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Prostitution in Paris: History and Candid Photos of Prostitutes in the 1960s

There is a long history of street prostitution in Paris, as well as prostitution from specialized facilities. Most prostitutes are women, but there are also transgender people and men.

History of Prostitution in Paris

Prostitution began in the Louis XI era, which limited where prostitutes could operate by restricting the streets. Paris had an estimated 30,000 prostitutes before the French Revolution of 1789, plus an additional 10,000 high-class prostitutes. During the Revolution, decriminalization was the order of the day, royal orders were abolished, and in 1791, prostitution was no longer a criminal offence. Prostitutes were in high demand, and syphilis threatened to spread among the population. The Commune of Paris issued an order on 4 October 1793 prohibiting prostitutes from standing in public places to “incite to debauchery.”

Prostitution in Paris during the 20th century

Until the introduction of the Loi Marthe Richard in 1946, Paris hosted many brothels. A total of 195 establishments were closed in Paris at that time. Some of the most famous are the One-Two-Two, Le Chabanais, Le Sphinx, and La Fleur blanche. Prostitution was common in the Rue Saint-Denis from the Les Halles to the Porte Saint-Denis until the late 1980s. After the hotels and studios closed, most prostitutes left and the average age of those who remained increased. The street once accommodated up to 2,000 women. Chinese prostitution in Paris began in the late 1990s. Some Chinese prostitutes work in the street of specific neighbourhoods, where they are called les marcheses (the walkers). Additionally, they work in massage parlours or online. As of 2016, Médecins du Monde estimated that there were 1,450 Chinese prostitutes in Paris.

Today the prostitution is legal in France, and therefore in Paris. Nevertheless, certain activities associated with prostitution are prohibited, including brothel-keeping (since 1946), pimping, and prostitution of minors. A law was passed on 13 April 2016 criminalizing clients of prostitutes.

Written by Orla Morris

Full-time dress and costume designer, Half Persian half Italian. I still don’t know how to write, but i'm writing and you are reading :)

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