1-From the Early Brothels to the Swedish Model of prostitution law

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The French model

When discussing the appearance of organizational forms of prostitution in European culture, it is practical to consider the developments in France, as the history of the sex-trade was largely determined by the French patterns until the most recent age, when the Scandinavian model has become dominant in the general approach to prostitution not only in Europe, but in many non-European countries as well. As prostitution is as old as humankind, it makes sense to go back to the historical period when the European societies began to form, that is, after the ancient Roman Empire and the Great Migration, when the image of Europe today was formed by a culturally and militarily dominant new state, France. The development of prostitution in France will eventually consolidate in the so-called Swedish model, therefore, references to the situation of sex trade in the contemporary Sweden are often made as the subject unfolds.

Prostitution in the Middle Ages

The reason why it is not possible to talk about the development of prostitution in society because prostitution has always been present, regardless of the level of development of the society, so this is why we cannot start discussing prostitution from the beginning, so to speak, from prehistoric times, because there is no written record, and on the other hand, our topic is French prostitution and its model effect on the sex industry in Europe.

So, starting in medias res, prostitution was socially accepted in medieval France, when sex workers would sell sex services in special, convent-like institutions[1], not in brothels in the traditional sense of it. In this era, in France, the visit of prostitutes was part of the men's way of life, so prostitution used to be pardoned by the state, considering it a venial sin, and the central government left it to the cities to regulate. This was mainly limited to the prohibition of soliciting on certain streets (e.g. near churches, cultural locations), and prostitutes were required to wear specific clothes (striking gold-plated or gilded belts), and the opening hours of brothels were limited. The distinctive attire, the belt was obligatory according to the above-mentioned source, because on one occasion when the wife of King Philip II hugged a pretty, well-dressed French girl at a church ceremony who turned out to be a prostitute. Later, the brothels were moved out of town, hence the name itself: the French word ‚Äėbordel‚Äô meaning ‚Äėborder‚Äô came to be known as the English ‚Äėbrothel‚Äô, and these houses had to be marked with a red lamp to warn that something immoral was happening there. Interestingly, back in this early history of prostitution, there emerged the governmental intent in form of a regulation that was quite novel that time, and which is very similar to the Swedish model in that it did not to punish sex workers but the user of sexual services, the sex clients, so the king Charlemagne made a bill to punish sex-buyers with 300 whips, often cutting off their hair or beard. Successive reoffenders could even be sold to be slaves. However, this law primarily affected sex buyers from the ruling class, therefore ordinary sex buyers and sex workers did not have to fear sanctions.

In Sweden, prostitution probably worked legally until the 18th century because the laws did not include any regulations on prostitution. However, with the spread of Christianity, there became a legal need for extra-marital sex to be criminalized, although this was not specifically to regulate Swedish prostitution, but to protect public morals. Until the Civil Code of 1734, the sale and purchase of sexual services was not legally regulated, but from that year on, procuring, selling sexual services, operating brothel were severely sanctioned by whipping and forced labour by the Swedish authorities.

But we are still in France, where a radical change came when Louis the IX decided to completely eliminate prostitution in France, but returning to the traditional way of dealing with problems, he thought it feasible by criminalizing sex workers, eliminating them from sex business, therefore he planned to banish prostitutes from the city, depriving them of all their wealth, but by doing so all he achieved was that the sex industry disappeared into illegality, keeping a low profile. By the way, he was the ruler who forced sex work outside the city walls, where prostitutes were allowed to sell sexual services only on certain streets, which is very similar to the working-model approach of prostitution, where authorities designate a part of the city for sex business. Incidentally, the concept of the approach to prostitution came from the Christian thinkers, notably St. Augustine and St. Thomas, who found it necessary to channel sexual instincts, especially in the age of the Crusades, with many male warriors away from their homes and wives, so it was practical sometimes for soldiers, on the way to the Holy Land, to relieve sexual desires, which made good anyway to concentration. Of course, we know from historians that before the conversion of St. Augustine, he did not despise prostitutes, and whose extraordinary masculine features and skills were greatly appreciated by the frequently visited contemporary sex-workers.

Besides the great thinkers and the current crusades, there was a very simple practical reason that prostitution was not considered to be completely condemned: it was how to protect respected city girls and women from falling victim to sexual crimes[2]. After all, if young people in the city had the opportunity to channel their vigorous sexual desire, this would also reduce their propensity to commit sexual-related crime, because if sex is commercially available, it would tend to encourage men to find sexual satisfaction through legal means. Prostitution and crime have always been hand-in-hand concepts, well understood by thinkers and the church, and from this consideration they thought the operation of sex industry necessary, though morally they rejected it. In the Middle Ages, for an ordinary woman being employed in the sex industry often meant the only chance to survive or possibly not to live in misery, because the social conditions at the time were much sharper between the poor and the rich, and, of course, women had far less rights than today, so their job opportunities and career advancement were very limited. That is why attractive women from the poverty line often found that they had no choice to live a little better than to become a prostitute. Crime and sex industry were going together by undisguised sincerity at that time, because there is much information that women were often forced into prostitution by their family members and relatives because of the good income they had for the family[3]. In addition, according to contemporary custom, these misfortunate women once subjected to sexual violence and rape were no longer considered decent women who, therefore, could no longer have decent suitors, so very often they were forced to work as prostitutes under family pressure and supervision.

By the end of the 15th century, however, the smooth running of the sex industry had been interrupted by the appearance of the infamous sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, putting an end to the undisturbed sinless pleasures, which came alongside the sudden drop of brothels’ and prostitutes’ social status as they were seen as the focus of the new cesspit. The syphilis outbreak originated from France went on its European conquest, so in other countries it was only called the French disease. Despite the outbreak, no measures were taken to tighten up prostitution, consequently public health conditions were becoming worse and worse until the time came to regulate sex work on state level, but did not happen until the beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon came to rule.

Napoleon and the early regulation of prostitution

The French ruler and emperor were terrified of the generally ill health of the male population due to the raging sexually transmitted diseases, especially syphilis, and since he needed the manpower to wage great wars, radical changes had been required. One of his first major prostitution decree included the listing of French prostitutes and their compulsory medical examinations every two weeks, as well as the operation of brothels ("maisons de tolerance") by the state in order to clean up the streets of bustling prostitutes[4]. Approximately this is when the regulation of prostitutes in Sweden came after the French model, and in this we can see how much French sex market regulation had influenced the laws of other European states, in this case, the adaptation of tolerance. The reason why these institutions or houses were named as the house of tolerance is because the general belief of sex and marriage was that they did not always go hand-in-hand, and if not so, men were tolerated for seeking sexual satisfaction elsewhere than in the marriage bed in the aforementioned special house. State-run brothels soon became very popular, so they opened gates outside of Paris for contemporary sex buyers. The management of the brothels changed as well because a powerful Madame took care of the sex business, and hygiene also appeared in the sex sale, and the brothel was obliged to provide clean linen and clean bathroom for sex workers and sex clients. Madame had to be an old-fashioned, well-known but discreet-looking former prostitute, with extensive relationships and familiarity with social life. These regulations on prostitution were quickly adopted by other European countries, giving great impetus to the development of prostitution. Of course, the rules had to be enforced somehow, and because the police did not have the capacity to do so, a special action group was set up for this special activity within the police: Moral Brigade. Their job was to enforce the rules, keep records of prostitutes, and check the regularity of their medical examinations. When a prostitute was found to be carrying a sexually infectious disease in a medical examination, she was sentenced to forced medical treatment, which was in effect a form of detention until recovery, which was not very humane.

As I have already mentioned, the French model of compulsory medical examination for prostitutes was also introduced in Sweden at the same time, which was, however, not systematic and comprehensive, but was carried out only on those who were suspected by the authorities of having a sexually transmitted disease, and Swedish sex workers felt this only as an excuse for official harassment.

The splendour of courtesans

Along with anonymous sex workers of brothels, another class of prostitutes or escorts, the so-called courtesans also appeared in the 19th century, who were originally female courtiers who served rulers or other persons of great importance. The institution of courtesans was not new in the age because courtesans had already operated in the courtyards of the Renaissance in Europe. The reason for keeping courtesan was that people from the noble class would get married on financial purpose as well as to keep the noble bloodline clean, so spouses, especially men, being sexually unsatisfied, often sought and found concubines in royal court, and these women were the first courtesans. The name comes from the English 'court', which meant a courtyard company, but these women quickly became lover, so the meaning of the name changed, slightly prostitualized itself. There were basically two types of courtesans: sincere courtesans of intellectual origin and lower courtesans who distinguished themselves from ordinary prostitutes. Of course, the sincere type of courtesans was the most popular because they were generally educated and secular-minded, sometimes more than average upper-class women, and they often worked as performers and artists in Paris. Their partners usually chose them based on their qualities such as good manners, the ability to communicate well, intelligence, common sense and social relationships, as well as the typical womanish external characteristics. It was their intelligence and personality that set them apart from average women and sex workers. They were prostitutes in the sense that sex was their duty, but unlike prostitutes, sex was only one piece of their many services. For example, they were expected to be well-dressed and knowledgeable from the arts to music to politics on any subject.

In Sweden, the legal conditions for prostitutes were similar in the 18th century. As I have already mentioned, prostitution was legally sanctioned, but not in all circumstances, as in France, where a person of a wealthy gentleman or a gallant supporter was enough to prevent the authorities from annoying the sex worker. So in Sweden, single, unmarried women who couldn't prove they could support themselves with a learned profession or heritage or with the help of a wealthy supporter, so these women were often arrested to prevent them from becoming prostitute. Even then, the Swedish authorities had made great efforts to curb prostitution, while the French incorporated sex business into adult entertainment. The contemporary Swedish sex workers, that is to say, courtesans met their sex clients at theatres or the opera and received them in their own apartment or house. Lower forms of prostitution could be seen in cafes and bars, where women were generally employed, and often they also sold sex, of course, completely illegally. Later, an official organization was formed in Sweden, the Svenska Federation, which, as a female organization, opposed forced medical examinations and rejected the general view that a prostitute was responsible for the sin (fornication) as men was inherently incapable of sexual self-control.

The age of cocottes

The Second French Empire gave another great impetus to the development of French prostitution. Greater Paris was born in the place of the capital city outgrown its medieval frame and attracted foreign visitors as a magnet, and it inevitably set off on the path to gradually becoming "modern Babel." In this hustle and bustle, demimonde ladies and prostitutes appeared who were everywhere from the most noble palaces to the suburbs, offering their sexual services. The general boom included an expansion of prosperity and wealth, so there were more and more men who had enough money to keep a mistress who met her sophisticated needs both in their sex life and luxurious lifestyle. The combined effect of economic and political factors led to the emergence of a social fertile soil from which the flowers of upscale prostitution sprung up. By the latter we mean the women who in French are called "demimondaine", or semi-world women, but were also called cocottes at that time. Actually, there is not much difference between the terms of courtesan and cocotte, both of them are basically prostitutes, but the different epoch of which prostitutes were living is what makes them different. Also, these prostitutes, cocottes differed from traditional prostitutes in that the police were very lenient with them because they knew that a rich and influential gentleman kept them, so it was better for the police not to disturb them with identifications. In addition, cocottes never lived under the same roof with other prostitutes like the popular escort prostitutes today, who could afford to maintain a luxury home in the popular part of city, and some cocottes even had a palace at that time! Of course, these successful sex business entrepreneurs did not get their sex clients on the street like most ordinary prostitutes did back then, but they only sold their sexual services to men who they liked, so they retained the right to choose partner and make their daily schedule - like today's luxury escorts in Sweden, who are free to decide whether or not to provide sexual services to a particular sex client.

Because these French prostitutes often kept more lovers, they tended to share their days and nights with them, following a strict schedule. Outside of Paris, these sex workers could only be met in rural metropolises, resorts and spas where it only depended on them on whether they would date a prospective sex guest or not, based solely on sympathy and, of course, the client’s fame and fortune. Procuring worked differently for lower-class or less successful prostitutes, whose sex work was usually organized by a female procurer who could even be the mother of the prostitute. Some procurers built a real network of male sex clients and thus, using the connections, she or he effectively controlled the prostitutes in each district. Procuring thus evolved into a very lucrative commercial and almost political enterprise at this time, because through prostitutes a good procurer could gain influence over important people in the state apparatus. Thus, it was necessary for such a woman to be well-informed in daily cultural, political and public affairs so that gentlemen of high social status would like their company, not just their appearance, and therefore their daily routine to get information was to go to the theatre and exhibitions. And the fun and entertaining nature of a female personality was a weapon to enmesh sex clients for the sake of steady and, of course, high-yielding sex business. And of course, the peak of the sex trade was when a sex client became emotionally involved due to a cocotte’s convincing and moving acting abilities. In this era of prostitution, the quality of acting was perhaps the first factor determining the success of sex business because it made it possible to materially exploit men with high income, as it is well-known from contemporary French novels by the famous writer, Balzac. There is a huge difference between a successful contemporary cocotte and a luxury escort prostitute today, because a prostitute in the Empire running a high career could almost enter the world of aristocracy through the full supply of luxury real estate and movables.

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