Superb in All Respects–Should be Reprinted & Updated, July 31, 2008
Let me start the review where the book ends, with a United Nations quote that says that women do two thirds of the world’s work, twice as much as the men, while receiving only 10% of the income. Bottom line: selling their bodies, on their terms, is the fastest, best route for women to what the author summarizes as better pay, easier working conditions, and greater autonomy than that achieved by most women as wives in captivity to one man, more often than not as property rather than as an equal.
I have a note to myself early on that in whoredom (harlot, coutesan–my preferred term) women are on a level playing field with men, unlike ANY other profession or calling.
The author, herself a Soho hooker who wrote The Front Line, has scoured English, French, and other sources, 154 of them to be exact, and I am enormously impressed by her combination of detailed historical review, personal insight, and gifted articulation.
Perhaps the most important point, both a thread across the book and a conclusion at the end, is that feminists have no clue–they have bought into the male condemnation of whores as “bad girls,” and do not realize that the self-directed whore is the ultimate winner across all fields, especially when they acquire enough in savings to retire to the profession or trade of their choice in their late twenties or early thirties–all without having to deal with drunken husbands, household slavery, or unwanted children–indeed, many retire into wifedom but on their terms, with their money, and the man of their choice.
Here are highlights from my flyleaf notes:
+ Whores defy control by males and chart their own course
+ Selling sex overtly equals economic independence
+ Author credits all others upon whose work she draws
+ This book restores the “hidden history” of the whore as courtesan and–until men overthrew matriarchial society–goddess and mother-figure
+ Margo St. James was the first whore to fight openly for prostitute rights (the book ends with a survey of 1970’s prostitute protection societies across US, Canada, Australia, and Europe)
+ Whores are *interesting*
+ Open discussion can–must–eradicate the false distinction of “good versus bad girls.”
+ 25,000 years of matriarchy were overturned by male force once
+ Women in history have provided 65% of the food gathering, and the related tools
+ Temple priestesses were first goddesses *and* the first whores
+ Author has a thread throughout that whores are compassionate and a civilizing influence on society, tempering the lust and healing the wounded (throughout, whores have also been nurses, actresses, and companions).
+ Double-standard has existed since time immemorial, and even great philosophers, including Rosseau, have treated women as property.
+ Jews and the Old Testament sought to place all women as the property of a man–the author is brutal on Jews, on the Catholic Church, on Protestants, and on Puritans, each in turn rising well beyond the previous in witch hunts, humiliations, and abuses against all women.
+ Dictators, especially Solon, turned “wives” into virtual slaves, under house arrest, with no education
+ Author draws the direct choice as between wife/slave and whore/equal and independent.
+ Author’s historical review stresses that the great whose of time have been courtesans who were an elite, the full companions of nobles and the wealthy, free, intellectual, witty, and good at business.
+ Whores have typically been TRAINED, not only in sex, but in the arts and sciences sufficient to thrust and parry with any educated man
+ Emperors and Kings overtime have been among the most depraved and libertine, many striken with syphillis, many with homosexual or pedophilic cravings
+ Mutual solidarity among whores is a recurring theme
+ Author states that the Catholic Church in particular set humanity back thousands of years in its ignorant and indiscriminate condemnation of all that it feared or did not understand
+ Page 93 is a lovely list of street names that represent the overt and broad influence of whores on society: Codpiece Alley, Gropecunt Street, Slut’s Hole, Cuckold Court, Whore’s Nest–all real streets in the history of London–similar names are provided for France and Germany.
+ The author excells at “naming names” of both nobles who consorted with whores, and of the “great” whores of all time, many of them naturally English
+ The author brings out a thread of middle-class wives taking up prostitution, generally part-time or occasional, as a means of gaining some form of independent means.
+ 17th Century introduced sadism, 18th Century brought forth all manner of specialty debauchery.
+ Throughout history, lesbianism, homosexuality, and bisexuality have been common and generally accepted
+ The criminalization of the sex trade dramatically increased the spread of disease, but the author notes that there is no record in modern history of a whore spreading a disease, that it is the customer who is ignorant and must be educated about the vital need for condoms
+ Extreme poverty inevitably increases the number of women (and sometimes children) who turn to prostitution
+ Police consistently blackmail and abuse whores and their madams
+ 18th Century math: whore earns $50 a week, working women $1 a week
+ 19th Century brought us the psychic castration of women, idea that women could not have sexuality
+ She blows away the white slave trade myth
+ 20th Century, Rockefeller and others, destroyed prospects for women who sought to be independent whores
+ Today 70% of the whores are middle class women declaring their independence from hypocritical or overly dominating structures, *and* escort services for women are increasing
+ Street whoring is antithetical to common crime
I end this review with a quote from page 339, citing Carol Leigh alias Scarlot Harlot, “Sex work is nurturing, healing work. It could be considered a high calling. Prostitutes are great women, veritable priestesses.”
There is a great deal to think about in this book. See also:
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage (Critical Perspectives Series)
Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude