Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘bisexuality’

Every December, I present a different kind of story; they’re usually light, and some contain puzzles.  This one certainly isn’t light, but it’s…well, you’ll see.  It also contains a number of in-jokes and veiled references, and partakes of the ancient holiday custom of reversal:  it treats as serious a topic I spend considerable time ridiculing.  This really isn’t as odd as it may at first appear; one of the defining characteristics of myths and legends is that they are interesting (which is why people tell and retell them).  A dull myth would soon fade, and the human mind has a congenital preference for fascinating nonsense over dull fact…which, of course, explains the persistence of urban legends and moral panics no matter how often and thoroughly their elements are debunked.  And as generations of science fiction and fantasy writers have discovered, this makes stuff like Atlantis, ancient astronauts, the hollow Earth, etc wonderful subjects for stories, even if the author doesn’t actually believe a word of them.  Keep that in mind when you read this tale, which is intentionally ambiguous:  is what appears to be going on herein what is actually going on?  Does our protagonist have a highly overactive imagination?    Or is her antagonist just enjoying a cruel joke at her expense?

buildingThe doorman glowered at her as though he were the personification of the grim building itself, which had been the tallest one in town for over 30 years but was now humbled by the titans which had recently grown up around it.  Jane imagined it must be indignant at this development, and that its frowning façade was silently telling her, “Go away, you have no business here.”  But if she was going to make it as a reporter, she could let neither unfriendly employees nor gloomy old buildings stop her…and besides, her coat was really much too thin for this weather, and it had begun to snow; she went up to the door and tried to ignore the unpleasant expression on its keeper’s face.

Once within, she walked directly to the desk and announced that she was there to see Miss Morelli.  “Do you have an appointment?” asked the attendant, in a tone of voice that seemed to add “I know you don’t.”

“No, but please tell her Miss Louis from the Archdiocese is here to ask for her support in providing Christmas dinners for the poor.”  It was a terrible lie, but Margo Morelli was known to be even more generous with Catholic charities than her late father had been; Jane hoped it would be enough.

The attendant sighed, “You don’t have to talk to Miss Morelli herself about that; just see her personal assistant, Miss Angelo.  Go on up to the eleventh floor,” he said, gesturing toward the elevator with the phone receiver, “and I’ll let her know you’re on the way.”

“God bless you!” said Jane, feeling even more ashamed about her deception.  “Still,” she thought, “a girl has to eat, and jobs are scarce these days.  I’ll just have to go to confession this weekend.”  She involuntarily started at the ornate décor of the elevator doors, which seemed somehow menacing to her.  But she only paused for a moment; it was too late to turn back now, and there was only one more obstacle between her and the interview she wanted.  As she expected, the public elevator did not even go to the twelfth floor, so even if she had somehow been able to bribe the operator he could not have granted her request.  Correction:  she actually was going to the twelfth floor, though the number said eleven; the building was numbered in the European style, so that the first floor was the one above ground level.  But the Italians consider thirteen a lucky number, don’t they?  So it made sense that the boss’s office should be on that floor even if the number said twelve.

Miss Angelo turned out to be a tiny lady in late middle age with the hawk-like demeanor of a strict nun, and Jane felt her heart sink; there was no way she could even lie convincingly to this woman, much less prevail upon her to shirk her duty and let Jane through.  So there was only one choice:  the naked truth.  “Miss Angelo, I feel terribly about having to tell a fib to get in here, but I’m desperate to talk to Miss Morelli.  You see, I haven’t got a job or any family in town, and my rent is long overdue, but I’m a good writer so I just know I can get a job as a reporter if I can get a scoop.  Ever since Miss Morelli’s father passed on she’s been unwilling to talk to any reporters, but I thought maybe because she and I are both women trying to make it in businesses dominated by men, that she’d have pity on me.”  Jane’s tears were real; she was desperate, and lacked even the money to wire her family out West for help.

Miss Angelo regarded her with a penetrating but not-unkind gaze for agonizingly-long moments, then directed her back into the waiting room with, “I’ll see what I can do.”  Jane’s heart was pounding, but the fact that she hadn’t been instantly thrown out on her ear gave her some hope; she obediently returned to the anteroom and tried to calm herself.  It was no use; she got more and more nervous, and when Miss Angelo suddenly appeared in the doorway Jane almost screamed.  “Miss Morelli will see you.  Come this way, and mind your manners.”

She led Jane down a hall to what seemed the back of the building, where they entered an elevator that did indeed go all the way to twelve.  But when the doors opened on the floor above, Jane was taken aback by what met her eyes.  She had expected a well-lit outer office with a secretary who would usher her into the inner sanctum, but instead she found herself in a sort of vestibule opening to a large, luxuriously-appointed space only dimly lit by lamps, as one might illuminate a bedroom.  She heard the doors close behind her, and Miss Angelo was gone; Jane was apparently all alone.  Nervously, she crept forward into the vast office; the huge mahogany desk was topped with some kind of green, patterned stone, the walls behind the desk were lined with books, and the tall windows showed her that the snow flurry had become a storm.  Though it was only mid-afternoon the gloom outside did little to alleviate the shadow within; most of the light was coming from another room to her right, and she gasped as she realized that there was a woman standing in that doorway watching her.  She was breathtakingly beautiful, and the light streaming past her seemed to envelop her in a kind of aura which intensified the effect.  But at the same time Jane was terrified, not just by her reputation but by something less definable.

whiskey“Good afternoon, Miss Louis; I’m Margo Morelli.  May I get you a drink?”

“A…a drink?” she asked stupidly.  Jane’s parents were teetotalers, and even after leaving home she had been too timid to risk breaking the law, even if anyone had invited her to a party (which nobody had anyway).

The older woman smiled warmly.  “Yes.  It’s even legal again now, you know.”

“Um…yes,” stammered Jane.  “Actually, that’s what I came to talk to you about.”

“Oh?” she asked, then “What will you have?”

“Uh, whatever you’re having is fine.”  Jane couldn’t tell Bourbon from Bordeaux or brandy from beer, so it hardly mattered.  She accepted the much-too-large drink, and took a sip; its taste was strange and unpleasant to her, and she couldn’t hide the face she made when she swallowed it.  Her hostess pretended not to notice, and seated herself on the other side of the desk.

“So what can I do for you?”

“Well,” Jane said, “with the passage of the 21st Amendment last week, Prohibition is over; that means it’s legal to sell liquor again, which means your organization won’t be making any money from, ah, irregular imports any more…”

“Well put, and exactly correct.”  If Miss Morelli was annoyed with the topic, she didn’t show it.

“…so even though you have plenty of other business interests, both…ummm…regular and irregular, you stand to lose a lot of income.  You don’t strike me as the kind of woman who will take that lying down.”

“Again, exactly correct.”  Still no sign of anger, but she wasn’t helping either; Jane’s vision had now fully adjusted to the dim lighting, and she could clearly see those deep black eyes fixed upon her in a way she did not like at all.  She took another long sip, and despite the awful taste she had to admit it did seem to calm her nerves somewhat.

“So…what do you plan to do about it?”

Miss Morelli leaned back slightly in her chair and laughed, a genuine laugh in which Jane nonetheless thought she detected considerable menace.  “You are a charmingly naïve little bird, do you realize that?  It’s why I agreed to see you.  That, and the fact that both Miss Angelo and the downstairs attendant told me you were quite fetching.  They were not wrong.”

Jane felt herself blush furiously, and hoped the light was too dim for it to show.  She took a gulp.  “I…that is…um…”

“Listen, little bird.  Surely you didn’t think I’d be fool enough to go on the record answering such a ridiculous question?  Until someone invents a recording device small enough to fit in a purse, nothing I tell you would be admissible in federal court; however, my father taught me never to stir up hornets’ nests without reason.  It’s why our family has run this city since you were in pigtails.  Had you been a professional reporter instead of a little girl playing at it, you’d never have been let through the front door.”

Jane was so totally mortified she couldn’t speak, but the lovely contralto continued.  “Still, it amuses me to humor you, so I’ll answer your question.  Yes, I’m already planning to expand another of my ‘irregular’ businesses, as you so charmingly put it.  Would you like me to tell you which one?”  Perhaps it was because of the bird metaphor, but she now had the distinct mental image of her hostess as a beautiful serpent, holding her fascinated as it moved in for the kill.  Her head was gently spinning from the unfamiliar effect of the liquor, and she felt unable to speak, let alone flee.  “Have you ever heard of white slavery?”

“Oh, no,” Jane said weakly.  “You wouldn’t!”

“Does anyone know where you are right now?”

As if she had no control over it, her own mouth betrayed her.  “No.”  Her equally-traitorous body refused to move as the other woman slid across the green stone desktop and began to stroke her hair, and to her total horror something deep inside her responded to the caress.  Finally, she was able to regain enough self-control to drain the tumbler and ask, “What if I refused to go quietly?  Would you pull a gun on me, or call one of your thugs to manhandle me?”

“Nothing so crude, I assure you.”  The voice was gentle now, almost reassuring, as she took the empty glass from Jane’s trembling fingers.

“What, then?” the girl asked, fighting a wave of drowsiness that was slowly engulfing her.

“I’d simply drug your drink.”

Read Full Post »

The police are becoming our enemy, and society is becoming the enemy of the police.  –  Frank Serpico

We’re not seeing many Christmas links yet, but since today’s second video (provided by Cathryn Berarovitch) is about a toy, I think it qualifies.  The first video, from Deep Geek, is a parody of the trailer for Fifty Shades of Gray; I don’t think one has to be a lesbian to appreciate it, but it might help.  Everything above the first video is from Radley Balko, and the links between the videos are from PopehatJason Kuznicki, Jillian Keenan and Tushy Galore, in that order.

From the Archives

Read Full Post »

More city business was transacted at Lou’s than at City Hall.  –  Bill Speidel

Since I spent much of last month only a few blocks from the building which once housed her Seattle brothel, and was so welcomed by the city she helped build, it seems fitting that I should pay tribute to the life and legacy of Lou Graham (February 9, 1857 – March 11, 1903), the city’s most famous madam.  As with most whores, there is a great deal of inconsistency and misinformation involved in her story; however, in Graham’s case it mostly surrounds her death rather than her life.

As Thaddeus Russell explains in A Renegade History of the United States, the reason so many western states gave women the right to vote long before the eastern ones (or the country in general) had absolutely nothing to do with high-minded egalitarianism and everything to do with pragmatism and arse-kissing.  You see, frontier populations are always disproportionately male because they tend to lack the sort of amenities “good” women tend to want.  Accordingly, frontier towns fill up with lonely young men desperate for female company and usually possessed of money drawn from whatever industry the town is built on (whether that be mining, trapping, trade or whatever).  Naturally, whores arrive to capitalize on this and so the minority of frontier populations which are female are usually made up largely of working girls.  These ladies soon amass a disproportionate share of the wealth, and madams tend to become fabulously wealthy; in order to win their favor (the better to secure donations and investment in civic projects), city fathers all over the western US granted them suffrage.  Seattle did this on November 23rd, 1883 and almost immediately regretted it; by the time the city had actually granted suffrage, the whores had been outnumbered by recently-arrived “good” women, who immediately repaid the “bad” sisters who had won the vote for them by electing “progressive” prohibitionists to enact new laws (and vigorously enforce old ones) restricting saloons, brothels, gambling and other “vices”.  The result, naturally, was a dramatic loss of tax and license revenue, and by the time women’s suffrage was revoked by judicial fiat in 1887-88 the city’s finances were in shambles.

Lou GrahamEnter Dorothea Georgine Emile Ohben of Germany, a not-especially-beautiful 31-year-old whore gifted with charm, a gift for persuasion and business savvy.  She approached a banker named Jacob Furth, and with his help convinced a number of local businessmen to invest in a truly world-class brothel staffed with beautiful, charming, educated women.  Though the building she purchased (at the corner of Third and Washington) burned down in the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, she had already made enough money in her first year of business to rebuild immediately in stone; it was, in fact, the first building to re-open after the fire.  Some say that the pleasures of her house were free to government officials, but whether that was true or not it is certain that she had considerable influence on the political class; though the area’s weird aversion to sex was already in evidence and resulted in periodic “vice crackdowns”, these never lasted long and Graham was always back in business practically overnight.  The one instance in which she was actually arrested resulted in the political downfall of Henry White, the “reform” mayor who had presided over the police operation in question.

Unlike some of the other madams I’ve discussed, Graham was far from shortsighted; she fully realized that the political climate might change at any time, resulting in the extinction of her business.  So she invested heavily in the stock market and made a killing; on top of that, she made high-interest loans for business ventures that the city’s conservative bankers would not back, but which her friend and business associate Jacob Furth nevertheless felt were good risks.  Many of the wealthy Seattle families who nowadays support prohibitionism and finger themselves furtively to “sex trafficking” fantasies enjoy fortunes founded on loans drawn from funds paid for sex…in other words, from the “avails of prostitution”.  And that makes them, in the modern view, the descendants of indirect “pimps”.  Indeed, given that a very large and publicly-announced deposit from Graham saved the Puget Sound National Bank (Furth’s institution) from a bank run during the Panic of 1893, it could also be said that everyone who has profited from investment in said bank for the past century was also a beneficiary of the “wages of sin”.

Lou Graham obit Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3-12-1903None of this is controversial, but the end of her life (and its aftermath) is another matter.  After yet another ridiculous “morality” crusade resulted in the closure of her brothel in December 1902, Graham suddenly decided not to bother re-opening in Seattle; she instead took off for San Francisco the following month, apparently intending to start up again there.  Less than two months later she was dead, of causes that have never been adequately explained.  Her obituary listed the cause as a perforated ulcer, possibly aggravated due to nerves brought on by her repeated harassment.  A popular rumor of the time said it was actually suicide, and proponents of the “drug addict whore” and “diseased whore” myths favor the explanations of drug overdose and syphilis, respectively.  Another odd point is that she appears to have died intestate, surely an unlikelihood for a woman so careful with business matters; the Seattle Times reported that there had been a will, but that it was torn to shreds during a violent argument between Lou and Amber Delmas the night before Lou died.  Amber was described as her “housekeeper”, but it seems virtually certain that the two were lesbian partners; Amber had assisted Lou in running her business for years and accompanied her to San Francisco, and the general belief is that the destroyed will originally named Amber’s daughter Ulna as the chief heir.  The daughter soon became the victim of a custody battle between her mother and busybodies who wanted to “rescue” her; the latter won (as they still do today) and the girl was placed in what was described as a “good home”.  Lou’s $200,000 fortune ($5.1 million today) was claimed by relatives from Germany, but a court (perhaps conveniently) ruled against them and instead gave the money to the King County School District; despite this, not one single school was named for her (because obviously sex radiation lasts long after death).  In some ways, the United States was a very different place a century ago, but when it comes to the incredible hypocrisy of politicians (especially Washington politicians) toward sex workers, it seems absolutely nothing has changed at all.

Read Full Post »

A man can go from being a lover to being a stranger in three moves flat…but a woman under the guise of friendship will engage in acts of duplicity which come to light very much later.  –  Anita Brookner

“We’re going to have to move soon; I really think Eleanor is beginning to suspect.”

“What makes you think that?” asked Hazel, handing him his drink and then moving behind him to rub his shoulders.

“Nothing I can really explain,” he said, then after a sip: “When you’ve been married to somebody for twenty-seven years, you get to know all her little ways, and you notice when they change.  You were married before, you know what I mean.”

“Yes.  But how do you know she isn’t cheating on you, too?”

Ted laughed.  “You don’t know Eleanor; she’s as cold a fish as there is.  We were both virgins when we got married, and once we were done having kids she just wasn’t interested any more.  I’ve already told you this more than once.”

“There’s no need to get testy,” she said reassuringly.  “I just want you to consider all the possibilities so you don’t start acting nervous and setting off her radar.”

“Like I said, I think I already have.  Oh, I’ve been very careful; before I met you I saw escorts for years, and before that I had cultivated a pattern of not really telling her much about my comings and goings.  And since she leaves the money to me, it’s always been easy to use as much as I want without her being the wiser.  But lately, she’s been requesting a lot more money for all sorts of things, as if she’s trying to probe the state of our finances.”

“Has she been questioning you or anything like that?” 2X

“No, she wouldn’t.  Eleanor is maddeningly indirect; she never makes a statement when an insinuation will do, and whenever she’s angry at me it always takes me days to figure out why.  I’ll never understand why so many women are like that; is it something on the X chromosome?”

“You have an X chromosome as well, Ted.”

“I know, but maybe something on the Y cancels it out.  Maybe real sneakiness requires a double X.”

“Oh, really!  Now you’re just being ridiculous.  I’m relatively straightforward, and you’re extremely sneaky; if quietly converting most of your investments to negotiable form so you can fly off to Tahiti with your mistress doesn’t qualify, I can’t imagine what would.”

Ted looked as though he had been slapped.  “I’m not leaving her destitute,” he said quietly; “In fact, as per your suggestion I transferred the house and several large investments into her name.  I just want to divide the money fairly rather than leaving it to courts and lawyers who would probably give her everything.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said, hugging him closely.  “I didn’t mean to hurt you.  It’s just that I feel nervous, too, and dumb female stereotypes always get me irritated.  Please forgive me.”

“See, Hazel, this is what I’m talking about.  You know how many women would apologize like you just did?  Practically none.  That’s not a stereotype, it’s just the truth; men usually end up having to apologize no matter who was wrong.  I don’t think you really understand how different you are from most women.  I never believed I would fall in love with anyone ever again, much less want to live my life with her.  But you just make me feel so special, so safe.  I know I can trust you, and that we won’t end up being strangers sleeping in the same bed like Eleanor and me.”

“I promise you that will never happen,” she said through glistening eyes.  And then she kissed him, and for a while there was no more conversation.

****************************************************************

airliner in flightA few days later, though, she brought up the subject again on the airplane.  “I just can’t help but feel guilty about what we did.  I know the two of you really shouldn’t have married in the first place, and that you haven’t had a sex life in over 15 years.  I know the kids are grown up, and we really do love each other, and there really wasn’t a home to break up.  But damn, don’t you feel bad about running off with all the negotiables as well as the stuff he put in your name?”

Eleanor shrugged.  “Not really.  I left documents donating the house back to him, and he’s still under fifty; he has twenty more years to build up again, and with no alimony that’ll be easy with his salary.  He’ll be a lot better off in the long run than I would’ve been had he been the one to run off with you as he thought would happen.”

“I suppose you’re right,” sighed Hazel.  “But I still feel bad about playing him like I did.”

“No worse than he thought he was playing me,” Eleanor huffed.  “He got what he deserved.”

“Maybe,” she replied.  “But I guess he was right about women being the sneakier ones, after all.”

Read Full Post »

I love my wife and we have a great life together, but I resent the hell out of her not being more adventurous in bed.  I have a cuckold fantasy that I would never follow through on because fantasy is often more fun than reality, but I want some occasional dirty talk in bed about other men she was with before we were married or would like to be with now.  She’s too uptight to actually try anything kinky, but I don’t see how talking and fantasizing is an unreasonable expectation. I would do anything for her; I’ve begged her to tell me her fantasy and I will make it happen.  But her response is, “I don’t really have any”.  Who doesn’t have sexual fantasies?  I’ve bitched about it plenty of times to no avail, and I think she would do it if I demanded it, but that would be a hollow victory; that she won’t do this willingly makes me feel unappreciated.  I also don’t want to cheat, so how do I get her to come around?  Or can I?

Freud with cheeseburgerDespite what the anti-sex crowd likes to pretend, sexuality is not a mere “choice”, something dropped on top of a person’s personality at the last minute like pickles on a cheeseburger; it is a deep and intrinsic part of the human psyche, rooted in the hindbrain and woven throughout the psychic fabric.  Though we use the word “libido” colloquially as a synonym for “horniness”, it’s a lot more than that; Freud defined it as “the energy, regarded as a quantitative magnitude…of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word ‘love’.”  He considered it part of the id, the unconscious structure of personality, and therefore no more a matter of choice than anything else springing from that tenebrous region of consciousness.  Now, we’ve learned a great deal since Freud’s day, and most psychologists feel he was wrong about a lot of things.  But this isn’t one of them; if anything, we have reached the collective conclusion that some aspects of a person’s sexuality are so deeply embedded as to constitute major structural elements of that person’s character, because such elements derive from idiosyncrasies of the brain architecture itself.  Homosexuals and bisexuals usually report feeling same-sex attraction from an extremely early age (mine goes back at least to my earliest distinct memories, about the age of four), and other sexual traits (such as my fascination with bondage) can start just as early.  Other aspects are not quite so deep-rooted, but still develop as interwoven components of personality development.  Sexual repression is in this zone; though people are not “born uptight”, the repression develops concurrently with sexual maturation.  The adage tells us, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree”; though it isn’t possible to stop the tree of sexuality from growing, it certainly is possible to bend, warp and stunt its growth.  For example, though it isn’t possible to teach a child not to be gay, it is certainly possible to fill his brain with such fear, shame and self-loathing that he can never have a healthy sexual relationship with anyone, male or female.  Buried sexual feelings don’t die; they just rot in the dark, decaying into something unwholesome or even noxious.

What this all boils down to is that it’s very, very unlikely you will be able to get her to change.  Oh, you might be able to get her to do what you ask, but she won’t like it, and will probably resent it.  Women who can be coaxed into stepping outside of their sexual comfort zones are generally those who were inclined to do so anyway, and merely need help to overcome their reservations or get “permission” to be “bad”.  The latter is one reason so many women enjoy submission or rape fantasies; they allow displacement of responsibility for being sexual.  And though it’s true that some women do indeed become more sexually open-minded and willing to experiment over time even without coaxing, they’re generally ones whose bent is already in that direction; they just need time for growth to catch up with inclination.  If you doubt what I’m saying, let’s try a thought experiment:  imagine it was your wife who was my reader, and she said described the same situation but ended with, “how can I get him to stop feeling this way?”  Just as you can’t help feeling the way you feel, she can’t help the way she feels, and the fact that yours is an urge while hers is an aversion is neither here nor there.  And while I am in no position to figure out why you have the kind of fantasies you have, it doesn’t take a latter-day Freud to guess why they make your wife uncomfortable.warped tree  Furthermore, though you are skeptical that your wife has no sexual fantasies, I can assure you that it is very possible that she has desires which never gel into fully-formed fantasies, or that she actually means A) “I have no fantasies I’m comfortable sharing”; B) “I have no fantasies which you could help me to realize”; or C) “There is no way I would ever want to make my fantasies happen”.  You should certainly understand “C” (the “good fantasy, bad reality” principle) because you yourself feel that way about cuckolding; what you may not grok is that for some people even the fantasy may be uncomfortable, however much it may arouse (I have some like that myself, of which the less said, the better).

My advice to you is not dissimilar to that I offered the reader in “Late Bloomer”:  while it’s possible therapy might help her to get over her hang-ups, I’m not really sanguine about that because the right therapeutic alchemy is difficult enough to achieve with two people, let alone three.  Keep gently trying to get her to open up, but don’t badger her and for Aphrodite’s sake please don’t utter anything that sounds remotely like a threat, because that will only poison the good parts of your relationship.  If your need to explore your fantasy is so strong that porn won’t fulfill it, that’s what whores are for; just be sure you pick a good, dependable one, be discreet, and visit her only as often as you need to scratch that special itch.

(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.)

Read Full Post »

Natalie wrote…that she was…madly in love with a woman…[who] outstripped all her other loves by a long way.  Rather vexed, I answered: “The best in your life was me! Me! Me!”  –  Liane de Pougy, My Blue Notebooks

Perceptive readers may have noticed that though I share a profession with the subjects of all of my harlotographies, I don’t think I would have gotten along with many of them.  This is especially true of the Grandes Horizontales of La Belle Epoque; while I admire their spunk and envy their income, most of them were possessed of character traits I find irritating or even repulsive:  among these are incredible irresponsibility, the tendency to use people and a pathological affection for falsehood.  Though the former two would probably have caused me greater distress had I known the ladies in person, it is the latter one which annoys me most as a chronicler of whoredom because it makes it almost impossible to declare anything about their lives with certainty, despite what biographers who have never personally known a whore (much less been one) seem to believe.  Case in point Liane de Pougy, whose statements about her exes (and herself) are usually reported as fact despite their conflicting with her earlier statements about the same people.

Liane de Pougy, 1887Anne-Marie Chassaigne was born in La Flèche, France on July 2nd, 1869, the daughter of Pierre and Aimée Chassaigne; like so many others of her time she was educated in a convent, but unlike most of her peers she somehow managed to evade the nuns often enough and well enough to get pregnant at 16.  She eloped with the father, a young naval officer named Armand Pourpe, but predictably the marriage was both short and unhappy; she treated her baby son Marc as though he were a doll, and professed to be disappointed that he was not a girl so she could dress him up and fuss over him more.  When Armand was transferred to Marseilles she remained behind and promptly took a lover, Marquis Charles de MacMahon; when her husband later caught them in flagrante delicto he shot at them but only succeeded in wounding her wrist.  In response she sold her piano, abandoned her son and lit out for Paris on the first train she could catch, changing her name to “Liane” upon arrival.  She later wrote in her memoirs that her husband had “taken her violently on their wedding night”, supposedly traumatizing her; consider, however, that she was already sexually involved with him before they were married, and that this supposed emotional shock didn’t stop her from having sex with someone else as soon as he was over the horizon.  Furthermore, her arch-rival La Belle Otero claimed to have been raped at ten; one must wonder if Liane didn’t invent her marriage-bed ravishment so that she, too, could have a sexual horror story for those who responded to that sort of thing.  She also claimed that her husband was a brute who beat her, and that she had a scar on her breast from one such beating; perhaps, but it also provided a convenient excuse for her infidelity.

In Paris, the 18-year-old Liane immediately set out to become a courtesan, and learned the trade from the highly-respected Countess Valtesse de la Bigne.  Much to her mentor’s annoyance, Liane was bored by intellectual pursuits, but she was simply more attuned to the zeitgeist than the older woman:  it was a time when appearance and style were prized over depth and substance, as evidenced by the fact that, though utterly devoid of any acting talent, she was hired to headline a show at the Folies-Bergere on the basis of the impression she had made while attending the Grand Prix with the Vicomte de Pougy (whose surname she promptly appropriated).  So hopeless was she that Sarah Bernhardt, who had been given the job of teaching her to act, eventually told her, “when on stage, just keep your pretty mouth shut.”  But as with so many others up to the present day, this did not stop her from becoming a wildly popular celebrity; it started on the night of her debut, when she picked up the visiting Prince of Wales as a client.

Liane de Pougy (November 3rd, 1902)The ‘90s were the heyday of Liane’s career and the period of her infamous rivalry with La Belle Otero, played out in the various theaters and the dining room of Maxim’s restaurant, a favorite of the demimonde.  Though Otero became more famous and sought-after than de Pougy by about 1895, Liane was the wiser investor and the more careful bookkeeper, and appears to have had a larger number of less-famous clients compared with Otero’s smaller number of kings and princes.  Both women derived a sizeable secondary income from licensing their images for postcards, as was typical for courtesans of the time; as I have noted before, this period saw the beginning of the modern cult of celebrity, and the Grandes Horizontales were at the center of it.

Like most courtesans, Liane began to opt for longer-term arrangements as she aged; unlike most, not all of hers were with men.  In 1899 the American heiress and writer Natalie Clifford Barney became infatuated with her after seeing her at the Folies-Bergere, and though their lesbian relationship was very intense it was also very short because Barney kept insisting she wanted to “rescue” Liane from prostitution (a notion much more popular in America at that time than in France).  The two continued to have deep feelings for one another, though, and corresponded for the rest of their lives (see epigram).  Never one to miss a moneymaking opportunity, in 1901 Liane published a thinly-fictionalized account of their affair, Sapphic Idyll, which became a runaway bestseller and caused Barney considerable trouble with her straight-laced parents.  She also profited in another way:  when it became known that she was bisexual, she gained a small but profitable upper-class lesbian clientele.

Liane de Pougy in a detail of Une soirée au Pré-Catelan by Henri Gervex (1909)On June 8, 1910 the almost-41 Liane married the notably-younger Prince  Georges Ghika, after which she was called Princess Ghika.  Though neither as rocky nor as short-lived as her first marriage, this one was not without its major difficulties; the first of these came on December 2nd, 1914 when her son Marc, a French pilot in the First World War, was killed in action near Villers-Brettoneux.  Though she had never been close to him, his death precipitated a period of soul-searching in which she turned back to the Church, becoming a lay Dominican sister.  Though this phase did not last long, she remained devout for the rest of her life (though like many Catholics, she ignored sexual prohibitions she found inconvenient).  In 1926 Ghika ran off with a much younger woman, and while Liane’s diaries of the period brand him a pervert (whereas before he was described in glowing terms), the two did not divorce.  She consoled herself with lesbian lovers until he came back to her a few years later, and they remained together until his death in 1945; the latter period was not a happy one, however, and each had a series of extramarital girlfriends.

After his death she re-entered the Dominicans permanently as Sister Anne-Marie, and spent her last five years caring for physically and mentally handicapped children; she died at the Asylum of Saint Agnes in Lausanne,  Switzerland on December 26th, 1950, at the ripe old age of 81.  Her memoirs, My Blue Notebooks, were published posthumously.  Though many who wish to believe in such things have praised the “repentance” for her “sinful” past (most especially her prostitution and lesbianism) she proclaims in this work, the more cynical eye of this harlot sees instead the pièce de résistance of a long series of deceptions.  While her previous writings merely reinterpreted other people in her life, this one reinvented herself; and while the others were only intended to deceive mere mortals, this one was designed to pull the wool over the eyes of God himself.  And no matter what else I feel about her, I have to admire her for that one, grand, final act of chutzpah.

Read Full Post »

I have been considering going into escorting for quite a while now, but I’m not very sexually experienced; I’m 24 but I’ve only ever been with one guy.  I know agencies often accept girls without experience, but I’m sure they assume the women have at least unpaid sexual experience; do you think I’m too inexperienced to even consider this type of work?

Young Virgin AutoSodomized by Her Own Chastity by Salvador Dali (1954)Every escort has to start somewhere; I mean the first time she does it, she must be inexperienced.  But as you say, she usually has some non-commercial experience.  I’m not saying you have to be a slut or anything, but if you’ve only ever been with one guy, sex work may not be right for you.  Now, there are a few caveats:  this has nothing to do with the clients, because some guys really like an inexperienced girl.  And I know nothing about your sexuality; it may be that getting paid for sex really turns you on (I know it does me).  But if that isn’t the case, you may want to explore sex with at least a few more guys before getting into sex work; not only will it help you to map out what you like and what you don’t like (which is vital for setting your boundaries), it will also give you a better sense of the way different men tend to act during sex.  That will help keep you safe by helping you learn to anticipate things that can go wrong, and to recognize behavior that’s outside the pale.  The more you know, the more you can stay in control of the situation, and that’s necessary both for your safety and for the client’s pleasure.

I’m in my early twenties and sexually active, but very unfulfilled because I’m very repressed.  Can you tell me how to go about freeing myself from these inhibitions so when I find a great woman, I won’t be too hung up to have a good sexual relationship?

It’s very difficult to help another person ease his own inner repressions; paradoxically, we all tend to hold on to the things that hold us back!  I think the best thing for you is to read as many different things as you can from as many different people as you can, so as to be exposed to the wide variety of different preferences, viewpoints, etc.  This won’t smash your inhibitions, but what it will do is to show you that A) you’re not alone in feeling the things you feel, and B) that there are people out there with much more extreme desires than you have (whatever those might be).  Once you begin to realize that your needs aren’t “weird” or “bad”, you’ll find that the repression tends to just fall away on its own.  For example, when I was in high school over 30 years ago, one simply didn’t talk about bisexuality; it was a shameful thing to be hidden or at most joked about, but not seriously discussed.  But as I met other bisexual women it began to seem more and more normal to me, and by the late ‘90s I was totally “out” about it.  Furthermore, it’s not at all abnormal for people your age to feel unfulfilled by sex; it’s hyped as being this magical experience, but in actuality (as with most things) one has to learn to appreciate it.  And very often, it takes until one’s late twenties or early thirties to do that, and to really feel comfortable in one’s sexual skin.

(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.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,402 other followers