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Sex for Sale: Prostitution and Visual Culture 1850-1910

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posted on 22.05.2021, 14:29 by Jaclyn Reid
"Sex for Sale: Prostitution and Visual Culture 1850-1910" is a Master's thesis that takes a historical approach to the visual in order to better understand the construction of the prostitute in Victorian culture. Recent scholars have noted ways in which the prostitute was routinely depicted as a threat and victim in nineteenth-century institutional discourse. This thesis complicates these readings by examining the construction of the fallen woman in commercial imagery. Far from depicting the streetwalker as a source of pity and disease, commercial culture redefined the image of the prostitute as a source of ambiguous visual pleasure. This allowed the signifiers of prostitution to extend through pornographic representation, entertainment advertisements, actress pin-ups and fashion magazines. Making illicit female sexuality a readily consumable pleasure, however, ultimately fostered greater efforts on the part of authorities to push prostitutes back into invisibility.





Master of Arts


Communication and Culture

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Dennis Denisoff