comparison of nineteenth century courtesans and the upper class
women of the time illustrate the freedom that could be gained by
giving up a husband and selling ones body.
bourgeoisie women of the eighteen hundreds were captives. From a
young age they were not given the same rights as any male counterparts
and were, simply because of their sex, given a lesser value. A young
woman was not expected to be highly educated but was to be well
versed in all the social etiquette of the time. She was to know
how to perform the duties of a woman but in general was more of
a window dressing. The thoughts and ideas of women were not taken
seriously if they were even listened to by men and even if they
made sense, the fact that it came from a woman discounted any substance
it might have had.
were like children, meant to be seen and not heard. They were useful
for starting a family, for running a household and for spending
their husbands money on fripperies and fineries but that was about
With the birth of the enlightenment and the birth of salons women
did gain a certain foothold into the world of politics and thought
but were still not equal and were certainly not more powerful or
prestigious then any man.
were unlike the upper class women in many ways. They were not tied
down to a husband and could enjoy the attentions of many men whenever
they liked. They were also able to speak their minds on any subject.
Although the women of the time were slowly gaining this right as
well it did not compare to the way in which courtesans were able
to speak and think freely along any route they chose.
was also used as a way of gaining power and prestige. Courtesans
were usually highly educated and well versed in the etiquette of
the time but they were also independent and able to express themselves
as no other women could.
courtesan or lorette was in control of her own life. She decided
what lovers to take and she decided what was acceptable for her
to do or say. The more genteel women of the time did not have this
seems as though selling one's body is a small price to pay for the
amount of freedom that was allowed to courtesans. Even though the
bourgeoisie women had prestige based solely upon class distinctions
they did not have any amount of freedom to live as they wished.
Even women with more open-minded husbands or fathers were not able
to act as they wished simply because society demanded certain things
of women. This was not so for the courtesan who, in choosing her
profession had already rejected society's constraints and was thus
able to live in an open and free manner.
detail of Edouard Manet, Le
Dejeuner sur l'herb, 1863 (16. for
source click here) . For
more discussion on this image click
Click here to
learn more about: