Sex Work in Society

A History of Sex Work in Edinburgh

1560 - As syphilis spreads across Scotland, an Act is passed in Edinburgh giving uninfected ‘whoremasters and harlots’ the opportunity to confess their conversion to a new way of life, or face public punishments ranging from branding to death.

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Sex Work on Film

Waterloo Bridge (1931)
Myra (Mae Clarke) is an American chorus girl down on her luck in London at the end of World War One. As she struggles to make ends meet picking up men on Waterloo Bridge, she meets and falls in love with a young Canadian soldier. Directed by James Whale, and remade in 1940 with Vivian Leigh. 

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Sex Work in Literature

Early portrayals of prostitution tended towards the overly romantic and/or pornographic, both in the raucous . In the late 19th century, ‘naturalism’ became popular and books such as Emile Zola’s Nana and Stephen Crane’s Maggie, a Girl of the Streets tried to portray the poverty and grinding desperation of the inner city poor, concentrating on the circumstances that led women into sex work rather than passing any moral judgement. Later, violence and destruction became a recurring theme, the woman’s downfall usually linked with other “moral failings” such as alcoholism or promiscuity.

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