I have found it to be quite true, that men of a certain type of power and success, can be easily intimidated by female power. For instance, they often marry vapid women who are more interested in their money than them. So many of my clients expressed a sense of entitlement regarding their wives – they were providing for them so they didn’t feel incongruent about “cheating” on them. I often asked individual men if they thought their wife was also stepping outside the marriage. The very idea would often elicit a scoff as almost every man had convinced himself that only he would engage in such behavior.
What I found particularly intriguing was how many of these same men hungered for a sexual companion who was anything but malleable. It led me to begin referring to this phenomena in this way:
Our culture prefers that Wives are Dumb and Docile but that does nothing for the Libido. Men may want wives and girlfriends who are easily controlled but in bed they prefer a companion who is powerful and challenging. It is the electricity of some level of intellectual and emotional challenge which drives desire. This is why the Patriarchy requires the Whore/Madonna Complex: a splitting of femininity into two camps so that women feel compelled to pick a side and thereby deny half of their reality as a whole human.
There is a beautiful movie entitled Dangerous Beauty. It is about the life of a Renaissance courtesan from Venice, named Veronica Franco. The movie illustrates perfectly the choice women faced of that time between being accepted as a person worthy of marriage (wives were not allowed to read, write or pursue an education) and being a free woman fully empowered to delve into domains normally reserved for men. Veronica Franco was simply too independent and intelligent to be a wife and her mother despaired for her future, so she instructed her in the ways of a courtesan. As a courtesan, Veronica Franco, learned to read and debate men in conversation. She took up fencing and she wrote her memoirs. This was a life of power reserved for courtesans. The price for admission was living outside the protection and approval of society.
Today, we speak of prostitutes as if they all live and work in the squalor of the streets. The fact is that the majority of modern prostitutes operate from their homes discreetly supplementing their incomes and/or financing their dreams, whether that is an education, a sole proprietorship or perhaps their art. They too, are women who are not satisfied with the “good girl” role. They probably feel stifled and silenced and confined by popular feminine behavior. And breaking free of that provides a sense of power they have rarely experienced in other contexts.
It isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are possible arrests and evictions and serial rapists who love to prey upon sex workers because the law affords almost no protection for a “fallen woman.” But for some, the risks are worth it. Anyone who thinks it is just about sex doesn’t understand this fatal split in the feminine. Anyone who thinks is it just about money, doesn’t understand how deeply many humans crave freedom of expression. Sex work is about sex and it is about work, but more importantly it is about breaking free of the rules which dictate women are either “good” or “bad” – either worthy of protection or worthy of persecution.
Few sex workers relate to this on a conscious level, unless they are sex worker rights activists or sacred prostitutes. But I have seen the light in the eyes of women just contemplating sex for money and they look positively excited and energized with the anticipation of what that might feel like and look like for them. I always caution them about the down side – the risk and the illegality and the very real prices I have paid for my choice. I don’t choose to encourage anyone to do something with such a high price tag. But once a woman has crossed that line and experienced her power to reject the shame bestowed upon the “whore” she will likely never be able to return to ways of being in this world which require her to repress her true feelings.
That doesn’t mean she won’t move on to another profession at some point. It does mean that she will be very unlikely to work for an employer once she has tasted her independence. It can also translate to putting up with less domination or abuse from men in general. The woman who has been paid for her companionship is much less likely to put up with anything she doesn’t enjoy or appreciate in a personal relationship. Of course this generalization does not apply to street prostitutes who enter the business under the tutelage of an abusive pimp. Nor does it necessarily apply to prostitutes who work in legal brothels because by definition they have abusive employers. But for your average middle-class, college educated escort, independence of thought and action becomes a privilege few are willing to sacrifice for the approving nods of the masses.