I read an article today sent to me by a close friend that I found very intriguing. Seeing as it held it’s rank as the number one most read article of the day on Slate.com, an online news venue for modern culture, it is obviously of great interest to others as well. Entitled “The Case of the Closely Watched Courtesans,” the article examines the obsessive nature of the 18th century Parisian investigating into the lives of high end courtesans of the time by the police. Through a plethora of countless years of watching and documenting these women, and their every move, it is clear that they were of great interest to the police, yet very little came of this surveillance. So why do it? Nina Kushner poses the same question in this thoughtfully written excerpt from her book Erotic Exchanges: The World of Elite Prostitution in 18th-Century Paris. In a cultural climate where social status was expected to fit into a clear hierarchy, many of these women defied norms. Kushner delves into the lives of the 18th century “kept woman” through the meticulous documentation of the police vice squad of the time. What is apparent is the clear role these women play in their society and the power they reap from being a vital component. Moving themselves up in status, wealthy, and autonomy, these women evade the oppression many women of this time experienced. My conclusion is this was, and still is, the intriguing component that surround women of this nature. Most were unmarried, heads of their households, freely employing themselves, and enjoying lavish lifestyles. They were not controlled. So as to the question of why the police were so interested; I think it is simple. They were powerful. They had something that many wanted and skillfully delivered without causing a disruption to society. The police were intrigued by them. Maybe even envious at times. Who wouldn’t be? They were strong women in control of their own lives and destiny. One must speculate they were leaders in a revolutionary ideology towards seeking self gratification, evading oppression, and fulfilling a lifestyle otherwise out of their birthright. To have watched them so closely yet do nothing with the information over time makes me wonder if the police formed a sense of respect for them. It was a valuable service and positive impact on society in which they clearly provided. I applaud Ms. Kushner for bringing this to light and in my quest for further information am not only ordering her book, but hoping she will agree to meet with me for an interview. Details to come…..