Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

From what you’ve told me you don’t need an ambulance…You could try a warm bath but if you collapse, become unconscious [or] unresponsive…it’s 999.  –  Heidi Nicholls

I’m very disappointed at the tardiness of Halloween spirit the last few years; there’s only one more Links column before the big day, yet I’ve seen virtually no seasonal links and only one seasonal video (the first one below, contributed by Aspasia).  I had to go looking for the second one myself, though I’m quite pleased with it.  Everything above the first video is from Rick Horowitz, and the links between the videos from Brooke Magnanti (“colon”), ManCrack (“Dick”),  Clarissa (“hammer”), Jesse Walker (“clowns”), Molli Desi (“medicine”), Saladin Ahmed (“authoritarian”), Radley Balko (“prohibition” & “bicycle”), and Mistress Matisse (“plug”).

From the Archives

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Usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open for increasingly tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives.  –  “Politicizing the Personal

lipstick on a pigIt’s often easier to write about something than to think of something to write about, which is one of the reasons this blog is so structured; since I publish a new column every single day, it’s important that I do everything I can to keep the mental bearings lubricated.  Though in September of 2011 I was still a long way from the weekly format I use now, there were a number of recurring monthly features such as the Q & A and  Miscellanea columns; I usually featured an “update” column as well, but since I had already used the title “September Updates” back in 2010 I went with “They Speak for Themselves” this time.  That was my first indicator that I would have to change my way of doing things soon; most of the month-names had already been used and the rest would be gone by the end of the year.Ahmed Hasnain  I don’t recall if I was already thinking of switching to weekly updates by this point, but I certainly was by December; in fact, I’m not really sure why I waited until February to start “That Was the Week That Was” instead of just doing it from the first week of January.  Such are the mysteries of the human mind.

Nailiya 1913Besides the monthly features, holidays  and other special occasions (such as Banned Books Week) were always good for me; in addition, my two-month-old “One Year Ago Today” feature was a big help in coming up with column topics.  For example, this month’s harlotography, “Lulu White“, was a sequel to the previous year’s “Storyville”;  “Tyranny By Consensus” followed an earlier column about AHF, “Inappropriate Women” followed my very first hooker song column, “More Terminology” is a direct sequel to its one-year predecessor,  “Hiding from the Light” is a commentary on its, and “Nasty Words” is an elaboration on one of the points made in the column a year before it.  And though “Profound Mental Disabilities” was based on a then-current news story it fell exactly a year after my first column on BDSM.  But inspiration didn’t always have to wait a year; “The Ouled Nail“, about a Berber tribe in which prostitution is normal, inspired both “The Girls from Tarzana” and “Dance of the Seasons“.

Feminism women as childrenThen, as now, news stories often provided a launching point for commentary; “She Should Know Better“, “The Other Foot” and “Surplus Women” fall into that category, as do “Setting Women’s Rights Back a Century” (the beginning of the anti-college-sex crusade), “The Mote and the Beam” (the beginning of the anti-Backpage crusade), and “Size Matters” (the beginning of Phoenix’s anti-whore crusade).  Other columns featured several stories I saw as linked by a single topic; “Wise Investment“, “Uncommon Sense” and “Dominating the News” fall into that category.  And though my very first guest column appeared this month, a two-parter by veteran activist Norma Jean Almodovar, it would be another year and a half before such columns  became a regular feature.

As usual, there were a few that don’t quite fit easily into groups.  “A Thousand Words” makes a point with two pictures, “To Spite Their Faces” criticizes neofeminist attacks on an economist, “Politicizing the Personal” debunks the feminist maxim that “the personal is political”, and “Don’t Take My Word For It” shares a couple of other ladies’ views on male sex workers for women.The Arlington and Mahogany Hall

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Mabon 2014

Blessed Mabon
In my way of thinking, it’s never too early for the arrival of autumn.  Blessed Be!  If you’d like to see your art featured here for Halloween, Yule or Candlemas, please contact me as soon as possible!

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Lammas 2014

Lammas 2014 by Man Crack
For my fifth year of blogging, I’m starting a new tradition; every sabbat I’ll feature a piece of seasonal art by one of my readers.  This one is by Man Crack; if you like to commission something from her you can email me and I’ll forward it to her.  The next such occasion is the autumnal equinox, September 23rd; this year; if you’d like the job, send me a sample of your work within the next three weeks.  If you prefer a future sabbat (Halloweeen, Yule, etc) you needn’t wait; just let me know your preference.

Blessed Be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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