A vintage “tart card” that you would find inside a London telephone box.
During the mid-80s and 90s in London after the privatization of British Telecom, the telephone box was used by prostitutes to advertise their services. The boxes would be plastered with “tart cards” which were affixed to the box by professional “carders” who would routinely update the booths with replacement cards. “Carders” were also known for removing cards of competing prostitutes.
This form of flesh advertising would remain in place until 2001 when the UK made the act of posting tart cards inside telephone boxes punishable by either six months in the clink or a £5000 pound fine. The cards from the 80s and 90s included in this post were much like something you’d seen in a homemade fanzine—naughty illustrations along with some tongue-in-cheek catchy phrase (“Your pain is my pleasure” is a favorite) that were printed on brightly colored cards. Another interesting aspect of the old-school tart cards is that they were often devoid of full-on nudity, and preferred instead to imply certain services, such as an illustration of a female dominatrix holding a whip, stepping on a man with her stiletto boot heel along with her phone number. By the time 2002 rolled in, the cards were used as a means by police to track down the prostitutes and evict them from their apartments or homes as well as possibly deport call-girls who were in the country illegally.
The cards are such a memorable part of London counter-culture from that era that the neon-colored tart cards were prominently featured in the 2003 book Tart Cards: London’s Illicit Advertising Art. I’ve posted images of tart cards from the early 80s and 90s below for you to peruse which, as you can imagine, are NSFW.
A smutty collage of vintage “tart cards.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Peep Shows, Pimps and Prostitutes: A Walk on the Wild Side of New York in the 1970s
Portraits of New Orleans prostitutes, 1912 (NSFW)
Red Light District: Beautiful photos of Parisian prostitutes (1950s-1960s)
They Live by Night: Photos of gangsters, prostitutes & drag queens from Tokyo’s red light district
‘Hustlers’: Magnetic portrait series of NYC and LA male prostitutes