Policing Public Women : The Regulation of Prostitution in Stockholm 1812-1880

University dissertation from Atlas Akademi, Stockholm

Abstract: This dissertation studies the development of a regulation of prostitution in Stockholm during the period 1812-1880. The development of the regulation system is seen in the light of an analytical framework, developed from Carole Pateman's ideas on the sexual contract, and a feministic critique and elaboration of Jürgen Habermas's ideas on the public sphere.The regulation of prostitution was a common characteristic for many metropolises in Europe during the nineteenth century, where supposedly loose and lecherous women were medically and spatially controlled to impede the spread of venereal diseases. Stockholm, and Sweden as a whole, went from a non-gendered to a gendered control of venereal disease, which eventually developed into a spatial control of public women.This study argues that the practices of a regulation system was at first part of an attempt to import what was seen as part of modernisation. Rather than to prohibit extra-marital sexual relations, these were to be controlled and supervised. Eventually the system was adapted to local circumstances in Stockholm, and a control of women's sexuality in public became part of a metropolitan modernity.In the process of the professionalisation of groups such as the police and the physicians, public women were over time perceived as a group of professional prostitutes. The possibility to live off prostitution as a transitory stage in women's lives disappeared, and prostitution became a medically and spatially controlled trade.

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