Friday, March 21, 2008
Simowitz on the History of Prostitution and its Criminalization
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
The Institutionalizing Effect of Criminalization: A Case Study of American Prostitution is a new paper by Aaron D. Simowitz of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Here's the abstract: Prostitution in the United States in the early 19th century was almost entirely an individual, ad hoc, unorganized activity. Prostitutes were, for the most part, kept women who lived with a man, trading housework, cooking, and intimate relations for a roof over their heads and, occasionally, money. In the 1910s, the Progressive Movement arrived, bringing with it enforcement of harsh criminal penalties for prostitution for the first time. Within a couple of decades, the rigorously structured, commercialized prostitution industry that we know today had begun to emerge. Criminalization had transformed prostitution from a practice into an institution and business. This paper will examine the causal relationship between criminalization and institutionalization, focusing on the development of American prostitution. Part I of this paper will examine the practice of prostitution in North America prior to the prohibitionist and criminalization campaign ushered in by the Progressive Era. Part II will examine this campaign and the immediate effects it had on the organization of prostitution. Part III will demonstrate that prostitution, particularly in urban centers, achieved a remarkable degree or organization and structure shortly after criminalization. Part IV notes that the independent contractor model that typified the 19th century in North American remains prevalent in the Dutch system of prostitution, a radically different framework owing to the absence of criminalization. Part V will set out an analysis of the forces behind the criminalization to institutionalization link. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the policy implications of better understanding the relationship between criminalization and institutionalization.