The Timeless aberration: Wolfenden and the making of modern prostitution

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For the past fifty years, the ‘Wolfenden Strategy’ has underpinned public policy on prostitution in Britain and Australia. The 1957 Wolfenden Report dictates that prostitution is the private business of adults providing consent is present, public decency is not ‘outraged’ by too visible displays of solicitation, and prostitution businesses comply with safety regulations. In this view, the harm of prostitution comes with public offence. This approach has been praised as liberal common sense, with requisite deference paid to adults’ rights to make decisions of sexual and economic morality for themselves. However, the growing recognition in feminist scholarship of sexual harm has led to more sustained questions about approaches to prostitution like Wolfenden. Analysis of prostitution has also been transformed by the framework of trafficking, the emphasis shifting from questions of consent to questions of the framework within which consent is given or elicited. Given this context, it seems appropriate to interrogate the historical conditions and contestations that produced the Report and its Strategy. Such an interrogation reveals that women in that time voiced complex criticisms of the two main features of the approach - aberration and inevitability - but their criticisms were dismissed, discredited and ignored by the Committee and the government.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-83
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'The Timeless aberration: Wolfenden and the making of modern prostitution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this