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Erotic Exchanges

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  62 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In Erotic Exchanges, Nina Kushner reveals the complex world of elite prostitution in eighteenth-century Paris—the demimonde—by focusing on the professional mistresses who dominated it. 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 ...more
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Cornell University Press
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Disclaimer: Copy recieved via Netgalley for a fair review.

I know that I am not the only one who thinks the song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is rather creepy. Very creepy. Totally creepy.
But actually, and this going to sound really mean, I think, at least after reading this book, the song is very French ( or at least of a French age).
Kushner details, and really details, the role mistress in the demimonde of France. She looks at the role from both sides – that of the client and that of the
Sadie Forsythe
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I think Kushner did a good job of taking what seems like an exciting subject and making it really academic, but also of taking information from a really dry source and making it readable. See, the vast majority of the data for this book about elite prostitutes in eighteenth-century Paris came from police records. So, as you can imagine, the source is informative about some things, but silent on others and there isn't a lot Kushner could be expected to do about that. I'm very glad I got the audio ...more
Robert Miller
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book does not read like I thought it would based upon the title (and cover which is adapted for the subject). Rather, at times it reads like a matter-of-fact accounting authored by a surveillance agency hired to spy on an illicit activity whose membership more closely resembles an under-cover agent getting too close to the subjects. Perhaps the limited recorded data (reports generated by the police) prevented the author from being a little more descriptive; but you would think she could hav ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, 2014
Erotic Exchanges by Nina Kushner is very interesting study about elite prostitution in eighteenth century. For a most of us prostitute is a prostitute weather she is elite or not, but this book gives this word some unexpected depths and layers. There is also interesting information about their social background and their dealings with police and families and lovers and patrons ... it's really interesting and makes you thinking, are the lives of the modern women much different? Sure, titles are c ...more
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a scholarly work, rather than a popular history book. I had been expecting more about the people who were involved, but it is about broader patterns rather than individuals. If you're looking for scholarly historical background, this is a great book - if you're just looking for a good read about this subject, though, I would probably suggest choosing something else (Courtesans by Katie Hickman, for example). ...more
Emily Ross
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 w
Rachel Lauren
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a popular history read this may not be ideal. Kushner keeps a more academic tone and method than books meant for a larger audience. I do agree with the reviews that this lacks additional perspectives and does not address how childcare factored into contract negotiations in the Patron / Mistress relationships. This seems to be due to a lack of existing primary sources- understandable given the archive destructions in the Revolution and the literacy level of several individu ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting look at prostitution in eighteenth century France. Most of what was discussed occurred in Paris. The primary focus was elite prostitution however it covered a wider range, including a long chapter on policing in Paris both in general and specifically in relationship to prostitution. Overall I felt the book was well written but it did need some additional editing as the author repeated them-self several times. I had also been hoping for more information about the prostitut ...more
Jerra Runnels
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for my graduate level women and modern European history class. It was my additional reading for the week that I gave a presentation on. It was such an interesting book. It was well researched and written in such a way that it doesn’t feel like you are reading a scholarly work. I had a lot of questions afterwards. I took her theme that elite prostitution in 18th century Paris was a profession, and presented how the roles of the police, prostitution, madams, and patrons all shaped ...more
Janice Feng
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In here for the methodology to do feminist/women's history. The content is interesting as well. ...more
rêveur d'art
This is an expertly written academic work, looking at elite prostitution as a form of work and placing the importance of this work in our understanding of women's history and sexuality in eighteenth-century Paris, both culturally and socially. The police had a department called Département des femmes galantes dedicated to reporting the lives of dame entretenue (kept women). It was a way for them to avoid scandal, which also meant that their focus was not so much in helping women in the Demimonde ...more
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received a reviewer's copy of this book on Netgalley.

As usual, it's so much harder to write a coherent review for a book that's awesome. Nitpicking is fun, but it's pretty easy, and when reviewing good books it's hard to do anything other than list all the things you liked and say "wow."

This book is a reconstruction of the lives of 18th century French prostitutes based on police dossiers. The front half of the book focuses on the many different reasons women entered prostitution at that time:
Lauren McCullough
Aug 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews, read-in-2015
This is a very academic text, but works well as an audiobook if you're interested in the period and/or subject matter.

The book explores real accounts from police & madame records along with historical accounts of the lives of the dames entretenues of Eighteenth-Century Paris. It can be a little dry when you first start out, but once you begin to understand the dynamics of the story telling and writing the style begins to flow. It's really an interesting look into the sexual and social politics o
Kurt Olausen
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very well researched and written. This was a very interesting book, and integrated academic observation with vignettes about a number of 18th-century "characters" which brought the issues and history to life. Full disclosure: Nina and I went to high school together, so I do want to support a friend. Having said that, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes history, and is particularly interested in women's roles in history. A longer review will be posted on my blog: thescentofbooks.blogs ...more
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is full of names and dates of prostitutes from the 18th century.It tells how girls became courtesans,Madames,etc.It tells of parents selling girls for large sums so some man could have a virgin,sometimes more than once.It is a world where women have little say,unless they've made something of themselves in their little part of the world.We learn that Madames sometimes helped rivals,gave police information and some were outright spies for police.It is a very interesting read.Sally Marti ...more
Lauren Albert
I found this very interesting--especially her approach which situates the women in their time and place. Kushner begins by explaining the police surveillance and trying to understand why they kept the elaborate records they did and why they looked the other way for a lot of behavior that was actually illegal. I think she did an excellent job showing the women's lives and covering the unlucky as well as the lucky. ...more
Chris Witt
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A dense read, as most scholarly work tends to be. Really well researched. Important read, perhaps, for those whose interests ans/or studies intersect with 18th century Parisian culture.
I picked this one up as I had read Joaanna Richardson's "The Courtesans" so was intrigued.

A highly detailed look at the Parisian "demimonde" - the who, what, where, when and why.
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Professor Kushner received a B.A. in history and religion from Dartmouth College in 1990, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1994 and 2005, respectively. She spent some of the intervening years in the Peace Corps in West Africa and working as a tour guide in New York City. She taught at the College of Charleston for several years before coming to Clark in 2005.

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