Quirky Wrong Women

Published on 15 December 2023 at 16:42

Whether a woman or even a young girl is considered 'wrong' strongly depends on cultural, moral, and social norms. A shocking example in this context is the rejection by parents and anti-LGBTI groups in Texas of the comic book based on Anne Frank's diary. Anne Frank writes in her diary about genitals and her desire to touch a friend's breasts, and these passages are depicted in the comic book. Moms for Liberty, a conservative interest group, argued that the work violated the 'state standards for accurately teaching the Holocaust.' The book has been removed from the library, banned in some schools, and the teacher who had her 14-year-old students read these passages has been fired. With this action, both Anne Frank and the teacher are labeled as 'wrong.' Women are easily deemed 'wrong' by puritans if they express their sexuality or expose young people to it.

That certain sexual behaviors are deemed wrong in some cultures and societies and not in others is known. Although (homosexual or trans) men may also face moral rejection, this predominantly affects women in general. Expressing sexual desires is often enough to scrutinize a woman critically or label her as 'wrong.' In literature, too, women who deviate from the prevailing sexual morality in their environment often face dire consequences. Think of Emma Bovary in Gustave Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary.' She is bored with her decent husband and seeks distraction in affairs with other men. Lydia Bennet (from Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice') also gets into trouble because of her flirtatious and thoughtless behavior.

Books in which women explicitly choose socially deviant sexual behavior often revolve around prostitutes. Interestingly, they are described as independent and autonomous women in these situations. OpenAI mentions three examples. In 'Belle de Jour,' Joseph Kessels describes the story of Séverine Serizy, a young upper-class woman who chooses to work as a prostitute during the day in a brothel out of curiosity and boredom in her marriage. 'Moll Flanders' by Daniel Defoe also chooses a life as a prostitute (and pickpocket). She is a strong and independent character who wants to climb the social ladder. 'Nana' by Emile Zola is a character who uses her beauty to be successful in the theater and then as a courtesan. She, too, strives for material success.

In the Dutch-speaking world, several books have been published about successful ambitious prostitutes. Globally known is 'The Happy Hooker' by Xaviera Hollander. In it, she describes how she transitioned from a secretarial job to a high-paid call girl and madam in New York. More than 20 million copies of this book have been sold. Another recent book from real-life experience is written by Metje Blaak. Marieke, the main character in her book 'Marieke, Finally Free from God,' was fascinated by the women behind the window from a young age and wanted to work there too. She did this with great pleasure for thirty years. The only time she struggled was when the man she married turned out to be a genuine pimp. How she managed to escape is beautifully described by Metje Blaak.

Thanks to books like these and the ones mentioned earlier, it becomes clear that autonomous, independent women can succeed in any profession, even as prostitutes. They are admired for this but kept at a distance as soon as they try to enter mainstream society.

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