The Life of a Streetwalker

"Prositution began around 2 A.M. around Les Halles and the rue de Venise. This quarter was then the area worked by the dregs of the prositutes in the center of the capital. They roamed around the vegetable sellers' carts, sold themselves for fifty centimes or one franc, and 'accepted anything, even payments in kind, cabbages, carrots, whatever vegetables the trademen were selling in the nearby streets.'"


The majority of unregistered prostitutes worked without the help of a mistress/madame or a pimp. This is significant because the madames were not themselves involved in selling their bodies, but as a boss of the brothel, who brought clients to the prositutes and saw the first profit from the business. Streetwalkers were forced to approach prospective clients themselves and sell themselves as a commodity to them. The approach varied from woman to woman. "'Are you going to make me rich?' was the usual formula for approaching a client. Some prostitutes were not afraid to grab a man by his sleeve and cling to him, even yelling insults at him if he refused their attentions."
The possibility of being attacked came with the territory of being a streetwalker.. Just as women in the brothels were frequent victims of attacks by aggressive males, the soliciting prostitute was even less immune to the violence that corresponded to her profession, since she did not have the benefit of living in an enclosed space.
In 1820, a series of regulations were passed against prositution. These regulations prohibited prositutes from working in certain areas of the city. They also punished prositutes if they were found out past a certain hour. These regulations in theory prevented the soliciting prositute from gathering business in the most widely visited areas of Paris. They also jeopardized her financial prospects.
After 1850, the brothels became less and less significant as Paris grew in size. Likewise, the unregistered street prositutes became more spread out. The difference between soliciting prositute and the lorette was that the lorette, like the courtesan, was a kept woman.
It is important to note that the streetwalker was in her profession for a reason, many of which are outlined in this chart. It is even more important to note that it was next to impossible for these women to become courtesans. Women who became courtesans usually already held jobs (usually in shops) and were looking for financial security. "Conversations in the workshop, the example of older women, and rivalries and jealousies soon persuaded the yound apprentice to find herself a bourgeois lover...". The main point is that it was not rivalries and jealousy that motivated the streetwalker, but necessity.


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