FROM THE NEW YORKER (10/19/92) A review of the book THE CITY OF EROS NEW YORK CITY, PROSTI

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FROM THE NEW YORKER (10/19/92) A review of the book THE CITY OF EROS: NEW YORK CITY, PROSTITUTION, AND THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF SEX, 1790-1920 by Timothy J. Gilfoyle (Norton; $24.95) In 1857, the rector of Trinity Church told the richest congregation in New York City, "During a ministry of more than fifty years I have not been in a house of ill-fame more than ten times!" What surprised his listeners was not his admission but his moderation. New York's expansion in the ninteenth century attracted foreign immigrants and rural migrants, a disproportionate number of them men. The lack of decent jobs for women meant that prostitution was the most lucrative vocation available. With supply and demand in place, a booming market in sexual relations emerged. Mr. Gilford maps the development of New York's sex districts, explains the economics of the skin trade, and recounts major scandals of the period. Parts of his story are startling: girls under fifteen provided a significant proportion of the city's prostitutes (for much of the century the legal age of consent was ten). Their youth made them less likely to become pregnant (a plus for madams) and less likely to carry disease (a plus for customers). Mr. Gilfoyle's book combines prodigious research with an easy narrative style, and where evidence is thin he offers well-reasoned speculation rather than scholarly prevarication. [end quote] Dave Myers

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