Drawn on the subway yesterday.
Recently, I read the excellent book, The Sexual History of London: From Roman Londinium to the Swinging City—-Lust, Vice, and Desire Across the Ages by Catherine Arnold. I joked on facebook that I’d love to do the pictures for a deluxe, illustrated version, and then realized, of course, that I am entirely serious. This is my dream job.
Her book is remarkable mostly in that Arnold is an excellent writer who knows a good story when she hears one and proceeds accordingly. She has exactly zero moralistic axe to grind and has some interesting ideas, particularly about prostitution. She writes about London’s long and famous tradition of sex work with a fresh eye and a great deal of sense. The Victorian truism, “Once a whore always a whore” is still held by a great number of otherwise liberal leaning people. She tells of more rarely reported women, who went on the game for more limited amounts of time to make money they had no access to otherwise and used it to better themselves. If you are smart and lucky (and don’t have a predilection for terrible addiction problems), things can work out for you. If not, they won’t. But that applies to nearly everyone, not just London’s prostitutes.
She also writes very well about the history of homosexuality, culminating in the trial of Oscar Wilde. His is one of the great tragedies of history, his decision to stay in England and face the music is simultaneously heartbreaking and heroic on a measure that strikes one as almost Christ-like. He knew it would be the end of him and he stayed.
She writes of many other things as well, of the Romans importing sex slaves to London from the far reaches of their empire, of the medieval Gropecunt Lane, of the vicious debauchery in the reign of Charles II, of the Hellfire Club in all its incarnations and on through the modern call girls blogging about their lives.
Everything is different, everything is the same.