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Beyond the bedroom: the surprising history of prostitution around the world

The complex history of prostitution around the world reveals where and when most prostitutes offered more than sex. Throughout the centuries and the globe, there have been many places and moments where both the prostitutes  and their relationship with society suddenly differed from the modern perspective. will tell you the surprising history of prostitution around the world. Read on!

History of prostitution: prostitutes in Renaissance Italy

Italian courtesans knew freedom like no other Renaissance prostitutes. While most women in this period were truly able to educate themselves if they were sent to a convent, courtesans could study freely.

Furthermore, these luxury prostitutes were able to achieve the same security and stability as married women and, unlike married women, were actually able to embrace their sexuality.

Widely considered the most educated women of their time, these women were able to hold philosophical conversations and discuss poetry with their clients, in addition providing also sexual services. Their influence became so great that they could actually affect politics, sharing their opinions with the politicians among their clientele.

Edo-Period Japan Contrary to popular belief, Japanese geisha were not solicited for sex (instead, they were entertainers and hosts). To mistake a geisha for a cheap prostitute was thought to be an incredibly shameful transgression. On the other hand, the 'oiran', or luxury escorts", were actually prostitutes. 'Oiran' were the highest-ranking prostitutes during Japan's Edo period (early 1600s - mid-1800s) - while prostitution was allowed. Considered skilled enough to entertain the nobles, these luxury prostitutes often used highly formal language and elaborate costumes for their entertainment, being the equivalent of a luxury escort as we call them today. Because they managed to escape the heavy patriarchal hand that often affected married women, these whores were able to maintain their own power and influence without any hindrance.

History of Prostitution: The Ottoman Empire

Throughout history, many prostitutes were not exclusively women - as seen, for example, in the Turkish baths of the Ottoman Empire. With the rise of these baths in the 15th century, young boys known as tellaks would help bathe and massage their male clients, and even sexually service them. Even though sodomy was illegal during this period, tellaks would find other ways to satisfy their clients and sometimes formed close relationships with them. They were even allowed to keep all money earned and were well compensated for any services provided.

Prostitutes in pre-colonial India

The complex history of prostitution in India has had, at one point or another, approximately nine different levels of prostitutes. At the bottom, you will find devadasis, who come from the untouchable caste.

Sold against their will by their parents at the age of four, these sex women are forever committed to the fertility goddess, Yellamma. Because they cannot marry mortal men, they work until they are no longer considered young and attractive and are banished to live out the rest of their lives as beggars. At the highest level were the ganika. Master of 64 types of spectacular arts, Ganika had a vast knowledge of music, painting, theater and poetry. While ordinary prostitutes found themselves living in overcrowded brothels, these elite escort ladies resided in well-furnished homes and even had their own servants. Since they stood as women not only of beauty, but of refined intellect and skill, they were respected enough to be brought to public functions, such as festivals and parties.

History of prostitution: prostitutes in Ancient Greece

Of all the women in Greece's long history of prostitution, none held themselves to such high standards as the auletrides. In a period when sexual services were taxed by the state, auletrids were qualified in more than the art of sexual pleasure. Many turned out to be not only singers and dancers, but even gymnasts. When hired to entertain at parties and private gatherings, these women could earn the modern equivalent of several thousand dollars with just one evening's worth of work. In general, they managed to find a respectable place in their culture and even found themselves in countless works of art and literature.

Modern America

In America today, Nevada is the only state that legally allows prostitution, in designated locations. One such brothel, Moonlite BunnyRanch, proved to be a fair and decent place for prostitutes to make a living. Not only are there strict rules stating that men must use latex condoms during any sexual activity, STD tests are administered weekly to each of the 500 women authorized to work at the brothel. Drug use is strictly prohibited on the premises and any sexual limits set by women must be strictly followed by their clients. In addition, many of the women are responsible for creating their own marketing databases and even handle online promotion.

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