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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on January 25th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

group sex statueEvery generation thinks it invented sex, or at least non-vanilla sex.  And I don’t just mean teenagers who are squicked out by the idea of their parents shagging, either; among vanilla folk and/or those outside the demimonde, the delusion seems to persist through life that nearly everybody who lived before a moving line (hovering like a will-o-the-wisp exactly at the year the believer reached puberty) only had missionary-position sex for the purpose of procreation. Even if the individual is familiar with the Kama Sutra, knows about classical Greek pederasty or has seen the menu of a Victorian brothel, these are likely to be dismissed as islands of kink in a vast sea of unsweetened vanilla custard stretching back into prehistory.  Even doctors quoted in newspaper articles are wont to make incredibly stupid, totally wrong statements like “the concept of having oral sex is something that seems less obscure to you than it did to your parents or grandparents.”  Well, my dears, I’m old enough to have given birth to many of you reading this, and I can assure you that oral sex was not remotely “obscure” to us in those long-ago and far-off days of the early ‘80s; nor was it “obscure” to any of the older men I trysted with in my late teens, many of whom are now old enough to be your grandfathers; nor was it “obscure” to my own grandparents’ generation, who came of age in the Roaring Twenties; nor to the 5.5% or more of the female population who worked as whores in every large city of the world in the 19th century, nor the 70% or more of the male population who had enjoyed their company at least once; nor to any of the long procession of harlots and clients stretching back to before busybodies invented the idea of policing other peoples’ sexuality.  Know what else wasn’t “obscure” to them?  Anal sex.  BDSM.  Role-playing.  Exhibitionism & voyeurism.  Homosexuality.  Cuckolding.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  Here’s a hint:  most lawmakers have always been pompous ignoramuses too obsessed with telling other people what to do to actually have normal lives, so by the time they get around to banning something it’s a pretty safe bet the majority of everybody else in that culture over the age of 16 already knows about it, and many of them are doing it.

Chief among the popular sex acts that modern mythology pretends were “obscure” is masturbation, at least for women.  The common delusion is that because a culture didn’t like to talk about something, it must not have existed; accordingly, the idea has arisen that Victorian girls were somehow so carefully controlled that they never discovered that touching oneself between the legs (or riding rocking horses) feels good.  And because many women have difficulty reaching orgasm without some form of masturbation, that must mean that pre-20th century women all went around in a perpetual state of sexual frustration.  In the past few years, the ridiculous myth has arisen that Victorian doctors actually gave women orgasms without knowing what they were, and that the vibrator was invented to speed up what they viewed as an odious task.

Where do I begin?  In the first place, this tale is so incredibly recent I never heard of it during any of my extensive sexological reading in my teens and twenties; it seems to date to the nineties at the earliest.  Next, it’s a lovely example of Anglocentrism; just because Britons and Americans were so publicly hung-up about sex in the 19th century, doesn’t mean everyone else in Europe, Asia, Africa and the entire Southern Hemisphere was; are we to believe the bulk of female humanity was bereft of the blessing of orgasm until wise white sagesVictorian dildo ad bestowed the gift of the vibrator on their benighted nether regions?  Furthermore, the idea that public posturing actually indicates private feelings, to the point that those who spread this legend actually imagine that dudes were strenuously trying to avoid touching strange women’s twats, is just so colossally dumb it could only be believed in the middle of the neo-Victorian Era.  And a brain has to be pretty deeply mired in 21st-century chauvinism to actually believe that those silly old Victorians didn’t know what a freaking orgasm looked like.  But you don’t have to take my word for all that:

…some historians have claimed women were brought to a “hysterical paroxysm” (supposedly an orgasm that nobody wanted to admit to), by their doctors through “pelvic massage” (masturbation).  To aid them, a vibrating device was invented because there were just so many women who needed this form of treatment that the poor doctors’ hands were getting tired, and they had to use a machine…this…idea…seems to have taken root in our popular culture, helped by “shock exposés”, a few books, and the 2011 film Hysteria, where…Victorian doctor…Mortimer Granville, turns his 1880s invention of a muscular massage device into a sexual awakening for his female patients.  So did the real Dr Granville invent an electronic device for massage?  Yes.  Was it anything to do with the female orgasm?  No.  He actually invented it to help stimulate male pain relief, just as massage is used today.

Victorian doctors knew exactly what the female orgasm was; in fact, it’s one of the reasons they thought masturbation was a bad idea…Marriage guides…often claimed that a woman in a sexually satisfying relationship was more likely to become pregnant, as the wife’s orgasm was just as necessary to conception as her husband’s…The Art to Begetting Handsome Children, published in 1860, contains a detailed passage on foreplay…A Guide To Marriage, published in 1865 by the aptly named Albert Sidebottom…[advises] young couples…that “All love between the sexes is based upon sexual passion”…In 1877, Annie Besant, a one-time vicar’s wife, helped to publish Fruits of Philosophy, a guide that set out every possible contraceptive method available…its British circulation reached over 125,000 in the first few months alone.  So can we please stop saying Victorian women were having unknown orgasms stimulated by their doctors?…

Unfortunately, most people value the truth far less than they value the ability to feel smug.  And people several generations dead are so easy to feel smug about; after all, they aren’t around to tell you that you’re more ignorant about their lives than you pretend they were about sex.

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A cleaner, sweeter bed-fellow does not exist.  –  Greville’s letter praising Emma to Lord Hamilton

When Mandy Rice-Davies compared herself to Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, it is doubtful that any of the reporters who made her famous for the reference had any confusion about what she meant.  But the 1960s were a more sexually honest time than our own, and nowadays writers are even more likely to prevaricate about Lady Hamilton’s harlotry than they are about Rice-Davies’; a BBC article on the famous affair even goes so far as to say that “[Nelson and Hamilton] had fallen out of love with their partners”, as if the Lady had married her patron due to “falling in love” in the first place.  In fact, there’s another modern term for the way they came to be together, more pejorative  even than “prostitution”; read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Amy Lyon, the daughter of a blacksmith named Henry Lyon and his wife Mary, was born on April 26th, 1765 in Cheshire, England.  Her father died when she was an infant and her mother raised her alone, later sending her to live with her grandmother in Wales.  At twelve she started working as a maid and soon met another maid named Jane Powell, who aspired to be an actress; through her Amy found work at the Drury Lane theatre as a maid to several actresses, during which time she lived in the home of a brothel madam named Mrs. Kelly.  Her beauty and grace attracted the attention of James Graham, the doctor who owned an establishment called the “Temple of Health and Hymen” where couples could pay £50 a night (over £3000 today) to have sex in the “Celestial Bed”, which administered mild electric shocks that were supposed to cure infertility and encourage the conception of “perfect” babies.  Amy’s job was to be a hostess, model and erotic dancer, presumably to augment the effects of the electric bed.  When she was sixteen she was hired by Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh to provide entertainment at a several-months-long standing party; she is known to have danced nude on the dining room table at this shindig, and her other activities may be guessed by the fact that she was pregnant by the end of the summer, presumably by Sir Harry.

As was typical in those days, Sir Harry blamed the pregnancy entirely on Amy, so though he was still supporting her she decided to become the kept woman of Charles Francis Greville, an MP and the second son of the first Earl of Warwick.  Though Greville was in love with Amy, he was quite domineering and appears to have viewed her as a piece of property.  When the baby, who was given the name Emma Carew, was born, he sent her away to be raised by a couple named Blackburn; around this same time he also demanded that Amy change her own name to Emma, specifically “Emma Hart”.  When he had her portrait painted by his friend George Romney, the painter became obsessed with her; he made so many sketches of her (both nude and clothed) at this time and later that he was able to paint a number of portraits of her without further sitting.  Because Romney was a popular painter, Emma became well-known in London society both for her wit and personality and as an artist’s model.

Unfortunately, Greville spent far beyond his means, and by 1783 he needed a new source of funds; he decided to acquire them by marrying the young heiress Henrietta Middleton, but since it was common knowledge that Emma was his lover he had to be rid of her.  He therefore convinced his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, to accept her as his mistress.  Hamilton was an art collector, and no doubt viewed the now-famous beauty as a valuable find; he also wanted to facilitate his nephew’s marriage so as to eliminate his frequent requests for money.  The deal was therefore made without Emma’s input or knowledge, and she was shipped off to Naples (where Hamilton was the British envoy) under the guise of a six-month holiday while Greville was supposedly away on business.  She was, in other words, “sex trafficked”, sent from one owner to another in a different country.

But though Emma was furious upon discovering what was really expected of her, she eventually adapted to her situation.  Hamilton’s home was beautiful and his art collection renowned, and he was a widower who, far from viewing her as an embarrassment, instead encouraged her modeling, singing and other performance.  The form for which she became known was called “attitudes”; this consisted of an act in which she would wear a simple gown dressed up by scarves and shawls which helped her to evoke images from history and classical mythology by posing.  The audience was then supposed to guess who she was portraying.  Though this may sound a bit silly to modern ears, the effect was apparently very striking; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “The performance is like nothing you have ever seen before.  With a few scarves and shawls she expressed a variety of wonderful transformations.  One pose after another without a break”.  Within a few years of her first performance in the spring of 1787, a number of other actresses took up the art; over the years Emma herself evolved from mere posing into acting out short pantomimes, most famously portraying Medea.

Sir William eventually married Emma on September 6th, 1791; he was sixty and she twenty-six.  The match gave her the title by which she was forever known afterward, though friends still called her “Emma”.  It also gave her the duties of a diplomat’s wife, among them entertaining Horatio Nelson (then a mere post captain) when he came in 1793 to request reinforcements from the King of Naples.  By the time he returned in 1798 he had lost an arm, an eye, most of his teeth and the majority of his health, but had won both the Battle of the Nile and worldwide fame.  Sir William invited the great man to recuperate in their home, nursed by his young wife, and it was at this time that the two began their affair.

But while one might think this a betrayal of hospitality, the truth is that Sir William definitely knew about and seems to have even encouraged the affair; he and Nelson respected and admired one another, and Emma and Nelson had similar feelings for one another.  Indeed, the relationship soon developed into a ménage a trois; after the Neopolitan Revolution of 1799 the ailing Hamilton was allowed to retire and return to England, accompanied by Nelson, who openly moved in with the Hamiltons despite having a home (and wife) of his own.  In fact, the arrangement became such a huge scandal that the Admiralty ordered Nelson back to sea to keep him away from Emma.  The public, however, was fascinated and the Hamiltons seemed completely unconcerned with what anyone said; when Emma gave birth to a daughter on January 31st, 1801 she named her “Horatia”, flagrantly advertising her paternity.

Alas, their happiness was not to last long.  Sir William, whom Emma had grown to love, died in 1803 and Nelson returned to sea to fight Napoleon soon afterward.  The daughter Emma was carrying at the time died soon after her birth early the next year, and she consoled herself by gambling and otherwise wasting money; when Nelson died at Trafalgar in October of 1805, she had nothing left but Hamilton’s £800/year pension, which she exhausted trying to build up Merton Place (the house Nelson had bought for the three to live together in) as a monument to the great man.  Now the government decided to have its revenge on the woman it considered a double embarrassment for tarnishing the reputations of two of its favored sons: Emma was barred from Nelson’s funeral, and his request that she and Horatia be provided for was totally ignored; money and gifts were instead showered upon Nelson’s widow, brother and other family members.  As her looks and figure were long gone, Emma could no longer attract a patron; she fell deeply into debt and after Nelson’s love letters to her were stolen and published in 1814, the government exacted one more act of petty vengeance by throwing her into debtor’s prison.  After her release that autumn she fled to France with Horatia, where she died on January 15th, 1815.  Men in power are never kind to women who have embarrassed them, and neither Lady Hamilton’s title nor the exalted reputation of her most famous lover could save her from being treated like any other troublesome whore.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on November 16th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Salvation Army womenEvery time one reads an article that doesn’t mindlessly parrot “sex trafficking” hysteria or some other aspect of the anti-sex movement, yet isn’t written by a sex worker or ally, one can be sure there will be an obligatory sentence about how it’s “surprising” or “paradoxical” or whatever that neofeminists are in bed with evangelical Christians.  The only people who could actually consider this alliance to be anything other than wholly predictable are those who A) believe in the ridiculous “left wing-right wing” dichotomy which “was a poor fit to real political landscapes when it was first used in reference to the French Assembly more than 200 years ago and has become completely worthless since”; B) accept fanatical cults’ propaganda about their motives as truthful even if it demonstrably conflicts with their public behavior; and C) are completely ignorant of the history of the Anglo-American anti-sex movement.  My early essay “Traitors To Their Sex”  provides a brief sketch of this history, starting with the influential and charismatic Victorian feminist, Josephine Butler:

…who recognized that English law of the time…stripped prostitutes of their rights as Englishwomen and so campaigned tirelessly for the repeal of those laws for 16 years.  At the same time, Butler (like most Victorians) believed that women were essentially asexual, and so could not accept that any woman might freely choose to exploit the male sexual appetite in order to earn a living; the very idea was anathema to her rigid Christian thinking.  She therefore concluded that it was actually whores who were the exploited ones, childlike victims of male lust who had been forced into lives of “degradation” by male oppression…after the repeal of the Contagious Disease Acts in 1886 prostitutes were no longer the cause célèbre; when they refused to repent their whoredom and embrace “honest work” and conventional morality the feminists abandoned their sympathy like yesterday’s newspaper and declared war on our entire profession, vowing to abolish it entirely.  Butler founded the Social Purity Alliance…dedicated to imposing middle-class Victorian standards of chastity (i.e. repugnance for sex) onto men, and it was but the first of a host of similar organizations which sprang up on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the 1880s and ‘90s…middle-class “feminists” had shown their true colors and abandoned the drive to win rights for the disenfranchised in favor of one which aimed to restrict the rights of everyone…The purity crusaders used many propaganda weapons…but chief among these were disease scares and the “white slavery” hysteria…the unholy alliance of middle-class feminists and puritanical religious zealots managed to convince the public, the media and governments that there was a huge international trade in underage girls, abducted and forced into sexual slavery…The fact that there was absolutely no evidence for such a vast conspiracy made no difference whatsoever; the public devoured lurid stories of child prostitution, and…voluntary adult prostitution was banned or severely restricted under the excuse of combating involuntary prostitution of “children”…

In other words, though some early feminists (such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges) were individualists who were not at all anti-sex, feminism did not become a popular movement until it embraced a rigid, puritanical morality.  These “first wave” feminists were not merely anti-prostitution, but anti-pleasure; among other things, they campaigned against the “evil” of masturbation and drove the movement which eventually imposed Prohibition on the United States.  So although this early feminism died out in the Great Depression, it is wholly unsurprising that its legacy soon infected the “second wave” which flourished in the 1960s and ‘70s; by the mid-‘80s the anti-sex forces had not only taken over feminism, but had sought out and once again joined their old allies, evangelical Christians, in another loathsome attempt to impose a puritanical anti-sex regime on all of society.  Almost exactly a century after the first iteration of their social engineering crusade, they’ve brought back most of their old rhetoric (now blended with another morally-bankrupt 19th-century belief system, Marxism) and many of their old tactics, including “white slavery” hysteria (now called “sex trafficking”).

This is what a feminist's victim looks likeAs I’ve pointed out before, much of the language in “sex trafficking” and other anti-sex articles and essays is positively Victorian, and even when it isn’t the attitudes are.  Women like Julie Bindel and Meghan Murphy, who would almost certainly take exception with (or even ridicule) the notion that their attitudes fit more in the late 19th century than the early 21st, nonetheless expend considerable effort in arguing for massive censorship campaigns (even though they deny it) and trying to convince other women that only feminist thought leaders have the right to determine which kinds of sex constitute “rape” or “exploitation”, and that their individual consent is immaterial (the result of “false consciousness”, itself a 19th-century Marxist concept).  The “end demand” campaign backed by the Fawcett Society (itself founded in 1866) is based in the tired old Victorian conceit that men can be “taught” to dislike sex as much as prudish women do; furthermore, the recent revelation that the £45 “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirts hawked by the Society are made in Dickensian sweatshops reveals that middle-class white women’s trivial concerns still trump the serious problems of working-class and brown-skinned women, just as they did in the days when the sun never set on the Empire.  And I think we can all agree that the mind which can produce over 3100 words on whether porn can be “ethical” or “feminist” is one which could’ve been perfectly delighted with thinking up new venereal nouns or arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  So no, it isn’t at all surprising that evangelical feminists conspire with evangelical Christians to make normal people’s lives as miserable as possible; they’ve been doing it for as long as there’s been such a thing as “feminism”.

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The pain [US sex policing] produces in the lives of sex workers…is nothing short of depraved and barbaric.  –  David Masciotra

Rough Trade 

A middle-aged Dublin criminal who is classified as one of Ireland’s most dangerous sex offenders has been arrested in Spain…after fleeing Ireland more than 18 months ago…At least four prostitutes…were raped and robbed by the man between 2010 and 2012…They…were [drugged] and then…sexually assaulted…

Don’t Take My Word For It

Here’s an article on a San Francisco service called ManServants, which has polite guys that women can hire to do romantic but not-directly-sexual stuff for them, like conversation, wine-pouring and hand massage:

For men, hiring a stripper has always been about performing a certain type of masculinity as much as it is about enjoying an attractive woman’s body.  In much the same way, ManServants is a performance. Even among sexually adventurous urban-dwellers, it’s déclassé to post photos of your friend receiving a lapdance from a male stripper.  But a handsome man in a tux refilling her cocktail?  Instagram gold.  According to the women behind ManServants, women want to be adored…They want a touch of theatricality, and to feel the thrill of male attention without worrying about whether they are sending the wrong signals or will have to shoo him away at the end of the night…

Heads in the Sand

We like to think that education changes people for the better, helping them critically analyze information and providing a certain immunity from disinformation.  But if that were really true, then you wouldn’t have low vaccination rates clustering in areas where parents are, on average, highly educated…researchers decided to look at a number of issues that have become politicized, such as the Iraq War, evolution, and climate change. They find that, for these issues, education actually makes it harder for people to accept reality, an effect they ascribe to the fact that “highly educated partisans would be better equipped to challenge information inconsistent with predispositions”…

Scapegoats Lucky the pit bull

I’m sure you feel safer now that these dangerous criminals have been arrested:

A married couple from Indiana were charged with bestiality after police say they made a video showing the wife performing sex acts on their dog…[which was] discovered by a police detective in Fairfax County, Virginia, on the website Beastforum.  The [cop]…was able to determine that the posts came from Anderson, Indiana, and then forwarded the information to local police…Their pit bull, Lucky, [was abducted by cops]…If convicted, the Johnsons could face…two and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine…

So What Else Is New?

gynecologist Samuel Salama and his colleagues…have some evidence supporting the reality of female ejaculation.  Salama and his team have carried out the first ever ultrasound scans on women who express large amounts of liquid at orgasm. The results…have been published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine…the research showed that there are two forms of female ejaculation.  In the first form, a small amount of milky white fluid is expressed…by the Skene glands which drain into the urethra.  But other women [were observed] “squirting” a much larger amount of fluid…from the bladder…for two participants, there was no chemical difference between the urine and the squirted fluid.  But…samples of the other five women contained prostatic-specific antigen (PSA) which was not present in their first urine samples…

Dutch Threat

the biggest mistake Jojanneke [van den Berge] made was to think that sex workers would keep silence, she seems genuinely surprised to be hearing from them and has not managed to keep her composure.  It used to be you could just make up stuff…Sex workers who didn’t fit into the role of passive victim were simply ignored.  But with twitter and other forms of social media, sex workers have a place to get their voices heard and they are noisy indeed!  Jojanneke has attempted to fight back against those unruly whores and tried to silence them, but mainstream media is picking up on this story…Jojanneke claims she has never talked to a happy hooker while in a conversation with a happy hooker.  I know at least four genuinely happy, well-educated women who decided to get into sex work out of their own free will who have talked to Jojanneke, but [she] continues to lie she’s never spoken to them…

An Example To the West (#343)

In February 2008, Thailand passed the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act.  Two months later…Fifty-four migrants from Myanmar suffocated and died while being transported…inside a cold-storage delivery truck…increased punishments, penalties and stricter border controls associated with combating human trafficking saw a change from open transportation to closed; and longer journeys resulted in diversions from normal smuggling routes to avoid checkpoints…The media portrays human trafficking in a one-dimensional way.  We see police carrying out raids and apprehending…women [who] are…stood over and herded like inanimate objects…countries such as New Zealand have reduced corruption and almost eliminated exploitation…by replacing prostitution under criminal law with labour and civil laws…

The Camel’s Nose (#344)

Dutch Ruppersberger, the NSA’s personal Rep in Congress…has announced that he’s bringing back CISPA, the cybersecurity bill designed to make it easier for the NSA to access data from tech companies…he’s using the Sony Hack as [an excuse even though]…it wouldn’t have helped…Even if Sony had opened up its system to the government, it seems unlikely that the NSA would have magically spotted this hack and done anything about it…

Here We Go Again (#344)

Though she doesn’t mention it in the video interview I posted before, and it’s pretty far down in this Alternet article, apparently Jessica Pliley does mention the connection of “white slavery” hysteria to the modern “sex trafficking” hysteria in her book Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and The Making of the FBI.  This review makes it sound very worthwhile, so I’m adding it to my wishlist.

Little Boxes (#350)

I’m not sure which is more ludicrous, the cops’ insistence that this is prostitution, or the cuddlers’ insistence that it isn’t:

Two professional cuddling services, one from Vancouver and one from Montreal, are snuggling up to Toronto…cuddling services have popped up throughout North America in recent years…[but]  controversy…has often followed, amid concerns these businesses lead to illicit activity…The Cuddlery and CuddleMe.ca both [pretend] their services aren’t sexual in nature…But [ex-cop] Dave Perry…said there are risks of sexual assault for both clients and employees with kind of service…

Ad Absurdum (#441)

“Victim”.  Can these people even hear themselves?

A 23-year-old high school teacher was arrested in Tuscaloosa [Alabama]…after police investigated an on-going relationship with one of her students…Jessica Bonnett Acker…was charged with engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19…the victim was an 18-year-old male student…

The Notorious Badge (#452)

Is this dude for real?

…Jamie Dornan [said] …“I fear I’ll get murdered, like John Lennon, by one of those mad fans at the premiere…I’m a father now, and a husband.  I don’t want to die yet”…

He keeps waving his wife and child around as though he thinks they’ll ward him from contamination by those dirty sex rays.

Subtle Pimping (#503)

I’m not going to quote any of it because it’s vile even by her incredibly low standards, but here’s neofeminist lunatic Meghan Murphy on the subject of the pro-sex worker video game currently being developed in Canada.  A warning for those unfamiliar with her:  nearly everything the evil MM writes is the prose equivalent of a parody of The Exorcist, wherein MM’s head spins wildly about at dozens of RPMs, spewing horrifying volumes of noxious green vomit on everything within range.  It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs.

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Well he would, wouldn’t he?  –  response when told Lord Astor had denied having her

As I’ve written many times, the maintenance of the Madonna/whore dichotomy demands the erasure of all ambiguity; women must solidly be classified as one or the other, “good” women or “bad”, “empowered” women or “fallen” ones, without a hint that a single woman could play both roles at different parts of her life (much less at the same time).  And so women who succeed in other careers after sex work, especially if they’re popular and well-liked, must never ever ever be described as sex workers; they might be dancers, or perhaps masseuses, or models, or even mistresses, but not what they actually were: prostitutes, no different from me or any inhabitant of any red-light district.  Of course, it helps when the prostitution is genteel and privately arranged and the whores have other “legitimate” jobs as showgirls or hostesses; then they can be described politely as “party girls” and their clients as “lovers”, and the transactional nature of their “affairs” can be glossed over on the BBC or in polite newspapers.

Marilyn Rice-Davies was born in Wales on October 21, 1944 and after a fairly conventional upbringing began modeling at 15.  After playing a window-dressing part in the film Make Mine Mink, she ran away to London at 16 and quickly got a job as a showgirl at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho; there she met and befriended Christine Keeler and the two lived together for a while.  Keeler introduced her to the well-connected osteopath Stephen Ward, who both delighted in and profited by introducing ambitious young women like Keeler and Rice-Davies to his wealthy friends.  Mandy soon became the mistress of slumlord Peter Rachman, who had previously kept Keeler, but the arrangement ended abruptly with Rachman’s death by heart attack on November 29th, 1962.  Rachman was a notorious character who had been under constant police investigation since 1959; he had been prosecuted twice for brothel-keeping and among his expensive gifts to Mandy was a new Jaguar (which was, alas, seized by his widow).  But Mandy later insisted that there was no profit motive involved in her relationship with the short, dumpy Rachman, a statement repeated without question by journalists and others ever since.

It was after Rachman’s death, however, that Rice-Davies’ ship finally came in, via the Profumo Affair and the associated persecution of Stephen Ward.  She had always hoped to achieve stardom, and since coming to London had appeared in several advertisements, but the free publicity afforded her by her appearance as a prosecution witness at Ward’s trial gave her career a mighty boost.  This is not to say that she intentionally capitalized upon Ward’s misfortune; in fact, she only agreed to testify after the cops trumped up charges involving a fake ID (and later, a supposedly stolen television set) so she could be threatened with a long stretch in Holloway if she refused to “cooperate”.  But once the trial started, she clearly both enjoyed and took advantage of the publicity.  The cameras loved her, and her comparing herself to Lady Hamilton (Lord Nelson’s mistress) made her the talk of the papers for a few weeks.  After the trial ended with Ward’s suicide at the end of July, Mandy was offered a job as a cabaret singer in Germany and quickly became involved with another wealthy patron, one Baron Cervello.

For several years she toured the world, taking whatever singing gigs she could find, then in 1966 she moved to Israel; there she met and married nightclub owner Rafael Shaul and converted to Judaism, founding a chain of restaurants and nightclubs called Mandy’s.  The couple amicably divorced in 1971 but remained business partners, and Mandy appeared in a number of Israeli films in the ‘70s, then European ones (and television show episodes) in the ‘80s.  She also published her autobiography, Mandy, in 1980 and a novel, The Scarlet Thread, in 1989.  During this time she had a number of liaisons with ever-wealthier men and an extremely short-lived marriage to the French restaurateur Jean-Charles Lefevre.  But it was her third marriage, to British businessman Ken Foreman, which accelerated what she called her “long descent into respectability”; among Foreman’s friends was Sir Denis Thatcher, and Mandy – now going by Marilyn Foreman – is known to have holidayed with Thatcher and his much more famous wife, Margaret.  She died of cancer just three weeks ago, on December 18th, and was the subject of laudatory obituaries in the Guardian  and Telegraph, among many others.

But despite her respectability and long-maintained insistence that she had never really taken money for sex, Mandy never attempted to distance herself from the Prufumo Affair and the Ward trial; in fact, in 2013 she was consulted by Andrew Lloyd Webber for his short-lived stage musical, Stephen Ward.  At the time, she revealed that she had not spoken to her old flatmate, Christine Keeler, in over three decades; while Rice-Davies had embraced the publicity and used it to advance her own interests, Keeler had been embarrassed by the whole thing and vanished from the limelight for 20 years after it was over.  Their different ways of reacting to the debacle had driven a wedge into what was never a particularly close friendship to start; “I don’t think she liked me,” Mandy said in an October 2013 interview.  And though neither of the two ever (publicly) considered themselves sex workers, their very different post-scandal lives demonstrate an important truth about two kinds of women involved in the work:  those who consider it to have been a humiliation, and those who embrace it as a means of attaining their goals.

(This month’s harlotography first appeared in Cliterati on January 4th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.)

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Yule 2014

Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right.
 –  George Harrison

Some people wonder why I, a pagan, celebrate Christmas.  Certainly many pagans don’t, and the same could be said of many atheists and many others of non-Christian faiths.  At the same time, many other non-Christians do indeed celebrate Christmas; it’s the single most popular holiday in the world, with thriving observances outside majority-Christian lands in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and South Korea.  It’s also the oldest, with roots reaching back roughly 6000 years to a land whose name is now lost to memory.  In a very real sense, the story of Christmas is the story of human civilization, and it belongs to everyone rather than only to the members of the Johnny-come-lately religion whose label and rationale is now most commonly associated with it (and whose leaders, until quite recently, wanted absolutely nothing to do with it because they recognized it as the pagan rite it is).

Though people have affixed all sorts of mythology to the holiday, the real reason it exists is the event which occurred last night at 23:03 UTC:  the winter solstice, when the apparent course of the sun reaches its southernmost point.  Last night was the longest of the year, and for the next six months the days will increase in length while the sun’s apparent course moves northward.  For modern people, wrapped in our technological cocoons and insulated from Nature, it hardly makes any difference; but for our ancestors, dependent upon the return of the spring for their crops to grow, the “rebirth” of the sun was a cause for joy and celebration.  It meant they could be sure that, no matter how cold the rest of the winter to come might be, that it would eventually end; the snow would melt, the plants would blossom and the crops upon which civilization depended could be cultivated.  There’s still a lesson there for us:  no matter how bleak things may appear, and no matter how oppressive the weight of tribulation, there is yet hope; the sun always returns, and spring always comes, even if we must endure dreadful storms before it does.  And if that isn’t a reason to celebrate, I can’t think of a better one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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