WORKING WOMEN: The Subterranean World of Street Prostitution by Arlene & Howard Moody Carmen

WORKING WOMEN: The Subterranean World of Street Prostitution

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The authors are advocates of the decriminalization of prostitution and this, then, is their soapbox. As such, it is both enlightening and disappointing. While they put forth many a clear, cogent argument in favor of decriminalization, they seem oddly reluctant to rely on their strongest suit--the voices of New York's streetwalkers. Which is a pity. The women we encounter, however cursorily, in these pages seem undeserving of the corrupt justice often meted out to the prostitutes who work the Big Apple's mean streets. Moody, who is the senior minister of the activist Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, and Carmen, who worked with him on the church Prostitution Project which provided legal and medical help as well as solace to New York streetwalkers for eight years, have a compelling story to tell. Unfortunately, they back away from it, giving only glimpses of 'the life' through the eyes of the women who live it. One suspects they fear any hint of salaciousness, thus further exploiting these women whom, they forcefully argue, society uses and discards. The book then becomes a treatise examining why society treats prostitution as a criminal activity and how, in the process of enforcing unenforceable laws, streetwalkers are cast as outlaws whose civil liberties need not be respected. Other women, even feminists, scorn them, and their customers often view them with contempt and abuse them. While their arguments in favor of decriminalization can be debated point by point, the authors' ultimate message--that society errs tragically in making streetwalkers bear the brunt of its ambivalent and hypocritical stance on recreational sex--deserves attention.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row