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In modern parlance, the term “courtesan” has become conflated and confused with whores, hookers, escorts, call girls and prostitutes. But they are not synonymous by any means. Even in some dictionaries, a courtesan is described as “a prostitute, especially one with wealthy or upper class clients”. But that is not the original meaning and most people would not apply the more pejorative interpretations to the most famous of modern day courtesans. The original meaning was a female who attained prestige, power, influence and (sometimes) wealth through intelligence and charm. A courtesan was a woman who was educated, independent and skilled as an artist, or as an artisan of art and dancing. Essentially an entertainer and charming companion who was given luxuries and status in exchange for their skills. Some historical courtesans did become the official or semi official mistresses of powerful men, such as the six years during which Madam de Pompadour was the official Mistress of Louis XV. But for many years after she was replaced in his bed, she retained her power, influence and financial independence as a result of her other skills and intelligence.

To call a woman like that a prostitute would be a travesty. Likewise the great courtesans of the twentieth century. They were not women like Mata Hari who was, in fact, much closer to a modern day pole dancer or Malaga escort than a courtesan. They were women such as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis who spent her whole adult life seducing and winning the richest and most eligible bachelors in the world. Though the men she attracted were seduced they were not stupid. On the day of their marriage Aristotle Onassis (a natural born Bond Villain if ever there was one!) told his best friend that after marrying him so soon after the death of President John F Kennedy “the only place she will find sympathy now is between sex and syphilis in the dictionary.”.

Sex and beauty has always given women power over men, and it always will. To claim otherwise simply because it is politically incorrect is to be in denial about how people actually are and always will be. And it is also an evil combination of naïve and disempowering to pass that message onto the young generation of women. Men have physical power and (sometimes) brains. Women have beauty and sexual allure and (sometimes) brains. That is just the way it is.

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