Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon: Teen Prostitutes in London

On this blog, I've written about teen prostitution in Japan, and in The Allure of Nymphets, I wrote about teen prostitution at the turn of the 20th century in the United States, but this will be my first full foray into teen prostitution in Europe.

"The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" was a series of shocking Pall Mall Gazette articles written in 1885 by W.T. Stead about the proliferation of teen prostitution in Victorian England. Here are some highlights lowlights:

W.T. Stead estimated that London had approximately 50,000 prostitutes. Stead's concern wasn't prostitution itself, but the fact that many of the prostitutes were early teens, poor and were being taken advantage of by the rich. Furthermore, Stead opined that the issue was "an affair for the moralist, not for the legislator."  However, as a result of Stead's exposé, he was arrested and the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 raised the age of consent from 13 to 16.

Stead witnessed the following crimes that were "constantly and systematically" committed in London by "the noblest and the meanest of mankind, the saviours and the destroyers of their race, [by] spending hours alternatively in brothels and hospitals, in the streets and in refuges...":
  1. The sale and purchase and violation of children
  2. The ("full operation") procuration (and "violation") of virgins ("mostly of tender age")
  3. The entrapping and ruin of women
  4. The international slave trade in girls
  5. Atrocities, brutalities, and unnatural crimes
Stead related that the above crimes were committed with "almost absolute impunity" and that the "arrangements for procuring, certifying, violating...and disposing" of the nymphets was efficiently simple. However, organized crime gangs didn't run underage prostitution rings. The nymphets were procured, just like in present day Japan, mostly by "the seduction of individuals or by the temptation which well-dressed vice (e.g. money, fashion, etc.) can offer the poor."

One of the reasons for the impunity was that the police were often well aware of the nymphet prostitution. For example, an experienced officer confided in Stead that "...a general article, I mean, not a mere prostitute tricked out as a virgin, but a girl who had never been seduced" could be obtained for £20 (Approximately, £1,859.36 today).

Typically, the unsuspecting nubile nymphets would be summoned by "keepers of brothels" or experienced nymphets to rooms where wealthy ephebophiles would be waiting to take their virginity. 

The officer correctly stated that that scenario will continue, "...as long as men have money, procuresses are skillful, and women are weak and inexperienced."

In part two of the exposé, Stead wrote that because the age of consent was 13, the unsuspecting teen prostitutes "... were almost always very young children between the ages of thirteen and fifteen" and were "fair game for dissolute men."

Stead elaborated on how the girls were seduced or went willingly into teen prostitution:

1. A girl would be told by a procuress or an experienced teen prostitute that if she met " ...a rich gentlemen she would get lots of money." 

2. Other nymphets would temp teens with "promises of dress and money". 

3. Young maidens would be promised marriage only to be "deserted" after their virginity was taken. 

4. Some teens became full-time prostitutes to escape "sheer poverty and absolute despair" 

5. Other teens became part-time prostitutes to supplement "scanty wages".

6. Advertisements were placed for housekeepers (i.e., brothel-keepers), which were often answered by unsuspecting young girls from country villages. 

Here are two examples from two early teen virgins, 15 and 13, respectively, whom were brought into prostitution by experienced teen prostitutes:

It was about two months since I was seduced. A friend of mine, Jane B––, met me one evening in the street near our house, and asked me if I would go for a walk with her. I said yes, and she proposed to come and have an ice at the very restaurant in which we are now sitting. "It is such a famous shop for ices," she said, "and perhaps we shall see my uncle." I did not know her uncle, nor did I think anything about it, but I walked down to Leicester-square to the restaurant. She asked me to come upstairs to a sitting-room, where we had some ices and some cake. After a time a gentleman came in, whom she said was her uncle; but I found out afterwards he was no more her uncle than I was. He asked us to have some wine and something to eat, and we sat eating and drinking. I had never tasted wine before, but he pressed it on me, and I took one glass and then another, until I think I had four glasses. My head got very queer, and I hardly knew what I did. Then my friend said, ."Annie, you must come upstairs now." "What for?" I said. "Never mind what for," she said ; "you will get lots of money." My head was queer; I did not care what I did, but I remember thinking that it was after no good this going upstairs. She insisted, however, and I went upstairs. The man she called her uncle followed us. She began to undress me. "What are you doing that for?" Isaid. "You shan't undress me. I don't want to be undressed here." I struggled, and then everything went dizzy. I remember nothing more till I woke and found that I had been undressed and put in bed. The man was in bed with me. I screamed, and begged him to go away. He paid no heed to me, and began to hurt me dreadfully. "Keep quiet, you silly girl," said ––––, who stood by the bed; "you will get lots of money." Oh, I was frightened, and the man hurt me so much! But I could do nothing. When it was all over the man gave her £4 (£372 today). She gave me half and kept the other half for herself, as her pay for getting me seduced. I do not know who the man was, and I have never seen him since.

One night a girl I knew came and spoke to me. "Will you come and see a gentleman?" she said. "Me see a gentleman–what do you mean?" said I. "Oh, I forgot," she says; "will you come and take a walk?" I had no objection, so we went for a walk. After a while, she proposed we should go into a house in P–– street and get something to eat. We went in, and after we had been there a little time in came a gentleman. He sat down and talked a bit, and then my friend says, "Take off your things, Lizzie." "No, I won't," I said. "Why should I take off my things?" "Don't be a fool," says she, "and do as I tell you, you will get lots of money;" and she began to undress me. I objected, but she was older than I, and stronger, and the man took her side. "Now," she said after she had undressed me, "get into bed with you." "What for?" says I, "for I had no idea what she meant." "Do as I tell you, you little fool, or I will knock you[r] head off you. This gentleman will give you lots of money, pounds and pounds, if you are good; but he won't give you a penny if you are stupid." And she half forced me, half persuaded me, to get into bed. Then the gentleman got into bed. I did not know what he wanted. I was very frightened, and was crying bitterly. Then he began to hurt me, and I yelled at the top of my voice. Madame who kept the house heard me scream, and she came running up. "Vot is you a doin to that von leetle girl ?" she asked. "Nothing," said the man; "she has only run a pin into her foot;" and my friend whispered, "Only keep quiet and you shall have it all. I will give you all the money. But mind you won't get off, no matter how you scream." Madame went away, and the man finished me. He gave me £3 (£279 today).

Interestingly, Stead noted that despite their entry point, the girls often returned voluntarily to teen prostitution.

As sort of a side note, Stead mentioned that despite the fact that there weren't a lot of prostitutes below the age of thirteen, according to the Report of the Dwellings Commission, "There are children, many children, who are ruined before they are thirteen; but the crime is one phase of incest..."

However, there were approximately 10,000 juvenile prostitutes between the ages of thirteen and fifteen in "Christian England".

Stead was an investigative journalist and didn't restrict his investigating to mere interviews, he went into brothels to get first hand accounts of the affairs. For example, after the keeper at an upscale brothel in the West end "...strenuously denied that they had any such article in the house", Stead was introduced to "a lovely child between fourteen and fifteen, tall for her age, but singularly attractive in her childish innocence".

Stead stressed that since the age of consent was thirteen, it was extremely difficult to prosecute rapists. For instance, a fifty-year-old man "violated more than a dozen children just over thirteen, whom he had enticed into backyards by promises of sweetmeats" but wasn't prosecuted until he was "fortunately caught with a girl under thirteen, and was promptly punished."

On the advice of Dr. Lowndes, "a medical man", Stead (incorrectly) championed for an increase in the age of consent, because "so few girls are really aptae-viro, physically and medically, till long after thirteen."

As previously mentioned, many seduced teens ironically volunteered to return to prostitution due to the "promises of dress and money". Consequently, they were "...qmore difficult to deal with than women, because they are made familiar with sin while so young that the modesty that is so natural to a woman they never attain."

Part four of the report was an exposé of police corruption. Stead related that a number of policemen took bribes to look the other way, facilitated and/or partook in the services of the teen prostitutes.

Clearly, teen prostitution is still going on today and rich ephebophiles are taking advantage of the business (no pun intended) and it should be clear that raising the age of consent isn't a viable solution. Some would recommend even lowering the age of consent, but making pre-marital sex a felony. That way we would have more harems and less brothels. The fact of the matter is that ephebophiles are going to have sex with nymphets one way or the other. The only other "option" is teen pornography, which with the invention of the webcam has become the new brothel.

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