Erotic Exchanges

  • by Nina Kushner
  • Narrated by Sally Martin
  • 12 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In Erotic Exchanges, Nina Kushner reveals the complex world of elite prostitution in 18th-century Paris by focusing on the professional mistresses who dominated it. In this demimonde, these dames entretenues exchanged sex, company, and sometimes even love for being "kept". Most of these women entered the profession unwillingly, either because they were desperate and could find no other means of support or because they were sold by family members to brothels or to particular men. A small but significant percentage of kept women, however, came from a theater subculture that actively supported elite prostitution. Kushner shows that in its business conventions, its moral codes, and even its sexual practices, the demimonde was an integral part of contemporary Parisian culture.
Kushner's primary sources include thousands of folio pages of dossiers and other documents generated by the Paris police as they tracked the lives and careers of professional mistresses, reporting in meticulous, often lascivious, detail what these women and their clients did. Rather than reduce the history of sex work to the history of its regulation, Kushner interprets these materials in a way that unlocks these women's own experiences. Kushner analyzes prostitution as a form of work, examines the contracts that governed relationships among patrons, mistresses, and madams, and explores the roles played by money, gifts, and, on occasion, love in making and breaking the bonds between women and men. This vivid and engaging book explores elite prostitution not only as a form of labor and as a kind of business but also as a chapter in the history of emotions, marriage, and the family.


Audible Editor Reviews

"This history brings to life les dames entretenues- women who dazzled and scandalized 18th-century Paris as mistresses of powerful men". (New Yorker)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

This was a very academic historical work. I had been expecting a popular history type of book, but was pleasantly surprised with the style it was written in (and the regular references to Darnton). It details the different types of prostitutes (shocked for the majority of people who believe that a prostitute is a prostitute is a prostitute) which was pretty spectacular. Previously, my only encounter with prostitutes was The Secret Diary of a Call Girl and to see the actual rivalries and roles within eighteenth century Paris was really good. Also, I really liked the link between actresses and prostitutes. I've always been told that the ancient French word for actress was the same as the word for prostitute so to finally understand the link is pretty awesome.

That being said, this book was really dry. I had to keep rewinding to listen to sections again in order to understand what was being said.
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- Emily

Book Details

  • Release Date: 30-01-2015
  • Publisher: University Press Audiobooks