Erotic Exchanges: The World of Elite Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Anglais) Relié – 6 décembre 2013
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At this time, it was important for girls and women of all walks of life, to work, to be wallflowers and then get successfully married. In many cases when the girls and women got deflowered before their marriage, it meant they could lose their job or/and not get successfully married. Virginity and youth was revered, and that is also why so many kept women and prostitutes were teenagers when they first started out - some not more than twelve years of age. There were many parents who were struggling financially who sold their girls to prostitution, often against their girl's will. In this time, parents had enormous power and rights over their children and the police rarely stepped in. Even if what the parents were doing was illegal; it wasn't always a question whether something was illegal or not, but more about avoiding scandal and making sure things were running smoothly, without too much notice. (It was surprising to see first hand through the reports the amount of network the police had and how much they actually knew.)
When a girl was successfully enrolled with a Madam, the goal was to find a patron they could become a mistress for. It meant security in that the girl would have a monthly salary, a household, and would have a "degree of agency and a potential for financial success." It also meant that their bodies were not "common to all", as was the case for a "fille du monde, or a prostitute". Many were theater performers and some worked in fashion, and would sometimes find patrons this way; the salaries for dances, for example, at the Opéra or at Comédie Française, were incredibly low and they struggled. There is so much more I could say about this book, but Nina Kushner did an excellent job of explaining the central arguments of the book in the beginning of the book.
Throughout the book, you come to understand how life was socially and culturally for these women at this time in history. If you're interested in women's history and social history, I would highly recommend this book. Though a word of warning, this is an academic work which means that the book can be a bit of a challenge and not so accessible to read. It's an interesting subject, or it can be if written well. I think Nina Kushner excelled at being very clear throughout the book. She weaves quite a complicated tale, but it felt very level-headed and understandable in the writing, I thought.