The Red Light District in the Global Village -or- The Holy Prostitute

Psychoanalysis of the Prostitute -or- The History of Sexual Personae

It has often been said that prostitution is the oldest profession.

While living in Europe from 1975 until late 1987, it was hard to miss the "Red Light Districts" where prostitution is a legal profession, where prostitutes pay taxes on the fees they charge for their services. In Hamburg and Amsterdam you can even go window shopping. Interestingly enough having visited Las Vegas, Nevada for the first time ca 1985 with my Swiss girlfriend, I learned that Nevada is the only State where prostitution is legal.

As a student researching the question; What do prostitutes dream?, I came across Maryse Choisy's Psychoanalysis of the Prostitute and the following dream (during session 12) from a prostitute named "Carmen" narrated by Choisy;

"It was Shrove Tuesday. A sumptuous masked ball of the nineteenth-century type was being held in the Opera House. A bearded man, dressed as Henry IV, was very popular and sought after by all the girls present. Carmen started to dance with him. After a few steps he ordered: ‘Show me your face.' Carmen took off her mask. ‘Sorry' he said. ‘Can't go on with you, kid. You have no right to be here.' He pushed her brutally away, into the street, while he went off with a rich and noble lady under the guise of Queen Margot.

Other boys flocked around Carmen. They did not gaze at her face. They insisted on seeing her sexual organs. She danced naked with each of them, hoping to make Henry IV jealous. The bearded man only spat in her direction. She started to cry bitterly. She walked back to the Opera. But the police-man at the door refused to let her in, saying ‘you have no right to be with decent people.' She remained outside in the dark, where the boys asked her ‘how much money could she swallow.' Then a woman who sat behind her back, made a magic pass and everything vanished in a grayish cloud. The boys were no longer real boys, but threatening phantoms. She felt very lonely and panic stricken. She tried to run away, but couldn't, as if her feet were chained to this no-man's land, ‘It was a terrible nightmare,' she said."

The Holy Prostitute -or- The Fear and Hatred of Women

Adam, Samson, and Solomon are Biblical stock characters who suffered at the seductive and tempting hands of women who have been given the modern archetypal name "femme fatale". The dread of women and the evil magic spell of their genitals are historically echoed by the 11th century French Bishop Marbod de Renne's "hymn of hate": "O race of mankind beware the honeysweet poison and seductive song and the lure of the fearful chasm. O fear the raging flames of that furious dragon!" (From; Hoffman Reynolds Hayes, "The dangerous sex: the myth of feminine evil" P120).

Marion Woodward in her foreword to; "The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine" by the Jungian Psychologist Nancy Qualls-Corbett, tells us; "‘Sacred' suggests dedication to a divine spirit; ‘prostitute' suggests defilement of the human body." Men and women have always made ideal projections (read ideal fantasies) of each other. "In the beginning, love and lust are one in their unconscious Garden of Paradice. When reality creeps into that Garden-often after the marriage ceremony-the projections begin to shatter."

Qualls-Corbett believes that white, patriarchal, and Christian values have negatively influenced attitudes towards femininity, creating depersonalization in both men's and women's dreams. Pornography frequently features images of women created by men, promoted by men, for the consumption by men. Female bodies become cultural icons displayed for the gaze of the men who experience both pleasure and anxiety in their masculine roles as actors, audience, and producers of pornographic psychodramas.

Maryse Choisy in "Psychoanalysis of the Prostitute" sees the substitution of patriarchy for matriarchy as "one of the most important events in history." This cultural transition marked a "change of religion." The matriarchal vs. patriarchal is the "earliest psychological war." In this war, Choisy sees a contractual relationship; "Prostitution is a provisional marriage between the man-hater and the woman-hater." For Choisy this; "...penic war of protohistory is still engraved in our collective superego...." If Qualls-Corbett sees in prostitution the; "defilement of the human body", then Choisy's observations are more blunt and straight forward, when she says "...assigning a market value to the orgasm debases sex."

Shannon Bell in "Reading, Writing and Rewriting the Prostitute Body" sees in the prostitute's body an allegory of modernity: "The prostitute appears as a commodity and a mass-produced article." The Victorian patriarchal body politic, especially in medical-legal-moral discourse, harmfully dissociated the sacred and the profane of the female body. Linda Williams' "Hard Core" sees the pornographic industry (read IIDR interpretation Cybersex) as the product of the masculine market ideology of patriarchal narrative structures which shape dreams, fantasies and the male dominated marketplace of thought. For many feminists, their view of porn is that it is a male theory (the word "theoria" means to look at) and behavioural form of violence against women. Pornography can be viewed as the male erotic ideology and utopia of the visible in its exhibitionistic, voyeuristic, and fetishistic dimensions. The fetish, represents a reliever for sexual anxieties, frustrations and tensions.

The Street Walker in No-Man's Land -or- The Opera of Carmen

My first interpretive point of entry into this dream, is where we find out that it is all a magical illusion ("magic pass"). A dream that Choisy most likely has psycho-dramatically induced onto her patient's dream screen and inner theatre. We can logically surmise this when Choisy reports; "Then a woman who sat behind her back, made a magic pass and everything vanished in a grayish cloud." This is the classic psychoanalytic orientation (psychoanalyst sitting out of the view of the patient). While we find that Choisy reports that Carmen feels lonely and panic stricken, I believe the dream makes it clear that she also feels rejected, humiliated, debased (degraded) and most of all unloved. The role of men in the dream is telling, the bearded man brutally pushes her into the street, and later spits in her direction, the boys who have no interest in her face, only her sex organs, and later ask her ‘how much money could she swallow.' Most likely the money stands in for oral services, and therefore can be seen as a "dirty joke".

Folklorist Gerson Legman's Rationale for the Dirty Joke provides a perspective to understand the history of obscene fantasies and dreams such as Carmen's. The police-man's role, is evidently to maintain the communal boundaries of so-called decency and propriety. Carmen's role is seen as street walker, a nightmare from which she evidently sees no means of escaping. Reading Choisy's narration of "Carmens" dream it is difficult to discern whether "chained to this no-man's land" are Choisy's, or Carmen's words? No-man's land would refer to a boundary metaphor for the political war and ongoing battle of the sexes, one that is filled with hatreds, fears and uncertainty. In this no-man's land of dreams, misogyny and misandry plays out. This can only add up to a perpetual nightmare. Ernest Hartmann's theory of nightmares as boundary related problems can be applied to the thoughts and feelings of Carmen's dream. Choisy tells us that "Carmen", was "her nom de guerre", which raises the question of whether the name is a disguised allusion to Bizet's 19th century Opera Carmen? It would take a number of years for a woman to give voice to what was going on in the mutual no man's land of hate. The radical feminist Valerie Solanas "Scum Manifesto" gives a vitriolic voice to the battle of the sexes, while critisizing the behaviour of men.

Queen Margot and Her World -or Love's Labor's Lost 

The other hermeneutic point of entry to this dream is the magical illusion itself, which dramatically situates itself on Shrove Tuesday at an Opera House of the 19th century type, where a masked ball is taking place. Shove Tuesday is also known by the Carnival tradition of Mardi Gras. In Rabelais and his World, Mikhail Bahktin develops the concepts of Carnival and the grotesque body which can be traced back to the literary tradition of Menippean satire. The satire that the dream appears to be addressing is the grotesque body of French political history during the period of Henry IV. The bearded man who is dressed as Henry IV and his partner of choice (after he rejects Carmen), is Queen Margot. Queen Margot reportedly inspired Shakespeare's comedy Love's Labour's Lost and later Alexandre Dumas 19th century novel La Reine Margot providing a perspective to view European men's and women's roles in the 16th and early 17th century. Numerous films have been made about the life and times of Queen Margot, most recently La Reine Margot in 1994. In contrast to Carmen, Margot evidently felt little guilt or shame about her sexuality or her scandal ridden life, which we know about from her memoires that were published posthumously.

From a popular culture perspective, other films that address the topic of prostitution include: The Oldest Profession, The Happy Hooker franchise, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Pretty Woman, and Working Girls, among many others. In the dream Carmen danced naked, from a popular music perspective John Mellencamp's "Dance Naked" (watch video) fits the description. From a more explicit perspective, Tina Turner Private Dancer tell us that she struts her stuff for money.

From a modern art perspective, we can turn to Pablo Picasso's "The Brothel of Avignon" (first image in theatre above) to give artistic expression to the social geometry of interpersonal relationships, mask wearing, sexual personae, prostitution and the grotesque. There are many other points of entry to the dream, not to mention the fact that woman are walking and working the street 24/7 on the planet and in the Global Village somewhere as we speak. This idea becomes readily visible in the IIDR dream interpretation "Human Trafficking in Singapore".

Postscript: Masks of Sanity -or- Private Madness of Sexual Personae

When I first opened my "private practice" in 1989, my business shingle read, "Family, Child and Individual Counseling Services", I soon was confronted in therapy with a phenomena known as, "countertransference". Digressing for a moment, I can note that after I graduated from the University of Zurich (Clinical Psychology) in 1983, I began a psychodynamic "training therapy" and poetic journey for over three years. The sessions with my Professor were marked by many literary dramatic turns, sometimes melodramatic, however mostly humorous. My final session was one completely devoted to the humorous side of therapy and the drama of everyday life in general. The training therapy had provided me with many conceptual therapeutic tools, however there were many clinical phenomena that I would still need experience to gain mastery over the art and science of therapy.

Early on in my private practice work, I was faced with the well known problem of countertransference, a psychological problem that the helping professional must always be vigilant about. A dream interpretation Occupational Hazards posted at the IIDR website attests to the problems. Recently, I had to inform a self proclaimed Jungian therapist (who evidently had been oblivious to the problem), that countertransference can play a significant role in dreams and relationships both therapeutic and personal. As a student I had already read Donald Winnicott's classic paper on "Hate in the Countertransference". I still have the original copy I had made as a student, it is well worn today. For Jungian's, the book by David Sedgewick The Wounded Healer: Countertransference from a Jungian Perspective provides insight into the use of countertransference as a therapeutic tool for therapy. For Jung, the "wounded healer", provides the foundation for healing. It is well worth asking, whether Jung's archetype of the therapeutic images of the wounded healer is actually the archetypal figure of the Arthurian legend, the "Fisher King"? Jung's "Red Book" provides the clues to answer this quest-ion. The dream interpretation, Memories, Dreams and Reflections posted at the IIDR website, provides another perspective of Jung's archetypal role as the wounded healer and Fisher King. Checking the Internet quickly for this connection, I found the work of the Jungian Robert A. Johnson The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden. From a popular culture perspective, it has been suggested that the TV character Gregory House personifies the healer archetype and his hate in the countertransference problems.

An argument can be made, that Freud's work with "Dora" and Carl Jung failed because of his lifelong inability to deal with certain aspects of his own hate in the countertransference. "Carmen's" dream could be interpreted as Choisy's own hatreds in the countertransference that she (Carmen) felt. Choisy reportedly admitted that her own countertransference had not been completely resolved. In terms of Carmen's dream and the "masks" the characters are wearing, we could turn to Harvey Cleckley's Masks of Sanity. Ted Bundy being an American example of the archetypal mask of the hatreds of a psychopath. No one suspected Bundy was capable of the dark psychopathic behaviours that later would be revealed to the world. As Jung had already noted, we all have a persona, a mask, a role that we play to a larger audience and to ourselves. Persona psychology is how we "appear" to the world. We build our persona in our dreams so we can then wear our well constructed masks during our everyday interactions. From my own perspective the persona is closely related to Winnicott's and Ronald Laing's (among others) concepts of the "true and the false self". My ongoing researches into therapeutic and personal countertransference brought me to the book "Private Madness" by Andre Green that continues to provide a conceptual guiding light.     

Finally, and most importantly in terms of Carmen's dream, we can turn to Camille Paglia's "Sexual Personaeto understand the history of sexuality and human mask wearing, as these behaviours relate to our dreams and everyday life. Paglia's much critisized work, is in fact a fairly accurate interpretive analysis of the cultural history of romance and sexuality. Paglia's work however, lacks the evidence of an in-depth dimension, namely the dimension of dreams. If Paglia were to access and see this dimension accurately, she would realize her error of taking the wrong side of her own argument. This argument pits the views of Jean Jacques Rousseau against the Marquis de Sade's, here is where Paglia takes a wrong turn in her historical orientation. Here lies the cultural schizoerotic (read love and hate) crux of the decadent movement of the history of romance and sexuality found in our as well as de Sade's own dreams. The problems are addressed in many of the dreams interpretations (including one of de Sade) posted at the IIDR website.

Choosing de Sade's side of the argument will only perpetuate the very decadent geneology of the "battle of the sexes", Paglia speaks of. Only through Rousseau's vision of transparency, openess, honesty and authenticity can we finally learn to give up and take off the masks and disguises that alienate us from others and our own true selves. The Restoration of the Dream (read IIDR article) and the end of the schizoerotic wars, can only be achieved when Rousseau's vision and dream is realized.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.