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To browse Academia. Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. Log In Sign Up. Michelle A Laughran. Social historian Vern L. Any kind of sex has been almost a forbidden subject for scholars, especially historians, until comparatively recent times, and prostitution, a deviant sexual behavior, has been even more tabooed. Researchers like Leah Lydia otis, Jacques Roussiaud, and Elizabeth Pavan have recently concentrated specifically on prostitution in medieval France and Italy, respectively, but no systematic investigations have yet been published regarding English prostitution during the Middle Ages.
This lack of study regarding medieval prostituion in England is surprising and disappointing, as the English treatment of the phenomenon was, especially in medieval London, both unique and innovative in Europe.
Governments' course of action changed as circumstances caused one of three main considerations-financial motivations and concerns for public peace and health-to gain priority. Different policies could also be followed simultaneously. As a result, sexuality outside of marriage could be viewed as illicit, yet prostitution could be legalized and treated as a legitimate source of profit for noble entrepreneurs of good family.
Or, in contrast, fornication could be prosecuted as a crime, yet be perceived as a typical and accepted step on the road to marriage. Such seeming contradictions stem from an imperfect fit between the disciplining factors of law and morality in Renaissance society, which make the boundaries of Eros literally plural and, much like other historical boundaries, neither fixed nor particularly exact.
The conflict resulted from authorities' vested financial interests in prostitution, which were generally too strong to permit the active protection of the "public good" spoken of by government proclamation.