Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Prostitution and sexuality in Lyon, 1938–1956
by Guillochon, Mary B., Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2011, 496; 3494319
Abstract (Summary)

A thriving sex trade existed in Lyon between 1938 and 1956. Managed mostly by a male-led underground organization, the Milieu, pimps, brothel madams and prostitutes were drawn to a variety of activities that ranged from recruiting to soliciting, in a favorable urban setting. Some women even owned and managed successful brothels that employed prostitutes; madam Michèle springs to mind as probably the most successful. These activities came to light through an unofficial memoir of a police doctor framed within multiple narrative strategies, including a gendered medical discourse, which linked language to historical reality. Here, prostitution and sexuality, as expressed in salubrious hotels, cafés, state-sanctioned and illegal brothels, on the streets and demolished buildings, not only provided him with an insight into the daily activities of these workers, but also contributed to an alternative view on prostitution and sexuality. Further, it revealed from Dr. R's standpoint, the state's efforts to control and repress prostitution and sexuality, including the sex workers' challenges. Indeed, he showed that power structures permeate prostitution and sexuality. At a time when prostituting and procuring signified collaboration, some pimps and prostitutes, he argued, were active French resistors, while others, he claimed, engaged in war profiteering and collaboration. Prostitution and procuring could also mean internment in French camps or deportation. In postwar France, military prostitution continued with American and French colonial soldiers. Brothel closures, but increasing competition from North Africans, meant changes to prostitution and sexual practices occurred amidst decolonization, events which Dr. R recorded in detail.

Dr. R's memoir emphasized prostitution's centrality as a commercial sex venture. Here, for the most part, a prostitute's labor was a form of gendered wage labor that benefited some prostitutes economically and on occasion gave limited agency. However, Dr. R demonstrated that prostitution more frequently exposed women to brutal and sadistic exploitation. Leaning on his memoir, this dissertation argues for a more nuanced approach to prostitution and sexuality situated within wider questions on class, gender and race.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Howard G.
Commitee: Gaddis Rose, Marilyn, Quataert, Jean, Sibalis, Michael
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: European history, Public policy
Keywords: Commercial sex ventures, France, Prostitution, Sexuality, Urban city
Publication Number: 3494319
ISBN: 978-1-267-15808-6
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