Synopses & Reviews
The intense urbanization and industrialization of America's largest city from the turn of the twentieth century to World War II was accompanied by profound shifts in sexual morality, sexual practices, and gender roles. Comparing prostitution and courtship with a new working-class practice of heterosexual barter called "treating," Elizabeth Clement examines changes in sexual morality and sexual and economic practices.
Women "treated" when they exchanged sexual favors for dinner and an evening's entertainment or, more tangibly, for stockings, shoes, and other material goods. These "charity girls" created for themselves a moral space between prostitution and courtship that preserved both sexual barter and respectability. Although treating, as a clearly articulated language and identity, began to disappear after the 1920s and 1930s, Clement argues that it still had significant, lasting effects on modern sexual norms. She demonstrates how treating shaped courtship and dating practices, the prevalence and meaning of premarital sex, and America's developing commercial sex industry. Even further, her study illuminates the ways in which sexuality and morality interact and contribute to our understanding of the broader social categories of race, gender, and class.
"Love for Sale
would be an excellent addition to an upper-level undergraduate course in the history of sexuality or US women's history."
-Journal of the History of Sexuality
Comparing prostitution and courtship with a new working-class practice of heterosexual barter called "treating," in which women exchanged sexual favors for dinner and entertainment or for stockings, shoes, and other material goods, Clement examines changes in sexual morality and sexual and economic practices during a period of intense urbanization and industrialization in early 20th-century NYC. She shows that treating had lasting effects on modern courtship and dating practices, the prevalence and meaning of premarital sex, and America's developing commercial sex industry.
"Persuasive. . . . Adds to the social history of New York literature."
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society "With rich examples relayed through an often sparkling narrative, this is a remarkable book."
Leisa D. Meyer, College of William and Mary
About the Author
Elizabeth Clement is assistant professor of history at the University of Utah.