This exhibit looks at the experiences of brothel sex workers in legalized systems of prostitution from both mid-nineteenth century Paris and contemporary cities. Legal brothels allow the state to maintain control over the area and the workers involved in the operation.
Generally, the state tracks the employees in sex work, monitors working and living conditions, financially regulates the business, and ensures compliance to laws and regulation. Examining legal brothels in 19th century Paris and contemporary legal brothels in Nevada, Amsterdam, and Tuxtla, this exhibit parallels past and present daily life, state regulation, public perception, and clientele. The historical portrayal of brothel women is grounded in Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet’s On Prostitution in the City of Paris, official archived police documents, personal accounts, and various other French artifacts from the period. Ethnographies, academic studies, and articles encompass our analysis of modern brothel workers.
While legalization enhances brothel sex workers’ legal status and promotes health and safety, it also permits the state to introduce regulations that exploit the industry and its workers. Additionally, brothel sex workers still face oppression and experience stigma, creating tangible disadvantages that limit their autonomy.
Celia Albers OC'19, Julia Butterfield OC'18, Tristan Clonch OC'18, Jean-Paul Gilbert OC'17, Lena Kesden OC'17