Brothel by Joachim Beuckelaer, 1562

Regulating Sex Work in Medieval Europe

When sex work was considered a "necessary evil," legal brothels provided certain protections for the women who worked there.
Actress Maria Callas as Violetta in La Traviata, 1958

Why Verdi Wrote an Opera about Sex Work

Giuseppi Verdi's 1853 opera La Traviata was a shocker when it was first performed. Nineteenth-century audiences didn't expect to watch a sex worker die of tuberculosis at the opera.
human trafficking cover

“White Slavery” and the Policing of Domestic Life

In the early 20th century, journalistic exposés, novels, and vice commission reports trumpeted fears about "white slavery" sweeping the country.
Poling Hotel and Saloon Laurelville OH Approx 1903

What Red Light Ladies Reveal About the American West

Prostitution and sex work are useful metric for historians seeking insight into the American West.
circa 1955: Women loiter in the doorways of nightclubs in Yoshiwara, the red light district of Tokyo, while prospective clients wander past or stop to look. (Photo by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images)

The Battle to Keep Prostitution Legal in 1950s Japan

Revisiting the struggle to keep prostitution from being criminalized in 1950s Japan.