British Prostitution Legal
There were not enough volunteer prostitutes. This lended an even darker side to the Victorian era (1830-1901). Young girls from rural areas were frequently kidnapped to supply this demand. Many underage girls were forced into this lifestyle (and ... yes ... even in the USA ... especially after the War Between the States). In England 1861 the age of consent was 12, and only went up to 16 in 1885.
See "The Best Kept Secret: Sexual abuse of Children" by F. Rush © 1980
In 1893 C. Edholm wrote about the problem of torture for The Women's Temperance Publishing Association. (Quoting from Edholm is too graphic for my taste)
In 1885 Pall Mall Gazette's editor & journalist W.T. Stead wrote a series of articles under the broad heading of Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon exposing child prostitution rings.
Venereal Disease was a major problem which was why there was such a demand for virgins. In 1864 England passed the Contagious Diseases Act which allowed for prostitutes to be arrested if they were found to have VD. In 1886 this act was replaced by the Criminal Law Amendment Act protecting children, making sodomy illegal in Britain, and making prostitution illegal.
Let me think through how I can write about how this was a BIG problem in the USA after the War Between the States ...
From what I have uncovered prostitution became illegal in the U.S. in 1917 to stop tempting WWI sailors
... so, for the USA, prostitution was legal during the Victorian Era
~ From the notes of LadyVictorian Historian