Freewomen, Patriarchal Authority, and the Accusation of Prostitution  book cover
1st Edition

Freewomen, Patriarchal Authority, and the Accusation of Prostitution

ISBN 9780367198299
Published May 31, 2021 by Routledge
328 Pages 22 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Examining freewomen in Mesopotamian society, ancient Greek hetaira, Renaissance Italy courtesans, historical and modern Japanese geisha, and the Hindu devadāsī of India, Stephanie Lynn Budin makes a wide-ranging study of independent women who have historically been dismissed as prostitutes.

The purpose of this book is to rectify a well-entrenched misunderstanding about a category of women existing throughout world history—women who were not (and are not) under patriarchal authority, here called "Freewomen." Having neither father nor husband, and not being bound to any religious authority monitoring their sexuality, these women are understood to be prostitutes, and the terminology designating them appears as such in dictionaries and common parlance. This book examines five case studies of such women: the Mesopotamian ḫarÄ«mtu, the Greek hetaira, the Italian cortigiana "onesta", the Japanese geisha, and the Indian devadāsÄ«. Thus the book goes from the dawn of written history to the present day, from ancient Europe and the Near East through modern Asia, comparatively examining how each of these cultures had its own version of the Freewoman and what this meant in terms of sexuality, gender, and culture. This work also considers the historiographic infelicities that gave rise and continuance to this misreading of the historic and ethnographic record.

This engaging and provocative study will be of great interest to students and scholars working in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Women’s History, Classical Studies, Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Studies, Asian Studies, World Cultures, and Historiography.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Ḫarīmtu

Chapter 3: Hetaira

Chapter 4: Cortigiana: The (so-called) cortigiana onesta

Chapter 5: Geisha

Chapter 6: Devadāsī

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Stephanie Lynn Budin is an ancient historian who focuses on gender, religion, sexuality, and iconography in ancient Greece and the Near East. Her published works include Women in Antiquity: Real Women Across the Ancient World (Routledge 2016), Artemis (Routledge, 2015), Images of Woman and Child from the Bronze Age (2011), The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity (2008), and The Origin of Aphrodite (2003), as well as numerous articles on ancient religion, gender, and iconography. She has lectured throughout North America, Europe, the Near East, and Japan.


"Freewomen is impressive in its scope and forcefully argued. Budin deftly moves between premodernity and the contemporary world, across several different cultures, without losing focus on the source material and the texts in the original languages. She brings her philological and historical training to bear throughout the book, such that it speaks not only to an audience interested in feminist history, but also specialists in each field." - Rhea Classical Reviews