Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘courtesans’

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

HRH The Prince of Wales:  I’ve spent enough on you to build a battleship!
Lillie Langtry:  And you’ve spent enough in me to float one.

Lillie Langtry (1878)Once the “prostitute” was defined into existence as the lowest of the low in the late 19th century, it became necessary for those who were emotionally invested in the concept to police the dividing line between whores and all other women.  If it was possible for a “fallen woman” to not only raise herself by her own efforts, but to do so without repenting her whoredom, she obviously was not someone any woman could look down upon; since the whole purpose of the definition was to provide such an exemplar, famous harlots became an embarrassment to the prohibitionists.  Such women’s harlotry therefore had to be ignored, rationalized or even denied so as to maintain the fiction that we are all monsters, criminals, victims or whatever other role the individual fanatic’s belief-system requires.  In the past few decades especially, whores who achieve fame and/or accomplishment that transcends their whoredom are routinely co-opted by prohibitionists, and most popular biographies either leave out the fact that they made a living on their backs or else sanitize it with words like “mistress” or “lover” in order to pretend that the arrangement was established for romantic reasons rather than economic ones.  And if a professional achieves greater and more lasting fame in some other career after her hooking days, the general practice nowadays is to omit her earlier means of support entirely.

Emilie Charlotte Le Breton was born on October 13, 1853, the only daughter of Rev. William Corbet Le Breton (Dean of Jersey) and his wife Emilie; though she had six brothers, only two survived childhood.  Emilie was a high-spirited girl who inherited her mother’s looks and her father’s temperament; he had numerous affairs and eventually resigned his post in disgrace several years after his daughter had left the island.  Being the only girl also contributed to her personality: she learned to handle males from a very early age, and was educated by her brothers’ tutor because she was far too rambunctious for a governess.  At the wedding of her brother William in autumn of 1873 she met the Irish landowner Edward Langtry, the 30-year-old widower of the bride’s older sister; Emilie was taken with his charm and apparent affluence and he dazzled her with (chaperoned) cruises on his yacht.  They were married on March 6th, 1874, and he bought her a stately home in Jersey and a flat in London; unfortunately, Langtry was not as wealthy as he appeared to be, and her family’s dislike for him was so intense that when her beloved younger brother Reggie died in the spring of 1877, she hadn’t seen him in years.

After the funeral Emilie fell into a deep depression, and in an effort to cheer her Lord Ranelagh got her an invitation to a salon held by Lady Sebright and attended by a number of famous artists and literary figures.  Because she was still in mourning, she wore a simple black dress without jewelry and isolated herself in a quiet corner of the suite; but because she was both beautiful and charming this had the opposite effect of the one she was looking for.  She attracted the attention of a number of artists at the salon, among them Frank Miles (who had previously seen her at the theater and was very taken with her); Miles made several sketches that evening and raved about her beauty to everyone he knew.  By the end of the week the Langtrys were overwhelmed by invitations, Miles’ sketches had been sold and every photographer and painter in London wanted Emilie to model for him; the most famous of these portraits was A Jersey Lily by Millais, which not only spread her fame but gave her the nickname by which she would be known ever after:  Lillie.

Within weeks, she had come to the attention of the Prince of Wales, who asked to be seated next to her at a dinner party on May 24, 1877 and was soon spending legendary amounts of money on her; since this allowed a far more lavish lifestyle than he would otherwise have had, Langtry was content to go away on fishing trips while his wife entertained her royal patron.  Though His Highness was a noted womanizer, he became totally infatuated with Lillie and even built a house (now Langtry Manor Hotel) for them to tryst in; she became the closest thing to an official mistress as was possible in that time and place, and was even accepted by the Prince’s wife, Princess Alexandra (Queen Victoria, on the other hand, was said to have treated her rather coldly).  The relationship continued for two years, during which Lillie made many important friends; chief among them was Oscar Wilde, who later helped her launch the career for which she is known today.  And though it ended when Sarah Bernhardt captured the Prince’s eye in June of 1879, they parted on good terms and he later helped her on a number of occasions.

Lillie immediately became involved with the Earl of Shrewsbury, but that arrangement broke up the following January once rumors of divorce began to circulate and creditors started to hound her husband.  By April she had attracted another royal patron, Prince Louis of Battenberg, and when she found herself pregnant in June she told him that he was the father; however, she was also carrying on a romantic affair with Arthur Clarence Jones at the same time, so it’s possible that the child was his.  By this point the Langtrys were truly estranged; Edward went off on an extended fishing trip, leaving Lillie to deal with the bill collectors (which she did in October of 1880 by selling off many of the expensive gifts Prince Albert had given her).  She at first tried to hide the pregnancy by renting a cottage in Jersey, but soon realized a small community was the worst place to be; she then appealed to “Bertie” for help and he gave her some money and had her taken to Paris, where she and Jones lived until she gave birth to her daughter Jeanne Marie on March 8, 1881.

By autumn she had deposited the child in her own mother’s care and returned to London, where Wilde suggested she should take up acting.  He connected her to Henrietta Labouchere, a retired actress turned acting coach, and after one amateur production in November she was hired for a part in She Stoops to Conquer; though the critics were divided in their opinions, she had lost none of her charisma and the ever-supportive Prince of Wales made a point of attending several of her performances in order to draw attention to them.  Her popularity attracted enough investment to form her own company only a few months later, and she toured the UK for the rest of the year before landing a deal for an American tour in October – less than a year after she had started acting.  She was an even bigger hit in the US than she had been at home, and her box office receipts broke all previous records.  Nor had she entirely given up her previous career:  she found a new patron in the person of Freddie Gebhard, a multi-millionaire who bought her a townhouse in New York and a private railway carriage built to her specifications.  She eventually became a US citizen and divorced Edward Langtry in 1887, but though she and Gebhard remained together until 1891 they never married. He bought her a whole stable of thoroughbred horses, and she enjoyed modest success racing them; she also bought a vineyard and winery in California in 1888, and though she sold it in 1906 it still bears the name Langtry Farms.  She also sold endorsements for soap and cosmetics, becoming one of the first celebrities to do so.

In 1899, she married Hugo Gerald de Bathe, who became Lord de Bathe in 1907.  Though he was 19 years her junior, the relationship does not appear to have been the typical love match between an aging courtesan and a young lover, but rather a marriage of convenience contracted to get money for him and a title for her; when they retired to Monaco in 1917 he lived half an hour away in Nice, and they only saw each other on social occasions.  She continued acting right up until her retirement, at which time she also sold all of her horses and racing interests.  During her last decade her closest companion was Mathilde Peate, the widow of her butler; she had been estranged from her daughter since 1899, after Jeanne Marie’s fiancé had explained the truth about her parentage (which had been kept from her for eighteen years).  In the winter of 1929 Lillie contracted bronchitis and later influenza, dying on February 12th at the age of 75; she left her entire fortune to her daughter, grandchildren and Mrs. Peate, and nothing at all to her husband.  She was buried in the churchyard of St. Savior’s Parish on Jersey, near the rectory in which she had grown up; though she had left early and wandered far in her eventful life, the Jersey Lily eventually returned to the soil of her beloved home, which her heart had never really left.

Read Full Post »

The history of America’s first sex panic should give us pause before we latch onto a new cause whose benefits are likely to be minimal at best but will almost certainly put more women in jail and more cops in our lives.  -  Thaddeus Russell

R.I.P. Michael Glawogger Michael Glawogger

Acclaimed Austrian director Michael Glawogger, famed for his…documentaries on the lives of the…poor, has died while on a shoot in…Liberia after contracting malaria…Whore’s Glory (2011) examined the world’s oldest profession with portraits of working girls in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico…

Celebrities

one of the drivers from…Ice Road Truckers…Tim Zickuhr has been charged with…kidnapping, extortion, and coercion…[he hired a] prostitute…who goes by Snow White…[and] gave her his ATM card to withdraw her payment, but…later accused her of taking too much…[he] arranged a meeting…the next day to settle their money dispute — and he attacked, punching her in the face, and threatening to kill her if she didn’t get him the money…[he] tied her up…beat her, and…poured cold water on her…then locked her in his closet and demanded a phone number for someone who could get him the money…she gave Tim the phone number of a police officer she knew…and…he…called it, claiming he’d kill Snow White if $1,000 wasn’t delivered to him…[he then] forced [her] out his second story window…the cop met Tim and immediately arrested him…

Here We Go Again

Historian Thaddeus Russell:

…the movement against “white slavery” helped create, expand, and strengthen the police powers of an array of government agencies…[which] have imprisoned and sterilized hundreds of thousands of…prostitutes, taken their children from them, forced them onto the streets and into dependent relationships with male criminals, and made their jobs among the most dangerous in the world.  Those same government agencies also prosecuted [non-white] men for simply having intimate relations with white women; tightened restrictions on immigration; established precedents for some of the worst government violations of privacy and civil liberties in American history; and formed the basis of the modern surveillance state.  The contemporary movement against “human trafficking”…is strikingly similar…both in rhetoric and in implications for individual freedom and state power…

Well worth reading in its entirety.

The Camel’s Nose

In case you thought the government had given up on censoring the internet:

state attorney generals [sic] [are] pressuring Google to obscure sites that promote illegal activities…The gang…[want] Google to enhance content screening…and place increased “human scrutiny” on content uploaded to YouTube and Google Drive; to delist sites that sell…any…illegal materials…and to provide “swift responses” to law enforcement officials…Google, to its credit, wanted no part of the AGs’ evil schemes…and…patiently explained…it does not own or run everything on the Internet nor have a desire to be censor in chief…The…AGs aren’t satisfied, of course…they’ve threatened to pursue legal action…

Pay close attention, ladies; you know what “promote illegal activities” includes.

Maggie in the Media

Here’s a student article which quotes Ronald Weitzer, Barb Brents, Norma Jean Almodovar, SWOP Chicago and myself, but also cops and prohibitionists; it’s pretty uneven and has inaccurate graphics, but considering that the writer seemed pretty prohibitionist when she started the story it’s actually pretty even-handed.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

A…King County [Washington] sheriff’s deputy is under criminal investigation over an allegation that he helped his wife work as a prostitute…[by] using the county’s computer system to check the backgrounds of her clients…”  The investigation was apparently triggered when the moron thought he’d gain advantage in their divorce by outing her.

Old Men and Young Women

The grand-daughter of…Benito Mussolini has become caught up in [an]…underage prostitution scandal, after…her husband [was]…accused of paying for sex with teenage schoolgirls…

Rooted in Racism

The Swedish model is GOOD for women!

…three mothers [who were] stabbed and beaten…[were deported by] the police…[soon after a] similar case [in which]…nine Nigerian women…were thrown out of [their] apartment…after reporting rapes…when foreign prostitutes report violence or abuse…police investigate them and try to find reasons why they must leave Norway, said Bjorg Norli of Pro Sentret…The women…had permanent residence in Italy, and can therefore travel freely into Norway…The women thought they would get help from the police….instead, they were imprisoned…and [put] on a plane…[before finishing] treatment of [their] injuries…

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

…a woman called to report that a man she was paid to have sex with robbed her…sheriff’s deputies…[arrested] Imani K. Williams…[for] prostitution [instead]…

Uncommon Sense

In Switzerland, an oral agreement is…recognized as a binding contract…Every time a sex worker agrees with a client on the price, time, and…other terms of their exchange, a contract is made…[but] a contract…can be declared null and void is if a court decides it is immoral…[which] the country’s highest court…did around 30 years ago with prostitution.  So…even though prostitution is legal, sex workers cannot rely on the courts to uphold their legitimate employment complaints…

What the Hell Were You Thinking? (We’re Not Done Yet)

Here’s a new service called “Kitestring”.  Is it too much to ask for amateurs to at least be grateful to whores for thinking of these things?

Profit from Panic

The White House wants to blatantly expand fascism by courting an “elite group” of young billionaires:

…Patrick Gage, a 19-year-old heir to the multibillion-dollar Carlson hotel and hospitality fortune…is an industry leader in enforcing measures to combat trafficking and involuntary prostitution…Gage was among the presenters at a breakout session, titled “Combating Human Trafficking,” that attracted a notable group of his peers.  “The person two seats away from me was a Marriott,“ he said.  “And when I told her about trafficking, right away she was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I want to do that’”…

In other words, those who will never have to work a day in their lives want to ensure that the rest of us have as few options as possible besides working for their clique. Nathan Bantick

Above the Law 

A Royal Marine commando …[attacked] two…sex workers and another customer because he was unhappy with the service he received.  Nathan Bantick…was caught on a massage parlour’s CCTV…He was sentenced to 12 months after admitting assault, actual bodily harm and criminal damage, and faces being discharged from the Marines…[Bantick insisted] he hadn’t received his full 30 minutes and…threatened to hit two masseuses if they didn’t give his money back…he took out his military ID saying: “Who do you think the police are going to…believe, you or me?”…

The Birth of a Movement

As I’ve pointed out many times, the myth of French sexual tolerance is repudiated by the fact that France was the first European country to subject whores to the police, starting around the middle of the 16th century.  Here’s a long and interesting article on a police operation to spy on Parisian courtesans which ran from 1747 to 1771; the author subscribes to a couple of minor fallacies and hits a few sour notes, but it otherwise does a good job of analyzing how the demimonde appeared through the myopic spectacles of a narrow “law and order” police mentality.

Presumed Pimps

airport workers…are uniquely positioned to help rescue victims of child sex trafficking…Oakland…Airport employees…were taught how to recognize potential victims and their abusers, who take advantage of the fact that minors can fly without identification…a former sex trafficking victim…warned that abused children may deny being mistreated and are psychologically unable to escape their predators’ clutches…She told the airport workers to close their eyes and picture their own children being forced to engage in sex acts…a trafficked child might have a bar code tattoo on her neck, signaling she is owned…

With Friends Like These…

I’m sure Gena Korn really thinks she’s speaking up for sex workers by decrying due-process-free shaming tactics (and to some extent criminalization in general), but in the fifth sentence she launches into Swedish-style “what about the johns and pimps?”; she soon moves on to a false “villain or victim” dichotomy, followed immediately by “no little girl dreams of being a hooker”, “abducted into sex slavery”, childhood trauma and “selling themselves”, before concluding with praise for New York’s “diversion” program which defines all sex workers as damaged children in need of nanny-state “help”.

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #314)

Observation:  rapist subdues his victim with pepper spray.  Conclusion: sex trafficking!

…a teenage girl found naked and pepper sprayed…may have been the result of sex trafficking, police say.  The 16-year-old girl is still in the hospital after neighbors found her…she told police she had been raped…”The pepper spray looks to me, sounds to me like a buyer that has decided he’s going to take advantage of a minor he’s found,” [said] Vanessa Scott…of Love Never Fails…

“A minor that he’s found,” as though she were an inanimate object lying on the side of the road.  How can anyone take these warped perverts seriously?useful idiot Farley

Under Every Bed (TW3 #314)

This incredibly-bad article on “sex trafficking” in Montana reaches a whole new level of idiocy:

Melissa Farley…said…“Money entices, persuades and coerces a person to perform sex.  The payment does not erase the sexual violence, verbal sadism, domestic violence and rape”…Farley [pretended that only]…2 percent of female prostitutes [are escorts.  She fantasized that]…97 percent…are in the trade without a choice…performing…sex [acts] for a cheeseburger or a tank of gas…She also [imagined that] where men congregate in large numbers…human trafficking is likely present…

I was wondering when Farley would attach her medicine show to the “gypsy whores” carnival.

Sex Rays

When “Red” was a student…she worked as an exotic dancer…”I later told a history professor…I was asking for a recommendation and he asked me what I did, I thought he was a great guy…after that my grades immediately went down”…

January Q & A (TW3 #344)

Apparently this self-important little weasel realized that “anti-prostitution advocate” doesn’t quite have the cachet he craves:  “Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate Brian Bates…was outraged when he learned [an Oklahoma] prostitution bust had only resulted in traffic tickets.  ‘[If] the media doesn’t know about [these cases] they figure I’m not going to know’…says Bates…[who] is…cross referencing and checking names…

Something in the MilkP411 lily

A client post from the ECCIE board for Tennessee, dated April 16th [all sic]:  “P411 Client flips 5 High Dollar providers in Knoxville on Monday…Someone should have been screaming this on line since monday night.  Whats going on—nobody knew???  P411 Client Handle “Justin Credible”…Apparently he got caught in a sting so he helped LE catch 5 providers and an unknown number of Clients…”  The next day an escort added, “We had the same thing happen in Nashville on Monday…same account was used in both cities…

Train Wreck (TW3 #407)

Renewed Initiative Against Diseases and Poverty (RENAGAIDS), has challenged the recent raids, arrests and detention of sex workers in…Abuja…police…[were] assisted…by another NGO, the Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria…The executive director of RENAGAIDS, Mr. Alban Anonyuo…[said members of  the “task force”] raid sex workers to steal their phones, jewelry, money and other personal effects and most times rape them…

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #411)

Small-scale, short-lived gang sex attacks = “not credible”.  Immense ongoing global conspiracy involving millions = totally believable.

A rumour of a gang initiation in Winnipeg targeting nurses isn’t credible, police said…“Head’s [sic] up Nurses.  We just got a call from the hospital and police due to gang initiation’s [sic] this weekend looking to rape or stab nurses.  Especially ER staff”… Robert Ihme wrote in a [Facebook post] that has since been shared more than 300 times…

Rough Trade (TW3 #414) 

I’m not sure what the word “jilted” is supposed to mean in this context:

…Danford Grant…now claims the [women]…he’s accused of attacking are jilted prostitutes…Grant…attacked a massage parlor receptionist as she walked to her car…[after identifying] himself as a police officer, [he] drove her to a secluded area and raped her…he…went to a…masseuse’s home…forced his way in…and raped her.  Nine days later, Grant…grabbed [another masseuse], told her he wanted to marry her and recited her home address…[and] husband’s name…[he then] drew a folding knife and threatened to cut [her] face if she fought with him…he [then]…raped her…

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 »

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not the invasion of ideas.
-  Victor Hugo

Gene usually got dressed quickly, gave Katherine some kind of rough estimate of when she should expect him to call again, asked her what she had planned for dinner and then told her what a lovely time he’d had before heading out the door.  But when he fumbled with his shoes, tied his tie unevenly, and otherwise delayed leaving while making no conversation at all, she knew he was nervous about something.

“Kathy, I just wanted to let you know that I saw Victoria Tate, but I won’t again,” he finally blurted out.

She took his hand and smiled.  “I think you sometimes forget that I’m not your wife, Gene; you don’t owe me fidelity.  You can see Victoria or any other escort you like, and you don’t have to report it to me or seek forgiveness.”

“Well, usually I don’t; I mean, you know I’ve seen other girls before, and that I always come back to you.  But somehow, it just seemed different with Victoria, like I was betraying you or something.”

“That’s silly; how could seeing Victoria be any more a betrayal than seeing anyone else?”

The Wish by Theodor von Holst (1841)He paused for a moment, then: “Because we both know she’s marketing herself as a younger alternative to you.”  If the statement hurt her feelings, she gave no outward sign.  The situation was obvious to everyone in town:  Victoria used similar advertising copy, presented herself in the same general fashion, even provided the same kind of amenities at her incall.  Both women were tall, charismatic, classically-beautiful brunettes, both well-educated and well-spoken, both endowed with that indefinable quality known as “class”.  But while Katherine was well over fifty,  Victoria was still under twenty-five.  And while Katherine had never really learned to take full advantage  of the marketing possibilities the internet offered, Victoria knew every last one.

“Do you remember Melinda Van Doren?  She was the most highly-regarded escort in the city when I started working in 1975.”

“No, I didn’t try the hobby until after my first wife and I divorced in ’81, and I don’t remember the name.”

“That’s because she retired in ’79.  Well, you know it was all services and word of mouth in those days, but I had new ideas.  When I first started it was just to pay my way through school, but by the time I graduated I realized I wanted to make a career of it.  So I paid bribes, placed private ads, offered spiffs to every concierge in town, and slowly began to win Melinda’s clientele from her.”

“I can’t imagine you being so…”

Ruthless is the word,” she laughed.  “I was a different person then, an awful, hungry little upstart intent on invading and capturing my rival’s territory.  It wasn’t until Melinda confronted me that I changed.”

“What did she say to you?”

“Oh, it was so long ago…suffice to say she made me see the error of my ways.  She retired not too long after; moved to one of those countries where American dollars go a long way.  Costa Rica, I think it was.”

“Well, I’m glad you changed; I don’t think I’d have liked you like that.  I know I don’t like Victoria.  Hey, maybe you need to talk to her like Melinda talked to you.”

“Yes, maybe I do.”

After Gene had gone, Kathy opened up the email folder where she had saved all the other messages on the subject…and there had been several, both from clients and from escorts.  She was very popular and respected, and a number of people were upset about Victoria’s tactics…which had in the past few months gone from mere competition to character assassination, rumor-starting and, last week, a poorly-executed attempt to get her arrested (which might’ve succeeded if she hadn’t had an informant in the vice division).  Clearly something had to be done, and soon.  She picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Victoria, this is Katherine Nolan.”

“How did you get this number?”

“That’s not really important.  We need to talk.”

“About what?”

“I think you know the answer.”

“Look, I really don’t have time right now…”

“Yes, you do.  In fact, I think you’ll be very interested in what I have to say.  I’ve been thinking about retiring for a long time now, but putting it off because I needed someone to take care of my gentlemen for me.  And I think you just may be the woman to do it…”

An hour later, Victoria opened the door to usher Kathy into her incall.  Though she had been understandably suspicious of Kathy’s motives, the offer had been too good to pass up:  the older woman had said she was tired of drama and felt it was better to bow out gracefully rather than contribute to strife in what had previously been a largely-harmonious community.  A few hours of small talk, a few empty promises, and the field would be clear; if there was any chance at all Kathy was being honest, Victoria had no choice but to risk it.  And so they chatted over coffee, and after a while Victoria actually found herself beginning to like the veteran courtesan, and to feel a few pangs of regret for her unscrupulous tactics.

“Think nothing of it, my dear,” said Kathy; “you’re young and determined to succeed, so it isn’t surprising you might overstep the bounds of propriety from time to time.  Why, when I first started working, years before you were born, I was just as ambitious.  But then I had a meeting with the older lady with whom I was in competition, just as you and I are meeting today, and after that day everything was all right.”

Possession“So she made you the same offer that you’re making me?”

“Yes, that was how she got me to invite her over, just as it got you to invite me.”  Kathy’s voice suddenly sounded different – cold, strange and very, very old.  Victoria was transfixed by her gaze and felt a sudden wave of inexplicable terror wash over her; she tried to scream but the sound was strangled in her throat, and though she tried to struggle it was as though she was held fast by the tentacles of some invisible nightmare.

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

“You know, I really need to compliment you on your exquisite taste; some of these pieces are really fine,” Roger said as Victoria walked with him to the door.

“Thank you, but I’m afraid I can’t take credit; an older escort helped me find a lot of it.  You may remember her, Katherine Nolan?”

“No, I only moved here two years ago, but I think I’ve seen her name mentioned on the boards.  She’s out of the business now, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she retired in 2010 and moved to one of those countries where American dollars go a long way.  Costa Rica, I think it was.”

.

(Inspired by a comment made by Dr. Laura Agustin about a statement made by Gloria Steinem.)

Read Full Post »

When one enjoys full liberty, one must use it with the utmost moderation.  -  Victor Hugo, preface to Marion Delorme

Marion De LormeLast month, sex worker activists discussed the case of Patricia Adler, a sociologist who had promoted ridiculous whore stereotypes in her classes on “deviancy” for twenty years; she of course never bothered to consult actual sex workers or even fellow academics who had actually studied us, instead preferring to let students simply make things up under her (almost wholly ignorant) guidance.  But while we were annoyed and insulted by her actions, we were by no means surprised by them; since time immemorial academics, artists, moralists, rulers and almost everyone else have considered prostitutes to be more like fictional characters than real people.  As I wrote in “Projection”, harlots “tend to be dehumanized into symbols for other people’s psychological needs and problems…people project their own concepts onto us and imagine us as the external representations of those concepts.”  The internet is the enemy of such projection because it allows us to speak for ourselves rather than allowing others to usurp that right, and because it allows real information about a person to be widely disseminated, thus disrupting the fictions.  In modern times, myths and other tales about whores are thus limited to those told about fictional characters (including those played by real people in “sex trafficking” roadshows), and those we tell about ourselves (and can successfully bury the truth about).  But it’s not always easy to separate fact from fiction when discussing the lives of courtesans who lived prior to the information age, and in some cases it’s practically impossible.

Case in point:  Marion Delorme, a French courtesan of the 17th century.  A few facts about her are well-known and not generally disputed:  she was born on October 3rd, 1613, the daughter of Jean de Lou, sieur de l’Orme and his wife Marie Chastelain.  She was rich, beautiful, well-educated and had little interest in conventional marriage, and her second known lover was Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis de Cinq-Mars, who was a favorite (and possibly lover) of King Louis XIII; she stayed with him until his death in 1642.  In her twenties she became the hostess of a salon which after 1648 became a meeting place for the enemies of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, and when he sent men to arrest her on July 2nd, 1650 they reported back that she had died suddenly on June 30th from an overdose of antimony she had taken to induce an abortion.  And that is the extent of what we know for (reasonably) certain; everything else about her life is speculation, ranging from the highly likely to the highly dubious to the patently absurd.

idelorm001p1Though she began working as a courtesan sometime after she began hosting the salon, it’s uncertain how quickly the former followed the latter; she is said to have been secretly married to Cinq-Mars, but presumably it was in both their interests not to reveal that so as to avoid interfering with their other partners.  One of Marion’s was said to have been Cardinal Richelieu, who had first introduced Cinq-Mars to King Louis because he believed he could control the young nobleman and thereby influence His Majesty.  But Richelieu had completely misjudged Cinq-Mars; instead, the young man told the King of the Cardinal’s treachery, pressed for him to be executed and tried to organize a noble rebellion against Richelieu.  Alas, he was caught by Richelieu’s spies and executed in 1642.  Marion was not implicated in the conspiracy, but it seems likely that her sympathies were aligned with those of her dead husband; when the civil war called the Fronde began in 1648, those who opposed Richelieu’s successor Cardinal Mazarin gathered at her salon.  But some doubt her convenient death practically on the eve of her arrest; a legend claims that the officials sent to detain her were either deceived or bribed into reporting her death, that the elaborate funeral which followed was a sham, and that Marion fled to England, married a lord and lived to 1706.

None of those speculations test the limits of credulity, but they are only the beginning; other accounts claim she later had all sorts of adventures, eventually returned to Paris and died in abject poverty in 1741…which would have made her 127!  And in his Illuminati, the writer Gérard de Nerval recounts a legend that she used esoteric means to delay aging, was actually 150 at her death, and was already involved in the circles of power when King Henry IV died in 1610.  Furthermore, her involvement in court intrigue at a time later generations find fascinating ensured numerous fictional versions of her life;  most notably, Victor Hugo wrote the drama Marion Delorme (1831) which was later adapted into opera by both Giovanni Bottesini (1862) and Amilcare Ponchielli (1885).fictional Marion Delorme illustration  It has also been suggested that the villainous Milady de Winter of The Three Musketeers is based loosely on Marion, which if true would be rather ironic given that Milady was the agent of the fictional Richelieu and Marion the (eventual) enemy of the real one.

In general, the lives of famous people who lived more recently are clearer to us than those who lived very long ago, and the more remote the era the more likely true biographical details are to be mixed with legends and myths.  But when the subject is a whore, the truth tends not only to be harder to find (due to fabrications by the lady, her clients, her enemies and her clients’ enemies), but also harder to extract from the mythic landscape to which so many people would prefer to confine us.

Read Full Post »

Nerdy and political ramblings from a modern-day courtesan and art historian in Chicago.  -  Aspasia’s description of her blog

WordPress gives bloggers a lot of space, and I mean a whole lot; I’m halfway through my fourth year of blogging now, and I’ve only used 18% of my allotment.  Nor have I been parsimonious with it; if you take a look at my Resources page, you’ll realize that some of those PDFs are enormous.  But as I’ve said before, I’m every bit as much a librarian as I am a whore; I want this blog to be a resource for activists, and judging by the feedback I’m succeeding.

Aspasia 2In addition to the studies, essays, books, pictures, charts and other such materials I’ve also hosted mirror copies of several of Dr. Brooke Magnanti’s posts; so, when Aspasia told me she was leaving activism to pursue other personal goals and deleting her blog, I had no hesitation in offering her the space to archive her posts here.  I’ve copied them all into static pages backdated to the original posting dates, and have indexed them below; this post will also be replicated as a static page and will thus serve as the permanent gateway to Aspasia’s space here at The Honest Courtesan.  Though the only practical way to preserve the comment threads was as static images, please feel free to continue commenting in the regular way below any of these posts.  Perhaps one day Aspasia may restart her blog, but until then she assures me she’ll still be a regular in the comments here.  I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing her luck in her future endeavors, and in hoping she won’t be a stranger.

August 2011

Now for Something Completely Different!

September 2011

Torchwood and Sex Worker Stereotypes
PLEASE think of the CHILDREN!!!!!
Because the Jokes Write Themselves
Feminism:  Still Not Getting It
A Brief FYI
Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves
Upcoming Mega Post

October 2011

It’s Still Slut-shaming
New Obsession:  Lost Girl
Sometimes Even I’m Shocked

November 2011

The Succubus:  Myth and Reality
This is What Sanity Looks Like
All Clogged Up
Lafayette Explains It All
Whores and Courtesans and Others, Oh My!

December 2011

Sci-Fi Geekout- What If The Doctor Was Helen Mirren?

January 2012

No, This Shouldn’t Be Shocking At All
A Game of Thrones- Official Trailer for Series 2

February 2012

Chicago Skin Tax

May 2012

Chris Rock on Political-Tribal Mentality
What is the Difference?

June 2012

Textbook Definition of Misogyny
Forget Magic Mike, Support THIS Movie About Strippers

August 2012

Proposition 35 & Sex Worker Relationships

September 2012

Thank You, Robyn
Only When We Don’t Like You
And This is Why WE Don’t Like YOU…
Nicholas Kristof’s IAmA Reddit

November 2012

Staying Sane v. Engaging in Discussion: Comment Threads on Sex Work Articles
Snarky Thoughts on Election Day
Sex Worker Allies and Education
Quote of the Day
Yet Another Example of Feminists Not Fucking “Getting It”
‘Tis the Season!

December 2012

Feminism: Not Fucking Getting It…AGAIN! Part: Infinity
Buddy Cole on Vice
A Remembrance Two Days Late

January 2013

And Thank You for Proving My Point
Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

February 2013

Chicago-area Announcements: Participants Needed for Study
Hey, That’s Me! And Other General Things…
Join Me in the Fight Against Whorephobia!
Gail Dines on Being Called a Crusader

April 2013

The Problem With A Name

August 2013

Origin Story: Sex Workers Can’t Have Relationships
Difference of Opinion
Media Inquiries

September 2013

Hooker, Please: On the True Death of True Blood
Crabs in a Bucket
Beyond the Breasts: Femen Truly Exposed
Guest Columnist: Aspasia Bonasera

October 2013

Upcoming Post: Recap of “Ghost Adventures: Mustang Ranch”

December 2013

12/17/13
Study Hour!

January 2014

This is the End, My Friend

Read Full Post »

Mountains are the same as in the old times,
But streams are never the same;
They keep flowing day and night,
So they can not be the same.
The men of fame are like the streams;
Once gone, they never return.
  -  Hwang Jini

My column on the kisaeng, theHwang Jin Yi movie poster Korean equivalent of geisha, opened with a sijo poem by Hwang Jini, the most famous and beloved of her profession.  In recent years, she has essentially become the archetypal kisaeng, and as in the case of Western courtesans her life has provided the inspiration for novels, a television show  and a movie; of course, these fictional treatments are considerably embellished and dramatized, and it’s difficult to tell history from folk legend from deliberate “improvement”.  In this case, the task is further complicated by the dearth of English-language sources on the subject, but there is still enough to enable a sketch of a most unconventional woman of almost superhuman charisma who made her own way in a society where that was simply not allowed.  Hwang Jini’s extraordinary presence and strength of will is a large part of why modern Korean women find her so fascinating; she is a splendid example of what I call an archeofeminist, a woman who uses her femininity to advantage rather than rejecting it.

She was born about 1506 in Kaesong, which lies in what is now North Korea.  Her mother, Chin Hyungeum, was of the cheonmin caste, but her exact profession is unknown; some sources say she was a kisaeng herself, though this seems unlikely given her poverty.  She was, however, extraordinarily beautiful, and attracted the attention of a young yangban (nobleman) named Hwang Chinsa, who took her as a mistress for a time.  They had one daughter, Jini, who from a very early age was recognized as exceptional both in beauty and in musical skill; it is said that she made the decision to become a kisaeng after a young man killed himself or pined away over her, and she realized such powerful appeal would win her fortune.  Now, it is very likely that the decision to send her to a kisaeng house was actually her mother’s; training started very early (sometimes as young as eight), so it hardly seems credible that she was already breaking hearts and making major life-decisions at such a tender age.  However, the very fact that the legend portrays her as choosing her own destiny demonstrates the strength of the impression she made on people.

In Jini’s day, Confucianism was still solidifying its hold on the upper class, and different schools of thought were still vying for control.  Though the kisaeng were technically of slave status, the government did not claim ownership of them until almost a century after her death; she therefore enjoyed a freedom later generations of kisaeng were denied.  After her training was complete she set out to earn a living, taking up almost immediately with a gibu named Yi Saeng.  Though some gibu were jealous or behaved pimpishly, this does not seem to have been the case with Yi Saeng, who appears to have been almost a father-figure to her.  The two took a long sightseeing trip to Mount Kumgang, with Jini (who by then was using her stage name, Myeongwol [“Bright Moon”]) obtaining their needs via casual prostitution.  This story illustrates several important points about her character: first, her ability even at so young an age (she was probably about 15 then) to deal with men as an equal, the hallmark of all great courtesans; second, her willingness to use her sexuality to obtain what she wanted; and third, her total lack of artificiality.  The latter was her most striking characteristic: she spoke her mind freely, with little of the formality which was the norm in Korean society; she generally went without makeup at a time when most kisaeng painted their faces elaborately; and she often dressed attractively but plainly, with very little jewelry.

Hwang Jini (portrait from Korean textbook, c. 1910)But her beauty, personality, intelligence, musical talent and skill at poetry allowed her to seduce men almost without conscious effort, and when she actually applied herself she was practically an irresistible force.  One of her conquests was a misogynistic government official named So Seyang, who bragged he would keep her for a month and then dismiss her without regret; at the end of the time he begged her to stay and she refused, composing a poem to tell him goodbye.  Another of her famous clients was a noted musician named Yi Sajong, with whom she is said to have lived for six years; given the extremely short professional lives of the kisaeng, this was presumably in her thirties, after she had made her fortune.  And a fortune it was; though it could not compare with the wealth of a yangban or even that of a successful European courtesan of her time, it was more than enough to support her in comfort until her death in 1560.  One of the reasons for this success was her ability to deal with men in a completely unsentimental manner, which allowed her to always pursue the most lucrative arrangement available without hesitation or regret; this has been romantically explained as the result of a tragic love affair in her youth resulting in an inability to fall in love again, but that is almost certainly a mere fiction invented by male biographers unable or unwilling to grasp just how pragmatic a whore can be.

There was only one man in her life who seemed to rise above the level of friend or valued client, and that was the philosopher Seo Kyung Duk, under whom she studied for a time.  He was the only man said to have been impervious to her charms, and though she may have at first viewed him as a challenge she eventually came to admire his strength and steadfastness:  she is known to have described him as one of the “three wonders of Kaesong”, the other two being the Pakyon Falls and herself (modesty was clearly not among her virtues).  Though she left her home at a young age, she returned for a number of visits over the years; it was a place of great natural beauty, and her appreciation for such is demonstrated not only in her poetry and her trip to Mount Kumgang (at a time when she could have been occupied far more productively), but also in the fact that she asked to be buried in a simple grave on a riverbank in Kaesong.  She wished to die in the same way she had lived:  practically, honestly, and without the ceremony and pretense which was the norm in her society.

Read Full Post »

Here are three propositions from the stance of a Devil’s Advocate.  1) A sex worker puts on an act to please her client; might he not then think that all women are acting when they’re being nice to him? How can he tell reality from acting, and does it matter?  2) If women could make as much money doing other kinds of work, there would undoubtedly be fewer harlots.  So, harlotry needs women to be impecunious, and men to have money. If there was real equality or equivalence, would harlotry become an historical oddity?  Is it therefore in the harlot’s best interests to maintain the patriarchy?  3) Sex workers see men at their best and worst; wouldn’t a retired courtesan therefore make the best partner for a man?

Nana by Edouard Manet (1877)1)  It’s certainly possible that a man could become paranoid in that way; in fact, it’s the plot of Jacques Brel’s song “Next”, which I featured in my very first hooker songs column.  However, I’ve never actually heard a man complain about that in real life or online; while clients do indeed seem concerned about telling the difference between a professional’s behavior  and genuine romantic interest, they seem less worried about amateurs’ behavior and more concerned about not being able to enjoy themselves fully because they know it isn’t “real”.

2)  You’re making several assumptions here which are simply not true.  The first, which is a very common one, is that men have more disposable income for some external reason (“patriarchy” or whatever), when in fact most of the reason is that men and women have different priorities.  Men will always make more than women on average, because a lot more men are willing to sell their souls, give up personal time and drive themselves into an early grave in order to succeed.  Furthermore, only a certain segment of whores do the work because they are in dire need; a lot larger fraction (especially in the West) simply prefer the work to the alternatives.  Take me, for example; don’t you think I could succeed in some high-paying conventional career?  Of course I could, but I don’t want to; being a whore is for me much easier and much more pleasant than the other options which bring in the same level of income.  I’m not remotely alone in feeling that way, and that won’t change no matter how much artificial “equality” the social engineers inflict on society.  That’s one of the main reasons the neofeminists hate us and want our profession violently suppressed: whores will never be good little collectivist worker bees in their totalitarian dystopia, so they want us to have no other option.  In short, the so-called “patriarchy” will maintain itself without the help of harlots and in spite of neofeminist attempts to reprogram human nature to fit their psychotic delusions.

3)  My husband certainly thinks so, and I’m sure he’s not the only one.

(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 5,229 other followers