Prostitution and life of hookers in Victorian society

Prostitution and life of hookers in Victorian society

Image for postwomen seducing men in brothels.Image for postmen coming to ringer houses.

Prostitution in Victorian England was a part of everyday life for people from every class, ethnicity, and gender. Prostitution became a major concern and a focal point for social reformers in the 19th century. No one knows for certain, but there were somewhere between 8,000 and 80,000 prostitutes in London during the Victorian Age. It is generally accepted that most of these women found themselves in prostitution due to economic necessity.

There were three attitudes towards prostitution ? condemnation, regulation, and reformation.

Prostitution has been around for decades. It was around during the Ancient Rome Empire and it was certainly in the 1930s during the Great Depression. On October 29, of 1929 the stock market crashed which was the official beginning of the Great Depression. From there banks and people started losing their money putting people into poverty and out of jobs. During this madness there was one occupation that didn?t fail. Prostitution during the 1930s was still big. Prostitutes would get paid typically two dollars for fifteen minutes.

Image for postwomen seducing rich men.Image for postvictorian era womenImage for postRinger houses

There were two types of houses. the ?ringer? and the ?independent?. A ?ringer? house belongs to a ring or a chain, with a central office, like a chain store. Girls were registered at the office, according to age, complexion, measurements and years of experience.

The girls had to show their certificate of health to the Madame or lose their jobs. The customer could always see it if he wanted to. The tests costed three dollars to five dollars. Ringer houses got a twelve hour advance tip before any raid which each girl splits fifty percent of her earnings. In a good house with ten to fifteen customers per day wasn?t uncommon for the prostitute to earn five extra dollars. This helped them cover their laundry bill and payment for two meals per day. Half of the regular two dollar fee went to the house to pay for the protection. Prostitutes would go on call for private parties. Their shift is around eight hours form 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Old girls go from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. which these hour include the drunks. A customers average age was thirty to forty years which most were married.

Image for postImage for post10 year old pregnant prostitute.Image for postRinger houses


  1. Average age of 18?22, but many started much earlier at the age of 12 or earlier.
  2. Virgins were much prized for several reasons ? not the least of which was hygiene ? Venereal disease was rampant and a virgin was thought to be untainted
  3. Typically rouged and powdered, and dressed to enhance their ?assets? ? some women would have lived ?double lives? working in a factory for little pay during the day and working the streets at night trying to make ends meet.

Economy ? times were tough.

Image for postImage for postwomen involving themselves in various activities.

Married Women Sold Themselves On The Side

Since many of the lower-class jobs simply didn?t pay enough to support a large family, it was common for the wives of street vendors to offer their sexual services on the side while they helped their husbands run the family business.

Husbands were completely fine with allowing other men to sleep with their wives. In fact, 50 percent of street vendors? wives were reported to moonlight as prostitutes. In some instances, the wife happily worked as a prostitute, since it was a way for her to earn income. In other instances, the husband was acting as a pimp, using his wife as his property, lending her out as he pleased.

Image for postMarried women involving themselves in prostitution.

Prostitute Sporting Guides

Men of wealthy Victorian society could look through sporting guides, which were very similar to shopping catalogues. These books detailed prostitutes? ages, physical descriptions, personality type, and their cost, usually 2?3 or 5 for a virgin. This way, a man could decide ahead of time between the various women he could have sex with.

Image for postMen with a sporting guide.

Forced Medical Examinations

Some of the most frequent customers at brothels were young men in the military. Venereal disease was so common in the 1800s that it killed just as many military men as war. It also left many able-bodied men unfit for battle.

In 1864, in order to prevent the spread of disease, The Contagious Diseases Act was passed. In towns that were situated near naval bases, any woman (even if she wasn?t a prostitute) who was suspected of carrying a sexually transmitted infection was forced to undergo a medical examination. If a woman resisted, she would be strapped down to a table. If it was discovered that she was infected, she would be forced into hospitalization for up to three months.

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Although prostitution was legal, many ladies of the night were arrested for crimes like public drunkenness or gathering in the streets. Those behaviors were considered illegal under the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847. Many of those small crimes resulted in a year in prison.

There were also places called reformatories, which aimed to rehabilitate fallen women. These were often run by religious groups. The attitudes of the people who ran the reformatories was that prostitutes acted out on their own selfish desires.

Image for postReformatoriesImage for post

Themed Brothels

Like today, men of Victorian England had varying desires. However, they generally couldn?t express what they wanted sexually in the confines of marriage. Proper women were not encouraged to be sexual at all and reserved sex for having children.

There were a variety of brothels dedicated to different themes: Traditional, S&M, cross-dressing, gay brothels, and others were willing to fulfill kinky fantasies. For whatever reason, spanking was a very popular theme in pornography, and there were entire brothels dedicated to it. Flagellation brothels were places one could go to be whipped by either women or men.

Prostitution Was The Highest-Paying Job For A Woman

The only career options for women during the Victorian era were low-paying professions, and many had dangerous working conditions. There were street vendors (who assisted their husbands with their businesses), factory workers, and shop girls. If a woman was very lucky, she could be a household servant in the estate of a lord or lady.

Even educated women who learned high-level skills at business colleges, like typing and shorthand, only made an average of 25 per year. That still wasn?t enough money for women to support themselves or their children without the aid of a husband.

Prostitution was the one and only job where a woman could have shorter work hours and earn high wages in cash without depending on a husband to support her. If she was exceptionally beautiful, she could earn enough to achieve total financial independence. If a lower-class woman could afford nice clothes and the finer things in life, it most likely meant that she was a prostitute.

Image for postScene of a prostitution houseImage for postImage for post

Name : Naman Dhanju

Submitted to: Ms. Belinda Mam

blog for Cultural history of fashion

Fashion business management

ISDI(Indian School of design and Innovation.


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