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Lady Castlemaine…[went] away…upon some slighting words of the king, so that…the king, the next morning, under pretence of going a hunting, went to see her and make friends…After which she came back to court, and commands the king as much as ever, and hath and doth what she will.  –  The Diary of Samuel Pepys, July 22nd, 1663

Though the majority of whores have always been born in the working class, when disposition, circumstance and necessity converge to make harlotry the most attractive choice, women of noble birth are just as quick to make it as their humbler sisters.  And when looks and personality converge to give her a higher-than-ordinary degree of sexual power over men, a noble-born courtesan is no more likely to be sparing in the use of that power than any other.

Barbara Villiers was born in Westminster on November 17th, 1640*, the only child of William Villiers, the 2nd Viscount Grandison, and his wife Mary (heiress of the 1st Viscount Bayning).  She would have been a very wealthy little girl after her father’s death in battle** had it not been for the fact that he had given his entire fortune to the Cavalier war effort; Mary and her daughter were left in poverty, and she was forced by necessity to marry her husband’s cousin Charles (the 2nd Earl of Anglesey) in order to have any income at all.  The Commonwealth was not a good time for the Villiers family; though like many others they had officially espoused loyalty to Cromwell, they secretly supported the claim of the exiled Charles II and lived under a cloud of suspicion due to their active participation on his father’s side during the Civil War.  Barbara was raised in the country by relatives, but by 15 she had blossomed into an exceptionally beautiful young woman (tall and voluptuous, with chestnut hair and eyes of so dark a blue they looked black); her mother brought her to London with the idea of marrying her to a wealthy family despite her lack of a dowry.  Within a year the intelligent, independent Barbara had become the mistress of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, and on April 14th, 1659 she married a young lawyer named Roger Palmer, heir to a large fortune, over his family’s vociferous objections (including, but not limited to, the fact that he was Catholic and she Anglican).  Though on paper they never divorced, in reality they separated in 1662.

The reason for that separation was, as you may have already guessed, her infidelity.  In the autumn after their marriage, the royalists dispatched Barbara to The Hague with letters and money for the King; since she was only 18 at the time, it was felt she would arouse less suspicion (and her person was much less likely to be searched in any case).  Before she returned to England, she had already become Charles’ lover; at first they were relatively discreet about it, but by the Restoration of the monarchy in April of 1661 it was secret to virtually nobody.  When her daughter Anne was born in February of 1661 the King, her husband and Chesterfield all claimed the child as theirs, and when Palmer was created Baron Limerick and Earl of Castlemaine later that year it was whispered that the titles were payment for his wife’s services; unlike the husbands of Lillie Langtry and Alice Keppel, however, Palmer was not at all sanguine about the arrangement.  When Barbara’s second child, Charles, was born in June of 1662, Palmer had him baptized Catholic; Barbara later had him re-baptized Anglican in a ceremony attended by His Majesty, who publicly proclaimed the child his.  It was the last straw for Palmer, who never saw his wife again; though he had a long (but stormy) political career until his death in 1705, he was deeply humiliated by his reputation as “Europe’s best-known cuckold”.

When the new Queen, Catherine of Braganza, arrived at court from her honeymoon soon after baby Charles’ birth, she discovered her new husband’s mistress already in control; the fact was hammered home when the King demanded she accept Barbara’s appointment as a Lady of the Bedchamber, an official position which would give both an income and rooms at the Palace.  The Queen had already been told about Barbara by friends, so naturally she refused; Charles became furious and sent the ladies she had brought with her home to Portugal.  The King’s chief advisor, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, hated Barbara with a passion, but gritted his teeth and advised the Queen to relent for her own good; Barbara repaid this reluctantly-given help by plotting with his political enemies to bring about his downfall in August of 1667.

These are only a few examples of Barbara’s extraordinary selfishness and viciousness.  Though she was witty and charismatic and could be generous and even kind when it suited her, she had a terrible temper and was merciless to those she perceived as enemies; she was described by George Reresby as “the finest Woman of her age“, but by John Evelyn as the “curse of our nation“.  She had a powerful hold on King Charles, partly due to her looks and partly to her legendary sexual prowess; her influence was so great that after one of their many arguments she could always get him to come crawling to her, and on more than one occasion she actually got him to apologize in front of witnesses.  He showered her with gifts, and not long after his coronation gave her a payment of £30,000 (about £2.5 million today); he also granted her an annual pension of £4700 (£400,000) from the Post Office, and allowed her to take additional money out of his own purse whenever she liked.  After her sudden conversion to Catholicism in December of 1663, she also made extra money by charging French and Spanish diplomats for using her persuasive powers to sway the Anglican King in their favor.

Barbara bore King Charles three more children:  Henry (1663), Charlotte (1664) and George (1665); all of her children were eventually granted titles, even the youngest (also called Barbara), who was born in 1672 and was probably the daughter of John Churchill.  Neither Barbara nor King Charles had ever been faithful to each other, but while the King did not care she was quite jealous because it meant her income.  The concern was not an invalid one; since April of 1668 the King’s favorite had been the younger and far more even-tempered Nell Gwyn.  In June of 1670 he gave Barbara one final set of generous gifts as a kind of severance package:  she was given Nonsuch Palace, built by Henry VIII, and the titles Baroness Nonsuch, Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland (the latter was a true peerage, made with a condition allowing her to pass the title to her son Charles).  She was still nominally the official mistress until 1673, when the Test Act banned Catholics from holding office; she thus lost her position as Lady of the Bedchamber to Louise de Kéroualle, Nell Gwyn’s chief rival.  In 1676 she moved to Paris with her four younger children, but returned to England in 1680 and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the King until his death in February of 1685.  By this time she had developed a terrible gambling habit, and in 1682 had Nonsuch Palace entirely dismantled so she could sell off its expensive materials to pay her debts.  In her later years she became involved with a series of unscrupulous fortune-hunters; after Roger Palmer’s death in 1705 she actually married one of these, though it was later annulled when she discovered he already had a wife.  In 1709 she developed what was then called dropsy, a condition which caused her to become so edematous that she died of congestive heart failure on October 9th.  It is clear that Barbara, like so many other courtesans, had been totally unable to recognize that her sex appeal had deserted her, and adjust her expectations, lifestyle and expenditures so as to live out her declining years in comfort and some small measure of dignity.  But then, dignity was never something that Barbara was very good at, even when she still had her youth and looks.

*Because Catholic realms (including France and Ireland) had already converted to the Gregorian calendar at this time but the United Kingdom had not, it is not unusual to see her birthday expressed in the new style as November 27th, and some sources record the year as 1641.
**There is considerable disagreement about which Civil War battle claimed Villiers’ life; Wikipedia says Newbury (September 20th, 1643); other sources say Bristol (July 26th, 1643); and Bishop Burnet’s contemporary history says Edgehill (October 23rd, 1642).

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 14th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work.  The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.  “Let Me Help” discusses the first two factors, but I recently discovered a fine example of the third:  a situation of genuine coercion which nonetheless runs counter to many “trafficking” claims.

…Pardip Singh [of Indianapolis, Indiana]…was convicted…of promotion of human trafficking, criminal confinement, intimidation, battery and domestic battery.  On May 11, 2012, Singh called several men and told them that for $500 they could come to his…apartment and have sex with a “teacher’s daughter from India”…The first potential client to show up learned that the victim was Singh’s wife and witnessed Singh hit her…that man “told Singh he should not treat his wife that way and then left”…Just after midnight on May 12, 2012…police…responded to a domestic disturbance at the couple’s apartment…the victim, “visibly shaken and crying,” told the officer she needed help…

Pardip SinghRight from the start, the true story belies the familiar “trafficking” porn.  Singh is clearly no slick, mastermind pimp with insidious hypnotic powers, but a crude bully.  He didn’t have a dozen slave-captives confined in dog kennels or controlled via “Stockholm syndrome” or magical mind-control philter, but one wife that he attempted to control through garden-variety brutality.  He didn’t advertise her on Backpage or any other site used by sex workers, but by contacting people personally.  Though the rescue industry’s professional victims entrance their salivating audiences with tales of daily parades of dozens of callous, uncaring men oblivious to their plight, the very first man who answered Singh’s advert was disgusted by what he found and refused to participate.  And while those same prohibitionist shills claim to have been successfully held captive for years, Singh’s wife escaped the very next day after he started trying to “traffic” her.

…Court documents describe a devastating chain of events that began March 13, 2006, when the victim became Singh’s wife in an arranged marriage in their native India…Singh was living in the United States but traveled to India for the marriage…After the wedding, he returned to the United States while his new wife stayed in India to attend college.  In 2012, after obtaining a nursing degree, the victim moved to the United States to live with Singh in New Jersey…Within a few weeks, Singh began physically abusing [her]…Singh was angry that the woman’s family did not send the couple more money [so he] took her to Atlantic City to try to get her a job in a strip club…which he believed would generate a more immediate windfall.  Singh would not allow the woman to speak with her parents except when he was within earshot…and regularly hit and abused her.  During one week when Singh worked as a semi truck driver…he forced [her] to remain in the back of the truck cab during a long interstate trip.  At stops, he would get into the back…and force her to have sex with him…The events in Indianapolis occurred about a week later…

The conventional narrative tells us that huge cartels of slick international gangsters abduct teen girls by the tens of thousands and reap vast profits without detection, but what do we see here instead?  A greedy, pathetic wife-beater who tricked a grown woman (and university graduate) via a venerable social institution.  This sort of “pimp” is much closer to the norm than the racist stereotype in clownish attire, yet I don’t see anyone screaming for the criminalization of marriage.  Prohibitionists are fond of saying that sex workers “believe pimps are their boyfriends” because they can’t face the uncomfortable truth that neither emotional attachment nor a license from the state is a guarantee against emotional or economic exploitation in a relationship, and that the main difference between a “pimp” and a “sex trafficking” fetishist’s own abusive spouse is the label. tractor-trailer

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My husband wants me to dress as his slut when he takes me out or when he has friends over; is this normal?

I think it’s a mistake to worry too much about what is “normal”.  “Normal” men in patriarchal societies tend to want their wives to dress in a way they perceive as modest; this derives from a desire to protect their “property” from those who might trespass or steal it.  The more patriarchal the society, the more “modestly” it expects women to dress; in societies where women’s status is higher, women tend to dress more provocatively, and in those where it is lower, they tend to dress more concealingly.  There are few if any exceptions, yet neofeminists teach a looking-glass version of reality in which dressing sexily is “objectification” and a manifestation of “patriarchy”, despite abundant real-world evidence that the exact opposite is true.  Now, this is not to say that one individual man, or indeed large minorities of men, might not prefer women who “belong” to them dressed in a revealing fashion; however, the majority (“normal”) view has always been the opposite.

Given the language you use (“his slut”) your husband seems to belong to this minority category, which means that in the strictest sense of the word it is not “normal”.  So what?  Why does it matter whether something is “normal” or not?  Most people deviate from the norm in at least a few ways, and nobody seems to think this is a problem except where sex is involved.  Don’t concern yourself with whether his request is something the majority of men would want; rather ask how it makes you feel, and how it affects your relationship.  Does it make you feel attractive and sexy to dress provocatively, or does it make you feel uncomfortable and ashamed?  Does it make your husband happier?  Does it seem to spice up your sex life?  Do you like or dislike the way others react to you when you dress that way?  Do you like to do it in certain circumstances, but not in others?  These are the questions you need to ask yourself, rather than whether conventional people would approve.  And if dressing like a “slut” at certain times (or even a lot of the time) works for you and makes you both happy, nobody else has a right to condemn you for your wardrobe choices.

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

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I’m a 24-year-old girl who feels that if cheating is inevitable, and most men have paid for sex, then there’s no way that I can ever be in a healthy relationship.  While I support sex workers and want them to work safely, I refuse to marry a man who has paid for sex; I would rather be alone than do this.  How can I pursue a healthy, honest relationship if I can’t trust men?

If you define “healthy” as “unrealistically perfect”, then you’re correct that you’ll never be in a “healthy” relationship.  Human beings are not perfect, and men are not women; if you expect perfection, and furthermore define that perfection as men behaving like women, then you are indeed doomed to disappointment.  Healthy relationships aren’t those in which both partners meet and never fall below some unrealistic standard of behavior; they’re those in which each partner recognizes that the other is a flawed human being who will inevitably do upsetting, disappointing, hurtful or infuriating things, and that he or she is really no better no matter how much he or she might like to think so.  “I refuse to marry a man who has paid for sex; I would rather be alone than do this” is just as unrealistic (and, frankly, as immature) as “I refuse to marry a woman who is not a virgin; I would rather be alone than do this.”  If you insist on controlling your partner’s past, you obviously mean to control his future, and any self-respecting man in his right mind should run screaming from such a danger sign (just as any self-respecting woman in her right mind should run screaming from the counterpart).

Note that I’m not telling you that all men will cheat, because that wouldn’t be true; what I’m saying is that many will, and that it’s foolish to throw out a man you profess to love merely because he has a fairly-typical flaw.  I might point out that many a client comes to sex workers precisely because he is wise enough not to discard a woman he loves merely because she has the correspondingly-typical female flaw, namely losing interest in sex after a few years of marriage.  Everyone agrees that good relationships need to be based on more than sex, so why is it that so many people believe that a sexual disagreement is sufficient grounds for ending an otherwise-good relationship?  Even if a man cheats on you, applying some mechanistic “zero tolerance” rule like a guillotine to sever a connection you find beneficial in every other way is cheating both yourself and him.

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

 

 

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I started to fall in love with an escort I first saw as a client; there was a tremendous spark between us from the first, and she always gave me extra time and soon started refusing payment entirely.  We had great dom/sub sexual chemistry, but it wasn’t just that and we soon started to get very serious.  However, she did not want to give up her financial independence and I’m not wealthy.  Also, I was worried that I only believed I was in love with her; I couldn’t trust that there wasn’t a pimp or pimp-surrogate somewhere, or that she was somehow scamming me.  I also didn’t want to be a rescuer figure, and didn’t want a relationship I could never really be honest to my family about.  I didn’t disapprove of what she did, but the whole thing made me uncomfortable regardless and I worried something terrible could happen.  So it eventually got messy and complex and I cut it off terribly and hurt her.  The whole thing feels unresolved; I don’t know if it’s over, or if I’m over her.  Should I just stay away because of what it is?

As I’ve explained in many previous essays, sex workers’ relationships actually aren’t dramatically different from others’ relationships unless their partners try to make them different.  When a reader asked my husband,  “How do you know that she won’t fall for someone else the same way that she fell for you?”, this was his reply:

Like any other marriage.  She’s not more likely to fall in love with someone else than any other woman would be.  You might as well worry about your wife falling in love with some guy she sees in the produce aisle at the supermarket.  There has to be trust.  I have to trust her just like any other man has to trust his wife; if you don’t have trust your relationship won’t work whether she’s an escort or a secretary.

Unfortunately, you could not give the lady your trust.  This is not a recrimination; you said it yourself, and people can’t help their feelings.  You mentioned “pimps”, but as I have explained before that is nothing more than a pejorative term for any non-client male in a whore’s life; managers, drivers, bodyguards, boyfriends, landlords and even male relatives and friends are tarred with the epithet “pimp” even if their behavior is no different from that of a man in the equivalent relationship with an amateur.  I might point out, in fact, that had your girlfriend been arrested while the two of you were together, the police might very well have accused you of being her “pimp”.  So you’re right in that there really was a pimp somewhere…and it was you.  Again, that’s not a recrimination, just a wake-up call about how cops and prohibitionists would have labeled your relationship (especially since it was a dom-sub one; just imagine what a reporter would’ve made of that!)  Not wanting to play the part of a white knight, and not wanting to be dishonest with your family, are certainly valid concerns…however, I must point out that her not wanting to give up her independent income makes her a far less likely candidate for “rescue” than many a husband-hunting amateur.  And since I sincerely doubt you are planning to discuss the intimate details of any future dom-sub relationship with your family, I do think the thing about honesty is a bit of a cop-out.

As I said, nobody can help the way we feel; we practically absorb cultural prejudices and fears with our mothers’ milk, and it’s nearly impossible to root all of them out no matter how hard we try.  I wish I could give you some magical means of erasing your concerns, but I don’t have that power; had the relationship gone on you would probably both been hurt a lot worse.  So I think it’s for the best that y’all both move on:  you to a woman who won’t trigger the biases you never asked to be burdened with, and her to a man who somehow managed to avoid or shed them.

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

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Constructive Criticism

I have a great relationship with my girlfriend, but her fellatio has never been satisfying to me.  Is there a loving, respectful way to discuss sexual performance with a partner so that it becomes more satisfying?  She’s wonderful and deliciously devoid of hang ups, but I have to become more skilled at guiding her to what will satisfy me.

WRONG WRONG WRONG!People need feedback in order to improve their techniques at anything, and sex is not an exception.  However, since most people tend to be shy (to one degree or another) about sexual talk, it’s entirely possible for a person to make it well into adulthood without ever having received any kind of helpful feedback about sexual technique.  This is bad for two reasons:  first, the person may continue in some bad habit that could easily have been corrected if discovered in the teens or early twenties; and second, the person may well assume that because his or her technique has never been criticized, the one who finally does so is simply hard to please or being insulting.  Also, while men nearly always think of sex as a performance, a lot of women never do; they’ve been told (especially by neofeminists and other anti-sex types) that men just want passive collections of orifices, and are surprised and unsure of how to react when a man tells them otherwise (from what you’ve told me your partner is not like that, but it still bears mentioning as part of the bigger picture).

The best way to criticize anyone, especially a person with whom one has a personal relationship, is to emphasize the positive rather than dwelling on the negative:  “I really like it when you do such-and-such” tends to be accepted much more readily than “I don’t like it when you do this other thing.”  Since she isn’t hung up she will almost certainly do more of whatever you praised, and over time you can gently guide her to doing it exactly the way you like it without hurting her feelings.  If you’re lucky, even mentioning it in the first place may open a dialog; she may ask “what else do I do that you really like?” or even “is there anything I do that you don’t like?”  If the latter question comes up, answer honestly but don’t insult or harp; not “Oh, God, I really hate when you use your teeth!” but rather, “Well, sometimes it hurts when you use your teeth.”  And remember, criticism tends to be more palatable when sandwiched between thick slices of praise.

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

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It seems to me that since sex doesn’t invariably lead to procreation any more, we have a lot of mumbo jumbo about “emotional commitment” and such.  Why is sex supposed to be for fun when you are young and single, but then when you get married it is supposed to take on some sacred, personal significance such that you don’t do it with anyone else?

Reed warbler and cuckoo chickFor most of recorded history, female marital fidelity was more important than male for the simple reason that we always know who a baby’s mother is, but until recently had no way of being sure of the identity of the father.  Since most men were repulsed by the idea of spending their resources on (and even leaving their property to) a cuckoo in the nest, a woman’s “purity” and “chastity” became the ancient world’s version of a credit rating; just as the latter helps to convince lenders that a modern person will pay back credit which has been extended him, so the “purity rating” helped to convince men with resources to invest them in a woman and her children.  Originally, women without such a rating weren’t shunned or stigmatized; they simply weren’t considered good marital prospects.  But as the centuries wore on such “purity” went from being a bonus to being a necessity, and the lack of it became a mark against a woman’s character (much as poor credit is becoming in our modern society).  By the Victorian Era, the emphasis on chastity had spawned the notion that proper women were totally asexual, and female sexuality thus became a sign of either bad breeding or psychological/spiritual damage.

For all this time, male fidelity was never important to society as a whole because children’s maternity was never in question; it wasn’t until the appearance of that peculiar blend of pseudoscience, authoritarianism and Christian moralism we call “progressivism” that anyone other than Christian clergy and wronged women really gave a damn about male sexual behavior.  Progressive thought held that if only “experts” educated in “scientific” methods of social engineering (including eugenics and control of the foods and other substances people ingested) could gain control of society, the human race could be “perfected” and we’d all live in a Utopia.  First-wave feminists embraced this excuse to mind everyone else’s business, and one of the main goals of the resulting “social purity” movement was inflicting the societal expectation of female asexuality on men as well (because sex is dirty and nasty and a “superior” man wouldn’t want it).  An avalanche of busybody laws followed, including the first widespread criminalization of sex work and alcohol, and if it weren’t for the Nazis giving eugenics a bad name it would no doubt still be just as popular as prohibitions against certain substances and sex acts (which are its ideological siblings).

Some rather ignorant people believe that these Victorian growths are things of the past, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Oh, they were tweaked somewhat in the middle decades of the 20th century, but the basic notion that members of the ruling class have the right to inflict violence upon everyone else “for their own good” is so useful a tool of control they’ll never let it go until it’s ripped from their cold, dead, severed hands.  Alcohol prohibition was scaled back somewhat, but violent pogroms against users of other intoxicants were piled on top of it; the insistence that “official” sexual relations be licensed was replaced by sanction of unlicensed but noncommercial relations coupled with violent repression of commercial ones and the expectation that “immature” non-monogamous relations would eventually give way to serial monogamy based on romantic “love”.  Furthermore, the party of the first part (hereinafter referred to as “the individual”) agrees that the party of the second part (hereinafter referred to as “society”) has the right to discourage “immature” pleasure-based relations by propaganda, shaming, pseudoscience about “sex addiction” and “negative secondary effects”, criminal prosecutions of sexual encounters that for one reason or another violate the expectations of one or more of the participants or uninvolved bystanders, or any other method society cares to introduce at a later time in perpetuam; the individual further agrees to internalize society’s discouragement of such “immature” relationstoilet plunger by a date not to exceed that of the individual’s thirtieth birthday or date of his or her first legally-contracted marriage, whichever comes first.

I think you get the picture.  Society hasn’t actually changed its old, repressive ways; in fact, it has actually expanded them and repackaged them in a different-shaped box with a colorful, “modern” wrapper in the hopes that you won’t notice that the same old oppression is still being rammed down your throat with a toilet plunger.

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

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