Whores in History: Prostitution in Western Society

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Harper Collins, 1992 - Prostitutes - 380 pages
'If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, then men writing about it is certainly the second oldest.' It was to retrieve an important part of women's history from the hands of male writers - who have defined prostitution from their own point of view as the client sex - that Nickie Roberts undertook this invigorating blend of social history and sexual politics. In her far-reaching narrative account, the author proclaims herself unreservedly on the side of the unrepentant whore, the most maligned woman in history. From the high-ranking temple whores of Egypt and the courtesans of Ancient Greece and Rome, she tells the story of the prostitute with liberal quotations from contemporary sources and anecdotes of bawdy-house and brothel life. She shows how, in the Middle Ages, the Church exploited the sex industry to build churches out of the proceeds; she describes the high-class cortegiane of Renaissance Italy, the French maisons de tolerance and the lives of the grandes horizontales; and she analyses the Victorian denial of female sexuality (which enabled the bourgeois male to concentrate exclusively on his own) and the double standards of conventional attitudes. In the 20th-century section, she gives whores their voice and describes whores' movements such as the English Collective of Prostitutes and the American COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics). She criticizes legislative attempts at control, challenges orthodox views on prostitutes, dissects feminist approaches to the subject ('all sex work is degrading to women') and argues strongly in favour of the decriminalization of prostitution and the sexual and financial autonomy of the whore. The result is a vivid, stimulating andwell-researched work of history whose perspective on the subject is both original and provocative, and whose argument will engage both male 'experts' and feminist 'sisters' alike.

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Wives Slaves and Whores
the Imperial Sex Trade
the Martyrdom of Sexuality

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