Sex For Power: A Historical Background On A Deadly Game

by Anna Madsen

Since the dawn of day intelligent women have skillfully used their sexuality to obtain what they desire from men, but some have gone even further. During the times when men dominated all major posts in business, politics and government, the only way for a woman to have upward social mobility and bolster her wealth was through a successful man.

Some mistresses and so called “courtesans” (high class prostitutes) offered their sexual favors and whit efficiently and made their way through the backdoor to the center of the elite.

Thanks to their erotic assets, they managed to lobby themselves into influential politicians’ and monarchs’ beds. However, it would later show that their capacity would stretch much further than just the bedroom, as these women demanded more than just the standard flowers and chocolate-package.

Madame de Pompadour

Mistress to: Louis XV of France

Wealth acquired: Private apartment at the Versailles, several French estates, one corporation, and millions of francs worth of jewelry and art.

Champagne is the only drink that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it.

One of the most famous, empowered women during the 18th century was Madame de Pompadour, the head mistress of King Louis XV of France. Having been spotted by Louis XV at a party, she was later called to the Versailles-castle, and her husband at the time was notified that his wife now “belonged to the king."

Madame de Pompadour stayed at the French court for twenty years until her death, a remarkably long time considering most mistresses were thrown out after just a couple of months. After having gained trust and love from the king, she started her career in real estate.

With borrowed royal funds, she purchased hundreds of castles in the county, renovated them and sold them off with a profit that she kept for herself. She became the main, unofficial, advisor to the king concerning matters of finances, foreign affairs and strategy of war, and even initiated and financed Paris’ military school that Napoleon later attended.

She also founded the Sevres porcelain factory, which still today is a million-dollar business. She became so influential that the king’s ministers queued up outside her bedroom in the morning for her personal opinion on their matters. Oh, and her closet of dresses and jewelry was also triple the size of the queen’s. During periods when Louis XV felt too tired to get out of bed, she alone handled most of the demands on his desk. It is thus arguable that, during her time, France’s future was shaped with the decisions of a prostitute.

Carolina “La Belle” Otero

Mistress to: at least six European crown-monarchs

Wealth acquired: $40 million including jewelry and art pieces

Women are supposed to be beautiful. When they grow old, they need to learn to break mirrors.

Towards the end of the 19th century, during the French Belle Epoque, a select group of prostitutes in Paris climbed their way up the power-ladder and became part of the capital’s elite circle. These courtesans glamorized what we today would refer to as simple gold diggers. Initially dancers at the venues Les Folies Bergère and Moulin Rouge, they were discovered by politicians and nouveau rich industrial men (today’s IT-billionaires) who were more than willing to take a mistress.

One of the most notorious of these femme-fatales was the Spanish beauty Carolina “La Belle” Otero. She was the mistress of Prince Albert I of Monaco, King King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, The King of Serbia and King of Spain, as well as Russian Grand Dukes Peter and Nicholaus, and the Duke of Westminster. She also supposedly provoked six suicides after ending some of her other relations.

In addition, it has been suggested that the two cupolas of the Carlton hotel in Cannes are architectural shapes of her breasts. From her lovers she accumulated a massive wealth, and was once offered a whole shopping-window worth of jewelry, as he became “paralyzed by indecision."

Sadly, she gambled away most of her savings (about $ 25 million) at the high rollers-table in Monaco. During her last days, she was completely bankrupt and alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Nice. Her neighbor heard her through the wall rambling about princes and champagne. Needless to say, neither subject of these topics were present as she took her last breath.

Cora Pearl

Mistress to: several members of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte-family and the Duke of Rivoli

Wealth acquired: $50 million, a castle, several houses, stables, a bath tub in silver and jewelry

I have squandered money enormously. I ought to have saved, but saving is not easy in such a whirl of excitement that I have lived.

Another courtesan who would make her way to the Paris elite was Cora Pearl. Originally from London and nursed in a convent, she possessed the right manners to seduce the French noblemen. She became famous for having herself served on a silver platter with only parsley as garnishing. Her first lover, the Duke of Rivoli, ended the affair after having bailed her out from her gambling bills one too many times.

She continued to see both the brother and cousin of the Emperor Napoleon III, and her excessive spending continued from lingerie bills of 40K to a bathtub in silver. She spent enormous fortunes on a lavish lifestyle all financed by her lovers. One admirer of hers became obsessed and jealous and tried to outperform her other suitors financially.

When he was unsuccessful, he became so miserable that he committed suicide by shooting himself on her doorstep. Seemingly not aware of his death, Pearl calmly retreated to her bedroom without calling the police, an incident that shocked her other lovers to the point that they also abandoned her. She died as a money-less bachelorette after having sold off most of her belongings and published her memoirs that with much difficulty went to print.

Zahia Dehar

Mistress to: at least three, French star soccer-players

Wealth acquired: her own fashion house (haute lingerie)

Of her former lovers, she “loved them all."

Whoever thought that prostitutes only had success in the past was terribly wrong. The recently uncovered prostitution-scandal with the three French soccer-players made the escort Zahia Dehar a celebrity over night. She was discovered by none other than Karl Lagerfelt – who described her as “very ‘La Belle Otero” – who supported her lingerie brand that was shown at the Paris Fashion week in July this year.

Zahia Dehar has covered both the American and Spanish version of the magazine V. She was also on the cover of Vanity Fair, which featured in an interview. Although none of her lovers have killed themselves, many would surely agree that they committed suicide career-wise, even facing jail-time for some of their crimes.

Despite their sometimes questionable methods, these women remain fascinating and – in some cases – inspirational. One has to admire their beauty and ability to use that to their advantage. Few women possess both good looks and brains. And even fewer know how to combine the two in order to excel in life. However, when La Paiva, a Russian-Polish luxury prostitute, managed to marry a Portuguese marquis, she shortly told him after the wedding:

I wanted a position, and I've got it, but all you have is a prostitute for a wife. You can't take me anywhere, and you can't introduce me to anyone. We must, therefore, separate. I shall stay here with your name and remain a whore.

La Paiva understood that wealth and power can be acquired by signing a paper. But sexual competence, although a valuable asset for a woman, can never buy you class.

Anna M Madsen | Elite. Want to read and see more of Anna? Check out