Love for Sale

Courting, Treating, and Prostitution in New York City, 1900-1945

By Elizabeth Alice Clement

344 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 31 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5690-1
    Published: June 2006
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7707-4
    Published: December 2006
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7179-4
    Published: December 2006

Gender and American Culture

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
The intense urbanization and industrialization of America's largest city from the turn of the twentieth century to World War II was accompanied by profound shifts in sexual morality, sexual practices, and gender roles. Comparing prostitution and courtship with a new working-class practice of heterosexual barter called "treating," Elizabeth Alice Clement examines changes in sexual morality and sexual and economic practices.

Women "treated" when they exchanged sexual favors for dinner and an evening's entertainment or, more tangibly, for stockings, shoes, and other material goods. These "charity girls" created for themselves a moral space between prostitution and courtship that preserved both sexual barter and respectability. Although treating, as a clearly articulated language and identity, began to disappear after the 1920s and 1930s, Clement argues that it still had significant, lasting effects on modern sexual norms. She demonstrates how treating shaped courtship and dating practices, the prevalence and meaning of premarital sex, and America's developing commercial sex industry. Even further, her study illuminates the ways in which sexuality and morality interact and contribute to our understanding of the broader social categories of race, gender, and class.

About the Author

Elizabeth Alice Clement is assistant professor of history at the University of Utah.
For more information about Elizabeth Alice Clement, visit the Author Page.


Love for Sale would be an excellent addition to an upper-level undergraduate course in the history of sexuality or US women’s history.”--Journal of the History of Sexuality

"Persuasive. . . . Adds to the social history of New York literature."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“The book is an excellent, highly readable introduction to the intricacies of gendered sexual expression. Highly recommended.”--CHOICE

“Vividly illuminates the inequities and disadvantages that shadowed women’s entry into modern dating. . . . [An] important contribution to the history of modern American sexuality.”--American Historical Review

"A welcome addition to research on U.S. sexual history. . . . Love for Sale is a smart and engaging book that deserves a wide interdisciplinary readership."--Journal of American History

"With rich examples relayed through an often sparkling narrative, Clement eloquently and persuasively outlines the process through which the emergence and evolution of 'treating' created a new and more permissive continuum for female heterosexual behavior. She demonstrates how the sexual practices of working-class youth in many ways became the model and set the trajectory for the development of 'modern' American sexual norms and practices. This is a remarkable book."--Leisa D. Meyer, College of William and Mary