"[An] enlightening and entertaining . . . survey of the world's oldest profession" from the Whore of Babylon to the modern sex-worker movement (Kirkus Reviews).
From Eve and Lilith to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
, the prostitute has been both a target of scorn and a catalyst for social change. In Love for Sale
, cultural historian Nils Johan Ringdal delivers an authoritative and engaging history of this most maligned, yet globally ubiquitous, form of human commerce.
Beginning with the epic of Gilgamesh, the Old Testament, and ancient cultures from Asia to the Mediterranean, Ringdal considers the varying way societies have dealt with and thought about prostitutes through history. He discusses how they were included in the priestess class in ancient Greece and Rome; how the rise of the courtesan in nineteenth-century Europe shaped literature, fashion, the arts, and modern sensibilities. He uncovers the first manuals on the art of sex and seduction, the British Empire's campaigns against prostitution in India, and stories of the Japanese "comfort women" who served the armies in the Pacific theater of World War II. Ringdal closes with the rise of the sex-workers' rights movement and 'sex-positive" feminism, and a realistic look at the true risks and rewards of prostitution in the present day.
Recalling Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae
with its broad sweep across centuries and continents, Love for Sale
"uses [its] subject as a springboard for exploring the ever-changing notions of love, sexual identity, morality and gender among various cultures" (Nan Goldberg, Newark Sunday Star-Ledger