Becoming a Bad Girl is not a self-help book. I’m trying to write honestly about how I was feeling as I went through a horrible time in my life, and how studying a group of “notorious women in history,” for lack of a better term, cheered me up. But please don’t take my story as some form of inspirational self-help screed. Just about every bad girl on my list used some form of prostitution to get ahead, and I don’t want to be accused of recommending prostitution as a good method to achieve happiness.
But there it is: prostitution is a fact of life that shows up often in my bad girls’ stories. Some of them—-Ninon de Lenclos and Catherine Walters, for example—-were prostitutes, pure and simple. Catherine, who also went by the name of Skittles, made quite a successful go of whoring herself out in Victorian London, and her customers included sensitive poets, rich aristocrats and many straight-laced men who kept their wives tucked up at home when they ventured into the demi-monde of Mayfair.
What did I learn from Skittles? I learned that a smart prostitute lives to please herself and that she uses sex to achieve personal fulfillment. I hope Skittles actually liked sex-—I choose to believe she loved sex-—because it would confirm my notion that a bad girl is always in control of her destiny. (Skittles was not a literary whore, unfortunately, and she never wrote down her thoughts.) A bad girl does not submit to authority, she has loads of love affairs with men from both the upper crust and the lower castes, and she enjoys shocking people with her promiscuity. A bad girl is capable of falling deeply in love but avoids it if she can because she is more smitten with her independence.
Don’t forget, my bad girls lived in an age when many women had no property rights, so the advantage of being an unmarried whore was that you could have a home of your own that no man could ever throw you out of. Mind you, my bad girls loved men and usually preferred their company to women’s. Men had the freedom to be where the power was, they were uncomplicated and self-contained. Skittles hated other women, in fact. And quite a few of my bad girls actively chose to “live like a man”—-Ninon’s words—-and actively resisted becoming too dependent on others.
What about feminism, you ask. Were bad girls feminists? Uh, no. Sorry. They were either too rich to care about becoming feminists or too poor to pay any attention to the issue because they were too busy working for a living. Oh wait, there was one huge feminist in the bunch: Victoria Woodhull. You know, the bad girl who ran for US President in 1872 on a platform of free love, legalized prostitution, easier divorce laws, voting rights for women, vegetarianism, labor reform, magnetic healing, spiritualism, etc. Victoria was a feminist to put feminists to shame. But she was a one-off. Otherwise, my bad girls either didn’t know about feminism or simply ignored it, which I think is funny. They lived like men yet made no apologies for being women. A bad girl was what she was, and that was that.
While a bad girl might enjoy the over-the-top girliness of wearing costumes full of jewels and feathers, she would equally enjoy dressing like a man when it suited her. Isabelle Eberhardt always dressed like a man, and asked to be called by an Arabic man’s name, Si Mahmoud, because that’s what she was into. Catherine the Great dressed like a man when she rode horses—-who was going to stop her? she was the Empress of all the Russias, OK?—-and Victoria Woodhull wore trousers when she went out riding on that new invention of the 19th century, the bicycle.
So there you have it. My bad girls were not nice people. Oh, they might have made the pretense of being nice when it suited them, but still, they weren’t nice. I like that about them. Because I think I was too nice when I started my bad girls study. Men took advantage of me, friends bossed me around, and being a placating doormat for other people wasn’t making me any happier. It’s six years now since I started studying my bad girls, and I’m much happier now. I couldn’t say for sure that studying bad girls cured me of my affliction, but they were right there with me, their stories running around inside my head, as I made changes and took action that brought me to a better place in my life.
And that's not all! Yes, there's much more on my list of what makes a bad girl bad. Keep watching my blog--my next post will be about self-discipline and suicide. Oh and charm and vanity, which I think I promised in my previous post but didn't get around to this time because I was too busy talking about whoring yourself out.