Browse Exhibits (7 total)

The Politics of Motherhood: Do Prostitutes Deserve to be Mothers?


This exhibit highlights the way that respectability politics have been used to socialize women. Mothers who are prostitutes are seen as living outside of the boundaries of the trope of the "good mother", and therefore, by society, should not be able to be mothers. 

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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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Stigma: An Attack on Women's Rights

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


Sex Work And Public Health: Then and Now

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This exhibit illustrates the substantive lack of change in discourse regarding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), public health, and sex work, which shows a larger pattern of sex work stigmatization that has stayed mostly the same. Public health is a discipline that has evolved over centuries of scientific advances and the development of new health scares, but many of these changes are reflections of the past. Though there are certainly inherent differences, HIV/AIDS in modern sex work communities is very much a reflection of syphilis in 19th century Parisian sex work communities.

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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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Grisettes: Then and Now

In the early 1800s in France, the grisette was a young girl who left the countryside to pursue a new life in Paris. She worked in the world of fashion, often as a seamstress. A rich university student would seek out a grisette to live with him and help with domestic chores. The two would then have a mutually beneficial relationship. Learn more about aspects of the grisette and where they are now by browsing our exhibit!

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Legal Brothels: Past & Present

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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.

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