twentieth century paved way for capitalism, a free labor system that saw so
many people become economically independent. Consumer culture, a form of
capitalism hugely evolved in that era. People sold their products and services
and attained financial stability. On grounds of the economic independence,
transformations in sexuality were witnessed in an era that gave birth to sexual
deviance in the form of homosexuality. There emerged some queer subcultures
that were argued to be as a result of the atmosphere full of fear and anxiety in
cold war. The emergence and widespread of lesbians, prostitutes, and gays was
threatening the social morality and was also becoming a threat to the future
lifestyle. This deviance had to be contained and, therefore, so many groups
came together in an effort to contain the moral decadence that was a threat to
heterosexuality. This research will cover how all that played out as well as
discuss how homosexuality became a thriving economic business that many turned
into, to get easy money and satisfy their sexual lifestyles.
of Capitalism and the Emergence of Consumer Culturevis-à-vis Markets in the Twentieth
expansion of capital and the spread of wage labor greatly transformed the
functions and the structure of the nuclear family, heterosexual relations, and
the family life ideology. Initially, the family was an interdependent
production unit where the cooperation of all, determined the survival of each
member. Wives, husbands, and the children all worked in unity to produce goods
which they consumed (Barale,
Michèle Aina, and David 1993). In
the twentieth century, capitalism took over, and family members became
self-sufficient. The free labor system of capitalism saw men and women become
sole-earners. They produced goods, sold them in the markets and earned wages
that economically empowered the households and promoted financial independence.
Families now earned their living through wage labor and not interdependent
family units. As an effect of capitalism by 1920s the middle class defined a
family as a way in which men and women formed mutual satisfying relationships.
Earlier the average birth rate was seven children; children were very much
needed for labor thus sex was just for procreation. Capitalism made households
develop economic independence and fostered the separation of sexuality away
from procreation, and by the 1970, the average birthrate significantly dropped
to two (Barale, Michèle Aina, and David 1993). Heterosexualism became a
way of promoting happiness, experiencing pleasure, and establishing intimacy.
Capitalism created environments that permitted some men and women plan their
personal life based on their emotional and sexual attraction to the same sex.
Capitalism gave rise to formation of urban communities consisting of gay men
and lesbian, as well as politics built on sexual identity.
free labor system capitalism led so many homosexuals to come out in large
numbers and declare their sexual preferences in the late 20th
century. Male homosexuals and lesbians formed private social clubs and literary
societies. Some lesbians passed themselves as men so as to get good-paying jobs
and live with their fellow women seen to the world as husband and wife. Such
life patterns evolved as a result of capitalism that permitted individuals to
survive beyond family confines. Capitalism gave rise to more gay men than
lesbians because compared to women, there were more men in the labor force who
earned better wages and thus they could afford to construct an independent
life. Homosexuals would sell their bodies and get money to satisfy their needs.
a result of high birth rate, the birth control pill gained popularity and
widely spread at a fast rate (Bailey
1997, p. 827). It was a center key to cultural and behavioral changes
that made the sexual revolution. It was sold in large numbers to the married,
unmarried women in efforts to control domestic and international population
growth. Even undergraduate university female students were struggling for the
pill (Bailey 1997, p. 833).
It became a thriving business as women would turn up in large numbers to buy
the birth control pill.
of Sexuality Vis-À-Vis Markets in the Twentieth Century
section will cover the history of Sex Work, “containment” of women’s sexuality,
illegal abortion (as a type of Illicit Market), and the Sale of “Obscene
of Sex Work
sexual devil was the ominous definition given to lesbians in the 20th
century. The postwar era saw lesbianism take a threatening twist with the
portrayal of lesbians as sexual demons and gender transgressors. Prostitution
and lesbianism was a sign of uncontained female sexuality, female sexual
desire, and female sexual excess which was interpreted as female sexual danger,
abnormality, and the root of many feminine diseases. Since late 19th
century, prostitutes and lesbians were categorized as deviance, but what was
actually new in the era of postwar was that extent in which experts publicized
and exposed the sexual deviance. Post war era was marked by a flourishing
lesbian subculture fueled by subversive female or lesbian sexual desire. Upon
discovering the prostitute and the lesbian, the symbol of sexualized female, experts
publicized their deviance and developed boundaries for right female
heterosexuality. Initially, the woman
who was once viewed as a symbol of virtue and purity was now seen as tainted,
evil and a big threat to the common morals.
the core reason for prostitution was economics; it provided market and
financial stability. Some women became prostitutes due to lost virtue, jilted love,
shame, and despair. Others were in it as a form of rebellion to revenge against
the injustices that the society and family committed against them. Others
became prostitutes to satisfy their sexual appetite. Women found themselves as
prostitutes due hunger as well as financial problems. They were lured into
prostitution by the easy money and lack of ambition.
took advantage of wartime employment opportunities and social dislocation and
left their original families in pursuit of the ever-increasing chances of
establishing homosexual way of life, basically in the urban centers. Women needed
economic independence from men to fashion their lesbian lifestyles. The
homosexuals gave rise to the emergence of red-light district, territories in
which lesbians and prostitutes conducted their business in the metropolitan
areas. Gay male bars, lesbian bars were found around porn and red-light
district. These sexually marginalized populations did not just share a sinful
pathology but also an urban geography and contributed to the economy as well.
maidenhead market involved procuring a virgin for commercial sex purposes for a
client. It entailed the sale of young virgins for defloration in what had
become a lively and lucrative commerce. Numerous employment agencies as well as
parents sold virgins sold virgins to various brothels precisely for that purpose.
A virgin could sell as much as $800 and a client waited for a year to get one (Foster 1990, p. 390). Thriving
of maidenhead market was solely due to the belief that if one had sex with a
virgin, he could be cured of venereal diseases. Virgins were obviously sold to
prostitution world for greed.
needed economic independence and thus prostitutes and lesbians saw an
opportunity in the metropolitan to make money and support their homosexual
lifestyles. Homosexuality gave rise to brothels, parlor houses and cribs where
all the deviance activities took place. They earned money that economically
empowered them and were able to support their lifestyles. Prostitutes and
lesbians became alcohol and drug addicts as a result of their lifestyle (Foster 1990, p. 393). Some
entered into the business to support that precise lifestyle and pay for their
addiction habits. Other women became addicts to escape from the harsh life
of Women’s Sexuality
cold war was marked by sexual chaos fears which led to the containment of
sexual fallout. Prostitutes and lesbians were a symbol of female degeneracy,
moral decay, fallen womanhood, and wantonness; an association that greatly
helped to explain the parameters of what was regarded as normal and acceptable.
To contain the menace, a line had to be drawn between what was normal and what
was not. Female sexual deviance was an abnormality constructed to define and
contain the “normal”, deviance is understood as the great definer of norms (Penn 1945, p. 363). Lesbians and
prostitutes defied the cultural values and norms. Such deviant behaviors were
seen to stand at the line dividing culturally sanctioned procedures from all
other. To boost sexual containment, several strategies were put in place.
and lesbians became subject to the state, public, medical and legal experts. They
became the prime target of law enforcement crusade to clean the city and wipe
out deviants and degenerates. They were now victims of police arrests, raids,
and harassment. Homosexuals made an expanding seemingly organized sexual
underworld (Penn 1945, p. 368).
The emerging female sexual deviance made authorities see them as quasi-organized
groups whose existence was threatening social order. Criminal justice system
responded to the sexual psychopath menace threatening sexual morality and
thought that it was their responsibility to cleanse the streets and wipe out
the vice and immorality. They made efforts to eradicate and clean prostitutes
and lesbians as their public presence was a disruption to moral decency.
atmosphere in the cold war was really intense, they were afraid of external
threats to the national security, therefore, the psychiatrist personnel fully
backed by legal, professional, institutional authority, and their supporters,
mobilized their respective ranks and organized their collective forces with the
aim of containing what was viewed as a moral menace which not only posed a
threat as individuals but as a constituted social group. A national campaign
was also mounted to squelch what was viewed as a sexual offender epidemic.
Violent crime perpetrators who were motivated by the sexual abnormality,
nuisance offenders, and sexual underworld members became the prime targets of
harassment sanctioned by the state. The moral decay linked to the sexual excess
needed to be eradicated or at the very least sank deep underground. Statutes
rewritten by legislative committees on treatment and disposition of sex
offenders viewed homosexuals as psychologically impaired criminals who needed therapy
and treatment, and not mere criminals who deserved incarceration. This approach
gave psychiatrists a key role in rehabilitative treatment and another in giving
advice to criminal justice community members on the right adjudication for such
police departments, private reform groups, public health officials, and liquor
licensing boards executed routine round-ups to capture those involved in what
they termed as immoral sexual and immoral social activities. Bars, clubs
thought to cater for homosexuals were shut down and others put under
investigation for alleged illicit activities. Newspapers routinely printed
individual names of those held by police for being idle and disorderly. The
nation was on high moral alert and a program on moral readiness focusing on
domestic ideology meant to contain female sexuality within marriage, and at
home was put in place to save the nation from domestic and foreign threats. Additionally,
many operations were carried out on prostitutes that saw their reproductive
organs removed to curb the chance of developing mental disorder and sexual
caused hysteria. Female sexuality containment within certain determined
cultural bounds was meant to shape the future way of life. It defined the fate
of nation and established limitations of prescribed sexual behavior.
as a type of Illicit Market
the 20th century about a million abortions in the United States took
place annually, and just like any other crime, abortion was carried out in
secret. In the wake of a generation faced with war and economic depression,
many turned to some illicit activities to make money. Illegal abortionists
emerged as a way to make money from the increasing desperate and unhappy girls
and married women (Solinger n.d p.
354). Carried out by quacks, many landed in hospitals with botched
abortions. Unhappy women who sought abortion did not worry about botched
procedure. Criminal abortionists were found in all cities and in many towns.
After the Second World War, women found themselves in overlapping dangerous
arenas controlled by their protectors. Gender and race discrimination at work,
frequent sexual harassment at work, and community social opprobrium, was what
many employed women met. Many financially depended married women had violent husbands;
others feared that their husbands would lose their jobs at any time, while
others were afraid that their husbands would stop loving them. Many unmarried
women were criticized and labeled when they became pregnant (Solinger n.d, p. 357). These
fertile women lived with danger next door, enough reason to look for illegal
abortionists as soon as they discovered they were pregnant, a move to protect
their lives, bodies, and fertility. In a culture to define normalcy, women
abortionists and women seeking abortions joined the postwar deviants like
lesbians, prostitutes, career women, and divorcees.
a death was reported many doctors who performed abortions were never arrested.
Even when arrested, they were barely convicted. They were viewed as high status
in the eyes of the public. Just soon after the war, a doctor could get paid
$500 for performing an illegal abortion. An underground midwife could make more
than one tenth of that money. According to the law, abortion was only supposed
to be performed only to save the life of a patient, if not, whether performed
by a layperson operating in a back alley or a doctor it was illegal. The abortionist
was seen as sex criminal and a womanhood violator. The legal, medical, and
cultural effort to control abortion bared little to no fruit as abortion in
back alleys engulfed with danger still took place. Crackdown was done on all
clinics suspected to carry out abortions. The woman was a double victim of
first, the law that restricted her from having abortion, and secondly a victim
of the dirty, unskilled, predatory, and unscrupulous abortionist. Women
experienced serious hemorrhaging, life threatening infections, and some
of Obscene Materials
of obscene materials like lesbian and gay film pornography emerged as a matter
of economics. Lesbian pornography films emerged as a commercial commodity in
the 1980s while on the other hand, gay sex film became marketable and hip in
the 1990s (Stevenson 1997, p. 25).
The number of people watching homosexual erotic films significantly increased
during these years. Gay and lesbian sex films provided a marketplace where films
were offered to bookers and buyers (Stevenson
1997, p. 25). They were sold out and shown in theatres where homosexuals
paid to watch. Later heterosexual movies could have a small percent of gay or
lesbianism thus creating another bigger market for these obscene