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I do not mind what she does as long as she comes back to me in the end.  –  George Keppel

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII of the United Kingdom, had an interest in women which is notable even by the promiscuous standards of noblemen.  Naturally, among his dalliances were a plethora of professionals, among them Skittles and La Belle Otero.  His first semi-official mistress was Lillie Langtry, whom we discussed in May; today I’ll introduce you to the last (and longest-lasting) lady to hold that position, from three years before his coronation until the day he died.  She had a number of things in common with Lillie: an ability to get along with their royal patron’s wife, Princess (later queen) Alexandra; a gift for discretion so highly-developed that many people to this day don’t realize (or else deny) that they were whores; and most importantly, a similar motive for taking up the profession.

Alice Frederica Edmonstone was born on April 29th, 1868, the daughter of Sir William, 4th Baronet Edmonstone, and his wife Mary.  Sir William was a retired admiral, and Alice (the youngest of nine children, all but one girls) grew up in Duntreath Castle on Loch Lomond, the home of her family since the 14th century.  Her childhood appears to have been wholly unremarkable; none of the short biographies I consulted have anything at all to say about her personal life before June 1st, 1891, when she married George Keppel, son of the 7th Earl of Albemarle.  But while her husband was of a good family with a long history of service to the Crown, he had very little money; had the two of them been content to raise their daughters quietly in the country his income would have sufficed, but both of them loved city life.  It was expensive to keep up with London society in those days, and since Alice was strikingly beautiful (with an hourglass figure, alabaster skin and thick chestnut hair) the two of them soon hit upon a simple plan: she would take on wealthy lovers whose income would finance their lifestyle and provide George with business connections.  He wasn’t her pimp, not exactly; she found her patrons and charmed them with her own abilities.  George’s contribution was to stay out of the way and provide her with the appearance of respectability.

The historian Victoria Glendinning wrote that Alice had the “sexual morals of an alley cat…sexual faithfulness to her husband wasn’t a value to her.”  But this is merely the ignorant attitude of an prudish amateur.  Cheating “alley cats” hide their affairs from their husbands; Alice planned hers with George.  Nor was he a weak cuckold sitting alone at home while his wife wandered; he also had many affairs, with Alice’s full knowledge and approval.  Her daughters later described their parents’ marriage as a “companionship of love and laughter”, and though this certainly could be taken as a biased view, it must be pointed out that the Keppels remained happily married for 56 years and died within two months of one another; though there is some speculation that Violet (born 1894) may have been the daughter of a lover, Sonia (born 1900) strongly resembled George, so there is little doubt that he was her father.  Though their relationship may seem strange to those outside of the demimonde, I’m sure every sex worker reading this will recognize it; they loved and trusted each other, and sex with others had no effect on that.

Alice’s first arrangement, with Ernest Beckett (later the 2nd Baron Grimthorpe), began less than two years of her marriage; it is Beckett who is believed to be the biological father of Violet.  Next was Humphrey Sturt, the 2nd Baron Alington.  There were a few others in the second half of the ‘90s, but on February 27th, 1898 she met “Bertie”, and the rest is literally history; within weeks she had replaced his previous mistress (the indiscreet Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick), and she remained with him until his death in 1910.  The arrangement was extremely lucrative for the Keppels: though Edward was notoriously stingy (by courtesan standards) with direct payments, he enriched them indirectly in several ways.  First, he gave her part ownership of a rubber company, from which she made £50,000 (about £3 million today); he also had his own top-notch financial advisers manage her investments, and got a high-paying job for George.

Even before she met the (then) Prince, Alice had acquired the reputation of being one of the most talented hostesses of her era.  She was intelligent, witty, well-informed and never unkind or intemperate, and she brought these characteristics and others into her role as royal mistress.  She was so discreet she even hated people to mention her relationship with the King a quarter-century after his death, and she was the only person who could bring him out of the black moods he often fell into.  These traits made Queen Alexandra actually fond of her, thus smoothing what could otherwise have been an extremely difficult relationship:  His Majesty insisted on having Alice in his entourage practically everywhere he went.  This was not only for her companionship; she was noted for her wisdom and political judgment, and the King depended on her advice.  Furthermore, so great was her skill at conversation he often employed her to feel people out on delicate topics, or to let his opinion be known without making an official announcement.  The reverse was also true; when ministers or other officials wanted to further explain opinions with which Edward disagreed, Alice could present them to him in such a way that he would at least listen without getting angry.

But despite her influence, she was unable to convince the King to cut back on his smoking and heavy eating, even after his health began to fail.  When he was dying in May of 1910 he asked for her to come to his deathbed, but apparently that was too much for the Queen; as soon as he lost consciousness she ordered the doctors to get rid of Alice, who reacted with uncharacteristic loss of composure.  She became so upset and hysterical, in fact, that she had to be removed by the guards; from that point on she was no longer welcome at court.  Alice had developed genuine feelings for Edward over the past 12 years; furthermore, she was by this time 42 and had become a bit plump, so she was no longer able to function as a courtesan.  She and George decided it would be best to leave London for a while, so they spent two years travelling in the Far East (ostensibly for their daughters’ education).  Upon coming home they bought a new house and returned to society, albeit more quietly; Alice also helped run a hospital in Boulogne during the First World War.  In 1927 they bought the Villa dell’ Ombrellino near Florence and lived there the rest of their lives except for 1940-1946, when the Second World War forced them to return to the UK; they stayed in the country for a time, but then moved into the Grosvenor Hotel in London in spite of the Blitz.  By the time they returned to Italy Alice was terminally ill with cirrhosis; she died at the age of 79 on September 11th, 1947, and George followed her two months later.

Famous harlots do not usually have interesting descendants, but Alice Keppel is an exception.  Her elder daughter, Violet, became involved in a torrid lesbian affair with the poetess Vita Sackville-West; apparently, Alice’s sexual liberality stopped short of That Sort of Thing, so Violet was induced to marry Denys Trefusis and break up with Vita.  Violet became a novelist and her affair appears in fictionalized form in a number of works, notably Virginia Woolf’s Orlando; she subsequently had other lesbian affairs, but because she learned to be discreet about them after Vita her mother had no objection.  The younger daughter, Sonia, married Roland Cubitt and had a daughter, Rosalind, who in turn married Bruce Shand and bore a daughter, Camilla, less than two months before Alice died.  When Camilla grew into a young woman she met and became involved with a great-great grandson of her great-grandmother’s most famous patron, but because he needed to make a political marriage, she instead married a cavalry officer named Andrew Parker Bowles.  The tendency to be a royal mistress, it seems, runs in families, though unlike her famous ancestress the Duchess of Cornwall eventually married her Prince of Wales.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANew Orleans will always have a special place in my heart, but I have a new second-favorite city:  St. Louis, Missouri.  It’s not so much the city itself, though what I saw reminded me very much of the New Orleans area in a number of ways, including layout and architecture; no, what really attracted me was the character of the people I met.  Shortly into my tour, sex blogger Kendra Holliday wrote me and not only offered to help me set up gigs in St. Louis, but also invited me to stay in her house!  I accepted both offers, and had a grand time; she was a gracious hostess with a lovely home I was very comfortable in, and all the people she introduced me to (members of the group Sex Positive St. Louis) were warm, welcoming and a helluva lot of fun to be with.  They treated me to dinner Wednesday night, then on Thursday I had a book reading at Shameless Grounds, a sex-positive cafe (where I was introduced to a delicious local dessert called gooey butter cake).  After that, SEX+STL founding member David Wraith took me to yet another coffee shop, where we talked for much too long (until they kicked us out, in fact).  As I’ve said before, the best thing about this tour has been meeting all the different people, and though I’ve enjoyed them all I really felt a special chemistry with my new friends in St. Louis.  I honestly hated to leave and wished I had scheduled at least one more day there, but I’ll tell you this:  I definitely will be back!

In contrast, Memphis was very quiet (which of course made me wish even more that I had stayed in St. Louis!)  But I got a lot done on Saturday, arranging for my hotel rooms all the way through Chicago and getting an excellent deal on my room there.  I don’t mind telling you I was rather worried about that one; I was concerned that it would be budget-bustingly expensive, but it actually turned out to be much cheaper than Nashville (and I didn’t have to stay in a dive, either).  I’m working diligently to stay inside budget; St. Louis helped that a great deal (no hotel bill and only one self-paid meal!) and the savings on Chicago lodging will as well.  But I’m still over $2500 away from my funding goal, so if you can afford it and haven’t yet, please consider donating to my GoFundMe!  And if you have ideas for gigs in Boston, New York City or the South, please let me know because I’m starting to concentrate on scheduling those now.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.  –  William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (II, ii)

Yes, it’s been four years already, and some of you have been reading for most of that time; I’m very pleased to see how few of you have tired of me.  Pleased because, though I would certainly like to believe Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra also applies to myself, one must always be careful to take flattery with a grain of salt, and never to fall for one’s own ad copy.  At the same time, false modesty in excess tends to make a lady look more silly than sincere; I therefore try to maintain a balance between self-promotion and self-deprecation, though I suspect you’ll forgive me if I err a bit on the side of the former on occasions like this.  Custom has not yet staled my variety for most of my regulars, and I gain new readers all the time; a look back at last year’s anniversary column will serve to illustrate that.  The Honest Courtesan now has almost 1500 posts, 92 assorted pages, almost 40,000 comments, about 1200 subscribers and 3900 Twitter followers, and 2.8 million page views from all over the world.  I write regular features for Cliterati and the Eros Guide; have seen my work published in Cato Unbound, Reason and the Washington Post; have published a book of short stories (which I’m currently promoting on a national tour); plan to release a book of essays in January; and have done so many interviews, speaking engagements, consultations and other such work that I’ve completely lost count.

So all in all, I think I can safely declare this blog a success.  I’ve got my procedures down to a science now, so I can do outside projects without too much difficulty (though a 15-week book tour is definitely testing the limits!) and I’m even starting to make a small amount of money from it.  That, however, will never be my primary motivation:  this blog exists to spread knowledge about the demimonde; to debunk propaganda spread by our enemies to demonize or infantilize us; to help people realize that whores and our clients are really just regular people and our work is regular work; to argue for self-ownership and the rights of individuals to direct their own lives without interference from tyrants and control freaks; to call attention to the awful things those tyrants do to advance their agendas; and to entertain y’all in the process.  And though I’m rarely at a loss for words, none in my vocabulary are sufficient to express the gratitude I feel for all of y’all who choose to spend some of your valuable time with me every day, and without whose attention, praise and support none of this would have been possible.

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not a crimeI spent the last week at home, but not remotely idle; beside trying to get ahead on my work, catching up on overdue bills, working on future tour appearances and sadly having to say goodbye to an old friend (details on the 24th; I don’t want to address it here), I also participated in a Twitter campaign devised by Mistress Matisse.  If you use Twitter, you probably know about it; even if you don’t you may have seen it on the Twitter feed in the right-hand column here.  Basically, Matisse asked sex workers to write short messages based around the established hashtag #rightsnotrescue in black sharpie on white T-shirts, then tweet the pictures.wet crime  When we started I was the only one she was sure would do it with her, but within the hour (we started at noon PDT on Monday June 30th) there were plenty of others, most of which put my amateurish efforts (pictured here) to shame.  If you missed it, take a look back at my timeline and search that tag; some of them were really splendid  (especially IMHO those by Cathryn Berarovitch).  rights not rescueAnyhow, we finished Sunday and so now I have these shirts; if you contribute to my GoFundMe and would like one of them instead of a book  (or in addition to if you contribute $250 or more) just let me know in the note with your contribution!  Since there are only four it has to be first-come, first-served to be fair.

RNR 7-3-14Another thing I accomplished this week (thanks to all those who have helped!) was to line up a long-term car rental for the remaining two months of my tour; research, perseverance, stubbornness and pure pushiness combined to secure one for just over $1200 total, more than $450 less than what Priceline and Travelocity both assured me was the absolute lowest price (and less than 10x the cost of the bus ride from Hell).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  When one considers that a car will give me a wider choice of hotel rooms, the rental may actually pay for itself!  Anyhow, as you read this I’m in Kansas City to privately meet with some activists, and moving on to St. Louis tomorrow.  Check back next week for notes on my adventures in St. Louis and Memphis!

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Ramada DenverI wasn’t looking forward to the long downtime I had in Denver; after all, every day spent in a hotel without doing some kind of appearance is in my mind a waste of precious funds.  However, it was good to have a day to recover from my travel ordeal (see last week’s entry), and I used the weekend to get ahead on blogging, send out a lot of emails and make phone calls for future tour appearances, give a phone  interview to a writer in the UK, and otherwise stay productively occupied.  I also added up my costs and made a decision:  since I had no plans for Dallas, Oklahoma City or Kansas City, I decided to cut out the former two and reduce the latter to one day; my reasoning was that I can get to any of them from my home in less than a day’s drive, so I can always visit them later when I have concrete plans scheduled there.  The sacrifice brought me back within budget, but I still have two months to go; if you haven’t yet donated to my GoFundMe, please consider doing so!  I’d like to reach the 2/3 mark by the time I leave for the eastern leg on Monday, and I still need $780 to reach that goal.

When I got up last Tuesday morning, I was still uncertain how I was going to get to Wichita; when last week’s tour diary posted I still believed I was going to take a bus.  But the Greyhound customer service was useless; I couldn’t buy the ticket I wanted online, and when all the fees were added it looked like I was going to be paying $165 for the privilege of being crammed into an awful bus for ten hours, with no guarantee my books would be with me the whole way.  Add to that a twenty-something dollar cab ride in Wichita and a maybe-fiftyish cab ride to get to my presentation in Denver (my hotel was pretty far from downtown) and I was looking at about $240 worth of transportation costs in the next 24 hours.  But then at breakfast, Aphrodite smiled upon me; I struck up a conversation with another guest (who happened to be an anarchist and a mycologist), and in the process realized that the multi-day one-way car rental I had rejected as prohibitively expensive might not be if I booked it for only one day.  My new friend offered me a ride to the airport if I decided to do that, and I was elated to discover the cost was only $237.  That took care of getting me to my presentation and to Wichita, for only a tank and a half of gas more than I’d have spent letting others drive me.

As you can probably imagine, I was in a much better frame of mind for my presentation at Liberty On the Rocks than I would’ve been had the prospect of a midnight bus ride been looming in my mind.  There were about 40 people gathered to hear me speak (among them readers Leonard Fahrni and Free Girard), and the crowd was enthusiastic and asked excellent questions (the presentation was videorecorded, so it may be available to watch later).  In Wichita, the group was (understandably) smaller, but I enjoyed the experience just as much because we opted for an informal discussion rather than a presentation followed by a Q & A session.  That’s one of the really wonderful things about this tour: not only am I getting to meet readers and educate people about sex worker rights, I’m getting to do it in a number of different ways.  Some places want a book reading; some want a talk; some opt for a discussion, and others interview me.  Some people might prefer to be able to give the same prepared speech at each venue, but that would bore me; this organic, flexible approach really suits me best and, I think, allows me to shine more than a rigid program would.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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McNeillFlyerLast Tuesday I mentioned that I would be speaking at UNLV, and that on the following day I’d be meeting back up with my traveling companion.  But I omitted two words from the latter phrase: “in Denver”.  And thereby hangs a tale of woe.  My presentation went just fine, and had my bus trip gone just as well this would’ve been a very short column; alas, that was not to be.  I was rather proud of myself for efficiently compacting my luggage and for not getting angry when it was announced that the bus had been ridiculously overbooked, which meant I had to wait thirteen hours for the next one.  I was also quite pleased when the hotel clerk cheerfully let me back into my room even though I had technically checked out, and rather enjoyed the large diner breakfast I decided to have so I wouldn’t need to eat dinner en route; the fact that I would not need to book a hotel in Denver Wednesday night also appealed to my sense of thrift.  And that concludes the list of good things I can say about the journey.

The bus left the depot 45 minutes late and was absolutely packed solid, and it’s a good thing I’m used to being in close quarters with strange men because my seatmate was built like a professional wrestler and overlapped my seat by a noticeable amount.  The promised on-bus wi-fi turned out to be a lie; my computer connected to the bus, but the bus never connected to the internet for more than a few painfully-slow and highly intermittent teases.  And there was simply no way to actually sleep in that seat, no matter how I turned my head, torso and legs (though I did fitfully doze for a merciful hour here and there throughout the night).  I would’ve still considered it merely a bad trip rather than a horrible one, however, had the driver not switched the interior lights on during the approach to Grand Junction, then proceeded to execute a series of tight turns and unexpected stop-starts while I couldn’t see where we were going through the now-reflective windows.  It’s a good thing my last meal had been concluded over twelve hours earlier, or the resulting mess would’ve been a lot nastier.

That was only the beginning.  Near Vail, the highway began to twist and turn in a way no other interstate highway in the country manages to do, and needless to say I got sicker and sicker; at some point the seat came loose from its catches and began to roll forward with every deceleration and backward with every acceleration.  By the time we arrived in Denver I felt like a torture victim and probably looked like a frightened, bedraggled kitten (except not as cute).  Fortunately, reader Leonard Fahrni had volunteered to fetch me from the depot despite the early hour; had I been required to drag my own luggage to a cab stand, endure a back-seat ride to an internet cafe, then book a hotel and endure another ride to get there, I honestly don’t know if I could’ve done it.  But Leonard carried my things, drove gently to his house, waited patiently while I found a hotel with his internet and then drove me there and brought everything in again.  Who says chivalry is dead?

After that nightmare, my weekend in Denver was so anticlimactic it isn’t worth mentioning.  Tonight I’m speaking at the founding chapter of Liberty on the Rocks, then tomorrow I’m off to Wichita, Kansas on another bus – a much shorter trip, in the daytime, over nice flat country.  And I’ve already planned a long-term rental car deal for July and August so there will be no more bus trips from Hell. The Road to Hell

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Maggie, Michael & ChristinaIf you meet me in the next few months and notice that my left arm is darker than my right, that’s what comes of driving due north in Arizona for six hours in June.  Actually, I did two long drives through the desert last week; on Tuesday I traveled from San Diego to Tucson, then on Thursday from Tucson to Las Vegas.  My traveling companion won’t rejoin me until tomorrow, so I was in a rented car which, alas, had no usb port for my thumb drive full of music; I was therefore stuck listening to the radio.  And in long stretches of rural Arizona and Southeast California that essentially means a choice between preaching, Mexican stations or static.  Still, I made it through and had a lovely time at the home of Cris Sardina, the head of the Desiree Alliance; the night I arrived six of us got together to have dinner, eat cake and swap war stories.  The next day I worked on my blog, washed clothes and did some more visiting, and then on Thursday arrived at the home of Christina Parreira and her husband Michael Whiteacre, who had invited me to stay at their place for a few days.  I was really very fortunate to have these invitations; not only did it enable me to save money on hotels for almost a week, it also afforded me the opportunity to eat home cooking and be out of the impersonal hotel environment for a while.  I’m definitely hoping to get a few more invitations like these in the next few months, for the sake of both my budget and my sanity!

On Friday morning, I was interviewed on Sex Nerd Radio, then later Christina had to go in to the brothel where she works; we arrived after dark and since it was quiet, she and two of the other ladies gave me a tour of the place.  If they had not told me it was converted from a group of trailers, I would never have known (though the sprawling arrangement might’ve given me a clue).  The workers decorate their own rooms, and the ones I saw were quite lovely; besides the public areas one would expect (parlor, bar, pool room, etc) there were also private areas customers don’t go, such as the kitchen and laundry room.  We then sat out on the patio chatting for a while before Michael and I returned to the city; one aspect of this tour I’m really enjoying is that I’m getting plenty of opportunities to talk to other sex workers in these informal settings, and I certainly hope those I’m talking to enjoy it just as much!

Today I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, then it’s off to Denver tomorrow; we decided to bypass Albuquerque because there was nothing going on there, but I may be doing several things in eastern Colorado so keep watching the tour schedule!

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Feminine virtue is nothing but a convenient masculine invention.
–  Ninon de l’Enclos

The neofeminists would like people to imagine whores and intellectuals as opposites, and they pretend that making one’s living by pleasing men is philosophically incompatible with equality.  Indeed, most modern prohibitionist propaganda is based upon depicting the prostitute as a mentally inferior creature whose statements about her own thoughts and feelings cannot be trusted, and the horrible Swedish model is sold as a means of promoting female equality.  But as regular readers know, these dogmas are the exact opposite of the truth; throughout history many harlots chose the life specifically as a means of ensuring economic and social independence, and up until the 19th century courtesans were nearly the only women who were educated.  In fact, the spiritual ancestresses of modern neofeminists based much of their condemnation of whores on the very qualities the neofeminists pretend we lack, namely our independence, unconventionality and willingness to engage in free commerce with men; rather than whoredom being the opposite of feminism, whores were in fact its originators, both practically and philosophically.

Ninon de l'EnclosOne of the first to write extensively on the subject was Anne de l’Enclos, who is best known by her childhood nickname “Ninon”.  She was born in Paris on November 10th, 1620 (some sources claim slightly earlier or later years)  to a devout Catholic mother and an Epicurean father; not much is known about her parents (not even their names) except that they were comfortably middle-class and that their personalities and philosophies were strikingly different.  Ninon was a tomboy, and it amused her father, a professional musician, to indulge her by educating her like a boy and even allowing her to dress as one while riding (to her mother’s consternation).  By the time her father was exiled from France in 1632 (due to a duel fought over another man’s wife), Ninon had decided that religion was an invention; perhaps due to the disastrous example provided by her parents, she had also resolved never to marry.  In her late teens she allowed herself to be “ruined” by the Comte de Coligny so as to ensure her mother could not marry her off, and though she was consigned to a convent because of it she left as soon as her mother died, less than a year later.

Though it is doubtful her father had planned for her to become a courtesan, his example and the education he had afforded her (including mastery of the lute and clavichord) made her perfect for the profession, especially considering that she had also been well-known in Parisian society since childhood.  She frequented all the fashionable salons, and soon established one herself (generally holding them in rented hotel suites rather than her own drawing room); at first only men attended due to her reputation, but she eventually became so popular that even “respectable” women could be found there.  It is difficult to know which of the notable attendees were clients and which just friends, because she kept most of the transactions strictly business.  Though many courtesans of the time preferred long-term semi-romantic arrangements to one-off dates, so great was Ninon’s aversion to matrimony that she avoided anything which even resembled it; though she did take lovers, they never lasted for more than three months and she still accepted paid dates during the term because she refused to be financially dependent on anyone.  Once she grew tired of a lover she would tell him so honestly, and the majority of her exes remained friends or even clients.  She only ever made one exception to the three-month rule:  She lived with the Marquis de Villarceaux at his country estate for three years, pursuing her studies while he hunted and chased other women; she even bore him a son, whom she loved dearly for the rest of her life.  But eventually Paris beckoned and she answered, and when the Marquis followed her and confronted her in a rage, she cut off her hair and handed it to him as a keepsake:  the bob started a fad, and the Marquis cooled down and went back to being just a friend.

In that sexually-saner time, courtesans were in no danger from the law; but while gossip and jealousy were the worst harms Ninon’s libertinism could bring, her outspoken views on organized religion were another matter.  It was not illegal to hold such views (which were not at all uncommon among the intelligentsia of the time), and even most clergy were inclined to be tolerant of them; Cardinal Richelieu had once even tried to hire her, though she had spurned him.  But certainly some of those in power took a dim view of them: one of these was the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, who as regent for her young son Louis XIV had Ninon imprisoned in the Madelonnettes Convent in 1656.  She passed the time writing a pamphlet entitled “The Coquette Avenged” (in which she argued that it is not necessary to be religious to be moral), but she was not there long; she was visited by Queen Christina of Sweden, an intellectual who had abdicated the Swedish throne to travel about Europe as a patron of arts and letters.  Though without a throne, Christina was still very influential; she wrote to Cardinal Mazarin asking him to release Ninon, and he immediately granted the request.

The above-mentioned pamphlet, released in 1659, is one of the few specimens of the courtesan’s philosophical writing to be published in her lifetime; most of what we know of her thought comes from accounts by friends such as Moliere, and from her extensive correspondence with the Marquis de Sévigné (published half a century after her death).  Like her father, Ninon was an Epicurean; she was a materialist who denied the existence of the soul, and held that ascribing spiritual origins or dimensions to impulses which derived from physical causes was the source of much of the world’s sorrow.  Nowhere was this more true, in her estimation, than in the case of love, which she held to be the greatest of pleasures; by pretending that an amoral, physical passion actually derives from lofty spiritual impulses, people do love a disservice and create conflict where it does not naturally exist.  She also argued that men and women are naturally equal, and more alike than different; she felt that more egalitarian relations between the sexes would result in greater appreciation of each for the other.

Ninon de LenclosAfter she turned forty, she began to invest more time and energy in intellectual and literary activities and less in sex work; she stopped taking new clients entirely about 1667, though she never stopped being sexually active.  By this point in her career, “good” women were no longer as afraid of her as they once were; she even became the close friend of Françoise d’Aubigné, a lady-in-waiting who later become the second (morganatic) wife of Louis XIV (who was himself said to have great respect for the veteran courtesan’s advice).  Her heightened respectability was not due to any softening of her attitude about marriage, however; while it was customary for established, property-owning sex workers to affect the title “Madam” even if they had not entered into marriages of convenience, Ninon defiantly styled herself “Mademoiselle de l’Enclos” in her later years.  After her retirement, she opened a school in which she taught the arts of love, covering such topics as how to woo a woman, how to take care of a wife or mistress and how to properly end an affair.  She also took female students, though she taught them privately rather than in groups; while she charged men tuition, she gave women the benefit of her experience for free.  She was by this time quite wealthy, and often assisted struggling writers; when she died on October 17th, 1705 she bequeathed 2000 livres as a scholarship for the ten-year-old son of her accountant Francois Arouet, a boy who grew up to write under the name Voltaire.

While it’s completely true that Ninon de l’Enclos was an exceptional whore, the difference was mostly one of degree rather than of kind.  For millennia before her and for centuries since her time, intelligent, pragmatic women have chosen to sell sex as a way of supporting ourselves without selling ourselves as so many of our conventional sisters do.  Like Ninon, many of us are freethinkers who are skeptical of society’s sacred cows; like her, many of us are generous with both money and advice in causes we consider important.  And like her, those of us who dare to express our ideas are targeted by prohibitionists who want to lock us away someplace where our voices cannot be heard by the young and open-minded.

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While you were reading last week’s diary entry, we were driving down from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  The effects of the prolonged drought are strikingly horrific; what was green and lush the last time I drove that way is now a barren waste of parched brown grass, and farmers are planting only a fraction of their arable land because there wouldn’t be enough water to irrigate all the crops if they planted all they could.

Of course, Los Angeles looked like Los Angeles always looks; our hotel was near the airport, so getting downtown for my talk at Liberty On the Rocks was not difficult.  The turnout was good, and the audience very enthusiastic; it was a mix of LOTR members and readers, and the questions were all good ones.  Then on Friday morning I had my makeup done professionally (for the first time in my life!) in preparation for my interview on Reason TV.  My interviewer was Dr. Thaddeus Russell, whom regular readers may recognize as the author of A Renegade History of the United States; he first expressed an interest in interviewing me last November, but since I don’t exactly get to LA that often it took a while to set up.  It should be edited and posted sometime in the next few weeks, and when it is I’ll embed it in that week’s TW3 column.

My friend went off on a side trip Friday morning (we’re going to meet up again in Las Vegas this weekend), so on Saturday I rented a car and drove down to San Diego.  I didn’t have any public gigs there, but I was interviewed for the Edge of Chaos podcast and spent the afternoon and evening with my husband, who’s been working in the area for some time now.  Today I’m driving over to Tucson to meet with some sex worker activists there, then on Thursday I’m headed to Las Vegas, where…well, you’ll see next week!

One of the attendees at my LOTR appearance gave me a primer in how to accept payments and donations via bitcoin, so as soon as my application for the processing company is approved you should see a new way to donate appear below the subscription box.  And that’s important because, frankly, my expenses have been higher and revenues lower than I had originally hoped, and it looks as though I’ll be doing a lot more sex worker rights activities than book activities.  So, I’ve set up a GoFundMe page, which has already attracted almost 20% of my goal since I activated it Friday night; if you can contribute anything please do!  Some of you have already been extremely generous even before I set up this page, and I can’t possibly express how grateful I am for each and every one of you.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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A woman has the exclusive right to decide if she wants to work in prostitution and it is forbidden for anyone to interfere…we must put an end to the condescension and paternalism of politicians and others who purport to speak for…prostitutes and determine what is good for them.  –  “Shelly”

R.I.P. Maya Angelou Maya Angelou

Poet and author Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th at the age of 86, and predictably the obituaries have all either ignored or glossed over the fact that as a young woman she worked both as a whore and a brothel madam.  Though she wrote about this period of her life in her second book, Gather Together In My Name, feminists and others who wished to make Angelou into an icon have sanitized the inconvenient fact for decades, and aren’t letting a little thing like her death change that.  Peechington Marie discusses the whitewashing in a thoughtful article on Tits and Sass.

The Red Umbrella

Like so many of its type, this article about the brutal rape and robbery of a Michigan sex worker by sociopathic twins Michael and Peter Versluys spends more ink on the bizarre, ignorant and opportunistic statements of prohibitionists than on the victim:

Websites such as backpage.com allow sex trade customers to check out who’s for sale from the comfort of their living room…“It makes it a hundred times more dangerous,” sex worker advocate Anny Donewald said.  That’s because sex workers can no longer see who is approaching them like they could when customers would drive or walk by…“You…never know who’s coming or…where you’re being sent to,” she said…So why don’t prostitutes simply find a safer occupation?  Donewald says the sex industry has a separate culture with its own rules and that it’s hard for anyone to get out…“These girls were conditioned in the sex industry since they were 12 and 13 years old, and so they don’t know another way”…

Donewald claims to have been a whore, which makes this farrago of idiotic arse-backward nonsense all the more pathetic.  Compare this from a civilized country:

…sex [workers were] confronted at gunpoint in a series of robberies of interstate escorts who came to Adelaide for four or five-day stints.  The bandit used a series of mobile phones and worked out when the women were due to leave…so that he hit when they had the most cash…[the victims were] initially unsure how detectives would treat the case, given…[they] were sex workers…“But it wasn’t like that…All of the police…were nothing but professional” [one said]…John Steven…Costi’s violence escalated [in his last robbery before being arrested]…He…died in an apparent [jailhouse] suicide…before his trial…

Maggie in the Media

I’m quoted extensively in this student article about the problems of sex work criminalization in Louisiana, and also in Elizabeth N. Brown’s Reason article on International Whores’ Day.

Cognitive Impairment

I wonder if VandeHoef plugged her Hitachi magic wand into the computer’s power strip while she was writing this lurid fantasy, or if she just used a battery-powered masturbation aid instead?

…There’s an enormous yuck factor to being groped by and copulating with strangers…But I wanted to know more about those who said they willingly did this…I expected a…diatribe about how it’s an adult’s right to choose to rent out her…intimate orifices…prostitution dehumanizes a person by reducing her (or him) to a quivering piece of flesh to be used, squeezed and thrust upon exclusively for the sexual gratification of whoever has the right amount…of cash…a Nordic-style model…[is] the best option for those who don’t want their tax dollars used to sanction an industry that reduces people to rentable sex parts…forced into a nightmare of numerous daily rapes, violence, venereal disease and substance abuse.

Tyranny By Consensus the future of porn in California

A bill that would require condoms to be used in all adult films produced in California narrowly cleared the Assembly…the measure’s [sponsor claimed] he sought to bring workplace safety standards, present in all other “legitimate businesses,” to the adult film industry…He noted that law enforcement officers, doctors, nurses and other professionals all are required to wear protective gear when risking exposure to blood-borne pathogens…

A Whore in Church

Because whores are subhuman monsters who can’t possibly have religious beliefs.

Staff at a US newspaper received a shock…when they discovered a witch profiled in the paper’s “Faith and Values” section was also allegedly a prostitute.  Intelligencer Journal…published a statement online…expressing…regret that the woman’s extracurricular activities were not picked up by editorial staff…The original story…has since been removed [from the paper's] website…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #8)

The last poll said the same thing:

…a poll…found that the majority of the [Israeli] public is against criminalizing the solicitation of prostitutes.  Some 63 percent of respondents…agreed that criminal punishment should not be given to those who buy sexual services from prostitutes if both sides agree to the transaction…The Association for the Regularization of Prostitution in Israel [explained] that legislation criminalizing prostitution would mainly harm women…

Above the Law

Only when a cop’s rape victim is very young are reporters willing to call the crime what it is:  “A Tennessee police officer is accused of sexually abusing a girl over five years…Steven Feinberg began molesting the girl when she was 12…[and] raping [her] when she was 14…”  When the victim is an adult, the crime drops to mere “sexual assault”:  “Clearwater [Florida] Police…are investigating a report of sexual assault…by an officer…attending a training conference for the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators…”  And when the victims are whores, it’s just “sex on duty”:  “A…San Bernardino [California] police officer has been convicted of forcing two prostitutes to perform sex acts on him while he was on duty…The jury found Jose Jesus Perez…guilty…of two felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one misdemeanor civil rights offense…

An Example to the West 

Real People (TW3 #21)

A new Channel 4 documentary, My Granny the Escort, will reveal what it is really like being a mature sex worker.  Sheila Vogel-Coupe pulls in…£250-an-hour…and entertains up to 10 clients a week who are as young as 20…85-year-old Sheila has been working as an escort for four years, following two happy marriages.  Sadly, both husbands passed away from illness…

Imagination Pinned Down

Note how interchangeable these “sex trafficking survivor” narratives are, and remember what I explained about stereotypic conformation:

Sex trafficking is…happening right here in Southern Idaho…Rebecca Bender…was a victim…for six years…”I moved off to college, and I met a guy who was pretending to be my boyfriend”…She tried to escape numerous times, but her trafficker would find her.  She was beaten regularly, branded twice, her daughter was threatened, and she was sold to other traffickers.  “I was brainwashed and threatened to keep my mouth shut”…Stacey King…says…many of the victims in the Boise area are 11 to 13-year-old girls who are targeted at a mall…

The Public Eye

Sex workers are often the subjects (or objects) of stories, but are very rarely given the platform to tell their own story on their own terms.  There’s something profoundly refreshing about watching a sex work narrative unfold without feeling the usual…fear that sex work will be misrepresented, sensationalised, demonised, glamourised; that sex workers will be objectified; that the narrative will hinge around a worker having her…professional boundaries broken, or breaking them herself, for lurrrrve.  (Show me a mainstream narrative about sex work which is not about this and I will give you a cookie.)  [Watching]…the Sex Workers’ Opera, for the first time I felt that I could trust that whatever stories would be told, they…would be told respectfully. It was an exhilarating feeling…

Under Every Bed Pretty Woman scene

Another small town imagines bogeymen in the bushes and  claims lack of evidence as proof:

…District Attorney Farley Ward says he doesn’t know of any human trafficking cases yet in McAlester — but he has seen things that make him suspicious…Michael Snowden…of the [Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics'] Human Trafficking Unit, said…Seventy-eight percent of…women who are part of…sex trafficking are drug dependent…“But they say it’s a victimless crime…It’s the root of everything”…Snowden sounded particularly incensed at…Pretty Woman…“It’s not glamorous,” he said…“Richard Gere doesn’t exist”…

Yes, Snowden is so obsessed with his masturbatory fantasies that he denied the existence of a well-known celebrity.

Sex Work is Work (TW3 #407)

Dr. Brooke Magnanti on inflated “estimates” of sex work’s contribution to UK GDP:

…Having had a close look at the methods employed to come up with their impressive total of £10 billion per year, I think they are likely to be out by as much as an order of magnitude too high…they got their estimate of the current number of sex workers from Eaves for Women…[which] has come under fire for its statistical methods…Also what about men who pay for sex with other men, which accounts for the majority of male sex workers?…The ONS then go on to guess at the average earnings based on Punternet…Why not ask escorts themselves?  It’s not as if we’re hard to find…Finally, for their calculation of how many clients sex workers see in a week, they relied on research conducted in the Netherlands. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that the difference between sex work in a country where it is legal and heavily regulated, and one where it is legal but many sex workers criminalised, is simply not going to be equal…

The accountant who writes Tax Relief 4 Escorts has an even more comprehensive analysis.

Whither Canada?

On Wednesday, the Canadian government re-introduced sex work criminalization disguised under a Swedish-flavored patina of “protecting women”; essentially the new Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act re-enacts all the laws that were struck down and also criminalizes paying for sex, advertising sexual services, porn and engaging in any commercial sex in any place that has ever contained or ever will contain children:

…This cynical, dystopic model does not resolve the problems found by the Court in Bedford to be unconstitutional, and adds new ones such as the prohibition on advertising.  The Charter rights…[of] life, liberty, security of the person, freedom of expression and equality…are [all] breached…It is an unconstitutional variation of our broken laws that impose more danger, more criminalization, and fewer safe options, contrary to the requirement of the Supreme Court of Canada…All that will be required for police to surveil and target sex workers is the suggestion that a person under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present…purchase [of]…sex…[carries] mandatory fines…from $500 to $4,000, to five years in jail…Without the ability to advertise in newspapers, online, or other forms of media, sex workers will now have severely limited means for working safely indoors…

I cannot believe that the entire Canadian government is so deranged or stupid as to believe this law will stand; it is obviously an attempt to continue the legal wrangling until the hot potato can be passed to the next government.

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes (TW3 #412)

According to this article about the prohibitionist weirdos of “Stop Porn Culture”, Julie Bindel’s presentation on “the politics of the sex industry” consisted of “a succession of tabloid-style personal attacks on pro-sex industry activists, academics, escorts, and performers, complete with photos seemingly lifted without permission from their social-media profiles.”  Bindel listed certain names as being part of the “pimp lobby”, the prohibitionists’ version of the Illuminati or the Elders of Zion, a shadowy cabal which apparently want sex work decriminalized because it disobeys all economic principles and decriminalization would result in expansion of the black market.  Or something.  Anyhow, reporter Rachel Hills wrote down these names of people Bindel listed as key players in the “pimp lobby”:

Chris Knight
Brooke Magnanti
Sebastian Horsley
Thierry Schaffauser
Douglas Fox
John Dockerty
Amnesty International
Elizabeth Wood
The Sexual Freedom Coalition
Jerry Barnett
Belinda Brooks Gordon
Rachel Moran
Maggie McNeill
Stella Marr

Horsley has been dead since 2010, and as regular readers know Moran and Marr are well-known prohibitionist shills.  Some of the other names are almost as inexplicable, though I’m obviously pleased to see mine there; one wonders what Bindel was smoking when she compiled the list.

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