Catharine Arnold is the author of The Sexual History of London: From Roman Londinium to the Swinging City.
From her Q & A with Kevin Canfield at The Daily Beast:
This is an entertaining book, but some of the material is pretty grim. For instance, you write about the many brothels to be found in Roman London. Isn’t it right that some of these brothels took hold because of an odd superstition on the part of visiting sailors?--Marshal Zeringue
They weren’t encouraged to bring their women on shipboard. It was regarded as tremendously bad luck. What happens is that legionaries that came over needed a supply of women, so girls were sent from all over the Roman Empire to be prostitutes in London, to serve the military. Brothels were like hutches, really, like kennels.
But then you have the women who go into the trade of their volition. In Roman London you have the high-born prostitutes who set themselves up in business, and would have a menu, and would issue brothel tokens, which were what the guy would be given to avail himself of various services.
The Black Death hits London in the middle of the 14th century, and you’d think that all that dying would put a damper of things. But you found that people were having loads of sex because they thought it might keep them healthy?
They were so desperate for a remedy that they actually believed that one way of avoiding getting the Black Death was through sex. It’s a great excuse, really: I have...[read on]