TitleInfectious agents of racial degeneration
NameSparks, Lacey (author), Giloi, Eva (chair), Rutgers University, Graduate School - Newark,
Prostitution--Great Britain--Colonies--History--19th century,
Prostitution--Great Britain--History--19th century,
Sexually transmitted diseases--Law and legislation--Great Britain--History--19th century,
Women--Great Britain--Colonies--History--19th century
DescriptionNineteenth-century British debates on prostitution and the Contagious Diseases Acts contained racialized rhetoric. In their discussion of white prostitution and the C.D. Acts in the metropole, regulationists and repealers alike utilized disease discourses that indicated not only a moral infection of the prostitutes’ clients, but also racial infection that led to the degeneration of the race. Regulationists advocated state control over women's bodies, because only state intervention could protect military and civilian men from sinful and diseased women. They believed that prostitution was an unfortunate but necessary social evil to be managed, not eradicated. In gathering support, regulationists relied on misogynistic arguments that questioned the racial superiority of white prostitutes. Repealers came to the same racialized conclusions from a different perspective and thus saw different solutions. Repealers argued that men owned women's bodies as well as governed the economy, and were thus responsible for what happened to them, including resorting to prostitution. Repealers believed that prostitution was the great social evil and must be eradicated. Anglo-Saxon mens' immoral sexual choices led to prostitution, which victimized women, and thus men’s racial superiority was called into question. Regulationists made their accusations down the social ladder, a strategy that was par for the course for oppressors controlling the oppressed. Men with every social privilege blaming the inferior race, class, and gender were unsurprising. Repealers, however, inverted that logic and challenged the privileged male regulationists by making their accusations up the social ladder. Whiteness was a social currency that repealers wielded in a subversive way to shape British law in favor of white working class women. By asserting the value of the whiteness of the disenfranchised white groups of women and the working class, repealers gained rights for them by distancing them from the racial Other in an empire built on whiteness. In the British Empire, Anglo-Saxon whiteness served as the currency for social power. By wielding the power of whiteness, repealers transgressed traditional race, class, and gender hierarchies, effected a change in the law, and embarked on a path to establishing further women’s and working class rights in the metropole.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Lacey Sparks
CollectionGraduate School - Newark Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.