Archives de Tag: Putes

Of particular significance is the relation the witch-hunt established between the prostitute and the witch, reflecting the process of devaluation which prostitution under­went in the capitalist reorganization of sexual work. As the saying went, “a prostitute
when young, a witch when old,” for both used sex only to deceive and corrupt men, faking a love that was only mercenary (Stiefehneir 1977: 48ff.). And both sold themselves in order to obtain money and an illicit power, the witch (who sold her soul to the Devil) being the magnified image of the prostitute (who sold her body to men). Furthermore, both the (old) witch and the prostitute were symbols of sterility. the very personification of non-procreative sexuality. Thus, while in the Middle Ages the prostitute and the witch were considered positive figures who performed a social service for the community, with the witch-hunt both acquired the most negative connotations and were rejected as pos­sible female identities, physically by death and socially by criminalization. For the prostitute died as a legal subject only after having died a thousand times on the stake as a witch. Or better, the prostitute would be allowed to survive (she would even become useful, although in a clandestine fashion) only as long as the witch would be killed; for
the witch was the more socially dangerous subject, the one who (in the eyes of the inquisitors) was less controllable; it was she who could give pain or pleasure, heal or harm, stir up the elements and chain the will of men; she could even cause damage solely by
her look, a malocchio (“evil eye”) that presumably could kill.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 197

The witch-hunt, then, was a war against women; it was a concerted attempt to degrade them, demonize them, and destroy their social power. At the same time, it was in the torture chambers and on the stakes on which the witches perished that the bourgeois
ideals of womanhood and domesticity were forged.
In this case, too, the witch-hunt amplified contemporary social trends. There is, in fact, an unmistakable continuity between the practices targeted by the witch-hunt and those banned by the new legislation that in the same years was introduced to regulate
family life, gender and property relations. Across western Europe, as the witch-hunt was progressing, laws were passed that punished the adulteress with death (in England and Scotland by the stake, as in the case of High Treason). At the same time prostitution was
outlawed and so was birth out of wedlock, while infanticide was made a capital crime. Simultaneously, female friendships became an object of suspicion, denounced from the pulpit as subversive of the alliance between husband and wife, just as women-to-women
relations were demonized by the prosecutors of the witches who forced them to denounce each other as accomplices in crime. It was also in this period that the word “gossip,” which in the Middle Ages had meant “friend,” changed its meaning, acquiring
a derogatory connotation, a further sign of the degree to which the power of women and communal ties were undermined.
Also at the ideological level, there is a dose correspondence between the degraded image of women forged by the demonologists and the image of femininity constructed by the contemporary debates on the “nature of the sexes,” which canonized a stereo­typical woman, weak in body and mind and biologically prone to evil, that effectively served to justify male control over women and the new patriarchal order.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 186

But the witch was not only the midwife, the woman who avoided maternity, or the beggar who eked out a living by stealing some wood or butter from her neighbors. She was also the loose, promiscuous woman – the prostitute or adulteress, and gener­ally, the woman who exercised her sexuality outside the bonds of marriage and procre­ation. Thus, in the witchcraft trials, “ill repute” was evidence of guilt. The witch was also the rebel woman who talked back, argued, swore, and did not cry under torture. “Rebel” here refers not necessarily to any specific subversive activity in which women might be involved. Rather, it describes the female personality that had developed, especially among the peasantry, in the course of the struggle against feudal power, when women had been in the forefront of the heretical movements, often organizing in female associations, pos­ing a growing challenge to male authority and the Church.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 184