The Art of the Courtesan

Une Soirée Chez La Païva by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli

Une Soirée Chez La Païva by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli

I’ve been drawn to the concept of the courtesan for years. Before I launched this blog in fact. Early in my BDSM journey, I became drawn to the idea of being “the pretty thing”, the prize on someone’s arm, a trophy. I didn’t resonate with traditional service like other s-types I knew did. I wasn’t particularly obedient, at least not in how I watched others be. But putting on a beautiful outfit and kneeling at my owner’s feet to simply be admired and shown off – that was hot.

Courtesans were far more than just pretty women who hung off of rich men’s arms. They were actresses, entertainers, singers, conversationalists, and more. French courtesans, in particular, threw lavish parties and dinners, were outrageous in their own way, and made names for themselves. Some of them married. Many died in obscurity.

They were sex workers. They traded companionship and their bed for money. It was how they kept up with the lavish lifestyles that attracted more suitors. The most well-known courtesans had lovers for years, many of them politically important in one way or another. Courtesans worked hard to keep their reputations popular and attractive to keep men coming through their doors.

I’m not a sex worker. I write about kink and live a BDSM lifestyle, that’s it. But the influence of the courtesan is strong in the way I think about and shape my service within my M/s relationship. The focus on companionship and conversation, the way I present myself at events, and the skills I strive to improve. The courtesan archetype shines through in those ways.

Back in 2014, after I attended some different events, including a high protocol one, I wrote an essay on FetLife called “The Pretty Thing”:

Now, though, my service has become being the pretty thing that sits at Sir’s feet as he enjoys the company of good friends. I am the pretty thing that brings him drinks and food and is fed off of his plate like a spoiled lap dog. I am the pretty thing that others admire and comment on. I am the pretty thing that can pretend to be vain and selfish and get away with it because we are all being a little selfish and vain tonight.

My service is my own and I have begun to own it, to shape and it provide it to Sir as me and only me. My service must be done this way or else I will be forever chasing unfilfilled expectations and wondering why I am unhappy doing things. Just as my body is my own, my service is mine. I do not believe in the concept of “submission is a gift” but I do believe that I provide my service only to those who wish to recieve and honor it. I have to come to find that my Sir can only enhance my service, not shape it, at least not as intensely as I had once thought he could or would.

Expensive courtesans and king’s mistresses have been my inspiration for ages and continue to be. I adore being the pretty thing that charms my Sir and his friends, the intelligent, put together woman that knows when to play the gender roles and flirts with sauciness and the lines of how a “good girl” should behave.

Eight years ago I wrote that. Eight years ago I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of an M/s relationship but I knew this. This kind of service is what called to me like a siren’s song even though I saw no one else doing it. Yes, many of the s-types around me gave companionship to their D-types and dressed beautifully, but it wasn’t the goal of their service. They literally served their D-type – food, drink, alcohol, cigars, sex, etc. The service wasn’t pinned on their ability to be entertaining and luxurious. It was pinned on their ability to follow commands and orders and to memorize protocols and rituals.

That’s not to say that I don’t want some of those things. I love protocols and I love rituals. I crave those things too. But I spent too long trying to figure out why I didn’t feel like other s-types about service. I was never the person to volunteer first to help someone. I’m not the one jumping up to help cook or clean up after an event. I want to remain in the conversations, keeping it flowing while the others work in the background. I want to be the shining star in a room.

All while I kneel at my owner’s feet and his hand is wrapped in my hair. Because I am his at the end of the day. A tool for him to use in whatever way he wishes. And, yes, sometimes that is through literal service and obedience and sometimes it is through companionship and entertainment and being beautiful. I am grateful to learn from the histories of the courtesans, the demimonde, the cortigianas. I am grateful I have the ability to shape my service how I want and center it on this: the art of the courtesan.

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