The New Lydians

Herodotus further informs us that in Lydia, instead of waiting quietly at home and being dowered by their parents, the young women were wont to empower themselves. Commoners all worked for some time as prostitutes, saved up for their own dowries, and then married the men of their own choice. Similarly, Arthur Schopenhauer reporting reading with prurient interest – and with what accuracy I have no idea – that the young Japanese women of his day were not bound to chastity but married only after a long term of service in the bordellos. The Lydian custom may be gaining ground among ourselves: for “dowries”, read “college fees” or “down payment on a first house”.

On the Pacific island of Palau, unmarried girls moved into the men’s clubhouses in friendly neighbouring villages, where they could meet marriage partners and receive instruction in politics. Along the way they exchanged sexual services for money, which, on their return to the women’s society of their home village, they distributed as largesse so as to gain high prestige among their peers. Which is, of course, what women most want.

In the period between the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Dutch crackdown on foreign sex workers, I heard of a Slovakian woman who did a stint as an Amsterdam window girl in order to raise money for a lavish wedding. Presumably there were many others like her. Such a pattern is no less real than the phenomenon of Moldavian girls being lured or even kidnapped and sold by the mafia, but it is one the journalists do not want to tell us about. A creditable reason for this may be because the trafficking of sex-slaves is a problem that needs to be tackled, whereas the Slovakian girl’s story is a done deal and her own damn business anyway. One less creditable reason is that newspapers increasingly do not report reality, but create it, and whatever does not fit their opinion-engineering programme is resolutely ignored. Yet another, hardly more creditable, reason is that people find the notion of selling sexual services this week to finance one’s wedding next week profoundly disturbing. It does not fit the romantic paradigm. But this is no reason not to be aware of a piece of reality. And perhaps the romantic paradigm is what should disturb and horrify us anyway.

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 20:01 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE NAME OF THE GAME, Belles Du Jour

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