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Podcast: Sex work’s enthralling hidden history

Posted on 08 Oct 2021

In this fascinating and illuminating episode, sex historian and Whores of Yore creator Dr. Kate Lister explores the subject of her book ‘Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts’, centring the voices of sex workers in a history too often laden with myth, stereotype and stigma.

Image: © Musée Carnavalet, Louise Weber, c. 1881–91, La Goulue performing the splits.

In this unmissable episode, writer Eliza Apperly speaks to Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts author Dr. Kate Lister, exploring the complex and compelling history of sex work from medieval London to the Moulin Rouge, ancient Greece to Edo Japan, and right up to the present day.

In this wide-ranging and insightful conversation, Kate sheds light on the ‘pleasure quarters’ of Renaissance Italy, the wealthy courtesans of ancient Rome, and how royal mistress Nell Gwynne became one of England’s most powerful women.

Giving long-overdue recognition to the truths of sex work, Kate explores historical and contemporary attempts to regulate the sale of sex, and spotlights landmark moments of revolt by sex workers, including the occupation of a Lyon church in 1975 – widely considered the birth of the sex workers’ rights movement.



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This episode was produced and presented by Eliza Apperly and edited by Benjamin Nash.

Discover more about Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts.

Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts

A History of Sex for Sale Kate Lister