Iâ€™ve participated on a particular public discussion forum way more than has been necessary. Itâ€™s called the HDH (High Dollor Hotties) forum and concerns courtesans, paid companions, and those who simply charge higher-than-normal rates for their time. Scrolling through the forum one will read page after page of what defines a â€œcourtesanâ€, which nearly everyone seems to feel is the pinnacle of the â€œproviderâ€ spectrum.
When I worked, I aspired to be as courtesan-like as possible, using my own definitions, biases and prejudices. I know I didnâ€™t hit the mark all the time. If I did, I wouldâ€™ve achieved my goal. Every escort uses her own definition of what a courtesan is, whether self-proclaimed or simply jumping into a discussion. And then we have to contend with the long history of courtesans, which vary from country to country and century to century. The word â€œcourtesanâ€ has been used to describe everything from a modern-day Nevada brothel employee to a handful of rarified newsmakers and trendsetters in 19th century France and England. With such a wide range of concepts to choose from; what really is a courtesan?
Without a doubt, the word conjures images of rare beauty, impeccable grooming and poise, a sophisticated woman who is not worldly enough to be hard, charming, educated to the point of overkill, and able to captivate a man with a glance. There can be other qualities; such as being multi-lingual or a connoisseur of travel. She must be selective with her patrons and is always very expensive. The idea of sexual expertise is usually implied. Some self-described courtesans emphasize the romantic, lover-like quality they bring to each encounter. Others emphasize their wild sexual abandon. A certain agency in Australia is very upfront about the sexual techniques their courtesans are trained in, part of what they believe makes a courtesan a courtesan (and different from a mere escort).
None of these working definitions satisfied me. There was something lacking no matter how I twisted the combination around. And then I read a book that changed my perceptions forever.
By chance, I saw the cover on a friendâ€™s coffee table. Intrigued, I picked it up and read the back cover. Raging with curiosity, I borrowed the book and read it within 48 hours; not only being transported into this beautiful fantasy world but feeling the mystery of my profession solved in one fell swoop by a religious historian inspired to write about a headstrong, masochistic, courtesan. I devoured the next two books in the series as soon as they were published. Iâ€™ve re-read these three books at least ten times each in the last three years, gleaning some new understanding every time (Iâ€™m a speed-reader).
The loveliest thing about the society in which Phedre lives in is the sexual freedom everyone enjoys. Her profession is considered a religious calling. Simply having a confirmed place in society makes such a big difference in the openness and honesty of the courtesans. Both men and women are freely accepted into training and as clients. There are thirteen â€œHousesâ€ where the innate skills every adept has is honed into textbook perfection (and each house does indeed have its own code of desired perfection). And then there are the â€œstreet guildsâ€ where perfection is probably less studiously attended to but the enthusiasm remains the same.
The mere idea of being able to freely pursue the perfection of my innate skills and talents with trained masters of my art is a heady one. But donâ€™t think that everything revolves around sex. The first thing all adepts learn to do is to kneel properly. Then they learn the art of serving food and drink. There is the study of history and religion and lessons in their art. Each house has its own art; such as massage, passion, domination, the arts (music, drawing, improv, acrobatics, etc.), and even honing a shrewd sense of finance. While this might be enough for most people; in this world, they go one step further.
Like I said, being a courtesan is considered a religious calling. Their goddess, Naamah, is so revered that none enter into the contract lightly. Adepts are asked if they wish to be dedicated to the service of their goddess. Only the willing are wanted. The contract between courtesan and patron is considered a religious pact. Breaking it is a crime and blasphemy. Patrons would never dream of leaving less than the contracted fee for the service or harming their courtesan. And the courtesans would never dream of giving less than everything their patrons desired.
Yes, I realize this is a fantasy world where sexual disease does not exist. However, I discovered the concepts translated quite beautifully. The idea of entering into every appointment with a whole-souled devotion (within my boundaries) was a final piece of the puzzle for me. I like the idea of service without being servile. I like to make someone happy. I am a perfectionist as well. Giving myself permission to be all that was a freeing experience for me. While I still had my “image” that I marketed, more and more I turned to these books as a guide because these works of fiction gave me the internal response that was lacking when I read the discussion boards or othersâ€™ definitions of a courtesan. There were no “rules” of what a courtesan was or wasnâ€™t. By virtue of the fact that Phedre made the perfection of her calling her goal; she was a courtesan.
Another concept that attracted me was the idea that each person in the profession had some unique attribute that only they could contribute, if asked. Of course, there were standards of natural beauty and talent that had to be upheld to be a member of a house. Beyond that, every adept developed into their own person. Again, here was the intoxicating freedom to just be. A courtesan can only be the way she is by being a whole person.
I never believed I was worshipping a goddess. But when I felt Iâ€™d reached the ideal Iâ€™d created in my head, borne of these books, the feeling was completely fulfilling. It was more than a job well done. It was that my current place in this world being filled as it should be. It was about being more. Not more than anyone else; but becoming more than myself for just a moment. It was a reaching out and connecting in a way that did not harm me or take anything from me. The books showed me a graceful way to strike the balance of professional and personal. Using all the facets of my being in a concentrated span of time created a wholeness that is lacking in everyday chores. Phedre states that she loves all of her patrons, even if just a little bit. I will say thatâ€™s true for me too (except in the case of bad clients). Courtesan-ship is not the intimacy of bodies, as so many believe, but the intimacy of spirit.
Iâ€™m still amazed that it took a book of fiction, written by someone who has zero experience in the adult industry, to perfectly capture the beauty of the profession, with no prejudice or taint, and then improve upon it like nothing Iâ€™ve ever read. I owe Carey a debt of thanks for giving me a tangible, attainable ideal. Iâ€™m still digesting and learning from these books, even in my personal life. Phedre learns something new about the mystery of the service of Naamah every year of her life. I can expect no less for myself.
In the second book, Phedre is given the opportunity to perfectly reveal what she is all about. A foreign prince mocks her chosen profession. He sneers that for a price she will pretend interest in him. She responds, â€œâ€¦for a price, I will pretend absolutely nothing.â€