Women of the Streets, their Pimps, the Vice Police, and the Public
Clandestine prostitutes, who constituted the greatest number of prostitutes in large cities, were also part of the social fabric in less urban areas, where they sometimes caused insufficient nuisance to warrant sustained police attention. The term “clandestine,” which Austrian vice police, reformers, and other commentators used as if it were self-evident, was broadly employed. In addition to women who regularly walked the streets, the term encompassed women who occasionally or temporarily engaged in commercial sex to augment their low-paid employment, did not necessarily consider themselves prostitutes, and did not want to attract police attention. They were part of a wider working-class community, into which they disappeared when not engaged in clandestine prostitution. The relative ease with which these women could move in and out of social identities helps explain why few of them were willing to register with vice police and be stigmatized as a prostitutes.
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