Sex Sells: Prostitution on the Lower Columbia River 1813–1821
In the early and mid-1810s, as European presence at the mouth of the Columbia became entrenched, the prostitution of women was seen by local Indigenous nations, including the Chinook, to be a natural venture into the emerging capitalist system. The expansion of prostitution happened for multiple reasons and was facilitated by flexible standards of sexuality, women’s powerful positions in society, and by the existing networks of slavery. Prostitution was seen as a lucrative endeavor by Indigenous nations, such as the Chinook, and its demise as a prominent aspect of life on the Lower Columbia only came with changing attitudes and sexual standards and the favouring of longer term, more committed relationships. Prostitution on the Lower Columbia was at no point static or easily definable. Limited availability of primary sources and differing sexual norms between Indigenous and western conceptions of sexuality complicate the study of sexual practices on the Lower Columbia, and scholars need to be conscious of them.
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