Meditation On Casanova’s Leah

Giacomo Casanova reports one of his lady-friends as having said, “A girl who gives nothing must take nothing”. I was startled to meet, in the eighteenth century, a strain of feminism that had been common in my youth. Back then, a woman who wanted company but had no intention of going to bed with you might insist on going Dutch. She did not conceptualise this in ideological terms, but rather in language of dignity and ethical straightness. If the man wined and dined her, there would be a certain degree of obligation, at least in his mind, probably in the minds of third parties and perhaps even in her own. And if she did not want to go there, she would not allow him to pay the bill. Simple as that.

In Leah’s case that fastidiousness may have come from her being Jewish, because everyone else in Casanova’s memoirs was happy to amass as much loot as possible from male sexual interest, gratified or otherwise. In this way the continent’s entire womanhood seemed in one way or another on the game, from the kitchenmaid up to the duchess – or most especially the duchess. I have seen the same in Africa. To the extent that this is no longer true of Europe, it must represent a historical anomaly.

After my own youth the pendulum swung again, so that some young ladies came to think that feminism meant doing whatever you liked and at the same time taking men for plenty of swag. Getting a good price for their tail, or a mere hint thereof, became rebranded as Girl Power. I always thought the older principle showed more ethical integrity.

Such is the human talent for self-deceit, however, that Going Dutch was actually compatible with the Remount Strategy I have discussed elsewhere. Casanova was capable of being just-friends with a woman, since he appreciated intelligence above all, but he could see the difference between a fiercely independent bluestocking and a hypocrite accumulating a reserve of potential benefactors.

(Fiddle to August 28, 2012)

Posted on May 15, 2021 at 11:29 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, Knightly Service And Its Reward

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