129 Records to Date

Prostitution

Earliest Prostitution
They don't call it the "oldest profession in the world" for nothin'. The "art of prostitution" and "the cult of the prostitute" are two of the sacred treasures given to the Sumerian goddess Inanna by her father Enki, the god of wisdom. Inanna took these gifts back to Sumer, where the folks dedicated hymns to her and openly practiced these bequests to please the gods. The first written texts date back to 4000 BC, and there's reason to believe the practice had its genesis much earlier.

Youngest Prostitutes
Far too young to be engaged in such practices, several historians tell us. Emperor Tiberius, the archetypal lecher and sadist, got his kicks by pedophile the historian Suetonius tells us in The Twelve Caesars, No. 44:

Some aspects of his criminal obscenity are almost too vile to discuss, much less believe. Imagine training little boys, whom he called his "minnows," to chase him while he went swimming and get between his legs and lick and nibble at him. Or letting babies not yet weaned from their mother's breast suck at him—what a filthy old man he had become!

This form of infantile prostitution became fashionable among the unsavory upper class, until officially given the boot by Emperor Domitian in 84 AD, who declared that no child can be prostituted until the age of seven.

Demetrius Poliorcetes. Silver tetradrachm (294 - 288 BC)

Most Expensive
In Demetrius, the great historian Plutarch writes of how Demetrius Poliorcetes, king of Macedonia (337? - 283 BC) paid for the services of Lamia, a beautiful Greek courtesan:

Of all the disreputable and flagitious acts of which he [Poliorcetes] was guilty in this visit, one that particularly hurt the feelings of the Athenians was that, having given command that they should forthwith raise for his service two hundred and fifty talents, and they to comply with his demands being forced to levy it upon the people with the utmost rigor and severity, when they presented him with the money which they had with such difficulty raised, as if it were a trifling sum, he ordered it to be given to Lamia…

A Greek talent is approximately equal to 25.8 kg. of gold, which is currently being traded at $313 a (troy) ounce. Hence, Poliorcetes shelled out the equivalent of $64.9 million.

The Spanish signora La Belle Otero (1868-1965), said by many to be the last great courtesan, earned $25 million during her lifetime. A compulsive gambler, she threw it all away at the casinos and died penniless. Asked on her deathbed how she might have spent it differently she replied, "I might have endowed a university for prostitutes. Think of the variety of classes we might have had."

Least Expensive
In the town of Petrapole on the border of Bangladesh the local women and girls offer carnal pleasures for as little as 10 rupees (a measly $0.28). Thanks to the flourishing trucking industry, 5 million drivers regularly frequent the women while waiting to cross the frontier. "It is common", the report notes, "for a man to buy sex every day, sometimes several times a day" from local courtesans, averaging about 150-200 sexual encounters a year. (The New York Times 9-22-96 p1,10).

Highest Tax On
Taking time off from papal declarations, absolving sin, and blessings to handle the truly important matters, Pope Clement II (who reigned 1046-1047) issued a bull requiring anyone who had ever engaged in prostitution to leave half of her property (50%) to the Church.



Brothels

Earliest Red-light District
The Chinese seem to have invented the concept in the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). "Wine houses," many of which were run by the Imperial Board of Revenue, displayed a red light to inform the public of their side business as brothels. "Such special wind houses," a contemporary writer observed, "have bamboo lamps of red [silk] suspended on their front doors; they are displayed both in dry and rainy weather, being protected by covers of plaited bamboo leaves; for it is by those lamps that such special wine houses can be recognized."

Largest Red-light District
Though prostitution is technically illegal in Indonesia, the government continues to run and operate the Kramat Tunggak, a red-light district in North Jakarta. The largest in the world, the district spans 28 acres, with more than 220 brothels populated by between 1,000 to 2,000 girls. Regular health checks are mandatory, as is the use of condoms. Prices are said to be one of the best in the world, a mere $15 for short time (subject to negotiation, of course). Officially, the 27-year-old complex was built to "rehabilitate" girls; while they ply their trade at night, by day the government provides job training to prepare them for different vocations. The government's aim is to encourage girls to develop a life independent of prostitution.

A noble idea¾in theory. The recent souring of the Asian economy, coupled by the devaluation of Indonesia's currency, has sent prices plummeting. With the economic turmoil its not surprising most girls find they can earn more money lying flat on their back in a brothel than sitting in some factory.

If you wish to add Kramat to your travel itinerary, you're a bit late: officials have closed all the brothels as of the end of 1999.

First Public Brothel
Solon, a Grecian law-maker, showed his genius for public relations by establishing the first publicly administered brothel in Athens in the year 549 BC. Operated and inhabited by imported slaves, the bordello simultaneously solved several problems: it provided a means of sustenance for the lower classes, it generated tax revenues, and it created an outlet for virile men to satisfy their lustful impulse. The measure met with widespread approval by the (male) populace.  Wrote one observer, Xenarchus:

The young men in Athens are doing absolutely shocking things, and there's no excuse for it.  For there are very fine-looking girls available at the brothels.  And you can see them standing there outside, breast bared in the bright sunshine, almost naked and lined up conveniently one after another.  From these anybody can pick out a favorite: skinny or fat; curvy, lanky, or bent over; young or old; firm or lush...These girls just about drag you in, calling the old men "Daddy," and the younger ones "Lover Boy."  And you can have her, cheap and without any risk, available day and evening--and any way you want her.

The design was quickly copied and instituted in other cities. 

First Temple Brothel
The difference between a public and temple brothel is that in the latter men arrive not just to frolic but also to cleanse the soul, and all income generated is handed over to the priests for temple maintenance. And what do the women get out of it? Well, free room and board, free meals, and, I suppose, that special pride you feel when you know you're serving a higher purpose. The first recorded instance of such a temple occurred in 2300 BC in Mesopotamia, and from there the practice spread to the surrounding regions.

Largest Brothel
Along the coastline of San Francisco in the late 19th century prostitution flourished, with thousands of women working in structures, called "cow yards" for reasons I blush to confess are not entirely clear to me. These were U-shaped buildings, up to four stories high, that were partitioned into numerous cubicles that the women lived and operated out of. The Twinkling Star Corporation in the summer of 1899 erected the largest cow yard ever seen, called the Nymphia. It had 450 rooms, 150 of them occupied by so-called "nymphomaniacs." Voyeurs were well accommodated; a window was cut in each door, and dropping a coin into a mechanism could automatically raise the shade covering it (this novel feature was phased out when the mechanisms became flooded with cheap slugs). As is so often the case when big business muscles in to deliver a large volume of goods at cut-rate prices, the appearance caused most of the smaller competitors to close their doors, even the up-scale sybaritic brothels.

Modern day incarnations aren't quite as impressive. In Bangkok, Thailand there exist a dozen or so major "massage parlors," facilities about the size of a department store at the mall. Often 3-4 stories tall, it includes cafes, bars, and other rooms in addition to the private massage rooms on the upper floors, and employs over 100 young women to cater to male sexual needs. The going price for "the works," I hear, runs about $60—just in case you want to forgo visiting your in-laws in favor of something more exciting.


The Turkish Harem, as imagined by British artist Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

Largest Harem

  1. King Tamba of Banaras (6th century BC)—16,000
    According to the Jataka, a collection of Vedic legends dating from the arrival of Buddhism, his royal seraglio had a population of 16,000 inmates, an almost certainly exaggerated figure. Guarding over this bevy of women was his chief queen, Sussondi, "a woman of surpassing beauty" whom legend has Tamba met while playing dice.

  2. Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Khilji (15th century)—15,000
    Having frittered away the first 48 years of his existence as a commander in his father's army, upon assuming the throne Ghiyas was determined to spend the remainder of his life pursuing his two main interests: hunting and acquiring new women. Whenever he heard of a girl possessing beauty, he never rested till he had obtained her. The multitude of women he procured was so vast they overflowed the spacious capacity of the opulent Jahaz Mahal, so he built an entirely separate city to house his Amazons. He must have been triumphant in his hedonistic pursuits, for on his deathbed he proclaimed "I have passed in ease and prosperity and in a state of pleasure such has been the lot of no monarch."

  3. King Mongkut of Siam (1804-1868)—9,000
    His harem was so immense it encompassed an entire city, called the Nang Harm ("Veiled Women"). Surrounded by a high wall to keep out the local goyim, the city housed the royal princesses, wives, and concubines of the king. It was a self-contained world: complete with judges, police, prisons, and executioners; recreational facilities such as a gymnasium and a theater; and the lavish royal palace, described as "brilliant as sapphire in the sunlight." Here the women carried out their connubial duty to produce an heir. They served admirably in the role, for when Mongkut died he left behind 66 offspring.

  4. Kublai Khan of the Mongols (1215-1294)—7,000
    Supreme ruler of one of the largest empires ever created, Khan was attended to by an enormous assemblage of servants and slaves in his gloriously bedecked palace. Each of his four empresses is said to have no less than 10,000 attendants, including 300 picked virgins and swarms of "ladies of the bedchamber", including eunuchs and pages. The sovereign himself disposed of between 4 to 500 subsidiary wives and concubines, replaced every two years to keep a fresh supply for his amorous attention.

  5. Emperor Jahangir of India (1569-1627)—6,300
    The fourth Mogul emperor, he inherited and enlarged his father's already considerable estate (see #6). His harem included 300 royal wives and 5,000 additional damsels, all considered the emperor's concubines. Also included were 1,000 young men, in case he grew tired of the parade of female flesh and wanted to try alternative pleasures.

  6. Emperor Akbar the Great of India (1542-1605)—5,000
    The third Mogul emperor, Akbar acquired an almost incalculable number of mistresses and marital partners through a steady stream of marriage alliances with neighboring royalty, all contracted to expand his empire. The population of his harem soon grew immense: around 5,000 maidens, many of them older women, but there were also young servant girls and Amazons from Russia or Abyssinia to serve as armed guards, all relegated to the status of slaves. Though the Koran limits the number of wives a man can have to four, Akbar possessed over 300 wives. Ironically, he later decreed that "it was best for ordinary men to have only one wife!"

  7. Emperor Achyuta Deva Raya of the Vijayanagar Empire (reigned 1529-1542)—4,000
    Achyuta is believed to have around 12,000 women serving him, though only 4,000 lived within the palace and were reserved for reproductive purposes. The remaining carried on the everyday tasks. Some served as armed guards, some wrestled and danced, and others played trumpets, pipes, and other instruments. And then there were the bois (bearers) who ceremoniously carried the emperor's wives about palanquins and were gloriously bedecked in jeweled uniforms. The sheer magnitude of femininity around him awed visitors to his realm, who left amazed a man could possess such an assemble of enchantresses.

  8. Emperor Mulai Ismail of Morocco (1646-1727)—4,000
    "His Majesty", wrote the historian Ockley, "is said to lie with a Virgin every Night." As the supreme ruler of Morocco, the merciless Mulai could well afford to fulfill his habit, the consequences of which resulting in an admirable feat of reproduction (see Most Offspring). His collection was as varied and cosmopolitan as a Miss Universe roster, including women of Spanish, Italian, Georgian, Arabic, English and lesser known nationalities, who, under torture, had renounced Christianity. In spite of the shabby treatment, Ismail's cruelty was actually a source of masochistic pleasure among his women, who is said to preserve in tiny boxes anything that came from him.

  9. Emperor Yang Ti of the Sui Dynasty (569-618)—3,083
    As emperor he enjoyed 1 empress, 2 deputy queens, 6 royal consorts, 72 royal madams, 3,000 palace maidens, plus 2 of his late father’s concubines—a total of 3,083 beautiful women, most of them teenagers, to satisfy his carnal appetite. Among his more novel methods of lovemaking was his "virgin wheelchair." As soon as the unsuspecting young woman was seated, "clamps would automatically spring up to hold her arms and spread her legs apart, while the mechanized cushion would place her body in the proper position to receive the royal favor." When he traveled, he took with him a caravan of ten special chariots, each carrying a naked beauty awaiting his attention.

  10. Firuz Shah of the Tughluq Sultanate (reigned 1351-1388)—3,000
    Not withstanding the onerous duties of his high office, he was entirely devoted to the pleasures of his harem and eagerly sought out new recruits. Firuz employed an army of merchants to scour the world, purchasing women of all nationalities, from which he made selections to fill vacancies left empty by death. His harem became comprised of Arab, Circassian, Georgian, Turkish, Russian, European, and Afghanis women, along with 2000 men he imported from Asia minor and China. Afraid of infringing on Islamic Law, he consulted some mullahs (scholars), who informed him he could marry 300 wives. Delighted, he achieved the total in a single day. In spite of his extraordinary excesses, he lived more than 80 years and left behind "a great number of children."

  11. Ismali Quli Khan, Mogul Noble (16th century)—1,200
    A noble during Emperor Akbar's reign, Ismali had a penchant for riotous living and debauchery. He was so suspicious of his harem that, whenever he went to court, he sealed the strings attached to their night-drawers. His jealous ways ultimately did him in: the harem women poisoned him out of frustration.

  12. Sultan Murad III of the Ottoman Empire (1546-1595)—1,200
    A renowned womanizer exceptional even among sultans, Murad preferred to remain comfortably ensconced in his harem while his reign deteriorated. His harem, guarded over by some 400 eunuchs, was among the largest and prestigious in the world, filled with the most beautiful girls available at slave markets. Among his favorite pastimes were watching naked girls frolic as they bathed, sometimes inventing new games for them to play. The voyeurism must have had a stimulating effect, for he sired over 103 children.



Eunuchs

The word “eunuch” is from the Greek eunouchos and Latin eunuchus, meaning “keeper of the bedchamber,” an allusion to the eunuch’s traditional role as a harem keeper.

The process for creating a eunuch remains relatively unchanged.  The unfortunate victim was strapped spread-eagled to a table.  A thin cord was knotted tightly around his genitals, and, with a sharp razor, the organs were amputated.  The wound was then cauterized by the application of either a red-hot poker or molten tar.  The mutilated youngster or adult was deprived of water for several days to prevent urination, which could infect the healing region.

Then he was forced to drink enormous amounts of water, until the pressure in his bladder literally punctured a hole in the layers of scar tissue, which he will use for the rest of his life.  Assuming he survived the process—and not many did, as the fatality rate was an appalling 90 percent*—he would begin his new life as a docile slave.

Gentlemen, you may resume your breathing.

* Indeed, at Tewasheh, a Sudanese town that was one of the largest suppliers of eunuchs in the world, over 30,000 Africans perished yearly to meet the annual quota of 3,000.

Earliest

The whole concept of eunuchs is believed to originate with the ancient Chinese.  Originally, palace guards were charged with maintaining watch over the women, but as the size of harems grew over the following centuries emperors became increasingly worried that they may be less inclined to just merely watch.  Their solution: employ castrated men.  Unlike the later Mid-Eastern eunuchs, indigent Chinese men willingly offered up their privates for a chance at a cushy palace job.

The first civilization to deliberately select eunuchs as officers of state was the Assyrian Empire, which dominated the Near East during the first millennium BC. The first documented case of the employment of eunuchs in the harem comes in Xenophon’s description of the proceedings of Cyrus II (590? - c. 529 BC), King of Persia, when he conquered Babylon inn 539 BC.  Wrote Xenophon, “…As eunuchs were not susceptible of any family affections he thought that they would esteem most highly those who were in the best position to make them rich and to stand by them if ever they were wronged and to place them in offices of honor.

“...Bulls, when castrated, lose somewhat of their high spirit and unruliness.  But they are not deprived of their strength or capacity for work...Similarly men, when robbed of this desire, become gentler, but no less careful of that which is entrusted to them…Recognizing these facts Cyrus selected eunuchs for every post of personal service to him, from the porters up.”

Last

The last of these noble civil servants died on December 17, 1996, when Chinese eunuch Sun Yaoting passed away just short of his ninety-fourth birthday. Like the thousands who preceded him in Chinese history, Sun had been castrated as a boy in the hope of finding service with the Imperial government.

Traditionally, a family would arrange for one of their sons to be emasculated as a way to escape the crushing poverty of the Chinese peasantry.  Not only was the operation risky, but the competition was fierce--towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, in 1644, twenty thousand castrated applicants vied for three thousand positions. Successful eunuchs were employed in a wide range of offices, from engineering, interior decorating, agriculture, cleaning, cooking, music, warehousing, even making toilet paper or caring for Imperial cats. Grunge work, in general, but even the lowliest eunuch could inspire to one of the few lofty posts, which usually involved direct contact with the Emperor. 

It was Sun Yaoting’s misfortune to be castrated during the same period of the Chinese revolution.  With the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911, the role of the harem was gone by the wayside, cutting eunuchs from the mass of the gainfully employable.  When an American journalist, Vicncent Starrett, toured Peking in the 1930s, he interviewed and photographed thirty-three palace eunuchs ranging in age from sixty to eighty.  The surviving eunuchs were "thin, hairless, fat-lipped and bejowled...with shrill voices and hair which hangs down to their necks."



Earliest Circumcision

Male Circumcision, the minor surgical operation of cutting away the retractable envelope of skin that sheathes the tip of the penis, is believed to have originated in Africa and Egypt. There are hieroglyphics dating to 2300 BC depicting one such operation (my scanner's on the blink, so I'm afraid I can't show you). It's uncertain how widespread the practice was, as mummified remains, statues, and paintings offer conflicting evidence. But it does not appear to be universal, nor have class connotations: some pharaohs were, others were not.

A more intriguing question is why it began in the first place. Some modern scholars argue it was because of hygiene--clothing was loose and scanty, they say, and grit would find its way under the foreskin and cause irritation and damage. This theory has a certain novelty to it, but wouldn't it have been a lot simpler to wear tight-fitting clothing before taking up the knife? The more believable explanation is that it is exactly what it seems to be, a fertility rite. The operation was not performed until just before adolescence, and all of the early societies that practiced the surgery would offer the excised skin to a fertility deity and be sacrificially burned.

Female What--you thought only males could be circumcised? As a ritual it is believed to have originated c. 2000 BC, though where is a matter of dispute. It was practiced by many ancient societies, including Egyptians, Malayans, Africans, and virtually all Semitic peoples. In the practicing cultures, a girl was circumcised in preparation for her first coitus, the rite carried out by a priest, male relative, or, more commonly, an elder woman. The severity of the ritual varied: in some cultures, it only involved a minor nicking of the clitoris, in others it could mean its complete removal, along with the inner and outer labia minora.

Female circumcision also has one quality unlike its male counterpart--it's barbaric. The adolescent girls would be held down by men as they screamed and struggled franticly, making the outcome of the operation haphazard and not infrequently fatal. Medical complications include hemorrhages, infections, urinary complications, labial adherences, clitoridal cysts, and accidental injuries to the surrounding organs. But worse is the psychosexual damage, as survivors discover their sexual response impaired if not completely eliminated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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