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How dangerous women of medieval Florence became more independent than the “good” women of the city could be.

Excerpt: Medieval thinkers tended to follow St Augustine who described prostitution as a necessary evil, a sin which prevented the greater sin of the corruption of “good” women by men’s insatiable sexual appetites. A follower of St Thomas Aquinas likened prostitution to a palace sewer — necessary to remove the filth from society, but deeply unpleasant and offensive nonetheless. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, European cities had mostly stopped trying to expel prostitutes and accepted the inevitability of their presence.

The late medieval period proved to be something of a turning point in the Italian states’ approaches to prostitution and none more so than Florence. Pope Francis’s medieval predecessor, Pius II (1458-1464), joked that Florence was less a city of merchants (mercatrice) and more a city of prostitutes (meretrice). This small group of women (probably no more than 150 of them in a city of 45,000) circumvented the rules established to keep women in their place. They lived beyond the control of fathers, husbands, or brothers.

There were precious few opportunities for ‘good’ women to exercise any independence. The law treated them as children: they were prevented from managing their own financial affairs, taking legal action against anyone, and were only reluctantly accepted as witnesses in court. The law required that a male relative acted on a woman’s behalf if she needed to undertake any legal transactions. In theory, a married woman’s dowry remained her property, but in practice her husband controlled it. Indeed, were she widowed, her father or brothers expected it to be returned, either for their own use or to marry her off again to the family’s advantage. Restricting women’s legal rights to representation allowed the city to control their behaviour and limit their freedom. Good women were rarely seen — they did not walk about the streets or hang out of windows as portrayed on TV shows such as The Borgias and The Medici. Women who behaved in this way marked themselves out as wanton and dishonourable: dangerous.

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End of an era.

Excerpt: Ten years after purchasing the historic Armory for $14.5 million, the BDSM film production company is ending shoots at the site, and its in-house directors are scattering to Nevada, Southern California and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Filming officially ends in February, although will continue to have administrative offices in the building at Mission and 14th streets.

The move is being driven by the weakening economics of the porn business as well as ambitions that founder and CEO Peter Acworth has for the Armory, a 200,000-square-foot, Moorish Revival castle in San Francisco.

Over the last three years, as porn has migrated to free sites, membership-supported digital outlets like have struggled to make up revenue.’s membership has dropped from 50,000 to 30,000, and its revenues have dropped by 50 percent. The company laid off half its workforce a year ago and is now mostly focused on providing an Internet platform for BDSM entertainment, rather than creating content.

“Porn is not nearly as profitable as it was,” Acworth said. “We have had to change our business model.”

At the same time, owning the Armory, which had been vacant for 30 years prior to’s acquisition, increasingly poses both opportunities and challenges. As the business has eroded, Acworth has been refocusing on transforming the building into a mixed-use complex with space for offices, entertainment, artists and PDR, which stands for production, distribution, and repair.

To that end, Acworth last year won approvals to convert the building’s 40,000-square-foot drill court into a venue for concerts, parties and other entertainment, with a capacity of 4,000 people. Those approvals allowed Acworth to get a $4-million bank loan that is being spent on a sound system and soundproofing, lighting, rigging and pressing needs such as fixing the leaky roof and repairing crumbling turrets.

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He was young and handsome, his mother’s pride and joy -- but he died in torment, blind, sick and paralyzed -- at the age of seventeen. If only he’d known the perils of masturbation, then he might have lived a better life.

This, in a nutshell, was the warning to young French men as published in Le livre sans titre (“The Book With No Title”) in 1830. At that time, masturbation was considered by moralists and physicians as a malady which lead to early death.

In this post, you will see more scaremongering about masturbation -- all of it false, of course. (Via +John Bump​)

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Excerpt: Being fit now indexes class, saturating both fitness and food culture. As calories have become cheaper, obesity has changed from being a sign of wealth to a sign of moral failure. Today, being unhealthy functions as a hallmark of the poor’s cupidity the same way working-class sexual mores were viewed in the nineteenth century.

Both lines of thinking assert that the lower classes cannot control themselves, so they deserve exactly what they have and nothing more. No need, then, for higher wages or subsidized health care. After all, the poor will just waste it on cigarettes and cheeseburgers.

Both then and now, these purported health differences register disgust with working-class bodies. In The Road To Wigan Pier, George Orwell discussed his late-Victorian upbringing, writing that he was trained to believe “that there was something subtly repulsive about a working-class body.” In Orwell’s time, soap — not fitness — made that distinction; he was taught that, in his words, “the lower classes smell.”

Nowadays, the Internet registers cross-class horror on websites like People of Wal-Mart. Instead of being repulsed by the “great unwashed,” the modern Victorians blanch at the “great overfed.”

While the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie saw full figures not as embarrassments to be eradicated, but as comforting signs of their prosperity, their spiritual descendants are obsessed with eating the right kinds of food. In the last fifteen years, organic food has gone from fringe phenomenon to absolute necessity.

Consider the gluten-free movement — those who choose to eliminate gluten from their diet, not those who have celiac disease and must eschew wheat entirely. A few years ago, I joked that finding a gluten-free resident in my rural Nebraska hometown would have been akin to finding the collected works of Peter Kropotkin in the local library. Now “gluten- free” food appears on nearly every local supermarket shelf.

This food discipline is a form of virtuous self-denial that would have made the Victorians proud. If only my grandparents had lived long enough to realize that growing their own potatoes and cucumbers made them high class, not hicks. (Via +Kitty Stryker​)

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A fast and furious history of San Francisco's Tenderloin district, den of debauchery and delights.

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Excerpt: Don’t believe anyone who says the world is crasser than ever. They might speak of a “gentler time,” extolling the values of things like “polite company” and “G-rated films” and “salads that were 50 percent mayo.” But that gentler time never really existed. Sure, there are times in our history when people pretended that things like boners and poop weren’t funny. But at our core, humans are filthy animals, and our bodies — pensises definitely included — have always been funny.

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Excerpt: Sometimes the history of sexual morality is too confined by a focus on philosophical or moral texts. The history of sex should zoom out and use novels, letters, documents, laws, and material objects to try to understand the dynamics of the society as a whole. Some sources are more representative or more important than others, but the closest we can get to the truth will come from listening to as many voices as possible.

I think great literature can be exceptionally valuable, when its authors sensitively capture the complexity of ideas in motion. So, I really love the “ancient romances” because, while they aren’t realistic literature, they are exceptionally sensitive documents of culture under the Roman Empire.

Erotic lamps are another example. These were a humble domestic artifact that Greeks and Romans had a taste for -- they usually depicted erotic acts. Sometime around 400, this entire ancient tradition just ceased. It reflects something deep going on in the culture.

The influence of Christianity runs so deep that the classical cultures are an outstanding example of a Western sexual culture that is truly, wholly, other than the one we have inherited.

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Silly attempt to smear Donald Trump digs into his grandfather's apparent brothel business during the Klondike gold rush in Alaska, turns up a bit of interesting history.

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Joani Blank, who introduced San Francisco to the concept of the frank, non-skeezy sex shop when she opened the first Good Vibrations in 1977, died on Saturday.

Today, Good Vibrations is a small empire in the Bay Area, but back when it first started, it was a sleepy Mission district shop.

Before founding Good Vibrations, Blank had worked in the sex counseling program at UCSF and founded the small publisher Down There Press. But vibrators weren't easy to come by -- you had to brave a sleazy adult bookstore or take a chance on something in the back of a magazine. "The places to get them were pretty icky," as Blank said in an interview last year.

With $4,000 in savings, she opened the first Good Vibrations in a 200-square-foot storefront in the Mission. It was the second feminist vibrator store in the U.S. (Manhattan's Eve's Garden had opened three years prior, in 1974.) Eve's Garden didn't let men in unless they were with a woman. As a former Good Vibrations employee described it was that Eve's Garden "was about the idea that women needed to be protected from men when they were exploring their sexuality."

Good Vibrations took a different approach, welcoming in both men and women and creating an environment where they felt comfortable asking anything -- and giving them frank answers without the tired euphemisms. Blank also placed a big emphasis on quality control, turning down cheap plastic or rubber products that broke down or didn't hold up. Blank was also a vibrator designer in her own right, devising the strap-on butterfly model.

Thanks to her selectivity, Good Vibrations became an outlet for some of the first entrepreneurs in sex tech.

She will be missed.

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By Kurya tribal law, only men can inherit property, but under nyumba ntobhu, if a woman without sons is widowed or her husband leaves her, she is allowed to marry a younger woman who can take a male lover and give birth to heirs on her behalf.
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