Lorettes and society
Class Prostitutes and the Law
Representations in Les Miserables
Realities of Authority in Paris
Brothels and Streetwalkers
The Privileged Class: Courtesans
Defining the courtesan
Courtesans in reality
Lower Class Prostitutes
We introduced this site by
stating that there were as many classes of prostitutes as there were
classes in Parisian society at the time of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.
As we previously stated, the difference between courtesans and lower
class prostitutes who walked the streets and worked in brothels were
Courtesans and Lorettes
- For these women,
like Fantine in Les Mis, this type of lifestyle was not
done out of choice, but out of necessity. The majority of women
who walked the streets or worked
did so because they were impoverished, or had a family to support.
Either that, or they were abandoned and alone.
often chose their lovers, out of jealousy and rivalry with other
women of their social class. These women often held small jobs
already, usually in small shops. They took bourgeois
lovers who were already married as a form of social climbing.
There was no chance that these women would ever have to resort
to walking the streets.
- Lower class prostitutes
did not lead a pampered lifestyle. They did not have the benefit
of money, clothes and extravagant gifts from their prestigious
lover. They did not have one lover who they were attached to,
but hundreds of men just interested in using them for their
own sexual pleasure.
- Courtesans and lorettes
were very pampered. They received fine clothes, jewelry and
gifts from their lovers. These women usually stuck with their
lover until a better offer came along, or they were just plain
- These women were
frequently assaulted by male antagonists. There are reports
of men wreaking havoc on brothels, as well as a large number
of assaults on unregistered prostitutes. (The vast majority
of which going unreported.)
- While domestic violence
against courtesans and lorettes probably occurred during that
time, courtesans were sheltered enough that they were not very
vulnerable to attacks by random men like the brothel workers
- Streetwalkers especially
had to be street-smart and avoid the
police at all costs for fear of being arrested.
Women who worked in brothels were kept on a list which tallied
all the operating brothels in the city.
- Courtesans and lorettes
were immune from the law. Since they were not visible to the
majority of Parisian society, police turned a blind eye to their
Click here to see a detailed
chart of why these lower class women became
Read on to find out more