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Prostitution and war often go hand-in-hand. But this is perhaps most true of the First World War, where even the French government played a part in the sex industry — a legacy that continued almost to up to today. Fifty, sixty, up to a hundred men of all colours and races to see every day, all under the constant threat of air raids and bombardments.
He was describing the daily routine of a hidden army operating in the shadows of the one fighting on the front lines - the thousands of sex workers that catered to the soldiers of the Great War.
Prostitution flourished from the moment fighting began in the summer of — supply rising to meet the demand of soldiers who, far from their families and plunged into the hell of war, found themselves in need of female companionship.
In fact, he says, they are inseparable. Where there are soldiers, pimps quickly follow. With the mobilisation of vaster quantities of men than had ever been seen before, the phenomenon reached new heights in the First World War. Prostitution became rife in areas close to the front lines, as well as in nearby towns and villages, says Benoit. Others were also brought in.
These were apocalyptic scenes, real slaughterhouses. Disease quickly spread — an estimated 20 to 30 percent of men contracted syphilis during the war, including both soldiers and the civilian population. Soon, the military doctors became concerned and during the summer of , the French army began taking measures to stop the scourge, setting up clinics to treat infected men. Eventually, the French state took an even more drastic step and began taking direct control of, or even setting up, brothels across the country.