Prostitution, sin and the law
in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
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This chapter analyses late medieval arrangements to accommodate ‘common’ prostitutes in official brothels and designated vice districts and to allow them limited tolerance on the margins of mainstream society. If clearly set apart from ‘decent’ women, they could perhaps protect wives and maidens from sexual attack, and the lesser sin of ‘simple’ fornication be used to curb the far greater transgressions of adultery and sodomy. The chapter examines magistrates’ arrangements to license and to some extent protect recognised prostitutes, together with their agreements with brothel keepers and the owners of houses of ill-fame. Clearly, though, during the fifteenth century the auhorities were failing to confine the trades within official limits and were unable to prevent heterosexual prostitutes from engaging in the ‘unnatural’ practices they were supposed to prevent.

Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue

Dishonoured women and abandoned children in Italy, 1300–1800


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