Selling Sex in the ReichProstitutes in German Society, 1914-1945

Selling Sex in the ReichProstitutes in German Society, 1914-1945

Victoria Harris

Print publication date: 2010

ISBN: 9780199578573

Publisher: Oxford University Press


This book examines the German sex trade from the lowest level upwards, focusing on the voices and experiences of the prostitutes. The book moves telescopically through four chapters. It begins with the the prostitute herself, then turns to the wider community in which she operated, before discussing her interactions with German society more widely, and finishing with a discussion of the prostitute's relationship to the larger, bureaucratic workings of the nation‐state. In doing this, the book uses prostitution to help recast our understanding of sexuality and ethics in twentieth‐century Germany. It demonstrates the difficult relationship between criminality, marginality, and deviance, teaching us much about how German society defined itself by determining who did not belong within it. Finally, the book challenges our conception of the relationship between the type of government in power and official attitudes towards sexuality, arguing that the prevalent desire to control citizens' sexuality transcended traditional left–right divides and intensified with economic and political modernization. Throughout, the study notes the important continuities and breaks across this difficult thirty‐year period of Germany's history. Despite the inherent problems in doing so, in studying prostitution it is first necessary to try to understand prostitutes, as well as the other individuals who ensured the continued operation of the sex trade. The title of this book, Prostitutes in German Society, is more than simply a semantic choice. It encapsulates its focus on the individual human actors at the centre of the sex trade.