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Prostitution was considered among the most important societal problems facing civilian-military authorities in belligerent countries during World War I. Despite growing military control of the civilian realm in many places, the social upheaval caused by the war provided more space — including barracks and military parade grounds — for casual, non-marital, and sometimes commercial, sexual transactions. World War I disrupted communal and familial monitoring mechanisms and reshaped urban — and, to a lesser degree, rural — sexual practices across Europe.

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The mass mobilization of troops increased the demand for prostitutes near military encampments. Recognizing that soldiers would have sex with prostitutes, some belligerent armies opened brothels near garrisons to limit the troops exposure to venereal disease VD. In addition to the opening of brothels to serve the military, there was also an increase in clandestine prostitution, as some soldiers preferred to visit prostitutes outside of regulated brothels. Inmany continental European countries practiced variations on the French regulatory system that sanitation engineer A.

A key element of this system was the mandatory regular medical examination of prostitutes, which was meant to limit the spread of venereal disease among their clients. In contrast, Great Britainits Dominionsand former colonies continued to prohibit prostitution during the war and forbade their troops to visit brothels on the fighting front. The concentration of soldiers also offered new opportunities for women to have clandestine sex with soldiers.

Civilian and military authorities suspected these women of being infected with particularly virulent forms of VD because they were able to avoid the medical exams that were compulsory for registered prostitutes. Military leaders continued to advocate brothel-based prostitution, because they argued that medical examinations helped to limit the spread of VD.

Rates of clandestine prostitution in Great Britain increased dramatically between and because the war created more opportunities for illicit sex. By limiting contact between women and soldiers, the Committee tried to prevent clandestine prostitution. In the Habsburg Monarchyowing to wartime economic privation, there was both an explosion of clandestine prostitution and the virtual collapse of regulated prostitution between and In addition to tolerated prostitutes, the vice police and the military focused on other women they believed practiced clandestine prostitution.

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Many of the suspects were young, often poor, unemployed, or working in low-wage positions. Soldiers stationed in BelgiumFranceand Germany visited brothels on the home front and near the fighting front. Access to prophylaxes and crude treatments served to safeguard against the worst effects of VD. The brothel industry boomed in wartime France owing to the large of men stationed there. Both French and German military authorities opened brothels along the Western Frontgiving soldiers access to prostitutes while at the front and on leave. In both countries, the military seized buildings, among them private homes and castles, for use as brothels.

Different colored lanterns deated those for officers and those for enlisted men. Brothels were segregated based on military rank. Officers had access to more expensive prostitutes dedicated only to them. The prostitutes who serviced enlisted men would have made less money, worked longer hours, and seen more clients in a given time period than those intended for officers.

Although British and Dominion military authorities encouraged abstinence, officers provided medication and prophylaxis for soldiers who visited prostitutes. The US military also mandated abstinence.

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Officers realized that while US soldiers were barred from brothels, they would still go to them and therefore required VD exams for those believed to have had sex with prostitutes. Infected soldiers were treated and returned to the front as soon as they were ambulatory. Otherwise, visits to brothels were a non-issue in the US military, despite formal warnings. In contrast to US and British directives, both the German and the Habsburg military authorities assumed that soldiers would visit prostitutes.

Fearing that French prostitutes would deliberately infect their soldiers with VD, the German military relocated brothel prostitutes from Germany to purpose-built military brothels on the front. Military officials from the Central Powers also created brothels on the Eastern Front. The Habsburg military opened field brothels, including in occupied territory, that were organized by rank, as well as clinics to treat enlisted men for VD in an effort to limit its spread. When the Russians occupied Austrian territory in Western Galicia and Bukovina, their soldiers visited existing local brothels.

Russian military officials demonstrated the same concerns about the deleterious implications of brothel-based and clandestine prostitution for their soldiers as had the Habsburg military before them.

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Opposition to tolerated prostitution, which had been growing in many countries prior tocontinued during the war. Afterit resulted in the closing of brothels and the abolition of prostitution in some of the former belligerents. Russia abolished prostitution in Julyfollowing the February Revolutionbefore withdrawing from the war. Reflecting increased influence of feminist and sex-reform organizations, Austria, Czechoslovakiaand Germany abolished regulation after the war. In contrast, Belgium, France, and Italy continued to tolerate prostitution throughout the interwar period.

Steward, Journey: Prostitutionin: online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. DOI : Version 1. By Journey Steward. Herzog, Dagmar: Sexuality in Europe.

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Le Naour, Jean-Yves: Le sexe et la guerre. Makepeace, Clare: Male heterosexuality and prostitution during the great war. Wingfield, Nancy M. Citation Steward, Journey: Prostitutionin: online. Metadata Subjects. Author Keywords. GND Subject Headings.

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LC Subject Headings. Rameau Subject Headings. Regional Section s. Thematic Section s. Classification Group. Images US Anti-prostitution ad.

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