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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

I hope one day you find happiness…though “Happiness” will probably be his prison name.  –  Canadian cops who think they’re funny

The ACLU really did care about civil liberties once, as you can see by today’s second video (provided by Brooke Magnanti); it’s a series of TV spots from 1974.  Of course, it still does care when that caring intersects its other agendas, as in the link from Stella Zine immediately above the video.  The first video demonstrates the concept of spontaneous order, meaning things humans choose to do together without threat or coercion; it was contributed by Mistress Matisse.  Every link above the first video came from Popehat, and the links between the videos from Eddie J Cunningham (“signage”), Michael Whiteacre (“Canada”), Jemima (“coming soon”), and Angela Keaton (“never call the cops”).

From the Archives

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There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.  –  The Gospel of Philip

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, long considered to be either a prostitute or “reformed” prostitute and therefore the subject of special devotion by many Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican, and Lutheran) whores.  As I have explained before, there is no canonical evidence for this; the idea seems to date to a sermon  delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great, in which she was identified as a repentant harlot (possibly by identification with the “adulterous woman” whom Jesus rescues from being stoned in the 8th chapter of John).  But the four canonical Gospels are not the only ones:

…among those used by Gnostic congregations (and subsequently excluded from the canon) were four more Gospels:  Thomas, Philip, Mary and Judas, all but the last of which assign a much more prominent role to Mary Magdalene than the four canonical ones; indeed, the Gospel of Mary is actually attributed to her.  These Gospels refer to Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and describe him as loving her more than his other disciples and often kissing her on the mouth…the Gospel of Mary identifies her as the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” mentioned so often in John…

Pope Gregory may well have been aware of these gospels, and perhaps intentionally conflated the Magdalene with the adulteress as a way of smearing her in a time of increasingly-patriarchal Church practices and increasingly-prudish Church attitudes toward sex.  It is possible that one of the reasons Mary the Harlot caught on so quickly as a mythic figure was that she built upon and supplanted the clearly sexual (though not specifically professional) portrayal in the Gnostic gospels, oral traditions of which could well have survived their suppression two centuries before Gregory’s sermon.  I might even point out that she could well be viewed as a Christianized Venus, just as the Blessed Mother is a Christianized mother-goddess and Jesus himself a Christian solar deity.  The actual biographical facts of the lives of the human beings upon whom the mythic figures are based is of no more importance than whether Buddha could actually perform miracles, King Arthur pulled a sword from a stone or Mohammed flew into heaven on a winged horse; as in the case of Saint Nicholas (the official patron saint of whores), the mythology which has developed around the historical Mary Magdalene has a life of its own independent of the mundane facts.  The process of apotheosis creates a new being separate and distinct from the long-dead person whose name he or she shares, and that being inhabits the irrational realm of faith rather than the rational one of fact.

Simply put, Mary Magdalene the symbol is an entity wholly distinct from Mary Magdalene the first-century Jewish woman, and whether the latter was a whore, wife or mere follower to Yeshua bar Yosef is immaterial to the power of that symbol.  For centuries, the name “Magdalene” has been synonymous with “prostitute” in Christendom; when in the 13th century the idea arose for the first time that whores were “fallen” women in need of “rescue”, the asylums established for the purpose were called “Magdalene homes”.  Though few of these institutions survived the Black Death, the movement was revived in the mid-18th century and the number of such places multiplied with the rise of the “white slavery” myth a century later; though they again died out in most places in the early 20th century, they continued on in Ireland until 1996.  In various parts of the British Isles, the term “Magdalene” became “Maggie”, and applied either to whores in general (in England) or ones confined to Magdalene laundries (in Ireland).  The working girls in a number of folk songs are named “Maggie”, and of course Stephen Crane gave us Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets; some of y’all have probably guessed that I chose the name “Maggie” for a reason, and perhaps noticed that the name “Maggie McNeill” has a similar cadence to “Mary Magdalene”.

So even though I well understand that Mary Magdalene may not have “really” been a member of my profession, I also understand the difference between fact and truth.  The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.

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The mind demands rules; the facts demand exceptions.  –  Mason Cooley

kiwiOf all the different varieties of irritating weenies in the world, one of the worst is that species of tiny-minded pedant who is completely unable to comprehend the concept of a generality.  Though there is no such thing as a rule without exceptions (except, perhaps, for that one), this perennial poop feels compelled to interrupt any general statement with the unnecessary declaration that there are exceptions to it.  Make the statement, “Birds have wings,” and this knob will invariably remind you that kiwis do not; it doesn’t matter to him that kiwis are but five species of the roughly 10,000 in the class Aves, that they are entirely limited to New Zealand, and that they number only about 60,000 of the total 400 billion birds in the world (approximately 0.000014%).  Expressed another way, if at birth you were given a magic hat which produced a randomly-generated bird once per minute, you’d probably be past puberty before the first kiwi popped out.  But to the anti-generalist, that doesn’t matter; his creed is, “If it results in the recognition of even ONE KIWI, it will all be worth it!!!!1!11!”

Though I used the masculine pronoun in the paragraph above because that’s what one does in English, I’ve never noticed any difference in the gender distribution of this particular personality flaw; men and women seem equally afflicted by the inability to comprehend that exceptions don’t invalidate rules.  For years, MRAs have complained about the syndrome they refer to as “NAWALT” (Not All Women Are Like That), and in the past year feminists have started making the same complaint, which they refer to as “Not All Men” and bizarrely associate with fedoras and the Kool-Aid Man character.  Of course, both of them are right in considering this sort of person annoying, and dead wrong in pretending the syndrome is limited to the opposite sex…which, as it turns out, supports my contention that feminists and MRAs are actually the same critter with different genitalia.  Yes, there are some negative characteristics that tend to appear in many women…and not all women are like that.  And yes, there are some negative characteristics that tend to appear in many men…and not all men are like that.  And in neither case is it actually necessary to say so, because fanatics won’t believe it anyway and rational people already know it.

Unfortunately, the word “rational” does not actually describe very many people in the modern West.  As the spring wore on and the “Not All Men” thing grew from an inane trope into a fad far more annoying than the behavior it was intended to mock, some master of Not Thinking Things Through apparently decided that the way to counter the truthful-but-unnecessary assertion that not all members of a sex are identical was to wrongfully assert that they are.  At least, that seemed to be the premise behind #YesAllWomen, a Twitter hashtag apparently dedicated to the notion that the actions of a homicidal psychopath were somehow indicative of the behavior of ALL men, and that ALL women constantly live in mortal terror of this.  Or something.

At some point in the past century, extremism became the norm in the United States; that defective way of seeing the world seems to have since spread to much of the West.  No longer is it enough to disagree with someone else’s political position; now its opponents must assume a diametrically opposite posture.  Dislike some aspect of x?  Crusade for its total eradication, no matter how many civil liberties must be trampled, how many billions wasted and how many people killed in the process.  Dislike a politician?  Oppose all of his policies, even those which were started by your party the last time it held the office.  Irritated with “Not All Birds” yo-yos?  Insist that every last bird is as identical as a plastic toy made from a mold, and that one draconian, narrow-minded policy is good for all of them.  Then argue until you’re blue in the face with your supposed “enemies”, and don’t be too surprised when reasonable people want  nothing to do with either of you.

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History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.  –  Johan Huizinga

Those of you who were paying attention in world history class may remember that the Western Roman Empire ended on September 4th, 476 AD with the accession of Flavius Odoacer as King of Italy, and that the Eastern Roman Empire was thereafter known as the Byzantine Empire.  But this is merely a convenient lie invented by historians; to the citizens of Rome, Italy, areas of Europe still dominated by either Eastern or Western Empires and foreign governments who had dealings with the Romans, 476 was very much like 474 and 475 had been, and nobody noticed much change in the years 477-493, either.  To be sure, the Empire under Odoacer was quite a different place than it had been under Augustus, but then the same could be said of the Empire under Hadrian, Constantine, Honorius or Justinian.  The laws, structures and political realities had changed dramatically (and not for the better) since the end of the Republic, yet even when the vast territory was divided in two (temporarily, then later permanently) it was still called the Roman Empire, and its people still thought of their government as continuous with what had gone before.  The term “Byzantine Empire” for the eastern half is a total fiction; it was still referred to both officially and in popular use as the Roman Empire (even after its territory had shrunk to only part of the area of modern Turkey) until Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  And even then, Germanic kings who had been granted the title of Roman Emperor by Papal edict continued to use it until the last of them, Francis II, abdicated the title to Napoleon in 1806.

By the 14th century it would have been obvious to all but the dullest historians that neither the German nor the Greek pretenders to the title of “Roman Empire” were remotely the same as the original entity which had borne that name, and unconnected to it by anything other than a long and winding chain of historical events.  But it would not have been so obvious to an historian of the 10th century, and one of the 6th would probably have violently disputed the claim (at least in the case of the Eastern Empire).  Modern scholars looking at the events from over a millennium later decided that after 476, things began to change so dramatically and so quickly that a different name needed to be applied to the political entities existing after that date so as to make the difference clearer for purposes of study and discussion.  But the people living at that time had no such historical perspective; few of them would have agreed that the differences between Odoacer’s reign and that of Julius Nepos were any more meaningful than those between the reigns of Constantine and Constantius, and probably less significant than the difference between the reigns of Diocletian and Aurelian.  They were emotionally invested in the name “Roman”, and the changes in both the Empire and its people had been so gradual that only by viewing the events from a period completely removed from them could a meaningful line be drawn between “Roman” and “Post-Roman”.

Rome is an especially prominent and striking example, but by no means the only one; except in cases where a culture is completely overrun by wholly alien invaders (as in the case of the European conquest of the Americas), most lines drawn between historical periods and most names given them by historians are rather arbitrary and only make sense to people of later eras.  Those living at the time see no seismic shift, no change of identity; the English still considered themselves English after the Norman Conquest, and the lives of peasants were largely the same in 1067 as they had been in 1065…but historians regard the unified England of the late 11th century as a different thing from the Anglo-Saxon realm of a generation before, and not only because the rulers were speaking a different language.

Declaration of IndependenceExactly two months short of exactly 1300 years after what we now think of as the end of the Roman Empire, a group of colonies belonging to a country which had itself once been a Roman province declared themselves independent of their parent nation.  And though colonies, provinces and other dependent entities had done this sort of thing many times before, what made this one unique in world history was that the revolutionaries were not merely the followers of a rival monarch determined to wrest the territory from its legal ruler by military force; instead, they were philosophically-inclined sons of the Enlightenment who argued that human beings had certain unalienable rights which no ruler, no matter what his titles or antecedents, had the right to abrogate.  This was such a new idea that historians recognized it as a dividing line as soon as the British government did, five years later…but for the average working man, not much really changed, and for the slaves absolutely nothing did.  Even most of the laws of the states and cities of the new country were the same laws they had before the revolution…laws based on traditions dating back to the time when almost no educated person would have agreed that the Roman Empire was a thing of the past.

But less than a hundred years later, that began to change; the United States now bears more resemblance to the bloated, top-heavy, militaristic, moribund Roman state inherited by Odoacer than the lean, minimal government conceived of by the Founders.  Yet for now, the people of the US are still so emotionally invested in the label “American” and so blindly devoted to worship-words like “freedom” that they are unable to recognize that we’ve already crossed the line future historians will draw between the American Republic and the American Empire.  When did we pass from one to the other?  Alas, I’m in the same forest as you are; only the perspective of time will allow us to determine that.  Perhaps they’ll draw it at the end of the Cold War; perhaps even earlier, at the end of World War II.  Maybe they’ll make it simple for student memorization by setting it at the beginning of the 21st century.  But one way or another, it is insulting to the Founders’ memory to associate any patriotic feelings you have for the memory of the nation they created with the repressive fascist police state that now occupies its territory; the 4th of July is now a memorial rather than a celebration, and the Spirit of ‘76 is nothing but a ghost.

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The word career is a divisive word. It’s a word that divides the normal life from business or professional life.  –  Grace Paley

A couple of months ago I saw an article on a study which found that members of couples can probably tell when their partners are faking orgasm; it bore the provocative title “Your Partner Knows When You’re Faking”.  My immediate reaction?  “I’m a professional, Honey; maybe yours know, but mine don’t.”  But that little joke set off a train of thought:  isn’t it likely that one of the reasons so many women are anti-whore is that they’re intimidated by our superior sexual skills?  To be sure, not every whore is a virtuoso in the bedroom; some get by on looks alone, or cater to unusual fetishes, or have incredible charm, and some just excel at marketing.  But by and large, the average professional has both a greater range of skills and is better at each than the average amateur.  Part of the reason is that we get a lot more practice, and part is necessity:  except as noted above, we have to be better at it because our livelihoods depend on it.

I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial here; the sexual proficiency of harlots is not really in dispute.  Male commenters on this blog have often  praised the abilities of their favorites, and our prowess underlies the myths depicting us as enchantresses, succubae and vampires.  Insecure men fear that we will control them thus, and insecure women fear that we will steal their husbands (presumably to add to our collections); the whole “pimp” and “sex slave” mythology derives from the need to deny the legendary sexual powers of whores by pretending that we’re the pathetic, powerless victims of men.  Nor are those women with enough sense to know that hookers really aren’t interested in their husbands wholly immune; many of them find the very idea that other women are better in bed than they are somewhat upsetting.  Remember, society defines a woman by her sexuality to a far greater degree than it does a man: she is assigned to either the “Madonna” or “whore” category based upon it; selling sex is called “selling herself”, as though sex constituted her entire being; and sexual violation is supposed to utterly destroy her soul and irremediably pollute her body.  Nor is it only traditional “patriarchal” thought which elevates female sexuality thus; neofeminists are simultaneously obsessed with it and defined by their rejection of it.  So it’s not surprising that many women would be intimidated by the knowledge that others are better in the sack than they are; on some level, they see whores as better women than they are, and must reject that painful concept by imagining us as the exact opposite.

Don't try this at homeOf course, this is all a load of nonsense.  Sexual ability is a skill, no more or less valuable than many others; it isn’t magical, earth-shaking or ego-defining.  Some people have a natural talent for it, and others don’t; some take the time to develop it, and others don’t; some earn their bread by it, and others don’t.  Yes, I’m better at sex than most women; I’m also an above-average cook and (so I’m told) an excellent writer.  My business skills, however, are below par; my housekeeping skills are mediocre at best and my musical ability is practically nonexistent.  The fact that I possess the talents necessary to succeed as a professional sexual partner does not make me a better woman than someone who lacks those talents, but neither does it make me a worse one; each of us has her role to play, and society would have a lot fewer problems if each of us concentrated on her own rather than attempting to perform, critique or manage everyone else’s.

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If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  –  James Madison

Adam and Eve are Driven Out of Eden by Gustave Dore (1866)No scientifically-literate person would deny that human beings are animals, and no sane person would deny that we are not only imperfect, but unperfectible; it is literally impossible to remove all the flaws from any human being.  No accident of birth, no social pressure, no education, no surgery, no psychoactive drug, no holy book, no set of rules or procedures, no machine and no god can remove that flawed nature; we are born flawed, develop new flaws even while trying to correct old ones, and eventually die still flawed (and often because of those flaws).  The Christian myth of original sin may be based in this realization, but there is no baptism or consecration which will wash it away; we are stuck with it, and the best we can do is to recognize the truth and ask for others’ help in controlling the damage our flaws may cause.

Unfortunately, one of the most profound and dangerous of human flaws is our love for authority; the average human craves being told what to do by someone he perceives as superior to him, and the majority of exceptions to this are those who crave the power to tell others what to do.  And though a wisely-organized system would recognize this by limiting both the ability of all humans to exercise power over others, and the opportunity for individuals to surrender power to self-proclaimed leaders, we do not have a wisely-organized system for the simple reason that humans on the whole are not yet wise enough to design such a system.  Theoretically, democracy is supposed to do this, but humans’ love for titles, badges, costumes and Great Men has undermined every attempt since Classical Greece; whatever system is designed to put “the people” in power will eventually allow thugs and strongmen to arise, and no matter how carefully individual rights are protected the hoi-polloi will eventually rush to give up those rights for some perceived advantage (usually “safety”).  And when they do, the rights of the individualists are destroyed right along with those of the mob by the flawed and fallacious mechanism that all democracies to date have depended upon, majority rule.

Any human given power will eventually abuse that power if given the opportunity to do so.  Any human.  Let that sink in, because every argument for the “necessity” of government invariably ignores it.  Every single official, every single cop, every single judge, every single representative.  Every tax collector, inspector, legislator, minister, noble and king.  All of them, to a man, will abuse his authority if given the opportunity to do so; obviously, the solution is to limit and check the power of every single government actor and every group of actors so as to remove that opportunity.  But that is not what we do; in fact, the tendency is to do the opposite, increasing the power and decreasing the accountability of officials until we arrive at the situation illustrated every week in my TW3 and Links columns.  Nor are we satisfied with giving this kind of power to “official” authorities; oh no.  The human desire to be controlled by people who know absolutely nothing about them as individuals is unsatisfied with having the boots of elected officials, appointed officials, bureaucrats, hirelings and henchmen on their faces and bodies; they must also invite a host of ministers, gurus, celebrities, bosses, academics and other Pillars of the Community to stomp on their genitalia as well.

That last metaphor was not merely chosen for shock value; humans, as I said at the beginning, are animals, so although most do use their power for rational (if wrongful) purposes like enriching themselves or destroying their enemies, they also tend to use it for feeding their appetites:

…a minister…is facing 59 counts of first-degree sexual assault in cases against girls…as young as 13…Victor Barnard [led]…a cult-like faith community in central Minnesota…[and told girls he] chose [to rape that they were] to be “sacrificed to God”…

The Witches (1966)The writers of stories like this always pretend to be shocked, as though this were an aberration rather than the norm; for example, people point fingers at Catholic priests who molest boys as if the clergy of their religions were any different.  Atheists in turn point fingers at clergy, ignoring the fact the same kinds of abuses are committed at the same rate by secular authority figures.  If such incidents are rarer in some situations than others it’s merely due to lack of opportunity, not lack of desire.  Do you realize how many different headings on this blog cover variations on the theme of “authorities” abusing their power to get sex in one way or another?  “Above the Law” is the most obvious one, but there’s also “License To Rape”, “Droit du Seigneur” and “Follow Your Bliss”.  Furthermore, “Reaction Formation” and “Buried Truth” deal with “authorities” who work to punish others for sexual kinks they hide in themselves.  Spend some time perusing the stories filed under those tags, then tell me again how power-mad “authorities” are just a few isolated cases, and that it’s sane and sensible to keep giving them more power, more money and more control over every aspect of our lives.

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An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish.  Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.  –  Eric Hoffer

shouting at a brick wallI often get questions from readers asking if I’d like to school some ignoramus who has written a prohibitionist screed packed with disinformation, either in the news media or on a blog.  When I first started activism four years ago, I nearly always said “yes”; it was a chance to be heard by people who didn’t yet know me, and to draw more attention to this blog.  But as I explained in “Something Has To Give”, I just don’t have time for that kind of unpaid work any longer; from my point of view I can spend my afternoon writing a blog post that will be read by many thousands, or a commissioned article that may be read by tens of thousands, or a futile attempt to convert a true believer that will be read by dozens (hundreds at best) of other true believers.  And I’m much too pragmatic a woman to choose the latter when the first two options are so much more sensible.  Lest you think this is a recent decision on my part, allow me to quote a two-year-old column:

For any given issue there are three positions:  Those who are strongly for it, those who are strongly against it, and those who don’t have a strong opinion either way.  And no matter what fanatics and demagogues may tell you, the third is nearly always the largest group on any issue.  When trying to sway public opinion, therefore, the wise writer or speaker targets that middle group, the “silent majority”.  It’s silly to waste energy in trying to convince those who are already convinced (“preaching to the choir”), and pointless to argue with those who are dogmatically committed to the opposite view (one can’t reason a person out of a position he didn’t reason himself into).  But the members of that third group, if they can be won, will decide the way the wheel turns.  They are the ones who took it for granted that black and white people couldn’t live together peacefully, but now abhor racism; they’re the ones who accepted the claim that homosexuals were perverts, yet now agree with equal conviction that they shouldn’t be mistreated.  And they’re the ones that in the United States believe that whores are pathetic losers, degraded victims or depraved criminals, but in most other Western nations disagree with that notion.  They’re the ones the “trafficking” fetishists have drawn into their moral panic, and the ones who will drop that panic like yesterday’s fad once the majority recognize it as a lie.

The problem with debating true believers is succinctly explained in today’s epigram; Jefferson covered the same ground with, “Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.”  Consider creationists, for example; they live in a society where the soundness of the scientific method is evident every single waking moment of the day, and where there is a mass of biological and geological information at their fingertips.  Debunkings of every single creationist talking point are a mouse-click away, and creationists are exposed in passing to evidence supporting the great age of the Earth at least a couple of times per week.  But does any of it have any effect?  Not on your life, because it’s impossible to force something into a space that’s already occupied by something else.  The mind of a true believer is not empty; it is so stuffed with the reality-denying rubbish of his belief system that there is no room for facts, at least in those areas occupied by his beliefs.

Anti-sex beliefs are not mere ignorance; they are religious beliefs like any other, accepted on faith and requiring the denial of all information to the contrary.  There is never any profit in attempting to engage such a person on her own ground; it’s merely a waste of time and energy that could be better employed elsewhere, such as in speaking to people whose minds are not already closed.  That’s what I do in my writing, both on-blog and off; it’s also what I did a few weeks ago in guest-teaching two sections of a human sexuality class at Oklahoma State University.  It’s possible that some people who come to my blog, many who encounter my articles on mainstream sites and a few of the students I spoke to in person remain unconvincedofficial residence of Charles Mader or even shut their minds to my information, but the majority don’t.  Even debating a prohibitionist in a public venue can be productive, as long as one is reasonably certain that a sizeable fraction of the audience are receptive to fact and reason.  But when one argues with a “true believer”, either alone or surrounded by other “true believers”, one might as well be arguing with a dumpster.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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If you’ve just started reading my blog since last summer, you may be unfamiliar with Aella the Amazon; if so, this story will make little sense to you unless you first read “A Decent Boldness“, “A Haughty Spirit” and “Glorious Gifts“, in that order.

Wise to resolve, and patient to perform.  –  Homer, Odyssey (IV, 372)

To My Dearest Friend Phaedra, May Tethys Protect and Enrich Thee:

I pray this letter finds thee well, and that thou wilt forgive my poor grammar and worse penmanship.  I have written it in Tarshi because it is of the utmost importance that its contents are kept a secret between us, and I know that no one in my country and few in thine can read it.  My people already believe me to have become somewhat erratic due to my years spent in Man’s World, and I fear if they knew what I was planning I might not escape as easily as I did that unpleasantness about the spring festival six years ago.

youth with cattleThou wilt remember that I conceived by the wealthy Scythian who gifted me with the beautiful kine, and bore a healthy son; thou wilt also remember that by the ancient pact between their people and ours, sons go to live with their fathers while we keep the daughters.  Most of my people see a son as no more than bad luck, a necessary but unfortunate side effect of the lottery which might also produce a daughter.  But somehow I could not be quite so unconcerned; even in the three months between his birth and the Spring Festival I had become very attached to him, and though I spoke it not aloud I gave him a secret name in my heart, Asterios.  I suppose my Aunt Laomache is right, and I have been contaminated by outlandish ideas; I’ve known so many good men, both in Tartessos and during the months I spent at thy mother’s in Knossos, that I can no longer think of them merely as a necessary evil (no matter how bad most of them may be).  Furthermore, his father Niall and I have mated every year since at the festival, and he always makes me a present of more kine; I thus see my son (whom his father named Hemek) every spring, and again on the occasions when our clans have met for trading after harvest, and every day (or so I fancy) in the faces of the two daughters I have borne since, who strongly resemble their brother.

So though it is not considered proper among my people to care about the fates of sons, the heart cannot be commanded by mortal woman.  I know not why I feel such a powerful concern for his health and happiness, but feel it I do, and I have come to the conclusion that it is wrong to deny him the advantages his sisters will have.  The Scythians are great warriors and horsemen, but they are not civilized like we Amazons; they spend most of the year roaming the steppes, living in tents and grazing their herds hither and yon.  They have no writing and little in the way of art, and even their music and poetry are crude.  So though my son is already strong and skilled for his five years, I want more for him than to be a mere herdsman.  If wandering be the way of his father’s people, so be it, but let him wander among the cities of the West rather than the endless seas of grass in the East.  Let him go forth and learn about all the wonders of the world as I have, and come home a wealthy, important and learned man, perhaps one able to bring culture to his noble but naïve race.

I have spoken to Niall about this, and we are in agreement; he is very impressed with the knowledge I gained in my travels, and he would like his son to have similar learning.  If it meet with thy approval, we will send Hemek to thee two springs hence with the same captain who bears this letter; in the years I have known him I have found him to be an honorable man, and I believe I can trust him to deliver the boy safely into thy keeping in Knossos.  I also know thou hast important kin who can secure the necessary seals and papers to doubly insure that he not be abused or sold into slavery before he reaches thy house.  I charge thee to love him as thou lovest me, and to rear and educate him alongside thine own son; once I receive confirmation of his safe passage I will also pay the same captain to carry thee a sum of gold sufficient to pay whatever sum his teachers demand, and a like sum every year until his education should be complete.

Though I am a loyal Amazon and love my family and my mother country, I am no longer the pigheaded provincial I was when we met so long ago; I have learned that there are many ways for men and women to relate to one another, and have grown wise enough to understand that our ways are not necessarily the best.  Legend says our first queen established our laws so that we would never be dominated by men, and while I saw the kind of society she wished to avoid in several of the places we visited, in Crete I saw men and women living together as equals.  Perhaps thy people are morally superior to all others, yet I know them to be just as mortal; I therefore assume this to be the result of superior teaching and wiser laws.  That is the other reason I wish my son to be educated there; perhaps he can bring that wisdom back to his father’s people, and his mother’s people can in turn learn from them.  I do not believe that even a son of mine can create a new Golden Age singlehandedly, nor that such a thing is even possible.  But if change is to happen it has to start somewhere, and who better to start it than one of Amazon blood?

With Sincere Love and Gratitude, Thine Own True Friend Always

Aella sealed letter

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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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I just had a baby and it looks like the man I had the baby with.  It doesn’t look like me at all and I’m scared that he was cheating on me with another lady and I had her kid.

Though I was still quite busy this week, the only day I had to spend most of in a car was Tuesday (when we drove from San Francisco down to Los Angeles), so I had a lot more time to do blog work and was able to gather a reasonable number of links.  Everything down to the first video was provided by Radley Balko, and the video itself by Wikileaks; it’s a parody of Swedish attitudes from Russian television.  The second video is by Rachel Bloom, and the links between the videos are from Amy AlkonScott LongMichael WhiteacreJesse Walker, Ed Krayewski,  Popehat, Jason KuznickiMike Siegel and Scott Greenfield (in that order).

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