Storyville : The Story of New Orleans's Legal Red Light District, 1897 to 1917
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Storyville represents more than sex and scandal. Our modern day assumptions about prostitution and what is now called sex work cloud our ability to look at red light districts as something more than institutions that exploit women. New Orleans's approach to prostitution and its acceptance of the vice as part of their society, made them unable to be representative of prostitution in Progressive America. White men used their power to create a district to bring in revenue to their struggling economies and conserve their ideas of race and sexuality that had been in place since French rule in Louisiana. They guarded their access to interracial sex, and in doing so avoided racial segregation from structuring the district. While women's bodies were presented for the pleasure of men, they navigated Storyville's complex race and sex dynamics to provide a life for themselves that was freer and monetarily more secure than other options available to them at the time. It was an example of the complex relationship between male power and female agency. As the twenty-first century still grapples with similar societal themes, Storyville rests as a rare instance of contained, but successful relations between race and sexuality.