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10 Types Of Prostitutes In History.
It’s called the world’s oldest profession, and for good reason. Prostitution has been around since the beginning of recorded history and it’s had a lot of time to grow. A prostitute isn’t just a prostitute—there are a wide variety of different types of women throughout history who have served a varied role in civilization, from shunned outcast to pillars of society.
The ying-chi are arguably the first official, independent prostitutes in Chinese history. Their acknowledged existence is credited to Emperor Wu, who was said to recruit female camp followers for the sole purpose of escorting his armies and keeping them entertained on long marches. Ying-chi literally means “camp harlot,” a title that was no doubt a flattering one in 100 BC.
Some sources question these girls’ claim as the first Chinese prostitutes, though. It’s said that the King of Yue set up the first prostitution camps, made up of the widows of fallen soldiers. These women were quite different from the later, upstanding courtesans that were so popular, whose role was to give a man “friendship.” The ying-chi are also different from the women who worked in government-run brothels—these much older institutions date back to somewhere in the seventhth century BC.
9 Temple Prostitutes.
The role of the temple prostitute in ancient Greco-Roman society is one that’s been the subject of much debate. It’s not debated whether or not it was a popular practice—that much is sure—but the details of the practice are still up for interpretation. Temple prostitutes were those that plied their trade within the sanctity of the temples and with permission from temple priests—by extension, they were also working for their deity.
Just how much of a religious service these temple prostitutes were carrying out isn’t known. Some scholars argue that they were simply slaves whose services were sold as a way to earn money for the temple. Others believe that they had a much more respected role in the temple and in the worship of their deity, and believe that visiting a temple prostitute and hiring her (or his) services was a form of worship. This theory is especially popular in conjunction with fertility cults and goddesses like Aphrodite.
The idea of a temple prostitute is a general one and there are different tiers in the temple hierarchy. Many of all types were brought to the temple as virgins to dedicate their lives and their bodies to the worship of their god or goddess. Some sources suggest that it was only girls younger than 14 who served as temple prostitutes in ancient Greece. There’s a huge amount of contradicting evidence available as to what roles these figures served, but without a doubt they were an important part of temple life.
A devadasi is a woman who has been forced into a life of prostitution in the service of the Hindu goddess of fertility, Yellamma. When girls reach the age of puberty, their parents auction their virginity to the highest bidder. Once that is taken from them, they are dedicated to the goddess and spend the rest of their lives as prostitutes in the name of Yellamma. Every night, their lot is the same—sold to whoever pays the most. For parents, it’s not a bad deal. Not only do they not have to raise a dowry to give to someone to marry their daughters, but many keep the money that the girls earn.
The practice has been a regular part of Yellamma’s religion for centuries. Even though it was outlawed in India in 1988, the practice still continues today. The stigma attached to the devadasi is heavy—even if the women decide to give up the lifestyle, they will never be married. Once they’re dedicated to their goddess, there’s no turning back. Most devadasis are cast out of the temple in their mid-40s, when they are no longer considered young and attractive enough to bring honor to their goddess, and most turn to begging in order to support themselves for the remainder of their lives.
The so-called “comfort women” of World War II are a dark and often overlooked footnote in history. Beginning in 1932, the Japanese military began recruiting women—mostly Korean—for work in newly established “comfort stations”. The women were promised jobs, but what they weren’t told was that these stations were brothels for use by the men of the Japanese military.
In the end, somewhere around 200,000 women were shipped off to become comfort women, and it’s estimated that only between 25–30 percent of these women survived their ordeal. Girls as young as 11 were forced to service anywhere from 50–100 different men each day and were subjected to beatings if they refused. While the Japanese government has issued verbal apologies, they have largely refused monetary compensation to the surviving comfort women and their families. As of 2014, there are only 55 known surviving comfort women.