or otherwise immoral
woman, usually a prostitute
. The fallen woman's reputation
has been tarnish
ed by extramarital
or premarital sex
, and she is shunned and disrespected by society
, effectively becoming an outcast
with little or no regard to her previous social status
, and turning to prostitution
as a last resort.
Fallen women are a Victorian staple and were frequently depicted in literature, as well as silent and early sound cinema. Either young virgins led astray or married women unable to restrain their sexuality, they are often, but not always, represented in the arts as victims of society and the upper classes. The woman is seduced (sometimes raped), frequently by a nobleman, only to be abandoned by her lover, cast out by her family and forced to fend for herself. Poverty is usually a large factor in the woman's decision to demean herself and turn to prostitution, and a young child is sometimes involved so she can sacrifice herself for his benefit. The woman usually dies an early and unnatural death (illness, murder, suicide), strongly suggesting retribution for her earlier actions, unless she somehow redeems herself beforehand, in which case her old status might be regained.