Call Girl or Courtesan? Between the Sheets With Blogger Debauchette

sexhabitsofsinglewomenAshley Alexandrea DuPree. The "Hipster Hooker" "Secret Diaries of a Call Girl." Working girls sure ain't what they used to be—or, at least, what they seemed to be. That's where the blog Debauchette comes in. Part smart, sexy diary, part bedroom primer, Debauchette details the ins and outs of the life of a "professional girlfriend," who goes by the nome de plume "Jane." Reading more like the chapters of a lost Simone de Beauvoir tome than a sequel to Cathouse, Debauchette is the musings of a modern-day courtesan. Take her comments on the Edwards fumble: "A public figure's private life isn't our business, but we continue to insist that it is. Forget that our nation thrived under the presidency of a notorious sex fiend, or that it suffers under the presidency of someone who is ostensibly faithful." And her sage advice on sex, and selling it, is even sharper and more addictive. As passionate about historic erotic texts as she is about sex itself, Jane opened her virtual boudoir to us, sharing thoughts on on her writing, her chosen calling, and her must-read list of erotica.
When did you launch Debauchette?
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"Last year in March 2007. I'd shut down my previous blog when I started to worry that I was revealing too much, and then launched Debauchette privately. When I was ready, I let my readers know where I was."
Full name, if you're revealing it…
"I wish I could reveal it, but at this stage, I can't."
In a nutshell, how would you describe what you do?
"Essentially, I'm a professional girlfriend or mistress. I sustain long-term relationships with men, usually married men, and receive financial support in return. So, I'm a prostitute."
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The short story…how exactly did you get drawn into the sex work world?
"I grew up in an affluent, aggressively normal suburb in Northern California. I had a normal childhood and an unremarkable, combative adolescence. Went to college, moved abroad, went to grad school, moved abroad again, and eventually settled in New York. But I realized quickly that my research fellowship wasn't going to cover the cost of living, so I tried a few temp jobs to supplement my income, and when I realized they weren't leaving me with enough time to do my own work, I looked for something [else]. And that's how I stumbled into the sordid little world of sex work."
Why do you think it was intriguing to you, other than financially?
"I'm not particularly unusual. I know that I tend to take risks and I'm generally very curious, which might make me predisposed to explore options other women tend to reject. I worked as a nude model, a fetish worker, and a call girl before I found my perverse calling as a courtesan, and that's what I am now, though I've been pulling away from clients lately."
Is the courtesan profile the same as it used to be?
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"Historically, courtesans were well-educated prostitutes valued for their companionship as much as their sexual expertise, and they were particularly common in 16th-century Venice and 19th-century Paris. Unlike most prostitutes, courtesans interacted with their clients in public as well as behind closed doors, so their value wasn't just in being sexually available but also socially acceptable, or at least socially interesting. Class and economic structures have changed, but there still exists a demand for courtesans. I don't know if I'm particularly charming or even remotely entertaining, but I do know that my education is important to my clients.
The term tends to be used to distinguish this form of sex work from escorting. If you call for an escort, she'll show up, you'll exchange small talk, you'll have a sexual encounter, and then she'll leave. Courtesans work differently. There's usually a lengthy screening or introduction process, and since most client relationships are long-term, courtesans are generally paid for larger blocks of time, sometimes with a retainer. The relationships themselves can be fairly substantial, or have the illusion of substance, and since each client is time-consuming, courtesans tend to keep their client bases small. From a client's perspective, a courtesan is ideal if he wants to minimize risk, or if he's seeking an ongoing sexual relationship without any romantic commitment. The financial stability is great, and if you fear marriage like I do, it's good. But there are negatives, and I always feel obliged to stress the negatives when I describe this work. For one, you're always on. You can't feel bloated or tired or jetlagged, and you don't have much time to yourself. The relationships tend to be very one-sided because you're paid to be an excellent girlfriend, not a real girlfriend, and excellent girlfriends don't unload their personal baggage. Since you're expected to adapt to your clients' schedules, it's difficult to have a life of your own, let alone a career of your own. Your identity can become malleable. You worry about being discovered. And you are, by your nature, disposable."
So, was the blog a way to maybe vent about your private experiences anonymously?
"It was definitely the double life that led me to start blogging. I was partially honest with everyone but never fully open with anyone, and that was difficult for me. The blog became a way for me to express myself anonymously, honestly, and completely, and it became an important outlet."
What's the most interesting thing about your work that most people would never guess?
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"There's a steep learning curve. I learn a lot about different industries, about men, about intimacy and sex and relationships. And I learn a lot about myself. So, it's the learning that's the most interesting. And maybe the travel."
We read on your blog that you're really into collecting erotic lit…historic books about sex and the like. From what I could tell, these weren't exactly books we'd be scoring on eBay.
"Predictably, I collect sex-themed books, like sexological texts, conduct manuals, erotic prints, old pornography, satire, sociological studies, etc. I'm interested in how sex is perceived throughout history, and how it's used in art and literature. My scattershot collection spans about five centuries."
Can you share some highlights in the collection?
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Pietro Aretino, Sonetti Lussuriosi (first published in 1527)
"My favorite book is a copy of what's generally considered to be the first major pornographic work, Pietro Aretino's Sonetti Lussuriosi [Lewd Sonnets], which were written to accompany a set of prints depicting 16 sexual positions. The prints, engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi, were based on paintings by Giulio Romano, which provided Pietro Aretino with the inspiration to write such lines as, 'thrust your cock in a little at a time / lift up my leg, manoeuver well / now pound without inhibition.'"
Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv'd (1682)
"I own several copies of the Restoration play Venice Preserv'd, by Thomas Otway, for its 'Nicky Nacky scenes,' often considered too obscene to perform. The play itself is about power, treason, and revenge, but the offending scenes are a kinky sort of comedy between a nobleman named Antonio and his courtesan, Aquilina. After arriving at the courtesan's apartment, the nobleman gets down on his hands and knees and pretends to be a bull as he chases her around the room. He then switches gears and begs to be spit upon: 'Spit in my face a little, Nacky, spit in my face, pr'ythee.' He then offers to pay Aquilina a little extra to treat him like a dog, to which she responds, 'Well, with all my heart.' And the scene proceeds with extensive barking and a bit of whipping. And this is why I own multiple copies. It's the seventeenth-century kink."
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Marquis de Sade, Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) and Juliette, or the Fortunes of Vice (1797)
"I can't call the Marquis de Sade's writing sexy, but it's powerfully destructive and nihilistic not just with its images of sexual violence but also its obliteration of accepted institutions. I have several of his books, but I particularly like Justine and Juliette because the inversion of social order appeals to me, where vice is rewarded and virtue is punished, and because these books were set in motion while the writer was in prison at the Bastille. This particular copy of Justine was printed by a disreputable press in the 1950s, when de Sade's writing was experiencing a revival at the hands of writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Georges Bataille. But like most offensive literature, it's important to own several editions, since most editions are filtered through some censoring process."
Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis (originally published 1886)
"Psychopathia Sexualis is a classic and I own several copies. It was first published in 1886, and by the 12th edition, it contained 238 case studies of sexual perversion. The term 'masochism' was coined by Krafft-Ebing, which he drew from the writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose book Venus in Furs describes one man's desire to be beaten and enslaved by a beautiful woman. When I went on to work in fetish, I pulled the book out to sift through his case studies and compare notes. I still occasionally read those case studies when I get a particularly kinky client."
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J.L. Nichols, Safe Counsel (1898)"This book was originally published in 1898, and as an advice book its emphasis is largely scientific. I bought it for its section on masturbation, which it calls a disorder--and, apparently, a disorder that only afflicts men. Nichols says, that "if the evil [masturbation] has gone on for several years, there will be a general unhealthy appearance, of a character so marked, as to enable an experienced observer at once to detect the cause. Sure to promote lifelong neuroses.'"
Lillian Preston, Sex Habits of Single Women (1964)"I found this book when I started checking out pulp paperbacks from the 1950s and 1960s. It says it's a study of single women and their attitudes toward sex, a study 'more personal than the Kinsey Report,' but since it's published by a press that includes such titles as The Lust Hunters, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It does read like a piece of nonfiction, written as a series of case studies. What shocked me was how similar the attitudes were then to our attitudes now when it comes to issues of sexual freedom. The only major difference is that after Preston walks through several examples of happy, 'free-loving' women, she ultimately concludes that everyone gets married in the end and 'only the pathological Lesbian, or the hopelessly shy, maladjusted girl, deny the overriding drive to find husbands and settle down.' But then, maybe that attitude hasn't changed at all."