Homosexuality, Prostitution, and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century ParisAndrew Israel Ross
In the 1800s, urban development efforts modernized Paris and encouraged the creation of brothels, boulevards, cafés, dancehalls, and even public urinals. However, complaints also arose regarding an apparent increase in public sexual activity, and the appearance of “individuals of both sexes with depraved morals” in these spaces. Andrew Israel Ross’s illuminating study, Public City/Public Sex, chronicles the tension between the embourgeoisement and democratization of urban culture in nineteenth-century Paris and the commercialization and commodification of a public sexual culture, the emergence of new sex districts, as well as the development of gay and lesbian subcultures.
Public City/Public Sex examines how the notion that male sexual desire required suitable outlets shaped urban policing and development. Ross traces the struggle to control sex in public and argues that it was the very effort to police the city that created new opportunities for women who sold sex and men who sought sex with other men. Placing public sex at the center of urban history, Ross shows how those who used public spaces played a central role in defining the way the city was understood.
“Public City/Public Sex treads familiar ground—the streets of nineteenth-century Paris—but offers important new insight into the sexual geographies of the City of Light. Making compelling connections between the policing of (female) prostitutes and (male) pederasts, the book persuasively argues that the sexual diversity characteristic of the public spaces of the modernizing city was slowly eviscerated by modes of spatial regulation that enclosed and domesticated sexual desire. An important and eminently readable account, this is essential reading for all those interested in the relationship between sex and the city.”
—Phil Hubbard, Professor of Urban Studies in the Department of Geography at King’s College London and author of Cities and Sexualities
“Public City/Public Sex is a provocative, compelling, and innovative investigation into an understudied area of nineteenth-century French history. By centering sexuality conceptually and geographically, Ross advances the evocative, even pathbreaking argument that public sex constituted public culture. Drawing on a rich array of primary source materials, he illuminates urban encounters and casts the sexual management of the city in new light.”
—Holly Grout, Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama and author of The Force of Beauty: Transforming French Ideas of Femininity in the Third Republic
"Public City/Public Sex is a thought-provoking work that opens up new ways of thinking about the relationship between urban spaces, urban identities and sexual practices and imaginaries. It is deeply researched and interpretively ambitious. It is enlightening and frustrating at the same time: a book with which you might argue, but which ultimately leaves you thinking differently about the city."
- H-France Forum
"The book impresses with the boldness of its analytical and interpretative moves.... Ross’s brilliant analysis…persuasively situates prostitution, as a fact and as a metaphor, at the heart of a modern Parisian urban culture and its mode of self-representation."
— Journal of the History of Sexuality
“Andrew Ross’s first monograph succeeds at shedding new light on the atmosphere of cruising and sexual activities which characterized the public spaces of the French capital over the whole (nineteenth) century. Having had access to previously unseen archives from the Paris police and combining the study of female prostitution and male homosexuality, Ross reveals to the reader the extent of a culture of sexual promiscuity which was paradoxically consolidated during and after the works of renovation and gentrification of Paris which had the goal of cleaning the city and facilitating the police’s effort to control.”
—Contemporary French Civilization