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Free Content The harlot city?: Prostitution in Hollywood, 1920–40

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Conflicting narratives about prostitution in Hollywood – from reformers, Hollywood novels and newspapers covering the sensational Hollywood ‘love mart’ case – indicate awareness as well as deep-seated concerns not only about changing sexual norms but also the urban context that generated them. Reformers employed the language of ‘white slavery’ to suggest that the new sexual economy victimized innocent urban newcomers; Hollywood novels suggested the notion of women as sexual agents; and newspaper coverage of the ‘love mart’ case employed both narratives in depicting prostitution. While such contradictory depictions indicate the unevenness of the process by which urbanization ushered in new sexual mores, narratives of prostitution in Hollywood shared the idea that the city was a modern nightmare rather than a dreamy landscape of opportunity.

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Keywords: Hollywood; Hollywood novels; Olive Clark Day; prostitution; reform; urban sexual economy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bethel University

Publication date: 01 March 2014

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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