Brothel prostitution dates back to the 1840s. The increase in the vice in the area was enhanced by the inflow of immigrants to the region. The population of New Orleans grew from 102, 193 in 1840 to 168, 675 in 1860 due to the increasing number of immigrants (Schafer 10). It has long had a reputation for being wicked and a vice-ridden city. The city leaders during that time granted licenses for the operation of brothels an aspect that played a pivotal role in the increase of brothel prostitution in the city. Other factors that propagated the vice included excessive drinking and lack of morality in the city. A reporter of the New Orleans Daily Picayune said that young girls would get drunk and this enabled them to induce men to accompany them home (Schafer 18). The reporter noted that the increase in the drinking houses in the city was a major contributing factor to the high rate of vices that were portrayed by the city dwellers.
As the severity of the vice in the city increased, children became recruits in sex working or rather prostitution. This stands as one of the most disturbing aspect of the sex trade in New Orleans. However, this phenomenon was not only a characteristic feature of sex trade in the New Orleans but also in other cities e.g. New York and Manhattan. The children who were recruited for the trade were ten and fourteen years old. Some parents supported their children’s idea of prostitution increasing the number of children in the sex trade. During the early 1990s, three parents of young women were reported to have encouraged their daughters to become prostitutes. Evidence exists not only in the newspapers but also in court records that a number of young women and girls visited or lived in the houses of prostitution. The worst case was reported in 1959 when the police reported to have found eight girls between nine and fourteen years old in one of the brothels in New Orleans (Schafer 157). The girls confessed that they had been taken to the brothel to sleep with men. However, sometimes-young women left their homes for the brothels on their own volition. Poverty is one of the factors that made many girls to voluntarily join prostitution.
The men in the society played a pivotal role in the propagation of prostitution among young women or rather girls. Men demanded the services of young women and girls in the brothels. The development of birth control methods also was and still is a major factor that propagates the vice in the community. The automatic form of birth control and the likelihood that a very young girl would be free from most of the sexually transmitted diseases made them attractive to the men who visited the brothels (Schafer 161). Additionally, it has been a common belief that if a man slept with a young woman especially a virgin they would be cured of their sexually transmitted disease that he might have contracted. Research has shown that men would pay high premiums for such girls. The ultimate result is that many young girls and women contracted venereal diseases due to such beliefs.
The illicit sex trade led to the spread of many venereal diseases especially in the late 19th century. A near epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases was reported in the city. This was evidenced by numerous advertisements of a cure of the disease all over the newspapers. Schafer notes that “each day, local newspapers carried large front page advertisements by several physicians claiming they had a sure cure for these ‘private diseases’” (19). The most rampant diseases during that time were syphilis, gonorrhea and gleet.
For a long time in history, women carried the blame of the increase of the vice in the New Orleans community. However, towards the end of the 19th century social purist held that men were equally responsible for the continuance of sex trade in the city. They believed that the solution to the vice in the community was for men to become celibate i.e. the unmarried men. For those who were married, they were urged to remain faithful to their spouses. It did not take long before both sexes assumed the responsibility of curbing the vice in the community. It is noteworthy that most of the women who were involved in prostitution in the brothel were women of color. The whites took advantage of the black slaves and recruited their children in sex trade.
The prevention of prostitution has many benefits not only to the victims but also to the entire society. It helps to eliminate child abuse in the society. Child abuse was associated with young girl children who had been abused by older men (Schafer 122). Children who became victims of the vice in the society could not help but obey the orders of their clients. Most of them were psychologically affected by the sexual activities that happened in the brothels. Research confirms that people who in their early stages in life are exposed to any form of sexual abuse lack self-confidence and suffer from low self-esteem (Best 599). These have a negative impact on the social development as well as in career development. However, it has been a challenge helping victims of sexual abuse since most child sexual abuse remained hidden since the majority of the cases are never reported.
Male chauvinism prevented the early intervention of the vice in the city. Most men, among which are social purists, blamed women for prostitution rather than the men who are involved in the trade-the clients. This was a bad approach in attacking the vice in the city. Bartley argues that men are the root cause of all the prostitution in the world (183). Some of the issues that were proposed as a solution to the gender bias purported that men should treat all women with respect and endeavor to protect them from wrong and degradation; endeavor to put down all the indecent language and maintain the law of purity as equally binding between both genders.
Politics in the New Orleans city also enhanced the continuance of prostitution in the city. Most of the politicians supported the trade to enable them to lure votes from the community. They also supported the licensing of the brothel operators besides helping them escape from the rule of the law. The support the sex traders especially the brothel operators received from the politicians gave them the zeal to continue with their trade.
Prostitution in the city has decreased significantly in the recent past. This is due to the increase of the number of people who support the abolition of the trade. Additionally, the increase in the levels of literacy among members of the community has helped in enlightening people about the dangers of the practice. The empowerment of the girl child irrespective of their race has also enhanced the decline in sex trade in the city as well as in other cities in the nation.
Brothel prostitution is one of the major community issues that degraded women in the society in the history of the New Orleans city. It began in the 1840s during the time when most immigrants flocked the city. The lack of proper moral guidelines in some of the immigrants advanced to the opening of brothels for sex trade. Poverty, among other societal aspects, made many women to join the trade since they believed that it had high returns as opposed to other forms of trade. Children were also recruited in the trade while others joined voluntarily (Frances 95). Prostitution not only lowers the dignity of the women but also is one of the factors that led to increased male chauvinism in the city. This led to the demands of men to be offered young children for sex. The negative effects of brothel prostitution included the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and low levels of literacy among young girls. This had a negative impact on the economic growth of the city not only because of ill health but also due to their inability to actively participate in community development due to illiteracy.
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