Browse Exhibits (27 total)

I Got It From My Mama: Prostitute Mothers


This exhibit examines the social roles of “mother” and “prostitute” that are assumed to be incompatible. As a result of this assumption, prostitute mothers are often erased from current public discourse and art, are believed to negatively influence their children, have strong reasons for choosing their profession, and face obstacles in accessing health care. This exhibit will report on these phenomena, as well as the depiction of prostitute mothers in Alexandre Parent-Duchatelet's work.

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The Fashion System of Prostitution


The ways in which prostitution and fashion intersect and how this affects the perception of others as well as the style of "respectable women."

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Deviant Existences: Understanding Queer and Sex Worker Identities and their Entwined Histories


This exhibit examines modern queer identities, sex work, and the murky, entwined relationship between history, behavior, and identity formation.

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College Student Sex Workers

This exhibit examines the lives of college student sex workers in various parts of the world. A recurring theme among the narratives of prostitutes is their poverty and lack of agency. Yet, college student sex workers are a minority group within prostitutes, as many of them come from privileged backgrounds, but choose to enter prostitution to attain prestige. They can be compared to grisettes in 1830’s France, who developed relationships with male students in pursuit of social mobility. 

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A History of Prostitution and Public Health: The Social Control of Prostitutes' Bodies


19th century Paris and the contemporary United States extered similar mechanisms of social control over prostitutes’ health and bodies. This control simultaneously reflects and reproduces stereotypes of the prostitute as a diseased body that the customer needs protection from. 

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Public Women, Public Action: Sex Worker Advocacy and Organization in the United States


Prostitutes and sex workers have a history of organizing and advocating for themselves socially and politically. In the United States, sex worker mobilization exploded in the 1960s through self-created community health centers and grassroots activist groups attempting to change the daily violence and discrimination that they face. Sex worker activism has since expanded to public health advocacy and the nonprofit sector, working within a system hostile to sex work to create radical change. This has expanded the scope of their resources and audience, but despite some success in changing social attitudes, public policy and the law in the United States has remained resistant to responding to sex workers' demands.

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Zones of Toleration: Attempting to confine public women


This exhibit examines the maisons tolerées (tolerated houses) of 19th century Paris, as described by Alexandre Parent-Duchatelet in his work Prostitution in Paris, and Mexico's Zona Galáctica, Brussels' red light district and Antwerp's red light district. By drawing parallels between the Parisian houses and modern-day toleration zones and red light districts, this exhibit exposes the strikingly consistent attitude of containment officials have taken towards prostitution in various times and places. 

Stigma: An Attack on Women's Rights

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This exhibit deals with the adverse effects of the stigma sorrounding prostitution. 


Types of Prostitutes in 19th Century France

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This exhibit illustrates different facets of prostitution in 19th century France. Prostitution was a common social phenomenon that was practiced by women regardless of class, but the type of prostitute varied depending on the status of the men involved. The social standing of prostitutes often shifted throughout their lifetimes, but their roles generally remained within four basic levels of prostitution. This exhibit focuses on these four important types of prostitutes, imagined and mythologized in various media of the time. The lorette, the aspiring courtesan, was the prostitute of mystery, elusive and secretive, often evading the government’s health regulations. The grisette was a prostitute from a working-class background, often found inhabiting the apartments of young Parisian students. The fille publique or streetwalker, was from the lowest class of prostitute and often attracted the poorest customers. Walking the street alone or in groups, la fille publique was most vulnerable to police repression. And finally, women in “maisons closes” or brothels, catered to men of different social classes. The most luxurious brothels attracted middle class men with their continuous business. These women, though varying in status, participated in a form of sexual commerce that was common in French society in the 19th century.

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Exploring non-normative sexuality in 19th century France


During the mid 19th century, non-normative sexual identities were viewed by mainstream French society as vulgar, if not to say pathological, and for the most part, the topic was considered taboo. For this reason, it is often difficult today to find traces of these identities, whether in literature, scientific writing, or art. Furthermore, the descriptions of non-normative sexualities that do exist from this time are rarely written by the people who actually identified in this way, giving rise to a certain degree of misinterpretation, fetishization, and voyeurism. In this exhibit we draw on a variety of different media (lithographs, medical and proto-sociological texts, visual art, and poetry) to understand tribadisme or female homosexuality--a complex and often forgotten part of history. Through these media we attempt to piece together some form of narrative for these women left behind by history.