Until fairly recently, brothels had been legal in most parts of the West for a long time. The same might be true of other "medieval societies" in other parts of the world with traditional values.

But why? Per instance, why would countries obsessed with the supposed virtue of virginity and who believed that those who had sex outside of wedlock were likely or certain to go to hell, make brothels legal?

I mean, they made charging interest on loans illegal, so why not brothels?

  • This is a question about law and I don't think historical methods will help to answer that.
    – MCW
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:10
  • actually their still legal in most of europe, prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000772 there illegal in middle eastern countries as well as asian countries but most christian countries they are legal.
    – Himarm
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:13
  • 3
    Strange question. Why should they be illegal ??
    – Alex
    Mar 14, 2015 at 1:56
  • 4
    To a comsiderable extent, the men who made the laws only obsessed over the virginity of the women they would marry, while being perfectly ok with visiting the other sort before and after the wedding.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 14, 2015 at 4:41
  • @Dargatz - being put on hold is a subtle hint to edit your post to make it more History SE compliant.
    – JMP
    Mar 14, 2015 at 17:14

2 Answers 2


Currently in the world prostitution is legal in the majority of Europe, and European colonies, the largest exception being the US, where it is only legal in a few localized places. prostitution

Europe never had the same christian ideals revival that the United States had, examples of what i mean, the prohibition, which was predominantly at the hands of white Protestant women, the same women and mindset that also condemned prostitution in the US. Historically there was very little, order put into place in Europe, when it came to activities like prostitution. Even though the majority of the population would consider themselves "christian" many did not know what that even meant as most catholic services were held in Latin. The issue with having sex and going to hell, was more an issue of now I cant sell my daughter off to someone wealthy because shes "ruined" then a spiritual issue.

Even the most historically "christian" of the European countries such as Spain, have legal prostitution.

Your far more likely to find prostitution illegal in countries predominantly Muslim, or is Asian countries, the biggest exception here is japan, which has semi legal prostitution, though japan itself was the most heavily influenced by western culture.

  • Just wanted to precise that in Spain prostitution is not legal... nor illegal (the word would be unregulated). It was illegal during Franco's dictature; after that it has not been prosecuted beyond public order issues (i.e. there are ads in the press but street hookers risk being arrested). There have been a couple of initiatives for legislation/regularization but the politics still fear a possible backlash from their more conservative voters, so none of them has succeeded.
    – SJuan76
    Aug 31, 2015 at 15:51

There are more than one interpretations of the world. When you say:

Why would countries obsessed with the supposed virtue of virginity and who believed that those who had sex outside of wedlock were likely or certain to go to hell, make brothels legal?

But this is only half the story. The other half of the world was obsessed with death, violence,sex and drugs. These are the people who made prostitution legal, and provided brothels for either convenience - you would go where to go, or for hygiene - which is unlikely.

As long as people will pay for sex, there will be prostitutes and brothels. And whose to say it wasn't the bishops charging the brothels just to exist.

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