Saturday, April 21, 2018




"A new Harris Poll found that nearly one out of four (23 percent) men in countries across the world thought it was sometimes or always acceptable for an employer to expect sex from an employee.
The poll, commissioned by the nonprofit humanitarian organization CARE and conducted by Harris Poll, was released Thursday for International Women’s Day. It surveyed 9,400 adults in Australia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, South Africa, the U.S., the U.K. and Vietnam.

“Being expected to have sex with your employer — that’s not a job description, it’s sexual abuse,” CARE CEO Michelle Nunn said in a statement. “It speaks to the global epidemic of harassment and abuse in our workplaces.”

Sexual harassment at work isn’t even illegal in nearly one-third of the world..."

Missy here.  I've been sexually harassed on interviews and personally have never had a relationship, a flirtation, or sex with a higher up. But let me say that this is not exclusively a heterosexual issue.  I've met men who say that coworkers as well as higher ups have come on to them or made propositions by women and men. This is an extremely important issue.  I believe one of the most common ways that a woman becomes a Mistress is through an affair with a higher up at her company.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


 Edouard Manet -- A Bar at the Folies-Bergère; 1881-82. 
Manet was one of the first 19th century painters to be inspired by
and depict life as it was around him including Parisian street and café scenes.
His work is impressionistic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Image result for Paid for  rachel moran
One of the questions I have - we have - here at MISTRESS MANIFESTO BLOGSPOT - is the question of sex for pay and how that may or may not relate to being a Mistress.  I feel that the stereotype of a Mistress is that she is much like a Belle Epoch Courtesan, which is to say, if we consider our Mistress of the Month Valtesse de la Bigne and her 19th century contemporaries as an example, a high class prostitute.  However, this is a stereotype that I do not believe fits the contemporary Mistress who is more likely to have a relationship founded in a love affair with one married man (at least one at a time!) and consider herself to be married to him even if he's legally married to another.  One of the purposes of this blog is to look at the grey areas.  For there is an argument that relationships, including legal marriage that might accommodate a Mistress, are of choice, and that not everyone is a serial monogamist.  While I believe it is true that sexual attraction is a strong reason for becoming Kept, I also do not think that sex keeps a relationship together.  More has to happen and that more is often love.

The word "devastating" in the title of this post, is not hyperbole. I read this one by listening to an e-book and the reading was intense, as was the sophistication of the understanding Rachel Moran came to about herself, her life, and her profession. This woman's testimony will grab your heart and cut it into little pieces, as you read about the terribly impoverished childhood she had in a large family with parents who were both mentally ill.  You can feel that ache.
Listen up, please!
Like so many of today's teenage runaways and street children, Rachel's entry into prostitution was one of survival out of homelessness. She left an intolerable home life (which did not include being molested by her dad).  At fifteen she got a boyfriend, also a homeless person, and well, she saw the logic in becoming a prostitute, which she was by age fifteen, and she says telling men how old she was excited them.  For two years she managed to limit her sexual repertoire with paying men so that she did not have intercourse with them, but you will be riveted to hear of some of the perversions she encountered and complied with, including S and M relationships.  It was dehumanizing and she lost her self worth.
While there are a full range of sexualities to identify with, including asexuality, and some prostitutes are going to, like Valtesse, move forward into being the Mistress of just one man or a wife, Rachel Moran has a mission.  To let the world know that "real men" do not pick up prostitutes, even if they are called "call girls" or "escorts," or "exotic dancers."  She is a brave woman, and she has achieved freedom from her past as best as she can, after years of having her lack of self esteem reinforced through degradation.  Her advocacy against legalization of prostitution, includes the honest of this book, the many interviews she has done, videos ... in 1998 at age 22 she got out of the life.

Go to her website SPACE INTERNATIONAL RACHEL MORAN in order to learn more about her advocacy, her prestigious speaking engagements.... From that site, "In the millennium year she returned to education and completed a degree in Journalism from Dublin City University. She has been involved in the political push for the Nordic Model in Ireland since she first addressed the crowd gathered at the launch of the Turn Off The Red Light campaign in February, 2011. She has spoken at numerous international locations, including the United Nations Plaza in New York and Boston’s Harvard University. She works in conjunction with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and the European Women’s Lobby."

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Henri Gervex is the artist, and Lianne is the model.

Sources such as Wikipedia and Catherine Hewitt's book on Valtesse de la Bigne mention a lesbian (or bisexual by my way of thinking) courtesan named Liane de Pougey, who Valtesse possibly had an intimate relationship with.  Knowing how much Valtesse depended on mystery to be appealing, hiding the fact that she was a mother successfully for many years, it's possible that her relationship with the younger up and coming courtesan Liane was only mentoring.  While she did not want her daughter to follow her into the profession, taking a younger woman as a protégé was common among courtesans. For sure Liane de Pougey had a number of known affairs with lesbian women.

One of the most famous lesbians in Paris was American expat Natalie Clifford Barney, who is said to arrive ready to pursue a woman, lesbian or not, by arriving dressed as a Page Boy and declaring her intention.  Pougey is said to not have shared Valtesse's literary interests or ambitions, being more of a pop culture sort of person, but Barney immortalized her in a turn of the century novel called Idylle Saphique.  Like Valtesse, Liane eventfully wrote her own book, My Blue Notebooks.  Like Valtesse she was also painted by Henri Gervex.

Liane de Pogey (July 2 1869 - Dec 26, 1950) changed her name from Anne Marie Chassaigne, like Valtesse wishing to give the impression she came from nobility, and was seen with aristocratic and wealthy men, and like Valtesse she had them as friends, as lovers, and as paying clients. Unlike Valtesse she married and to Prince Georges Ghika in 1910.  They soon lived separately but never divorced.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018


Image result for catherine hewitt  mistress of paris
I listened to Catherine Hewitt's book as an audio book
right on my cell phone, downloaded with Overdrive.

Chapter 6 of The Mistress of Paris, gives a very detailed account of the gradations of sex work in France that so very many women relied upon to support themselves and their families. 

Poverty was the qualification.  In this era without the contraception and safe sex options that we have today, illegitimate children were also common, and yet, having an illegitimate child could disqualify a woman from marriage. Sexual harassment was also common. And so our Mistress of the Month, Courtesan Valtesse de la Bigne, decided that if she was going to be a whore, she would become the best of them, and here is what we learn:

Though said to have hardened her heart early after the disappointment of having fallen in love and given birth to two daughters with a man who would not marry her, Valtesse, who had been prostituting herself since a teenager, put men into three categories.

The first category was the ESCORT.  The escort was a man who she could go out with, be seen with, enjoy herself with, but she did not allow herself to have sex with him or him to have sex with her.  (I wonder if some of these men were gay.  I also wonder how firm she was about allowing a man who was her escort to advance to being her lover!)

The second category was the men who PAID.  Be it the price for an hour, a night, a weekend, or perhaps a trade of gifts, that included jewelry, clothing, objects of art, paintings, houses, hotels, or a country estate crammed with valuables, she was careful to always have others waiting for a chance to be her everything when she was through with a man or he was through with her.

The third category may surprise some of you.  These were the lovers she took who were not rich men, men she was attracted to, by her CHOICE.  Some had some money, some did not, but offered her opportunities or introductions in art, literature, and diplomacy. Some she just liked

According to the book she was also ready to have sex at all times and could have sex with no foreplay.  (Though to me this seems more the forte of the street prostitute.  Why else spend a fortune on a bed (which is now in a museum) and to set the stage for seduction?)

She probably lost count of the men she had been sexual with. 

By maintaining these categories, Valtesse had friendships of her own choosing and it could be said the majority of the men in her life fell into the first or third.

Friday, April 6, 2018


Valtesse de La Bigne, by Henri Gervex, musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Image from Wikimedia.

Her long thick red hair was the inspiration for the nickname she gave herself, marketed herself, with "Rayon d'Or" which means Golden Ray.

Monday, April 2, 2018


Image result for catherine hewitt  mistress of paris
She believed men were not to be relied upon... Catherine Hewitt's book is a dazzling biography with descriptive details that help the reader imagine...

Our Mistress of the Month is Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne (1848-1910), a woman of 19th century France who it could be said slept her way up - intelligently.  A strength of author Catherine Hewitt's book is the way she clearly explains the reality of sex work as a common option for women alone in the world, especially a woman with a child ; i.e. her mother turned to sex work too.  Within the culture, as is the case now, there were those who started at the bottom and worked their way up, though perhaps very few made it into Mistresshood (generally, dedicated to one man) and so Valtesse was exceptional, beginning with her bright blue eyed - red haired beauty, but also because she was an astute observer and made a point of learning how those who were successful did it.  She knew she would have to rise quickly and cover her tracks.

Hewitt gives us a historical perspective of that time and place, citified Paris, France, when sex work was extremely common.  The girl and her mother from Normandy blended into the impoverished culture of women alone with limited prospects of employment because they were women. She also ads to our understanding when we try to define Mistress versus Courtesan versus Sex Worker.  We can talk forever about how much choice is involved in each and every circumstance.  (Perhaps the only legal prostitution option currently in the United States is the legal brothels of Nevada and so there is the most  choice?)

Make no mistake about it, Valtesse took a lot of abuse early on, participated in acts she would rather forget, but somehow endured it, and became calculating and cold hearted in her need to never experience that level of poverty again and to not let her feelings get in the way.  As she rose she had more say about who she would or would not have sex with. Her mother also understood when her teenage daughter brought men home to have sex for money, though maintaining one's beauty, having fine jewelry and clothing to wear, being taken out and being seen in restaurants and theaters (from stage to audience), and setting aside money for one's future, were all part of an ambitious plan to never look back.

Evidence of her success includes being the subject of a painting by Edouard Manet and being the inspiration for the writer Emile Zola who wrote the novel Nana about her, which was considered scandalous.  She was rumored to have seduced the future King Edward VII and Napoleon III.  She eventually managed to pass herself off as a Comtesse - nobility.  The secret that the title of this book eludes to is her background.  Valtesse knew how to spin the P.R. and market herself, and remained somehow elusive and mysterious.  It was up to the author to tell her tale authentically.

In 1864 the teenager found herself in love and pregnant.  She would have two daughters, one born unwell who would not live into adulthood, and the other who she paid her mother to raise.  That she was a mother was a closely held secret until, at a time when she was at the height of her popularity and beginning to be open with her opinions, counter criticisms, and to write her own story, she learned that her own mother, who had brought six children into the world without marriage, might be raising her daughter to begin the life of a prostitute.  Like some other extremely wealthy courtesans, Valtesse did not want her daughter to follow her into the business.  A dramatic court case kept the French public enthralled with daily coverage in the newspapers.

Valtesse went through a number of wealthy men who were so crazy about her that some of them were rumored to be ruined financially.  She acquired more than jewels and fine dresses, but great wealth.

Her first man who is credited with raising her up out of the low level sex work was a married theatre owner named Offenbach, a man with five children and a devotion to his wife, who put her on stage. During this period it was Courtesan Cora Pearl (our Mistress of the Month in July 2012, called The English Rose of Paris) who she wanted to emulate.  But when War broke out Valtesse was one of those who fled Paris in 1870 for Nice.  By the time she returned to Paris she and Cora Pearl were side by side. Valtesse knew that being a courtesan offered her the ultimate independence a woman of her time and place could achieve but to persevere she needed to not ignore society, but become part of it. 

Done with the theatre owner and any hopes of a vibrant career on the stage, her first truly incredibly wealthy man was a Polish Prince Lubormirsky.

Lubormirsky owned great estates in Poland, Austria, and France. He was so generous to her that some speculated she left him broke - or well at least ended his cash flow.  They were public as a couple and in the newspapers.  But, one thing we must admire about this woman is that she knew when she needed to move on, be it that a man was running out of money or that he no longer found her fascinating, and she did so to an American General who was living in France.  She'd always had a thing for men in military uniforms. He spent very approximately (the conversion to American dollars goes from French money to British first) half a million dollars in six months.  He put an apartment in her name.  (I know some of you who are reading this can only wish for that!)  But she thought, what just an apartment?  By 1873 she had moved on to another Polish Prince.  At the time the police estimated that Valtesse had acquired thus far in her career about 3 million English pounds.  Now associating with nobility, this was when she changed her name to seem even more aristocratic.  After the war people weren't checking other people's credentials quite so much.  She said she was from an ancient noble family of Normandy.  And about this time, she began to wear clothes that gave her a masculine effect to balls.

It was the Prince de Sagan who provided her money to have a country house.  Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne, may have come from nothing and nowhere, but her house had only the finest in furniture and art.  She became an art collector and had affairs with painters.  She was a voracious reader and began to also associate with literary authors.  The book "Nana" was based on her and everyone knew it, even though the author said otherwise, and became a best stller.  She was angry with him and countered it with her own book about herself.

As for sex, stick with me this month, as I will reiterate what I learned from reading this book about this courtesans' attitude about sex - and men.  Just in case  you want to follow in her footsteps!

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Interested in Mistresses in France, Paris?
Use the search feature of this blog to bring up posts using those words, or consider reading July 2012 for Cora Pearl, of October 2014 for Anna La Chapelle Clark.  You may also want to read about Isadora Duncan, the American dancer who settled in France in February 2016 archives, Mata Hari the spy in November 2013, or ballerina Celestine Emerot in September 2016.