally clashed—the abolitionists despised the regulationists’ ability to accept prostitution as a necessary evil, one that kept men happy and “preserved the purity of the home” when, in reality, prostitution was an intolerable social evil that must be eradicated—heated arguments arose. These arguments persisted…show more content…
In addition to being under constant surveillance—the state would register every prostitute, having police and doctors keep a close eye on each one—prostitutes faced compulsory medical examinations, which would then turn into compulsory hospitalization if found to have any venereal disease. Much to the abolitionists’ disgust, this campaign not only acknowledged but also accepted the existence of prostitution. Loathing this movement, the abolitionists used logic to debunk the regulationists’ position. According to the abolitionists, eliminating prostitution would not only significantly decrease the number of individuals with venereal diseases but also increase the moral standards of the nation as a whole. Fairly foolproof in itself, this argument hindered the regulationists’ movement, creating a new movement in its stead—the “social purity”

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