A Curious History of Sex written by Kate Listner is an amazingly well researched book with both humor and horror. Listner approaches the topic of sex as not just the act but the social and cultural influences around it. The book also delves into the historical evolution on the perspectives of not just sex but sexuality and pleasure. In fact, “The history of how cultures have interpreted, punished, and rewarded sex, sexuality and pleasure” may have been a more apt title, if not a bit long winded. As Listner rattles off different facts and theories you really realize how strong of a fear of sex, in all its facets, there is. The need to control this perfectly natural human/animal function. She brings across the plains of the need to be young and virile, to those that made it a point of taking away any pleasure a woman might have. the book goes in a direction that does not hide these horrors. At times the book brings the reader to a place of pity. Pity for those that have suffered because of the need to control people. It has always been plain to see that cis-women have suffered and have been regulated due to the fear that they can control cis-men by sex. That they are sirens and if they are not controlled they will have all the power and society will crumble. Here you also see how cis-men and LGBTQI+ have suffered. She also debunks some fairly well established myths.
Everyone has their own approach to developing a sex worker/courtesan persona. What ever your journey is, remember, you represent a strong group of people who have worked hard to gain ground and respectability in the SCA. What you do as a sex worker/courtesan persona, or while wearing the symbols of the Knowne World Courtesan, reflects on everyone. Take your time to study the history of sex work, courtly etiquette, misogyny, sexism, and whorephobia before taking that leap. And then make your entrance on your own time, when you’re ready. I spent a year before I donned the red veil and hart pin (psst… that’s not a requirement).
A list of items with the Knowne World Courtesan hart (badge/symbol) on them, and some things just for fun.
Berg, R., & Neudecker, R. (2018). THE ROMAN COURTESAN: ARCHEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS OF A LITERARY TOPOS (Vol. 46). Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae. https://www.irfrome.org
It’s probably not what you think… Well, if you think it’s about an independent group of living history re-enactors portraying, studying, and educating others about pre-17th century sex-workers, then you’d be right. The Knowne World Courtesans (KWC) is one of the many diverse groups in the Society of Creative Anachronisms. An inclusive group, consisting of all genders, who portray a sex-worker persona, and of course their supporters. The KWC also stands against whorephobia, slut-shamming, bigotry, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and all other forms of prejudice. Members of the KWC do not have sex for money or trade under any circumstances.
Here are some resources on the various areas and types of historical sex work. I suggest picking one area that interests you as it can be a bit overwhelming. These resources were collected by the Knowne World Courtesans.