Christianity well known for being a little on the chaste side compared to other religions. While Hinduism kept the Kama Sutra, the Bible kept that sex should be a very reserved and private issue. Indeed, many of the Abrahamic religious texts pushed at least some forms of sexual restraint, and to the West piety and intercourse seem inherently at odds. However, this is far from the standard. While the Kama Sutra is a notable example, it often strikes the West as an exception. In reality, there were a lot of exceptions.
Let’s start with the familiar, shall we?
The temple of Aphrodite in Corinth was a hugely notable example. Described as the “Amsterdam of the ancient world”, the temple was said to house thousands of prostitutes, who all worked around the clock to collect funds for their goddess. While Aphrodite is often referred to as the goddess of love & beauty, historical accounts tend to show a much darker picture, with wealthy slave-owners essentially dumping girls into the complex to be pimped.
However, Aphrodite was far from the first. The believed ancient-precursor to Aphrodite, was another Goddess of Love from Babylon, named Inanna, and her accounts are amongst the oldest. Herodotus even wrote about this, stating: “Once in their lifetimes, all women in the country were required to sit in the temple and “expose themselves to a stranger” in return for money”. Mesopotamia also wrote explicitly about the act, wherein The Code of Hammurabi temple-prostitutes are guaranteed rights of inheritance (statutes 178 – 181) and during The Coming of Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu is taught about the world through his priestess lover.
The old world isn’t the only place this was practiced. Unfortunately, the practice has continued well into the 20th century. Betraying the typically chaste features of Abrahamic religions (and a hell of a lot else), the cult that was initially known as the “The Children of God”, and later (the most culty name ever), “The Family of Love” was famous for using a tactic called “flirty fishing”. The practice essentially used prostitution and escorting as a means to fund “The Family” and, more importantly, to pull in converts.
While the reserved nature of many religions regarding intercourse may be a manner of contention for some, this article should go to show that there is a healthy gradient in everything. With prostitution being feasibly the oldest occupation known to mankind, it may make some sense as to why it ultimately evolved into religious activities. That said, there is nothing to justify the religious ascension of pimping, and this little-known piece of history was something I felt deserved to be written about.
Until next time,