HARLOTS, WHORES AND HOOKERS: A History of Prostitution by Hilary Evans

HARLOTS, WHORES AND HOOKERS: A History of Prostitution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Exactly the sort of romanticization of prostitution Barry (above) rightly inveighs against. The chapter titles give away the game (""Homage to Aphrodite,"" ""Splendid Madams and Civil Nymphs"") for, although some consideration is given the seamier side of the hooker's life, the ""splendors"" here decidedly outweigh the ""miseries."" Add to this a text mushy on key points (re Christianity: ""The virulence displayed by the early fathers against sex is hard to account for except by attributing it to a kind of religious mania"") and uncritical in its use of historical sources (especially when dealing with Asian and African sex mores as filtered through European sensibilities). Given the atheoretical approach (Evans views prostitution simply as a profession), even the legendary ladies begin to pale as their numbers mount. From Ambapali, friend of Buddha, through Nell Gwyn up to the stars of Nevada's Mustang Ranch, all are portrayed as winners. For them, as for 18th-century France's aptly named ""grandes horizontales,"" Evans uncovers ""a certain admiration, for these girls had made it to the top in a tough and highly competitive profession."" Even those stuck in the lower ranks, such as the British soldier's ""dollymops""--""nursemaids and servant girls after a bit of fun as well as extra money""--don't come off badly at all. There are tidbits all right (Louis XV's ""deer park"" at Versailles, stocked with girls aged nine to 18), but for the most part the many pictures included are each worth a thousand of the words. As we move from the ancients to the moderns, prostitution becomes, in Evans' view, ever safer and more professional (if less glamorous). Post-WW I prostitutes ""had a longer working life, were less liable to end up drunk or diseased, and their attitude toward their work was more perceptive."" Good news, that. And, like the rest thoroughly superficial.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1979
Publisher: Taplinger