Sexual slavery  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sexual slavery is a special case of slavery which includes various different practices:

  1. forced prostitution
  2. single-owner sexual slavery
  3. ritual slavery, sometimes associated with traditional religious practices
  4. slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes where sex is common or permissible

In general, the nature of slavery means that the slave is de facto available for sex, and ordinary social conventions and legal protections that would otherwise constrain an owner's actions are not effective. Female slaves are at highest risk of sexual abuse and sexual slavery.

The term "sex slave" and "consensual sexual slavery" are sometimes used in BDSM to refer to a consensual agreement between sexual partners (see also total power exchange). This should not be confused with the meaning of the term as defined in this article, which refers specifically to unwilling slavery.


Historical sexual slavery

White slavery

In English-speaking countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, slavery of European descendants was referred to as "white slavery," regardless of the specific type or nature of the slavery enacted.

In Victorian Britain, campaigning journalist William Thomas Stead, (editor of the Pall Mall Gazette) procured a 13 year-old girl for £5, an amount then equal to a labourer's monthly wage (see the Eliza Armstrong case). Panic over the "traffic in women" rose to a peak in England in the 1880s. At the time, "white slavery" was a natural target for defenders of public morality and crusading journalists. The ensuing outcry led to the passage of antislavery legislation in Parliament.

Meanwhile in Argentina, the criminal organization Zwi Migdal operated in white slavery and prostitution from the 1860s until 1939.

Parliament passed the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, raising the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen in that year.

A subsequent scare occurred in the United States in the early twentieth century, peaking in 1910, when Chicago's U.S. attorney announced (without giving details) that an international crime ring was abducting young girls in Europe, importing them, and forcing them to work in Chicago brothels. These claims, and the panic they inflamed, led to the passage of the United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910. It also banned the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes. Its primary intent was to address prostitution and immorality. The act is better known as the Mann Act, after James Robert Mann, an American lawmaker.

Chinese immigrants in the U.S. were singled out as white slavers, although any such activity was restricted to the criminal segment of the Chinese community. As an example of this in American culture, the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie features a Chinese-run prostitution ring, which is specifically referred to as "white slavery." The gangster movie Prime Cut has mid-West white slaves sold like cattle.

In Christian Europe, on the other hand, the predominant image linked the term "white slavery" to the Ottoman harems and Arab slave traders, particularly the Barbary pirates who captured more than a million slaves from Western Europe and North Africa.

Arab slave trade

Arab slave trade, Slavery (Ottoman Empire)

Slave trade, including trade of sex slaves, fluctuated in certain regions in the Middle East up until the twentieth century (see also Arab slave trade). These slaves came largely from Sub-Saharan Africa (mainly Zanj), the Caucasus (mainly Circassians), Central Asia (mainly Tartars), and Central and Eastern Europe (mainly Saqaliba). The Barbary pirates also captured 1.25 million slaves from Western Europe between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In contrast to the Atlantic slave trade where the male-female ratio was 2:1 or 3:1, the Arab slave trade usually had a higher female:male ratio instead, suggesting a general preference for female slaves. Concubinage and reproduction served as incentives for importing female slaves (often Caucasian), though many were also imported mainly for performing household tasks.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Portuguese visitors and their South Asian lascar (and sometimes African) crewmembers often engaged in slavery in Japan, where they bought or captured young Japanese women and girls, who were either used as sexual slaves on their ships or taken to Macau and other Portuguese colonies in Southeast Asia, the Americas, and India. For example, in Goa, a Portuguese colony in India, there was a community of Japanese slaves and traders during the late 16th and 17th centuries.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a network of Chinese and Japanese prostitutes being trafficked across Asia, in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and British India, in what was then known as the ’Yellow Slave Traffic’. There was also a network of prostitutes from continental Europe being trafficked to India, Ceylon, Singapore, China and Japan at around the same time, in what was then known as the ’White Slave Traffic’.

During World War II, Japanese soldiers engaged in sexual slavery during their invasions across East Asia and Southeast Asia. The term "comfort women" is a euphemism for the estimated 200,000, mostly Korean, Chinese, and Filipino women who were forced into prostitution in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Sexual slavery in the United States

Slavery in the United States

Paramour rights

The term paramour rights refers to the American practice of a white man taking a black woman to whom he was not married as his concubine. The term "paramour rights" was first used by Zora Neale Hurston. The practice began prior to the Civil War and was reinforced afterward by anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited interracial marriage between whites and non-whites. Hurston first wrote about the practice in her anthropological studies of the turpentine camps of North Florida in the 1930s. She believed that the death knell of paramour rights was sounded by the trial of Ruby McCollum, a black woman who murdered her white lover, Dr. C. Leroy Adams, in Live Oak, Florida, in 1952. McCollum's trial was covered by Hurston for the Pittsburgh Courier.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sexual slavery" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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