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Posts Tagged ‘stage names’

I was…struck by how the…treatment for these women mostly consisted of convincing them that they were victims.  –  Jessica Gutiérrez

Bad Girls 

I suspect missing information:

…sex worker…Aarti Yadav…was arrested…[for] the murder of a constable, Dilip Borole…”Yadav owed him money and Borole had been insisting that she [repay him]…Yadav offered him a drink laced with a sedative.  After he passed out, she strangled him…[then]  wrapped the body in a mattress, before setting it on fire…”

Maggie in the Media IMDb logo

Jayant Bhandari, who attended my presentation in Philadelphia, interviewed me for his podcast by phone last week after I returned home.  And a few weeks ago, I got my own IMDb page because of my appearance on The Independents.

Perquisites

Tip for reporters who don’t want to look like prohibitionist ignoramuses:  when reporting on sex work in East Asia, don’t simply say “prostitution is illegal”, but rather point out it was traditionally legal and only criminalized in the past few years due to American pressure:

…just as [US] companies…pick up the tab for employees’ lunch meetings, in Korea they subsidize…hard core boozing and…the…sex trade (never mind that prostitution is illegal)…To Koreans, the business districts of American cities appear staid, orderly and a bit dull…[Koreans say] North America is a “boring heaven” while their country is an “exciting hell.”  No salesman…gets far here unless he can sing mean, inebriated karaoke and then slug through negotiations the next morning with a thumping headache…

Against Their Will

Nobody in the Indian media seems to think it’s strange that “rescued” women want so badly to escape their “rescuers”:  “The Pune rural police have launched a search…[for] three women who escaped from a government hostel…A few months back, [they] were rescued from a brothel in Aurangabad…”  See also the next item.

Law of the Instrument

A social worker explains why she rejected the “sex trafficking” paradigm:

A few years ago I worked as a psychotherapist in a governmental institution in Mexico…we [were forced] to participate in…raids…to “rescue” victims of human trafficking…I saw how the rights of the women found in the hotel were trampled on.  I witnessed [their] physical maltreatment…This single experience made me resign my job…psychologists and social workers…were…sent in to win the confidence of the women and then use this information in an unethical way…the…["victims"] were unwilling or even angry at the idea of receiving therapy.  Some escaped from the refuges where they were housed “for their protection”.  They didn’t seem to see it as rescue…

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical Slender Man

ABC News [wrote]:  “A 14-year-old girl was arrested after allegedly setting her family’s house on fire in what authorities suspect is the latest case of Slender Man-inspired violence“…This past spring, two girls stabbed a classmate as part of a bizarre plan to prove the fictional creature was real…many reporters seemed to think it was not a weird one-off but a harbinger of a new trend, and a short burst of Slender Man media hysteria followed…the supposed Slender Man connection in the new story?  “…The teen…admitted to using the websites  Creepypasta.com and SoulEater.com, which are associated with The Slender Man“…She…”admitted” to “using” (which I assume means “reading”) Creepypasta.com, a vast depository of online horror stories that is “associated with The [sic] Slender Man” in the sense that he is one of the many characters one might encounter there…

So What Else Is New?

a…recent report…published in the journal Nature Reviews Urology  by Emmanuele Jannini…found that, essentially, the G-spot is just a sensitive area that’s part of the larger pleasure center that includes the vagina, clitoris, and urethra…a…2012…study by…Dr. Amichai Kilchevsky…found…that…what [women are] likely experiencing is a continuation of the clitoris…

Scapegoats (TW3 #10)

Given that politicians who obsess about certain kinks are nearly always practitioners of those same kinks, what are we to make of Joe Arpaio’s crusade against zoophilia?

…Arpaio says sexual deviants continue to flock to Craigslist…to locate like-minded deviants to engage in sex acts with animals.  Several suspectshave been arrested by Sheriff’s deputies, and many were later convicted and jailed…Terry Wayne Haupt…went to meet up with the Sheriff’s Office undercover black lab for the purposes of engaging in various sex acts…Arpaio says he has written to Craigslist…on three separate occasions asking the company to consider forbidding this type of solicitation…Craigslist…has never responded…

Yes, Arpaio is now doing bestiality stings.  Meanwhile, nearby in Albuquerque…

Broken Record

How low can they go?

Prostitution is common during the [New Mexico State] fair, and Albuquerque police are running…[stings in which] female officers dress up as prostitutes and [trick]…men [into talking to them]…“The officers have to be very careful about how they approach…to avoid entrapment,” [pig mouthpiece Tanner] Tixier [lied]…police are seizing the vehicles of men who are arrested…

As regular readers know, they aren’t “careful” in the least; they simply invent accusations against anyone they choose to target.  And what, pray tell, constitutes “dressing up as a prostitute”?  High-heeled boots or skinny jeans, perhaps?

The Widening Gyre

Lock up your daughters!  Sex traffickers are EVERYWHERE!!!

A new study…reveals…victims of sex trafficking are recruited in places we like to think are safe havens…girls as young as 12 and 13 are first approached…at schools, malls and even parties…The study looked at five years of cases in Minneapolis…Some 40 percent…come from families [with whom] child protection had contact…a potential [excuse] for intervention…police say major events like this summer’s All-Star Game can change the dynamics of what has become a big time business…

FYI:  looking at a bunch of police reports doesn’t qualify as a “study” of anything except cops’ and prosecutors’ masturbatory fantasies about underage girls. Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick

Like a Horse and Carriage

Gay marriage supporters claim that for two men who love each other to marry “makes a mockery of marriage”:

Two men got married in New Zealand…and people aren’t happy about it.  Heterosexuals Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick tied the knot…as part of a radio competition to win tickets to the Rugby World Cup.  The “best mates” got hitched…with tens of thousands listening live.  But…gay rights groups and social conservatives…have both condemned the sham marriage…

Picket-fence gays:  if the state is going to involve itself in people’s interpersonal contracts, I support your right to make such contracts as you see fit.  But your busybody concern for whether two people who make such a contract are habitually shoving their body parts into each other’s orifices is deeply disgusting, and you need to STFU.

Under Every Bed 

I had an ad in the Baton Rouge phone book for years, and it only barely justified its cost:

…Emily Morrow-Chenevert…said the Interstate 10 and Interstate 12 corridor makes Baton Rouge a hub for sex trafficking.  New Orleans is among the top 20 cities…and Houston and Memphis are other big destinations.  Baton Rouge…serves as a convenient stop between those places…there’s an estimated 27 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide…

It’s a “convenient stop” an hour away from New Orleans and on no credible route between it and Memphis.  Note also that the 27 million claim has shifted from all “human trafficking” victims to specifically “sex trafficking” victims.

Lower Education 

Ohio State essentially defines all unscripted human contact as rape:

At Ohio State University, to avoid being guilty of “sexual assault”…you and your partner now apparently have to agree…“regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place”…[this] impractical “agreement” requirement…[also applies] to…“touching”…[and] Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center seeks to radically narrow the concept of consent further (and ban “kissing” without verbal consent as “sexual assault”).  It says consent must be “verbal,” “enthusiastic,” and must be “asked for every step of the way”…Consent also must also be a litany of other things, such as “sober,” “informed,” “honest,” “wanted,” and “creative”…

Sold Out drag queen Facebook protest

Would Facebook dare to target picket-fence gay folk this way?

In a frankly creepy overreach of authority, Facebook is going after…drag queens, requiring that they use their “real names”…In some cases they’ve requested users send in a copy of their drivers license to prove a name is legit…Facebook just rolled out gender-neutral family options, so clearly they’re trying to appear sensitive to nonconforming identities.  So what’s with the name police?

Facebook temporarily backed down after protests, but hasn’t changed its policy.

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #335)

Once again: No, Zurich’s was NOT the first tippelzone in Europe:

…Vienna is considering installing…”drive-in brothels”…to improve working conditions for street prostitutes…The facilities were first installed in Zürich a year ago…Street prostitution in Vienna is generally legal, but…more and more restrictions [have been] enacted in recent years…

The rest of the article is actually a very good discussion of the bottleneck effect.

Paint By Numbers

Yet another cut-and-paste “sex trafficking” story:

Florida…ranks among the top five states for human trafficking…local authorities formed a team to recover victims and…increase public awareness…”it’s hidden…everywhere”…Polaris Project…Traffickers…use drugs to keep their victims…Florida…has enacted stricter laws…such as requiring strip clubs to…keep [workers' personal] information on file…Parents should monitor…their children…on social media…because…traffickers…Salvation Army…conference…how to get men to stop purchasing sex, along with a prayer walk outside of massage parlors and strip clubs…

The only novel element is the assertion that “Traffickers often change locations…using standard transportation that wouldn’t raise eyebrows…”  As opposed to what, howdahs?  Pogo sticks?  Dirigibles?  Amphibious landing craft?

Dirty Laundry (TW3 #405)

a public inquiry into historical child abuse…has heard…of the abuse…at the Sacré Coeur orphanage…[in] Jersey, [where nuns] beat children with spoons and forced them to work in a knitwear factory…in one nightmarish instance, nuns confined a child no older than six to a room where a dead nun had been laid in a coffin…Other punishments included the children having sheets pulled up tightly over their heads so they couldn’t move and having to eat meals in a toilet…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410) David Ley

Dr. David Ley shares the story of a young man with OCD who made the mistake of telling a “Mental Health Crisis Team” (which includes a cop) about his persistent rape fantasies, resulting in his suspension from university and dozens of strangers prying into his private thoughts.  Ley writes,

…This young man is terrified that his thoughts…of rape make him dangerous to others.  Unfortunately, that’s the message that he is getting, everywhere he turns.  I’m truly sad that this young man…is now learning that asking for help can result in punishment…he…is…surrounded by a system…driven by panic and fear…[which] is making problems worse, not better…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

The German Association of Female Lawyers (DJB)…rejects the prohibition of prostitution and criminalization of clients…A ban would mean a return to the times of social stigma and lack of rights for women, yet would not change the fact that prostitution takes place…[if clients alone are criminalized] an important group of witnesses in criminal proceedings would be lost…the DJB rejects the introduction of [licensing] for sex workers…the risk of stigmatization is…high and the benefits of such a scheme questionable…

Another Fine Mess (TW3 #435)

Ordinary business practices don’t magically become newsworthy when  hookers use them:

The company that operates Ireland’s biggest sex-worker website has moved its headquarters to Spain and is expanding its business across Europe…Escorts Ireland…[was] previously…based in London  to avoid [Irish anti-advertising laws]…chief executive Audrey Campbell…confirmed the company has moved to Spain because of its “more accepting” attitude…[and favorable] tax [framework]…Campbell set up the company with…Peter McCormick…who has a conviction for brothel-keeping in…the 1990s…McCormick’s son Mark was imprisoned for 16 months for brothel-keeping in 2010…

Translation:  “Internet-based company expands its operations and moves its domicile to a country with more advantageous laws and regulations.  Both owners are experienced in their field.
Whither Canada? (TW3 #437)

Terri-Jean Bedford…[has a list of] names of politicians who hire sex workers…compiled from sex workers across Canada, and…is carefully considering which…to release…after [C-36]…receives royal assent.  This would shame the hypocrites who secretly go to prostitutes while publicly moralizing against sex work or [voting] for laws that endanger sex workers…C-36 will either be undone by the next government or struck down by judges…[it] is a doomed rearguard action — aimed at winning donations and votes — and the Conservatives know it.  What they don’t know:  whose names are on Bedford’s list.

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To believe that we can eliminate sex work…without…affecting other industries…operates on the assumption that sex work happens in isolation—that what happens on the back page doesn’t affect the front, when, in fact, it’s financing the whole operation.  –  Alexandra Kimball

Think of the Children!

The Telegraph‘s headline writer obviously doesn’t know the meaning of the term “graphic novel”:

A council worker who wrote a “raunchy” novel was sacked from her job at a children’s centre after complaints from parents who compared the book to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Bettina Bunte…was…told…that her book damaged the reputation of the…centre…

Five Women in Whitechapel Russell Edwards with supposed Ripper shawl

You’ve probably heard all the hubbub about Jack the Ripper being “definitely” identified by DNA testing of a shawl supposedly found next to the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes (cue Maggie’s goose pimples).  Unfortunately, we’ll still have to put up with the endless speculation for a while yet:

…Leaving aside…the claim that the shawl was never washed or cleaned at any time during the past 126 years, the biggest problem in carrying out such sensitive DNA analysis is the question of cross contamination…When other labs have worked on the ancient DNA of important samples…they have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the possibility…They have also worked…“blind”…to ensure they do know which sample they are analysing in order to avoid unwitting prejudice…None of this, as far we know, has been done in this case.  Dr Louhelainen may be satisfied that he has found the culprit, but many other scientists are not, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique…“An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants”…Sir Alec [said, adding]…“Kosminski was long regarded as by far the most likely perpetrator.”

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

[Florida cop James Yacobellis, who was]…busted in a…sting of a Boca Raton Asian massage parlor…isn’t a stranger to trouble…in one instance…he…[threatened] a suspect by putting him in a bathtub, turning on the faucet, and pointing his taser…between October 2011 and February 2013, Yacobellis was on paid leave while [other] allegations were being investigated.  He was still drawing a $87,000 a year salary…In nine years, Yacobellis was involved in six …internal affairs investigations.

Perquisites

Funny how the truth doesn’t get as much press as silly lies about sports:

…So far there are about 13,000 delegates lined up to attend 18 events when the Nova Centre opens in 2016.  Local sex workers expect that will make business busier than usual.  “A lot of businessmen have an entertainment allowance”…said one Halifax-based sex worker.  “Out-of-town clients are about 60 percent of the business right now.”  Business travellers are why one local sex worker allows clients to pay by credit card—with the nature of the transaction concealed.  “A lot of them will use [their company credit card] or write it off as a business expense,” she says…

The Law of Averages 

It’s good to see this in as mainstream a publication as The Atlantic:

There is little basis for the claim that 13…is the age that most sex workers begin working in prostitution.  It’s hard to pin down where exactly the…claim originated, partly because it’s so often repeated without a citation or context…Most organizations, if they refer to a source at all, reference [the Estes & Weiner] study…Most current government and nonprofit policies on sex work define their goals as “rescue,” which makes perfect sense if the age-of-entry statistic is central to your understanding of the sex industry…But…in reality, many sex workers come into the industry as adults and without coercion…

StruwwelpeterAuthor Chris Hall does discuss the Silbert & Pines study, but does not mention Melissa Farley’s distortion of their data.

Presents, Presents, Presents! 

Daz sent two presents while I was on the road, so I only saw them after I got home last week!  One was Acolytes of Cthulhu, and the other Struwwelpeter (in English).  Thank you so much!

Confined and Controlled

Another idiot who doesn’t understand the bottleneck effect and thinks women are too stupid and weak to be allowed to manage our own sexuality:

A mayoral candidate says he wants Ottawa to be the “test city” for legalizing prostitution and is in favour of legalized bordellos.  Darren W. Wood…says he wants prostitution to be “tightly controlled and highly taxed” as a means of protecting sex workers and generating revenue…Under his proposal, sex workers would be…regularly checked for sexually transmitted infections, protected from pimps and johns via an onsite security system and fined or jailed if they are working without a license…

The Last Thirteen for Fourteen

Here’s another excellent column from Marijke Vonk; this one’s on how to be a good ally to sex workers:

…By vocally supporting sex workers we can challenge the  assumptions of the people around us…As professionals, academics, social workers, educators or people in a position of social power we can…even influence legislative reform…It can be scary to openly disagree with the current discourse of sex workers as either victims or dirty whores who were asking for it, but as a non-sex worker you have the privilege of staying relatively safe as you speak out about these injustices…

The Public Eye

Pop singer Lowell spent some time as a stripper in Canada…[but while] a lot of singers might cover up that past…it became immediately obvious that she has nothing to hide…She’s been [drawing on her stripping and bisexuality]…since her brilliant 2013 EP, I Killed Sarah V(Sarah Victoria was her name when she was a dancer).  She told Rolling Stone, “There can be something really empowering about [stripping]…by making it taboo, we alienate these girls and allow…victimization to happen.”  It’s important to bring those kinds of ideas into the mainstream…


Feminine Pragmatism (TW3 #133)

You’d almost think reporters were historical ignoramuses who didn’t know that up until a century ago, the professions of actress and whore were indistinguishable:

Shweta Prasad, one of India’s best known former Bollywood child stars, has been arrested for prostitution…she said…she and many other actresses had been lured into prostitution when Bollywood roles dried up and the money ran out.  She had not found a film role in eight years…Inspector P Murali Krishna…said…“We are treating her as a victim and she’s been sent to a rehabilitation home.  We have arrested the person who exploited her”…

A 23-year-old woman voluntarily doing productive work is an “exploited victim”, but she wasn’t at all exploited when others pimped her in movies at the age of 11.  But in India, unlike the US, some are willing to point out the truth:

…the law clearly says that the practice of selling…sexual service is…not a crime…the actress…had not been coerced, kidnapped or tricked…but had chosen this from among the options available to her…the media [should] refrain from gleefully jumping in with police stings that are unauthorised and illegal…it wasn’t the activities of the actress that were illegal but the actions of the police…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Canadians feminists prove themselves just as obsessed with trivia as their sisters in the mother country:

A Vancouver catering company that offers sushi served on women’s naked bodies is sparking controversy among feminists who call the practice disgusting and degrading…“We’re not hijacked into doing this,” [said] Vancouver model Jessica Perry…Naked Sushi…offers nyotaimori— the Japanese practice of serving sashimi or sushi on a naked female body adorned with strategically-placed flowers and leaves…women’s rights activists are asking health officials to shut [it] down…the health authority does not have jurisdiction over the catering company as it serves its sushi after the food is prepared in an approved kitchen…

My First Million (TW3 #343)

I reached a total of three million page views soon after 2:30 PM CDT Thursday.  Thanks so much to all the readers who have helped make this blog a success! 3,000,000

O, Canada! (TW3 #405) 

Cop gets in trouble for unofficially doing the same thing other cops do officially:

Six guilty verdicts…against an Ottawa [cop] who…repeatedly…[accessed] confidential police records for personal reasons could result in dismissal.  Sgt. Rohan Beebakhee…took it upon himself to book dates with escorts, showing up in full uniform and having what he called a “safety briefing” with sex trade workers…He would often bring along junior officers…An internal affairs investigator…ordered in 2011 that Beebakhee stop all contact with escorts.  He didn’t…Beebakhee…was charged with sexual assault…in 2007 [but the] charge was withdrawn in 2009…

Property of the State

Note that at 12 weeks abortion is totally legal:

A [Montana] woman…is now facing a felony criminal endangerment charge for putting her unborn child at risk by taking illegal drugs.  Casey Gloria Allen, 21…[tested] positive for the presence of benzodiazapines, THC, and opiates…Allen is 12 weeks pregnant…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #423) 

Excerpt from a press release by Terri-Jean Bedford:

This afternoon I testified before the Senate Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs.  I gave my speech and then was ejected from the question and answer session for failing to stop speaking when the Chair asked me to.  I apologize for losing my temper.  I was barely able to read my speech because I was so angry at the government for parading victims with repeated irrelevant information and then organizations who were shilling for government handouts on which they are dependent.  The shameful use of victims by the government in this process, and their disregard for life by ignoring court findings, refusing to listen to their own legal staff and refusing to answer questions from legitimate sources made me snap…

If Men Were Angels

So now joining a cult is “sex trafficking” too?

Four members of [an Israeli] messianic group have been arrested on charges of kidnapping young women and forcing them into prostitution …the group would control women with a combinations of drugs, alcohol and heavy brainwashing techniques and convince them to have sex in exchange for money…Police allege that the girls were taught that “lying with non-Jews would hasten the redemption” of the Jewish people and that by having sex with non-Jews, the girls would purify them and bring back their “holy sparks” to Israel…

Divided We Fall (TW3 #427)

Another good call for Canadian queers to oppose criminalization:

The government…[has] a…history of criminalizing consensual sex to promote the majority’s sexual morality.  Think of the ban against gay sex, lifted in 1969.  Nobody suggests that ban really changed people’s desire to engage in gay sex or reduced its incidence.  Instead, it cast a stigma and criminal status over a class of individuals [and]…impaired their ability to participate as full and equal members of society.  It also made people who had gay sex vulnerable to blackmail and less able to seek police protection when threatened…If you are a trans person…many obstacles still face you in Canada.  But if you are gay or lesbian…it’s a good place to be…[because] of political and legal struggles over past decades.  The beneficiaries of these reforms have a responsibility to fight a law that flies in the face of our experience…the commitment to sexual justice that underlay our earlier struggles entails fully decriminalizing adult sex work.

Bait and Switch

You can bet that “minor child” in this context actually means “young woman above the age of consent but below 18″:

…Timothy S. Griesemer was found guilty of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and…faces up to life in prison…he sent a text message to a female acquaintance indicating he was looking for a minor child.  The woman contacted…police who…[called] the U.S. Secret Service…

Another Fine Mess

More about the long pre-internet history of sex work advertising:

…There is no question that online advertising has transformed the sex industry, but in fact, ads for sexual services are far from endangeredWhile most sex workers are online…many also use free dailies and weeklies to reach markets that aren’t as amenable to the Internet…online ad sites [are also more] vulnerable to government shutdowns…and…clients who are wary of online transactions are liable to see escorts with print ads as less likely to cheat or scam them…

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To seek in the bright sky a place for freedom and unrestraint.  –  Liu Rushi, “On the Kite”

The gender roles of traditional Asian cultures were even more rigid and uncompromising than those of contemporary European cultures, but harlots have always stood outside of the limits their societies set for “good” women.  Where “good” women were expected to be chaste, whores were promiscuous; where “good” women were expected to be meek, whores were bold; where “good” women were expected to be ignorant, whores were well-educated; where “good” women were supposed to be submissive, whores accepted or rejected clients as we pleased; and where “good” women were prisoners of convention, whores flouted it.  And despite the feminist claims that men prefer women as ovine as possible, and that the patriarchal system is set up for men’s benefit at women’s expense, yet men have throughout history sought out the company of (and paid high prices for) women who were not only their equals, but often their superiors.  Like other courtesans, Liu Rushi ignored the rules her society set for “good” women, but unlike others she often ignored the rules it set for any women.

Liu RushiYang Ai was born in 1618 to a poor family of Zhejiang province, but her exceptional looks and intelligence allowed her family to sell her at the age of eight to the courtesan Xu Fo for training in the profession.  She learned so well that Xu was able to place her as a concubine to the prime minister, Zhou Daodeng, soon after she turned thirteen; however, Zhou died a year later and his widow threw her out of the household.  She sought out the famous poet Chen Zilong, whom she had met at Zhou’s house a few months before; he took her in as a concubine and the two fell in love and exchanged many poems.  Unfortunately, Madame Chen was just as jealous of her as Madame Zhou had been; when Chen went to take the Imperial Examination in 1635, she abused the poor girl so terribly that she fled back to Xu Fo, who now owned a brothel.  When Xu married in 1638, Yang Yin (as she now called herself) took over the management; she was already famous as a poet and painter by this time, and published three collections of poetry between 1638 and 1640.  But though she was doing well financially, she craved the stability of marriage; when a regular client named Song Yuanwen kept promising to marry her but never followed through, she is said to have thrown him out in a violent tantrum.

It was during her time as a madam that her androgyny began to assert itself; though her romantic poems were conventionally feminine, she also wrote in a masculine, “heroic” style and often left the narrator’s gender ambiguous.  In letters she favored gender-neutral terms for herself, and her calligraphy is distinctly masculine, using the “wild grass” style.  Her gender-bending behavior reached its zenith in 1640, when she decided to marry the famous scholar and poet Qian Qianyi.  She travelled to his home in her boat, dressed in men’s clothing, and asked Qian to give her his opinion on one of her poems.  He told her the poem was excellent and asked to see more, but before she left she made sure she let him see the small (bound) feet which left no doubt as to her sex even if he had been fooled at first.  The combination of her writing and her intriguing behavior captured his attention, and they were married in 1641.  Though she was only his concubine, they had a formal ceremony and he treated her as though she were a full wife, despite this being considered improper.  He gave her the nickname Hedong, which she often used in her writing thereafter; it was one of about twenty different names she used at different times and for different purposes.  The name by which she is best known, Liu Rushi, came from her continuing habit of cross-dressing; she would sometimes go on errands as her husband’s representative while dressed in his formal Confucian robes, for which people nicknamed her “rushi” (“gentleman”).

Rushi had finally found the stability she sought, but it was not to last long.  The Ming Dynasty her husband served collapsed in 1645, and she had become so deeply patriotic by that time she actually tried to persuade him to martyr himself by committing suicide; instead, he surrendered, served as an official to the new Qing regime for five months, then quit and joined the resistance.  Liu Rushi joined him and the two were active in the movement for over a decade thereafter; much of Qian’s poetry from the 1650s depicts her as a courageous Ming loyalist.  But in 1663, her life started to spin out of control.  First, the Qing finally crushed the last Ming resistance, burning her husband’s enormous library in the process; she was so aggrieved she took Buddhist vows.  Qian’s spirit was broken, and he died the following year; his creditors and enemies then began to hound Liu Rushi for money.  Alone again for the first time in decades, too old (at 46) to return to her former profession and deeply bereaved by the loss of both beloved husband and beloved cause, she was pushed over the edge by the legal persecution and hanged herself in 1664.  But though her life ended in despair and tragedy, her own poetry and that of her husband had already made her a legend; the historian Chen Yinke’s said she “embodies the independence of spirit and freedom of thought of our people”, and others have called her “the most respectable prostitute in Chinese history”.

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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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Last week I published a letter from an exceptional woman:  though she’s a Christian with a strong personal aversion to sex work, she has deeply considered the issues and realized that there are many, many problems in “anti-trafficking” discourse.  After my last letter she wrote again with more good questions, but her letter was so complex that I have separated out the individual questions not only to make this column easier to read, but to protect her privacy by eliminating personal details.  If you haven’t yet read last Wednesday’s column, you really ought to do so before proceeding with today’s.

A friend of mine belongs to an anti-trafficking ministry which gives out gift bags to ladies in brothels and tries to build friendships with them.  The gift bag includes shampoo and sometimes cookies and earrings, and also a packet of tissues, inside which they have slipped a hotline for getting out of prostitution.  Would you personally find such a message with a hotline number insulting?

trafficking soapMost sex workers would probably consider that more funny than insulting, because the idea outsiders have that we’re all “trapped” or “victims” or “slaves” is very amusing when it isn’t backed up by uniformed thugs.  But once the cops start smashing down doors, beating, raping and robbing sex workers before caging them and giving them criminal records that will follow them for life, it goes far beyond mere insult.  The idea that we’re “victims” is a symptom of what you mentioned in your first letter:  the refusal to listen.  It’s kind of like the way gay people are treated in some churches:  “I can’t understand how a man could be attracted to another man, so there must be something wrong with them.”  The old narrative was that sex workers were “bad” women, but over the past 800 years Christianity has slowly shifted toward viewing us as “fallen” creatures to be redeemed, and that became the dominant social discourse in English-speaking countries from the 1880s on (largely due to the influence of the Salvation Army and other groups promoting the “white slavery” hysteria).  After criminalization became the norm in the US (from 1910-1914), people naturally started seeing prostitutes as “criminals”, and that view persisted until the beginning of the present moral panic in 2004 (though several years earlier in Sweden).

I have seen sites that quoted (at least they claim) comments from clients about prostitutes, 95% of which were horrendous.  So why do clients come to you?  Is it really that men who are willing to buy women are often aggressive and do not respect women in general? 

Those “client quotes” are totally cherry-picked.  The idea that men pay good money to spend time with women they hate is about as absurd as anything I can think of; it’s related to the radical feminist notion that all intercourse is rape.  The fact is, I was often treated better by the men who paid me than guys who just dated me, and that’s a very typical experience.  The majority of sex workers’ clients are either horny or lonely, and that’s it.  They’re not looking for women to “objectify” or “abuse”, and the only people who can believe otherwise without being lied to are people who believe the Marxist foolishness that all economic transactions are innately exploitative, or those who believe that all sex not sanctified by marriage (or all heterosexual sex, period) is bad.  The only reason they pick on sex work is that when they try to apply those ideas more universally, most normal people mock, shun or ignore them.  Sex workers have been turned into a pariah caste against whom rhetoric that wouldn’t last five minutes when directed against anyone else, suddenly becomes palatable.  The most common form of prostitution these days is probably GFE escorting, where GFE stands for “girl friend experience”.  In other words, the majority of clients want a girl who is nice and friendly and chatty and sweet, just like a regular date.  Yes, there are bad clients…but that’s true of every business in the world, as anyone with experience in retail or waitressing can tell you.

Do you not mind when a man comes to you only for your body, with no interest in your personality, your soul, your mind, your history?  Although if I must think of sex work as normal work, I suppose it would be as ridiculous as if I asked an office worker, do you not mind that your boss has no interest in your personality etc and that you are reduced as just a working cog in a cooperation.  In an office, ideally you’d find a caring manager who does care about your well-being – and I guess there are clients who are similar?

sex dollAs I explained above, most clients are.  If you talk to sex workers who have had “straight” jobs, you’ll find they usually felt far more objectified in those than in sex work.  People who talk about “bodies to be used” must have a very low opinion of men, to believe that that’s how men see sex.  In fact, one of the most annoying client behaviors is when they go on about “I want to give you pleasure” and “what would you like to do?” and that sort of thing, which many of them do.  We hate it because it makes it much harder to satisfy a customer who won’t say what he wants, but as you can see it’s exactly the opposite of that “objectification” jazz.  When I was an escort I advertised myself as “the thinking man’s companion” because I have a hard time “dumbing down” my conversation and wanted to attract men who liked that…and there were plenty.  You were talking about reviews earlier; you know who gets the worst reviews?  Girls who just lie there like a “body to be used”.  What prohibitionists claim men are looking for, is actually the thing which will probably kill a sex worker’s business faster than anything else.

My anti-trafficking friend never says “prostitute”, but rather “ladies in the sex industry”; she also never gives out their names “in order to protect their confidentiality”.  But if sex work is just work, what difference does the word make?  And why wouldn’t prostitutes want people to know their names?

If sex work were completely accepted, normal and legally protected, I would agree with you that there would be no need for aliases.  But that isn’t the way it is, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  Your friend is wise to be discreet.  As for the term “prostitute”, it’s a very legalistic word that has acquired  considerable negative baggage.  So while I myself use it because many outsiders with whom I discuss it (especially lawyers & politicians) see it as a neutral term, it is in fact pejorative and should be avoided.  “Sex worker” is considered the most polite term; “prostituted woman” is the most insulting and demeaning because it casts us as passive, inert victims without intellect, will or agency.

I’m uncomfortable saying that sex work should be okay and treated as any other job, but I’m also uncomfortable with criminalization because everyone has the right to choose what they will do and how they want to live their lives.  How do I resolve this conflict?

Now we’re getting into the philosophy of harm reduction, which is quite complicated but here’s the nutshell version.  I personally think cocaine is awful; I hate the way people act when they use it, I hate the way it makes their noses run and their mouths get crusty, I hate the weird fantasies they have when they’re on it.  Eventually I got to the point where I’d refuse clients I knew were using it because I didn’t want to deal with it.  However, the harms that result from cocaine aren’t nearly as bad as those that result from attempting to suppress it, such as the establishment of a surveillance state, empowerment of police to violate civil rights on a massive scale, bloody cartel wars, bad (even fatal) reactions to tainted drugs, the attraction of criminals to the business, the vast waste of money and the highest incarceration rates in history.  I don’t have to like cocaine or approve of its use to recognize that its prohibition is a horrible thing and the wellspring of myriad evils, and you don’t have to like or approve of sex work to have the same view about its prohibition.  And considering that it is the prohibition of sex work that is the chief enabler of coercion, I would think that every moral person who is truly concerned about that would join with the UN, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many others in calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

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If anyone is perpetuating prostitution-related violence, it is prohibitionists like Kristof, who insist on maintaining a black market.  –  Jacob Sullum

Out of Control (The Camel’s Nose) Dr. George Doodnaught

A Canadian anesthesiologist convicted of sexually assaulting 21 sedated women during surgeries was sentenced…to 10 years in prison…Dr. George Doodnaught…relied on his three decades of operating room experience to avoid detection…the…victims…gave generally similar accounts of being kissed and fondled by him, and of having his penis placed in their mouths or hands…they were conscious enough to be aware of what was happening, but were not able to move their limbs…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

A cop is a cop, even when she’s a sex worker:

For years, Philadelphia Police Officer Terra Barrow had a side job running a handful of [sex] websites and phone lines…Barrow said she got into the…industry…to…make [extra] money…Competitor Donna Burns…claims Barrow ripped off her site designs, stole her client database and bullied competitors by telling them she was a cop…Burns also…gave…investigators advertisements that Barrow allegedly placed…as an escort named “Black Barbie.”  Barrow acknowledged she used that nickname in email but [claims she] has never worked as an escort…

Down Under

Neofeminists claim decriminalization has “failed [to protect sex workers] everywhere it’s been tried”.  This is what that “failure” looks like:

A prostitute has won a landmark sexual harassment case against a Wellington brothel owner…the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the young woman $25,000 in damages for emotional harm as a result of sexual harassment.  Aaron Montgomery, who no longer owns The Kensington Inn…was described as a bully who enjoyed controlling and humiliating women and tried to pressure workers into having sex with him…

Imaginary Crises

After two decades as one of the few women who dared to challenge the hysteria, it’s nice to have so much more company lately:

…if the risk of sexual assault on campus were truly one in five…no parent in their right mind would send their daughter to coed universities…Chad Hermann…[examined] the reported sexual assault offenses over three years at…the University of Pittsburgh (UP), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Duquesne University (DU).  In 2009:  At UP, with 14,800 female students, four sexual assaults were reported.  At CMU, with about 3,900 female students, six sexual assaults were reported (a three-year high).  At DU, with 5,700 females, three were reported.  But wait:  We “know” (we don’t really) that 90% of rapes go unreported!  Okay, Hermann adjusts the numbers to reflect that, giving UP 40 assaults, CMU 60 and DU 30.  Are we at one-in-four yet?  Hardly.  We’re at one-in-185 (average of the three)…Medway victim safely exiting into a police car

It Looks Good On Paper

a BBC investigation  into the policing of prostitution in Medway, Kent showed harm reduction was dangerously disrupted by their aggressive “cleaning up the streets” approach.  In 2009, Kent Police began a scheme…called Safe Exit, supposedly to help women leave the sex trade by offering treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, training and education, and housing…But…instead…the women received a criminal record…Kent Police claimed to have reduced the number of women working on-street by over 90, but…two public servants associated with the scheme…say originally there were only 40-50 women working on-street.  Our sources also told us…that the scheme was a “political PR stunt”…[some of the women were burdened with] ASBOs…and a few ended up in prison…

Law of the Instrument

What at first seems like an arrest mission on a busy Orange County street is actually a rescue mission, as police go undercover to save girls who have become victims of sex trafficking…”  No, actually, it’s an arrest mission.  And if you can handle reading that first one, try this one about nearby Santa Barbara County, in which the agency of female university students and Chinese immigrants is totally denied using the excuse of “Stockholm Syndrome”.

Shifting the Blame (The Beat Goes On)

[James Brown]…was convicted of killing four women in his basement and stuffing their bodies in car trunks after he met them through online escort ads…just days apart, at his home in December 2011…Two were burned beyond recognition when a car was set on fire.  Brown…faces life in prison with no chance for parole…The women who were killed were Renisha Landers, Demesha Hunt, Natasha Curtis and Vernithea McCrary, all in their 20s…

Above the Law Mark Ridley

Three more brave heroes protecting and serving, in Oklahoma:  “…Muskogee police officer…Mark Ridley…was arrested…after allegedly forcing…the woman’s car…off the road, then…[forcing] her to perform oral sex at gunpoint…” and in California:  “Sheriff’s deputy [Damian Marquez repeatedly]…arrested a woman on felony probation ‘for the sole purpose of raping and sexually assaulting’ her at the [City of Industry] sheriff’s station…Xavier Thicklen and in Wisconsin:

[In the early stages of her pregnancy] and twice more after she had her baby, a [female prisoner] was placed in shackles…and raped over and over again, according to reports…Xavier D. Thicklen’s “abuse of his authority went wholly unchecked” by co-defendant Sheriff David A. Clarke, even though at least one of the assaults was caught on camera…Thicklen is charged with five counts of second-degree sexual assault…[and] could be sent to prison for 40 years on each…

First They Came for the Hookers… 

[New York City] has been…targeting…strip clubs by going after their liquor licenses…[after] trumping up charges…some clubs have continued to operate sans alcohol—which does, as a result of other bizarre strip club regulations, have the advantage of allowing dancers to be fully nude…But [alcohol-free clubs are much less popular and]…prohibition also zaps a major source of revenue for both clubs and dancers…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #30)

Finland has rejected the efforts of its neofeminist “justice” minister to impose the Swedish model, but what they gave her is bad enough:  “…the Ministry of Justice has proposed a tightening of the law, so sex-buyers who should have suspected pimping or trafficking can be sentenced…Justice Minister Anna- Maja Henriksson…[says she is] disappointed and…her goal is still a total ban…”  They are lowering the burden of proof to only one step short of strict liability, but obviously that isn’t enough to satisfy Henriksson’s anti-sex bloodlust.

King of the Hill

Buried beneath the Profession of Faith, agency denial, masturbatory fantasy, and penis-size bragging is the only worthwhile sentence in this crap:  “the FBI [named]…Detroit…as the second largest area for human trafficking in the U.S., with only San Francisco larger…She Rescue is not OK

All the Difference 

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has charged an Australian filmmaker with hindering the work of a…[“rescue”] organization…James Ricketson…accuses the Brisbane-based Citipointe Church of retaliating against him for his years-long efforts to help a Cambodian family retrieve two daughters from the organization’s She Rescue Home…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #52)

The same old Labour Party busybodies (with help from like-minded prudes in other parties) are once again trying to impose the Swedish model on the UK, but this time they’re pretending to be a new group inspired by last week’s reprehensible EU vote.  If these people were any more transparent they’d be completely invisible.  Here’s what Tim Worstall had to say about it:

…the “slavery” in prostitution…doesn’t, in this country at least, actually exist.  For we had a plan whereby every single police force in the country went out looking for people who were indeed sex slaves…and…could…not…come up with sufficient evidence to charge anyone at all…What we…have is consenting adults…deciding what to do with their own bodies…

Japanese Prostitution (TW3 #131)

While Japanese politicians work to deny, downplay or excuse their country’s enslavement of tens of thousands of women in wartime brothels

…Japanese-American plaintiffs, served by American megafirm Mayer Brown, are pursuing the agenda of reactionary Japanese politicians through despicable litigation…In 2013 the City of Glendale [California] erected a modest memorial to the comfort women…in a public park…Japanese politicians were enraged and have repeatedly demanded that the memorial be removed.  The…lawsuit…seeks to [accomplish this]…by force of law…

Flush Criminalization

I love it when Jacob Sullum tears into Nick Kristof:

…how should we view armed agents of the state who invite people to engage in peaceful exchange, only to pounce on them with guns and handcuffs?Nicholas Kristof thinks they’re heroes.  Consider…his latest column equating prostitution with “human trafficking”…Kristof…insists “that isn’t prudishness or sanctimony but a strategy to dampen demand.”  This strategy—cops posing as prostitutes—has been a joke and a cliché for as long as I’ve been alive, but Kristof considers it the cutting edge of innovative policing.  If targeting customers is all it takes to eradicate black markets, why do they still exist?…Kristof…calls sting operations “marvels of efficiency”—which they are, assuming you want to produce futile arrests and gratuitous humiliation…

As I reported in December, the “marvel of efficiency” sophomorically entitled “Operation Flush the Johns” hasn’t had much luck convicting any of the accused who didn’t just plead out; they finally got their first one this week.

R.I.P. Petite Jasmine (TW3 #329)

A video by Carol Leigh on the memorials for Petite Jasmine and Dora Özer.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #345)

An excellent article by Molly Crabapple on the vile Project ROSE and its equally-vile founder, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz:

…Project ROSE may seem similar to the many diversion programs in the United States…[but] it doesn’t work with the convicted.  Rather, its raids funnel hundreds of people into the criminal justice system.  Denied access to lawyers, many of these people are coerced into ROSE’s program without being convicted of any crime…Roe-Sepowitz …told Al Jazeera:  “Once you’ve prostituted you can never not have prostituted…Having that many body parts in your body parts, having that many body fluids near you and doing things that are freaky and weird really messes up your ideas of what a relationship looks like, and intimacy”…

Remembrance

Too bad the BBC can’t be this honest and sympathetic about modern clients:

Visiting prostitutes is a little-known and little-discussed aspect of life on the Western Front, but it was a key part of the British soldiers’ war experience…brothel visits [were seen] as a physical necessity – it was an era when sexual abstinence for men was considered harmful to their health…

In other words, a more realistic era.

Traffic Jam (All Traffick, All the Time)

Cuckoo Clock McCain is still at it:

Cindy McCain testified at a [Congressional] hearing…that about 84% of ads for prostitution placed on [New York area] Backpage.com…during the Super Bowl involved women being trafficked…The study was funded by the McCain Institute…and used research from Arizona State University and analysis from Praescient Analytics…

Rich loon McCain hires ethically-bankrupt fanatic Dominique Roe-Sepowitz (that’s who “Arizona State” really is) to use an “analysis” method of her own design, and the “study” finds exactly what the two of them want it to find  despite the fact that it contains nothing resembling either facts or methodology.  What a surprise!

The Public Eye (TW3 #408)

Here’s an excerpt from Melissa Gira Grant’s new book, Playing the Whore, and two more interviews with her; one is with Caty Simon in Tits and Sass and one with Josh Eidelson in Salon.  I’m very pleased to see how much coverage Grant and her book are getting in mainstream publications, especially in this time when most of the media are forehead-deep in prohibitionist lies.

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #409) Belle Knox

The Duke freshman porn starlet has revealed her photo and stage name: Belle Knox.  And I like her more with every article she writes:

…the Duke Chronicle wrote a somewhat patronizing portrait of me, disguising my name…The question I am asked over and over again is this:  If I am proud of being an adult performer, then why do I “hide” behind this fake name?  Because…my decision to do porn does not somehow mean that the world now “owns” or deserves access to every single thing about me…My birth name is one name…My porn name is another…I can’t stop you from calling me any name you want to — including “slut,” “whore” or “bitch” — but I can decide what name I use…please dissuade yourself right now of the delusion that you control or own me…I am not your child or your property or your Madonna or your whore…

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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.

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