Today my Dad remembers his sex education and prostitution in navy ports such as Istanbul.
Most of us were young. I was 19 years old approaching 20 years and quite naïve. Back at home among young people sex was not a word that came readily to the tongue nor was what it meant talked about only in a roundabout way. In others, so far as I was aware, promiscuity was not common and from most men’s point of view a woman who was suspected of giving it out was to be avoided. Whether the same attitude applied to most women in respect of a man I don’t know.
In the Navy, predominantly an all male environment it was similarly talked about but presumably only indulged in when ashore where women were available. In most ports, prostitution was often more or less secretly available in the upstairs rooms of bars.
I and my mates visited the bars but drew the line at the upstairs entertainment. Basically I was brought up as were most young people with the view that sex came with marriage and that pre-marital sex resulted in all kinds of terrible diseases. My father’s advice “Keep away from red lamp holes” still held.
Coming back to Istanbul. The groups of other sailors that we met urged us to go and look at the streets of brothels. So off we went, sailors three. There were two streets parallel to each other consisting of two storey terraced houses. Lots of sailors from the British ships were walking up and down these streets all dressed in full white uniform. The story was that of these streets one was for the working class of the populous and one for the better class of people.
Sex was available at a set rate of one shilling and ten pence for the one street and two shillings and four pence for the “better quality” street. To draw a comparison my daily rate of pay was three shillings of which I had to allot on shilling to my parents. It wasn’t the cost that put me off but the thoughts of getting into bed or couch with a strange foreign woman and of what might follow.
In the middle of the more expensive street one house was given over to a prophylactic centre where after sex one could have a free injection into the penis to avert V.D. This gave away many of the sailors who had indulged because those who had taken “the cure” were coming out of this centre with a large iodine coloured stain of the front of their white trousers. We left the area with a clean sheet as did many others.
To me that was the end of Istanbul and we were back on board ship by tea time. Istanbul was a great disappointment because it had nothing to offer a huge number of British sailors. We wandered the streets of the city where none of the ordinary people with whom we came into contact spoke nor understood English and where by a geographical anomaly were European but by language, religion and lifestyle were Asian.