A common word for a prostitute
. The word seeped into the vernacular
from Cockney slang
sometime around the 1850
's. Although it can refer to any woman of negotiable morals
, it commonly refers to a lower-class, unskilled working girl
who was inexpensive or inexperienced, and usually both (c.v. courtesan
). The significantly rarer male prostitutes of the era could also be referred to thus.
During the Victorian era, it was fairly common for a man to parlay with prostitutes. So common was this practice that a verb form of the word, dollymopping, also found its way into the common parlance. This meant for a bunch of men to run around town together looking for girls with whom to share a bed. It was even considered normal for a man to lose his virginity to a dollymop. Needless to say, venereal disease was common and wide-spread.
Despite the dangers of STDs and, after the Contageous Disease Acts of 1864, 1866 and 1869, strict legal penalties, "dollymop" remained a lucrative business for a lower-class girl to enter, since it meant a certain degree of financial independence, and for those who managed to join the ranks of the demimondaine, a chance to run with the upper crust of society.