A social history exploring the intersections between those accused of prostitution, their neighbours, families, clients, and criminal justice.


During a time of significant demographic, geographic, and social transition, many women in early nineteenth-century Montreal turned to prostitution and brothel-keeping to feed, clothe, protect, and house themselves and their families. Beyond Brutal Passions is a close study of the women who were accused of marketing sex, their economic and social susceptibilities, and the strategies they employed to resist authority and assert their own agency.


“This exhaustive, soon-to-be seminal study focuses our attention on the early nineteenth century, when the city more than doubled in size and ethnic diversity, with concomitant shifts in attitudes and approaches to prostitution. Poutanen, an intrepid soci

“Poutanen offers a history from below … a material history of the lives of women who traded sex for money. Throughout, one grasps the permeability of private and public lives. Apart from the meticulous research, a strong point of this book is, its use of

"Poutanen’s story of the trade involves the lives of sex workers beyond their work. [Her] careful attention to the dynamics of class, gender, and ethnicity is oriented towards a scholarly audience, but the subject matter is sure to appeal to many readers.

“This powerfully argued work significantly enriches established understandings of prostitution’s history. the breadth and depth of Poutanen’s research should set a benchmark for other historians of commercial sex, its practice and legal regulation. Above all, the author’s sensitivity towards the historical actors involved in the trade—the women, but also the customers, the police, the judges, jurors and jail keepers—is social history at its best. ” Feminist Review