The harlot city?: Prostitution in Hollywood, 1920–40 | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2050-9790
  • E-ISSN: 2050-9804



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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