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15 Facts About ‘The Other Industry’ Throughout History

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15 Facts About ‘The Other Industry’ Throughout History

There’s always been an argument about which profession is the oldest. The coal industry seems like a good contender, or maybe the soap manufacturers? Professionals such as lawyers, judges, and doctors appeared in the ancient Roman times and are still highly regarded today in 2017.

If we look closely, though, there’s one profession that’s stood the test of time and has been present throughout history. From the ancient Greeks to the Internet age, prostitution has always been around. The occupation is usually held by women, but proof exists that men also engage in this profession. These individuals usually sell their body for money, and if you go to any street corner in the urban parts of a major city, you’re guaranteed to encounter one.

15. The Bible

The Bible references prostitutes multiple times, especially when they talk about Jezebel and Mary Magdalene. These women were reportedly prostitutes and hung around Jesus Christ for an extended period.

Although they weren’t respected for being prostitutes in biblical times, they were the first to receive Jesus’ indulgence. So it seems like the profession was stigmatized back then too, but who knew they were so closely related to the most popular figure in Christianity?

It’s also interesting to see that the Catholic church now condemns prostitution even though several prominent figures in the Bible were clearly ‘ladies of the night.’

14. Gropec*nt Lane

The Brits surely loved purchasing sex back in the old days. Not only was prostitution legal, civic leaders were not shy about purchasing sex. One of the most common street names in English cities and towns was ‘Gropec*nt Lane.’

The earliest recorded instance of this street name was in London in 1230. Existing in large numbers all over Britain for nearly three centuries, a gradual change largely in part due to the Protestant Reformation, saw the name slowly changed to a more innocent sounding one. “Grape Lane” and “Current Lane” are the current replacements. The last recorded existence of a street being called ‘Gropec*nt Lane’ in Britain was in 1561.

13. No Justice For The ‘Wicked’

There have been rumors circulating for years that the Vatican was closely tied to prostitution. Some scholars suggest that priests and cardinals used to control prostitution rings as means to control the wealth of Rome.

The official stance on the activity is very clear and severe, and the both the Catholic and Protestant church denounce the act of prostitution, especially during the Middle Ages. The sort of social change that lead to the expunging of Gropec*nt lanes in Britain, also brought terrible punishment to bear on those in the prostitution industry. According to the ordinances written into law in Paris in 1653, brothels were shut down and sold, and the prostitutes who lived there dragged into the street and flogged before having their heads shaved and being put under a life-long exile. This usually happened without a trial.

12. The ‘Other Industry’ Was The First

The prostitution industry has a very long history going back to the beginnings of human civilization, especially during the time of the ancient Greeks. One of the most shocking, and popular, theater pieces from antiquity (from the time Lysistrata) was written by Aristophanes in 411 BCE. In this play, he regularly references prostitutes and members of the industry and details their experience during this time period.

11. One Of The Highest Paying Jobs For Women

One of the main issues brought up by every different generation of the women’s movement going back to the suffragettes, is that of financial security. For centuries women were, if not outright banned, and strongly discouraged from working. It was the law in many countries until well into the 20th century. A married woman as well was strongly discouraged to work. 

The few women who could find employment had a thankless and poorly paying task ahead of them. Even educated, upper-class women who had skills such as typing and short-hand writing could only earn low wages per year. Unskilled jobs such as being a maid paid even worse. The only job going that could pay a woman, particularly a single woman, enough money to survive was prostitution. 

10. Some Married Women Worked On The Side

Prostitution was not just for spinsters and widows. With the vast and ever-widening class and economic divisions, particularly in Britain, many families with married parents were still barely managing to scrape by. Even if the children were working, new child labor laws would soon come into effect, meaning some mothers had to find new ways to earn a living.

Desperate to keep food on the table and the creditors at bay, many married women, sometimes with the knowledge and even consent of their husbands, took to the streets.

9. “Sporting Guides”

In the Victorian Era, there were very different rules for the rich. The lower classes were usually seen as being closer to animals and in need of moral guidance. The upper-class, however, could be exempt from almost anything. One of the main proofs of this situation is the existence of ‘Sporting Guides.’

Basically, this was the trade publication of prostitution industry, and ‘Sporting Guides’ listed all relevant information to allow a gentleman of means to make a ‘informed purchase.’ This included a detailed physical description, personality, age, and cost or a sex worker. The prices were on a sliding scale depending on a variety different factors.

8. The Industry Was the Main Economic Force In Settling the Wild West

There are particular ideas about the past that persist. One of the strongest is about the ‘Wild West.’

Almost always depicted as treacherous business run by unscrupulous and cut-throat businessmen, the employees of every brothel were usually female and were treated as disposable property. The fact of the matter is that prostitution was the main industry in many of the early encampments, and was the backbone of the economy. The women involved in it could make as much as the most successful gold prospector and often used their income to help the camps develop into towns.

7. There Were Three Levels

As with any industry, prostitution had a stratified system. Traditionally, in the late-Victorian era, there were three different levels of the industry, after the same lines as economic class.

The lowest level, occupied by those in the lower classes, worked and lived on-site at a brothel run by a ‘madame.’ They were basically employees and did whatever the owners told them to.

Those in the middle were of independent and had their own apartments. They had a lot more freedom and could be more choosy about the work they took.

At the highest level, those involved were among the most highly educated and in demand. They could be extremely picky about the work they did, often working exclusively for one wealthy patron. They could afford to do this due to the higher pay rate, offered by the upper-classes. Many ended up marrying their employer.

6. Those In the Industry Were The First To Use ATMs

The history of invention has some strange and funny stories. The one about how Alexander Graham Bell found out his telephone worked was when he spilled acid on himself. The fact that velcro came into being because of the burrs that stuck to the inventor’s dog after a long walk in the countryside. Another, lesser known, story is the origins of the ATM.

Developed by George Luther Simjian and called the ‘bBankmatic,’ the first ATM went into operation in New York. Not causing the stir Simjian expected, he could only convince one bank to try it. The branch of what would later become CitiBank installed the machine for a six-month trial period.

When exactly this occurred is anyone’s guess. Sources range from 1920 to 1939 but one thing is for sure. The only people who used the ‘bBankmatic’ during its first trial were gamblers and prostitutes in need of some discreet, after hours banking service.

5. One Of The Main Countries Is The United States

Laws are only pieces of paper unless they are properly enforced. One of the laws in the United States that flies under the radar applies directly to the prostitution industry. While only fully legal in some parts of Nevada, (with Las Vegas excluded) prostitution is booming in America. Of the over 42 million prostitutes worldwide, 1 million of them are living in the United States. This should not come as a surprise considering all the other illegal but lucrative businesses that have set up shop in America. Illegal business has been a mainstay of American cities since the early-20th century when prohibition lead to the rise of the Italian-American Mafia.

4. One Of The Highest-Risk Jobs

Statistically, the most dangerous jobs out there are in logging and commercial fishing. Yet the numbers for the prostitution industry are surprisingly higher. Commercial fisherman have a job death rate of roughly 129 in 10,000. For prostitutes, this number stands at 204 in 10,000.

When it comes to non-fatal attacks, the numbers are still higher. Workers on the lower-end of prostitution industry are assaulted once a month on average. This is mostly because they have no recourse and are likely to get arrested themselves if they report it.

3. Prostitution Is A Legal Business In 15 Countries

Despite its criminal status in the United States, there are still many places where prostitution is fully or partially legal. These range from impoverished nations, famous for corrupt governments. These include Bangladesh, where everything is legal except for male prostitution. There is also Ecuador, where everything is legal. One of the counties trying to reform ‘the industry’ is the Netherlands. There it is a legal, licensed and strictly regulated business. It is a similar situation in Belgium, the government decided it is the best way to deal with the problems associated with prostitution. Austria has gotten so gung-ho on the idea that there are identification checks to make sure workers are over 19 and pay government income tax.

2. The Other Industry Has Moved Mostly Online

As the internet has become the preferred medium of the new millennium, the prostitution industry has moved online.

Many work independently, running their own websites. Others advertise on classified sites such as Craigslist. Though they have been overtaken in recent years by a site called Backpage.com. This includes countries where prostitution is entirely or partially illegal, leaving operators open to prosecution.

1. “Punk” Was Coined As A Descriptor

While playing a major role in 20th century pop culture, there has long been a debate about what ‘punk’ is, or what it means. Having implications ranging from an unruly young person to a member of a particular music and culture scene, the world is still stigmatized.

The more modern uses have a long history. ‘Punk kid’ is a term for a gangster’s apprentice going back to 1904. ‘Punk’ meaning a worthless person especially a young thug, this being the root of the term for the music scene, had its start in 1917. The exact origin is unknown but the term was originally used to refer to London prostitutes. So the British connection goes back to the beginning.

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