la camera di valentina

The Whore’s Chromatology

What is chromatology? It’s the study of colour, from the physico-chemical composition to the symbology given by different cultures. But what the hell does it have to do with whores, now?

The introduction to chromatology, as its very first approach, involves an in-depth study on the symbological meanings a color can take on, over time and geographical distance, changing from region to region, from an era to another, from folk to folk. It’s not only just the online test “what does your favourite colour say about you?” (which is still interesting, though), it’s an analisys of the communicative and psychological use of the colour, which is valid to all kind of arts and all aspects of life, from painting to marketing.

Since I’ve started studying chromatology, my valentine’s feelers smelled a figure that, jumping from colour to colour, took over them and filled them with its meaning: the prostitute.

You know those rainbows painted on those banners hanging on balconies that say #andràtuttobene[*], right? Now we are going to deconstruct them, analysing some of the sprectum colours, and take them on the streets, along with sluts.

There you are a brief, yet intense and vibrant collection (as the colours we are going to pick) of trivias dealing with whore’s chromatology, that is where harlots hide when colours become their representative flag.

Red

We all know that red is the colour of passion and violence, but I’m wondering what it has to do with prostitutes, so let’s find it out.

The Great Prostitute of Babylon

For Protestant people the red colour represents the Babylon Prostitute, a.k.a. “The Babylon Mystery” or “The Harlot of Babylon”. This figure featured in the Book of Relevation has very deep roots and it’s so tremendously interesting that we better deepen the topic later. However, for now what you need to know is that the “Babylon Prostitute” was defined as an evil system poisoned by the Antichrist; so it’s not just a woman itself, it’s seen more like a symbol of corruption.

wikipedia.org

Since women are associated to corruption, a few representations of this Big Harlot don’t fail to exist: dressed in red, riding a – of course – red, seven-headed, ten-horned beast. In the Book of Revelation the story goes that the mighty men of power will commit adultery with the Great Prostitute of Babylon and that everyone will be “inebriated with the wine of her prostitution”. What can I say: patriarchy, anyone?

Red light district

Here the reference is pretty neat and clear: since red is the colour of passion and lust, it’s automatical to associate the red light districts to those areas where it’s possible to buy sex services, right? Correct! But what is its origin?

That’s quite uncertain because, as like prostitution, its origins and everything linked to it are the most ancient of the world.

Before the traffic light invention, in the railways (especially in England), the station master or the railroader were in charge to send the signal to stop the runaway train by flashing a very bright lantern made with red glass panels.

The railroaders, after the end of their shift, would bring the lantern with them and, once arrived in the whorehouse, they would keep it lit to let people know the spot was occupied.

Another theory is that the prostitutes themselves put a red cloth on the lantern to distinguish their whorehouse from the other women’s houses so they could attract more clients.

Orange

Just joking! There’s not so much to tell about the orange colour associated to any kind of sex work. However I found a nice little thing on the web and I think it’s worth to share it with you just to have fun with that bitchy chromatology[1]:

An article published in 2015 reports an anti-whore injuction filed by the mayor of Spino d’Adda (near Cremona, Italy): the prostitutes working on the streets needed to wear an orange safety vest, the same used by the working-class, to keep clients away from them.

Obviously, that didn’t work: most of the prostitutes didn’t wear it. The client may travel at night, but I doubt that it would help him lose his eyesight: if I’d like to purchase a sex service, and I’d notice a very nicely dressed up “worker” with that orange safety vest, I woudn’t hasitate to pull over. Smart cookie!

Yellow

But what if it wasn’t night and no safety vests were needed to identify prostitutes?

It all started during the late medieval period, in Venice, where actions were taken to make prostitutes recognizable; yellow accessories or yellow clothing were required: shawls, scarves, gowns. Since it was quite a vibrant and eye-catching colour, it could stand out very easily. During the Renaissance such measures were still carried out, but colours and accessories would vary depending on the city.

“The yellow passport”, a 1931 movie by Raoul Walsh, tells the story of a young girl who is forced to pretend to be a prostitute to obtain a passport (a “yellow ticket”) in order to visit her father, whom she believes to be ill. This yellow passport really existed in Russia and the prostitutes who had it were recognizable and they could travel easily throughout the country.


That’s all, folks! A short, yet intense travel on the threshold of colder colours. I don’t know why, but there’s no symbology linked to the prostitutes from green on out, on the spectrum: could it be that sexworking is so hot to be associated only to hot colors?

I hope this travel amazed you as much as it amazed me: have you ever imagined that the so stigmatized whores could have their own place in the rainbow?

Translation by: Francesca Paola Plicato

[*]#everythingisgoingtobealright is the hashtag representing the Italian Motto during quarantine to cope with the pandemy and get through it, spreading positive vibes

LINKS AND SOURCES

[1] https://www.ilgiorno.it/cremona/cronaca/prostitute-1.1261894

http://www.marcovuyet.com/ALARMA%20BABILONIA%202.htm

lesson’s pdf

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