Every year on her feast day, I honor St. Mary Magdalene; even though the Church does not officially recognize her as the patron of whores, she certainly is in the public imagination. And that recognition of sacred whoredom is far more important than any official designation by any organization.
Posts Tagged ‘Aphrodite’
After a few months of devotion to personal issues, the balance of my effort is once again shifting to work and activism. I don’t think I really need to tell y’all what my work involves, though I will say I’ve met some lovely gentlemen and done a few fun duos lately. Of course I’m going to remind y’all about my Toys for Tots promotion; it’s running until the 18th, so if you live in the Seattle area and wish to take advantage, drop me a line to ask for details! On the activism front, SWOP Seattle has a number of events related to the December 17th observance; one of them is a panel discussion on stigma, to be held on Saturday the 19th. That’s all I have to report for right now, and frankly I’m rather glad of that; Aphrodite has made it very clear to me that I’ve been working much too hard for too many years, and She wants me to learn to relax. And since I have a number of friends who share Her opinion on the subject, that’s exactly what I’m starting to do. It’s not easy for me, but it’s necessary, and you know what? I’m even starting to get the hang of it.
Beauty…is a visitor who leaves behind the gift of grief, the souvenir of pain. – Christopher Morley
“It’s fine for work, I guess, but you actually live here, too?” She asked, with badly-disguised disdain.
“Yes. I’m sorry, I thought You knew that,” I replied, trying not to sound too defensive.
“Well, yes, I did, but…it’s so small.”
“Rent is high around here; this is all I can afford right now. If You want me to have something bigger, You could send me more work.” Was that too daring, even though I did say it with a smile?
Well, Her response could’ve been much worse; still, I figured it would be best to change the subject. “Would You like something to drink?”
“What a charming idea! Do you have any champagne chilled?”
“Um, no. Not chilled, and not at room temperature either. I’m afraid I’m a bit short on champagne at the moment.”
“Pity. What’s the closest thing to it you do have on hand?”
“Well, that depends. I have some wine, some whiskey and some vodka if You want liquor, but if it’s the fizz You’re looking for I have these fruit-flavored carbonated water drinks.” In response to Her rather skeptical look, I added, “They’re sugar free even.” The skepticism increased. “It helps me keep my figure.” Yes, I know it was dumb; I didn’t know what else to say. It’s not every day that the Boss Lady drops by in person.
She sighed so deeply it sounded like something drawn from the bottom of the sea. “Well, I suppose you could make me a fizzy cocktail. Not that I need to watch my figure or anything.”
Yikes! “Oh, goodness, I didn’t mean to imply…”
She waved off my concerns with an airy gesture; I got to work on the cocktail. When I handed it to Her, She sniffed it as though trying to be sure it wasn’t spoiled, then took a dainty but substantial sip. “This is terrible.”
“I’m so sorry! If You like, I could…”
“Not necessary,” She interrupted.
I finally broke the uncomfortable pause with, “I just learned to do that pretty recently, make drinks I mean, and I’m afraid I’m not very good at it yet.”
“No, you’re not. Luckily, neither your income nor your reputation depends on your skill at bartending.”
“Yes. I mean no.” I’m not easily tongue-tied, but there was more than ample cause. I would’ve been heartened by the fact that She had taken another sip, had it not been accompanied by a half-grimace. Time for another change of topic. “To what do I owe the great honor of this visit?”
Her smile lit up the room and instantly soothed the sting of Her previous comments. “Oh, I just happened to be in the neighborhood, and…” Now it was my turn to look incredulous, and She responded with a laugh so beautiful it literally took my breath away. “No, I guess you won’t believe that, will you?”
“Well, no, not really.”
The smile became even lovelier. “I’m really very fond of you, you know.” I was totally speechless. “Oh, come now darling, surely you already knew that after all this time!”
“I…well…um…” Why was I crying? Damn, so much for looking cool.
“I know that, since taking the job…how many years ago was it?”
“Twenty.” It came out sounding something like a croak.
“Twenty years! How time flies! Since taking the job twenty years ago, you’ve performed admirably and I really have noticed; it’s just that I’m so very busy and, well, time gets away from one. Sometimes I think of you and realize, ‘Goodness, it’s been years since I looked in on her!’ and yet there you are, still faithfully toiling away at your mission as though I were breathing down your neck the whole time!”
“Thank you, My Lady; You know I always keep my promises.”
“And so you have, dear girl. I know I’ve been awful about keeping up with you; it’s just this mood I’ve been in for the past 15 years or so. And the reason I dropped by is to let you know that I’m going to try to do better.”
I don’t have a word to describe the complex mixture of emotions that boiled up in response, and I wouldn’t have dared to vocalize it even if I had. So I just sat there and sobbed like a schoolgirl, and She glided across the room to sit beside me and draw me into Her arms. “There, there,” She said, “It really will be all right. I promise, by the Styx.” And then She kissed me, and if I live to be a hundred no kiss of mortal woman could ever hope to match that brief brush of Her lips against mine.
I awoke with Her scent still all around me, and my face wet with tears. I had never had such an intensely real-seeming vision before, and it had thrown me off-balance; I felt like I needed to get up, collect my thoughts, get my jumbled emotions back in control and re-orient myself to consensual reality. I stumbled into the outer room, and my attention was immediately drawn to the vase of roses atop my desk; they seemed fresher than they had been, and of a deeper color and sweeter perfume than before. I gently, almost reverently stroked the petals of one, softer than a woman’s skin, and then reached down to draw it from the vase so that I might examine it under better light. But in my fascination at the apparent revival of my flowers, I neglected to use caution in grasping the stem; the blood which welled forth from my finger was as red as the rose.
Every thing teaches transition, transference, metamorphosis: therein is human power, in transference, not in creation; & therein is human destiny, not in longevity but in removal. We dive & reappear in new places.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
So here we are again, for the fifth time; I daresay this is becoming a habit. That’s really not surprising; ever since I retired from sex work in 2006, my life has been bound by habits and schedules, like a cocoon I wove to give myself structure and meaning at a time when the framework that had defined my life for nine years had suddenly been taken away. That self-imposed bondage was comfortable and safe; it allowed me time to think and to explore, to figure out who I was now and to decide what was important to me and where I wanted my life to go. And as I slowly, haltingly learned about the power of the internet, I also became aware of a great restlessness and dissatisfaction in myself; I found myself talking about sex work and sex worker rights on message boards that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject, and began to resent prissy moderators who could delete anything I wrote on a whim. By the time I had been retired for four years, I could stand it no more; I had to stake out a place in this new digital world where I could share the truth about my life, my sisters and the only work I ever loved. At first, I was extremely anonymous; in May of 2012 I even turned down an offer to host a TV show on the History Channel because I was just not ready for that kind of exposure. I had not yet broken out of my cocoon, but merely reshaped it for purposes of my activism.
But in the summer of 2012, that all began to change when I accepted an invitation to appear at the Southern Harm Reduction Conference; a few weeks later I agreed to speak at Albany Law School’s symposium the next February. The cocoon had become too small and much too restrictive, and I was breaking out of it; people began to hear my voice in interviews and see my face at events, and when I decided to go on my tour last summer I shook the last tatters of silk from my newfound wings and proudly revealed my face (and the rest of me) for the world to see. There’s no turning back now; the die, as the man said in Latin, is cast. In the past few months I’ve been recognized twice in the small town I live nearest, and that’s just fine with me; I wouldn’t turn down a TV hosting gig now as easily as I turned down the reality show offer I got last spring. Flitting under my own power from coast to coast last summer was the scariest, craziest, least-scripted thing I’ve ever done, and also one of the most rewarding; this year I plan to explore even more widely. Sometimes I miss the coziness of that cocoon, but the warmth of the sun and the smell of the flowers and the feel of the breeze under my wings are far better, and the work Aphrodite wants me to do can’t be done while tied up in the dark.
Posted in Holidays, Philosophy, tagged anecdote, Aphrodite, BDSM, dirty, fantasy, holidays, Ladies of the Night, law, Mexico, paganism, psychology, rape, violence vs. sex workers on November 1, 2014| 58 Comments »
Lady fairest ever seen
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on the marriage-bed,
Whispering to his soul, he said,
“Though a bridegroom never pressed
Dearer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay:
Even this shall pass away.” – Theodore Tilton, “The King’s Ring”
Every year on the Day of the Dead I write about why the holiday exists, why it is necessary, and why ruining the quality of life in an attempt to increase its quantity is both foolish and ultimately futile. To those who have only started reading me this year, or who have only read a few selected pieces over a longer time, this might seem a strange topic for a harlot; one might expect death to be the farthest pole from my topic, except perhaps for mentioning it as an extreme manifestation of whore stigma or when paying my respects on December 17th. But in truth, it’s both predictable and appropriate on a personal, professional and philosophical level.
From a personal standpoint, I would probably have written often on this topic even had I never become a card-carrying prostitute; I was a strange, wild, moody Wednesday Addams of a child, born on Halloween night and fascinated with horror lore and imagery. Autumn was both my native season and the one in which I felt most comfortable, and I struggled with depression for over twenty years until at long last sex work helped me to get a handle on it. My favorite books, stories and even songs mostly tend to involve death or other melancholy elements, and just look at the stories I’ve published on this blog and in my book (or just the cover of the damned thing, for goddess’ sake!) So if you’ve read more than a handful of my (burnt) offerings and were still surprised that I sometimes think and write about death, you just haven’t been paying attention.
Professionally speaking, I must point out that whores often deal with the dark side of human nature. Fear and sex are inextricably intertwined, and men who have rape fantasies or other “bad” urges may seek out sex workers to help them explore these in a safe and non-judgmental space; others, unfortunately, may seek out unwilling sex workers for the same reason, and the only “safety” they seek is their own relative safety from legal consequences. Dominatrices and some fetish workers specialize in dealing with the darker aspects of human sexuality, and in criminalized, semi-criminalized and quasi-criminalized systems virtually all sex workers (especially those who work the street) are at a much greater risk of violence or even death than their domesticated amateur sisters. And nobody who is afraid of death, or who views it as an unpleasant subject improper for polite company, could do the work I do now; take a look at a few items in any of my TW3 columns and I think you’ll see what I mean.
It is no accident that sex workers are among the most dedicated worshippers of the Mexican death-goddess, Santa Muerte, and that many of the myths surrounding pagan whore-goddesses (who were sometimes war-goddesses as well) involved violence and death; even long before criminalization of sex work was the norm, it was recognized that sex itself comes from the same hidden parts of the human psyche as those less-pleasant things. Sex originates from the deepest wellsprings of life, but so does death; the latter is no less a biological process than the former. Sex brings new life into the world, but death sustains that life; every one of us (yes, even vegans) continues his existence at the expense of the other lives we consume every single day in order to keep our internal fires burning and repair our damaged or worn-out tissues with materials stolen from the dead. Not even plants are innocent of this colossal carnage; since some substances (such as phosphorus) are comparatively scarce, all life would soon grind to a halt were the constant supply of corpses to be choked off. Nor is sex itself all moonlight and love songs; in many species it’s a brutal, coercive affair, and even among humans it can never be purged of its bestial and terrifying aspects, no matter how much feminists and other puritans insist that it can. Sex and death are our constant reminders that for all our pretensions we are still animals; no wonder those uncomfortable with that fact try to disguise and sanitize both of them, to hide them from the children and speak about them in whispers, to bind them in legal codes and bury them under layers of ritual. But no matter how deeply we bury our sexualities they reassert themselves, and no matter how diligently we try to delay death, it will come when it will come. Both are impossible to ignore and impossible to prevent, and human society would be a lot better off if we learned to accept both as indisputable facts of material existence.
Beauty depends on size as well as symmetry. – Aristotle
Maeve resisted the urge to hurl the abacus against the far wall of the library. It might have given her a little momentary satisfaction, but it would do nothing to remedy the situation and would, in fact, make it slightly worse because she would then have to buy another abacus. She had carefully checked her figures three times, and found no errors; for the first time since she had become a courtesan, her expenditures for the month had exceeded her income. And given that she had been cutting back on those expenditures for over a year now, that was a very bad development indeed.
She hastened to her looking-glass and closely examined her face in it. She was still a very beautiful woman, but the encroaching signs of age were unmistakable and even the expensive cosmetics she purchased from a talented alchemist could only delay the inevitable. Sooner or later she would begin to display the grey hair and wrinkles she had evaded for decades, and then her income would dry up along with her body. Maeve sighed deeply; she was not an especially wise woman nor a frugal one, and though she had known for half her life that this day would eventually come, she had failed to make even the most rudimentary investments for her retirement. And while most women could count on children and grandchildren to support them in their dotage, Maeve had traded away her ability to have them many years ago, in a bargain that seemed sensible at the time. Her only hope was the Potion of Youth that the alchemist said he could make for her, but its price was so high she dared not spend the money unless she was absolutely certain it would buy her many years of good income again.
No, she was in a fine stew indeed, and thinking her way out of things had never been her strong point. So she instead retired to her private shrine to Venus and began to pray for either divine inspiration or (preferably) a new and generous patron who would consider her maturity a plus rather than a minus. When she was finished with her prayers, she found her maid Elise waiting for her in the anteroom with a rather odd look on her face. “Ma’am, you have a visitor downstairs.”
“How wonderful! Perhaps the goddess has answered my prayer already!”
Elise’s mien grew even stranger, but Maeve did not notice; she was already halfway down the stairs in less time than it takes to tell, and her maid appeared in no rush to keep up with her. Reaching the door to her parlor, she took a moment to check her hair and teeth in another glass, then swept gracefully into the room in a way calculated to impress any but the dullest of clients. It is a testament to her years of experience that she did not gasp out loud when she saw who was waiting for her in the room, but no mortal could have kept at least a momentary reaction from being reflected in her visage. Because seated on the couch, drinking her tea and eating her cakes, was someone she at first took to be a very small boy until she realized that he had a beard.
He immediately stood up and bowed deeply; even though he was standing on the couch, his head was yet below the level of her bosom when he returned to an upright position. “Allow me to introduce myself, dear lady; I am Ulwin O’Meglyn.”
The room grew quiet for a moment; Maeve was completely at a loss for words. And even when she found her tongue at last, what came forth would not have won marks for elocution. “Unless I very much miss my guess, good sir, you are a leprechaun.”
“I am not!” he said with controlled indignation. “I am a brownie. Leprechauns are about six inches taller and generally dress in tasteless green outfits, though I must admit they make some very fine shoes.”
Maeve was beginning to wonder what she could possibly have done to offend her goddess enough to deserve this joke being played upon her. “Good Sir Brownie…”
“Ulwin. I apologize for my reaction, but, ah, I expected a different kind of visitor. If you are seeking a position here, I would be happy to have you under the traditional arrangement.”
The little man looked at her with a rather annoyed expression. “Madam, it is clear that you are rather ill-informed about developments in the relations between our races over the past several generations. While it is true that in the past most of my people worked as servants in human households and refused to take formal payment, that has long since ceased to be the rule; I am the owner of an agency which places brownies in service in the very best households in the kingdom. And as you can see, I have done quite well for myself.”
Now that he mentioned it, Maeve noticed that his clothes were impeccably tailored and his hat, boots and walking-stick new and of the finest craftsmanship. “Pardon my ignorance, Sir Brownie…”
“Ulwin. I’m not especially interested in hiring additional paid servants at this time, but if I change my mind…”
“Dear lady, at the risk of being indelicate…I am not here to offer the services of those I represent, but to hire your services.”
Maeve could not help but laugh, though she had no desire to offend the polite little gentleman. “You must forgive me, sir, but…well, it seems the difference in our statures might make that sort of activity rather difficult.”
“You disappoint me, madam. Surely you do not think me a schoolboy who considers mere coupling to be the be-all and end-all of the time a man spends with a woman?”
For the first time, she realized he was absolutely earnest; exactly three seconds later, she began to consider his proposition. She cautiously sat down beside him; he was still shorter than her despite the fact that he was standing on the seat. “You’re serious?”
“But, don’t I seem…well, rather huge and grotesque in your eyes?”
“I would not be here if I felt that way.”
“I suppose not. But why…I mean, how…that is…”
“I hardly thought I would have had to explain the strange mysteries of humanoid desire to an expert in the field.”
Maeve knew he was right; there was no predicting what strange permutations would arouse the ardor of one man or another, and in her many years of experience she had found that no less true of dwarves, elves or other near-human people. And it was obvious he had a great deal of money; perhaps Venus had heard her prayer after all. “Your suggestions intrigue me, Ulwin,” she purred in her most charming manner; “Let me pour you some more tea and we’ll discuss it further.”
His smile let her know that she had already dispelled whatever bad feelings her clumsy and unprofessional reactions had engendered, and as they chatted she envisioned a profitable association with him and perhaps other little men who might share his tastes. Nor was that the limit of the possibilities his visit had opened her mind to; one of her regular gentlemen had told her that only two days’ ride into the mountains, there was a village of friendly giants.
Posted in History, Philosophy, tagged Aphrodite, archeofeminism, Catholicism, holidays, Ireland, Madonna/whore, paganism, rescue industry, sacred prostitutes, stage names, United Kingdom on July 22, 2014| 7 Comments »
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.