How to Run a Brothel




On Tuesday Feb 14, 18:30 GMT Chris Knight will run a ‘thought experiment’ on early human kinship, sex and economics: ‘How to Run a Brothel’ — very romantic for Valentine’s Day!

This workshop was developed at University of East London when our Ph.D student Ana Lopes was doing action research to help set up a sex-workers’ union (which became the GMB’s London Entertainment branch). We further developed it during a workshop on ‘Early Human Kinship’ together with Prof Wendy James (ex-president of the Royal Anthropological Institute). This is Chris Knight’s article in the edited volume ‘Early Human Kinship was Matrilineal’

In the workshop (link here ) we discuss how to make a small-scale society work in a situation where there’s no money and the only way to obtain food is by hunting or gathering. It starts with NO prior assumptions about morals. But, a moral order will emerge, simply by applying Darwinian principles of survival and reproduction. So what moral system emerges? what kinship rules? Who do children belong to? How does economic exchange work?

We will also look at ethnographic examples where ‘sex for meat’ exchanges are central and very much on women’s terms. Classic example, the ‘special hunt’ of the Sharanahua, recorded by Janet Siskind. No meat in the village? Children crying? The women get to work. They start painting their faces: ‘We want to paint! There’s no meat! Let’s eat penises!’ 

That evening, the women go round the village, singing to the men they choose (NOT their own husbands) to go hunt for them. Next day, when the men return, women meet them in a painted picket line to receive the produce. Once everyone has eaten their fill, then the NON-marital fun can begin. Abundance clearly gives women sexual freedom and sex appears to be an economic force of production.