In the s a change in the law meant UK phone boxes became noticeboards for business cards selling sexual services. As well as accumulating a cult following, these miniature advertisements tell us a lot about fluctuations and fashions in what was on offer. Words by Dr Kate Lister 17 October T he sex trade is as old as civilisation itself, and as long as people have been buying and selling sexual services, the authorities have been trying to prostitute phone number it.
As a historian of sex work, I can tell you that no attempt to abolish prostitution through criminalisation has ever been successful. The dilemma faced by every sex worker operating under criminalisation throughout history is how to attract clients without also attracting the attention of the law.
By sex workers for sex workers
Like many industries, sex work has been revolutionised by the rise of the internet, and the online market is now the largest sector of the UK sex industry. But how did sex workers advertise and contact clients before the internet?
MORE: Male masturbation's chequered past, characterised by shame and disapproval. In it became illegal to solicit on the streetsso sex workers had to find new ways to recruit clients. Indoor sex work, in brothels and saunas, is generally safer than street sex work, but often requires a third party, who will take a cut of the profit.
When this act was repealed inbusiness-savvy sex workers were quick to move their cards out of shop windows and into public telephone boxes. Although tart cards are still found in the telephone boxes of cities all around prostitute phone number world, they garnered something of a cult following in Britain, and are most immediately associated with London.
The s were the heyday of the tart card, and London telephone boxes from Soho to Kings Cross were festooned with a patchwork of porn. The need to keep production costs down in terms of wording and materials, while standing out from the other cards, resulted in a truly unique art form.
Dating call girl contact - dating girl contact s
The early cards were printed on cheap paper and featured simple block des in black ink against brightly coloured often neon backgrounds. Kitsch silhouettes of nude women, stilettos, suspenders or sex toys directly communicate the type of service on offer. Technological advancements influenced the de of the later cards, which feature fancy typefaces and glossy photos of erotic fantasy figures puckering up, bending over, or staring seductively down the prostitute phone number. To the disappointment of many clients, these photos were rarely of the providers, who were far too canny to out themselves to the authorities in a public phone box.
Mom gets kids new phone, finds it came with old when calls come asking for prostitute
The cards offered sex workers a basic form of client screening. The only contact detail provided is a phonewhich the client would call to discuss what they wanted, as well as arranging a time and place.
The provider would only prostitute phone number out an address once they had established that this was someone they wanted to see. Not only are the simple des quite beautiful, but they also allow historians to chart fluctuations in the sex-work community, the supply and demand of sexual services, and even patterns of migrant sex workers in the capital.
Of course, some things never change, and just over half the cards at Wellcome advertise BDSM services BDSM being an overlapping abbreviation for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism. Although men are certainly selling sex, most of the cards are from female providers cis and transgender advertising to male clients.
The playful use of language is also very familiar to the sex industry today.
Prostitute contact s
Despite the sexually explicit images, the cards rarely mention sex directly. In the pre-internet world, there were precious few spaces where individuals could safely express their true gender identity. You can still find the odd card here and there, but as the mobile phone has rendered the phone box redundant, and the internet has created a far safer way for sex workers to prostitute phone number to clients, the humble tart card has had its day. But this is no bad thing. The study found that 89 per cent of UK sex workers felt online platforms had allowed them to work more independently, 85 per cent reported using the internet to screen and monitor their clients, and 78 per cent said that advertising online had improved their quality of life.
[a phone survey of prostitute services in homes]
Tart cards are a remarkable and unique piece of history. They reveal so much about our collective sexual past and allow us to peep into the bedrooms of prostitute phone number, but cultural attitudes to sex work have changed. New technology has taken most sex work off the street and certainly out of the phone box. It has made sex work safer for those who choose to do it. As wonderful as they are, the best place for them is in a museum.
Dr Kate Lister is a lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, where she researches the history of sexuality and curates Whores of Yore, a project exploring the history of sexuality. We use a third party provider, dotdigitalto deliver our newsletters.
For information about how we handle your data, please read our privacy notice. You can unsubscribe at any time using links in the s you receive. Getting here. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is d under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Wellcome Collection.
Dial ‘s’ for sex
Stories Part of Inside Our Collections. Sex worker card collection, Thomas SG Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4. Dr Kate Lister.
The phone-box cult In it became illegal to solicit on the streetsso sex workers had to find new ways to recruit clients. Collected between September and December Collected between February and March Collected between April and May Collected between December and February London phone box, Benjamin Gilbert. Attribution 4. Erotic invitations The early cards were printed on cheap paper and featured simple block des in black ink against brightly coloured prostitute phone number neon backgrounds.
Euphemisms and playful phrases Of course, some things never change, and just over half the cards at Wellcome advertise BDSM services BDSM being an overlapping abbreviation for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism. About the author. Finding us:. Opening times:.