American Experience
Murder of the Century: Sex, Money, and Murder

Women as Chattel:
video | transcript


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At the turn of the century, like at the turn of any century, say for 15,000 years, the source of entertainment, for men, at night, in a big city, have been nightclubs and houses of prostitution. And the use of women without regard to their being anything more than purchasable chattel. This was markedly true of Victorian London and it was markedly true of Victorian New York. So everybody at least led a double life, and some people succeeded in leading a triple life. But there were people who were bisexual who had three lives going on simultaneously and moved in and out of all three from one day to the next very dangerously. There was disease and full of sudden ugly surprises, but the nature of entertainment they saw and achieved hasn't changed very much and it's pretty much the same in the 1920s and 30s, when I first came to New York, and I suppose it's identical to that today, but the standard of hypocrisy has fallen lower than it was, because nobody needed to bother to be hypocritical anymore.