Social Acceptance

Literary Representations
Lorettes and society

Lower Class Prostitutes and the Law
Representations in Les Miserables
Realities of Authority in Paris
Brothels and Streetwalkers

The Privileged Class: Courtesans

Defining the courtesan
Visual representations
Courtesans in reality




Being socially acceptable is a big thing nowadays. It seems that this has always been the case because fitting in with the right people has always been an important part of life for many centuries. Especially in the France of the eighteen hundreds social acceptability was a pivotal part of life. In a time when appearances and classes held so much sway, to be socially unacceptable was a terrible thing to be. In the world of prostitution gaining social acceptability was only made minutely possible if you were a very high class courtesan or sometimes a lorette.

It seems odd that prostitution was so widespread especially considering the fact that everyone spoke out against it. The only reason that I can come up with is that while everyone was busy saying that prostitution was wrong, they were also indulging themselves while no one was watching.

Nineteenth century France was full of sexual hypocrisy. The hypocrisy grew from the fact that though almost every man frequented brothels or spent his time with a mistress they also frowned upon prostitution in its many forms. While many men would publicly speak out about prostitution and would claim that it was a sin they could usually be found with one of the aforementioned sinners in the night.

Women did not look kindly on prostitution at all. Although several women kept lovers themselves they did not frequent brothels or pick up men on the street. This had a lot to do with the fact that the way that women acted was rigidly structured with the etiquette of the time. These proper women disliked the prostitutes and were perhaps even a little bit jealous of them as well. Courtesans of the time lead very comfortable lives as did lorettes. Streetwalkers and common prostitutes were not really enviable but they were at least living independently, supporting themselves. This is not to say that the women of the time wanted to be prostitutes but who wouldn't envy someone who spent almost as much time with their husbands as they themselves did?

In general being a prostitute of any class was a double edged sword. Many resorted to such lines of work out of desperation or simply a desire to live in a comfortable manner. Although many women escaped poverty or a life of loveless marriage in this way they were also socially outcast. Only the courtesans, who were able to blend in with society to a certain extent, and even in some cases lorettes, were able to enjoy society and all it had to offer. While courtesans were able to blend in they did not always remain unnoticed by the bourgeoisie class. Sometimes, even a well dressed woman, displaying all the proper etiquette of the time could be exposed for the double life that she lead and thus ostracized.

It seems that even though it was very difficult to gain social acceptability everyone, even prostitutes of different classes tried to achieve it. For many the dream was never realized and for those that were able to creep into the society life was not always easy. This is largely due to that fact that France's population contained much sexual hypocrisy and shunned prostitutes while supporting them.


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