Move over, Shakira, there’s a new BAB (badass bitch)™ in town. And by “new” I mean she was born roughly 700 years ago, and by “town” I mean medieval England, but still, potato/potabo. Enter Isabella of France, wife of King Edward II of England. Gurl had some mad haters in her time, and the shade they were throwing in the 14th century casts a longass shadow. Even though she was noted for her beauty, intelligence, and diplomacy, just because, like *one* time, she usurped her husband’s throne, probably had him murdered, and co-ruled with her lover, she has forever been labeled as The She-Wolf of France, and drawn as a manipulative, sadistic, vain, femme fatale. Whatever. Fuckem. Bitches Get Stuff Done.
So our weebaby scandalite is born probably in 1295, daughter of King Philip Eye-Vee of France, ruler of the most powerful state in Western Europe at the time. All of her brothers became kings, and, as was customary, Isabella was promised as an infanta to Edward II (New Moon) of England. Edward’s father (Edward Twilight, whom you know from the 1995 pre-meltdown Mel Gibson classic, Braveheart as “that old guy in the crown”), for some reason which Wikipedia did not make clear to me, tried to dissolve the union several times before his death. But, once he kicked it in 1307, the 23-year-old Edward and the 12-year-old Isabella were free to pursue wedded bliss.
Why? Because Edward was gayer than Christmas, that’s why.
Well, no—Edward was most likely bisexual, as he and Isabella did eventually have four children, and he had at least one illegimate son by an unknown woman (which I like to imagine means she was a ghost, kind of like Patrick Swayze was that one time), and there is considerable scholarly debate over whether Edward actually had romantic relationships with men (fueled not least by issues of interpreting concepts of medieval sexuality, homosexuality, and male friendship [and for an awesome introduction to these queries, plus a bit of academic titillation, check this nifty volume]). But still, the warning signs were there right from the start that Edward’s spankbank wasn’t filled exclusively with sweet, sweet ladybits.
Just quick, let’s have a tidge of context about Edward: though he was a strapping young buck, the heir apparent apparently shied from traditional kingly pursuits such as jousting, hunting, warfare, bloodshed, mayhem, and dick-measuring contests, in favor music, poetry, and “rural crafts.” Edward had a special little hole (in his heart) that was plugged by a nobleman named Piers Gaveston. Apparently, “as soon as the king’s son (Edward II) saw him, he fell so much in love that he entered upon an enduring compact with him”—which is sweet and all, but hanging on the arm of another dude like you’re the hottest wife in Stepford is 200% not cool in 1300. Edward I banished Gaveston a bunch of times to try to unhook his whore talons from Edward II, but I guess as soon as the king kicked it, Jr. saw this as an opportunity to not only marry his supahrich child-bride, but also debut his boytoy in one big ol’ “fuck you, dad, you’re dead” fell-swoop.
At her marriage banquet, Izzie watched all her presents given to Gaveston (I mean really, one man can only use so many chip n’ dips), and at her coronation, the halls were hung with custom tapestries bearing the coats of arms of Edward and Gaveston. …If TLC had gone all Four Weddings on that biznass, I’m pretty sure even Isabella’s sister wives would have given her pity points. That shit’s rough.
Isabella apparently resigned herself to a life of neglect and humiliation in the wake of her husband’s brazen hussiness. She befriended Gaveston’s wife and I assume they spent lots of hours bitching about their sham marriages in their finely illuminated Burn Book of Hours.
BUT, after merely four winters of discontent, in 1312, tensions between Edward and his barons over Gaveston’s power in court had reached a boiling point. After being banished once again by the peerage, and recalled once again by Edward, Piers was finally kidnapped by a couple of earls, who handed him over to a couple of Welshmen, who promptly rid the world of that turbulent puff.
Sidenote: This is in direct opposition to what I remember of the
stunning, delicate, cinema vérité death of a character based on Gaveston in the aforementioned Braveheart, in which Edward I pushes his son’s lover out a window, squealing like a piglet. No, now I find there’s a dignity in truth afforded to the poor soul, knowing he was in fact taken out to the ass end of Wales and beheaded by a couple of sheepfuckers.
Anyway, Edward was so distraught by Gaveston’s murder that he went all Norman Bates and kept his corpse around for a while before the Church finally forced him to bury it (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewEW.). But, with his lover gone in an arguably tragic turn of events, Edward had to pull it together. He put on his big-boy jerkin and favorite Bobbi Brown lipstick, and knocked up the wife he suddenly remembered he had. For England; for the Plantagenets; for something to do on a Thursday night.
So Isabella and Edward had a son in 1312, the future Edward Eclipse, but despite producing a healthy male successor, the political situation in England was increasingly unstable: ties between France and England were weakening, Edward had his ass decidedly handed to him with a side of tatties and neeps by the Scots at Bannockburn, a royal pretender showed up claiming to have been switched at birth with Edward (though he brought very little charming, lesson-learning, folksy-wisdom, and good-old-fashioned-adventure to this Twainesque episode, and thus totally deserved his eventual execution), and the barons were still having a hissy fit about how Edward threw around his power—particularly in light of his new advisor/bum-chum, Hugh Despenser the Younger.
(Also, there was a famine—which I would say was like the cherry on top of a shit sundae, but it’s probably more apt to say it’s like the restaurant never bringing you the sundae to begin with, charging you twice, then giving you a plague blanket rather than a mint on your way out.)
Isabella hated Hugh the Younger, because, in all honesty, he sounds like a total, utter, certified, signed-sealed-delivered, midnight-train-to-Georgia douche. Hugh had campaigned against Gaveston and actively displaced Edward’s rebound after Gaveston, a man named Roger d’Amory (Dare I say they engaged in amorous rogering? No? Too much? Ok.), so he could get into the king’s affections. He held huge political sway over who was in favor at court, and he and Edward instituted massive programs of land confiscation, large scale imprisonment, execution, and the persecution of the widows of their enemies. Hugh in particular wrongfully seized a bunch of land from female nobility (including his wife and his sister-in-law)(!!!!??!!1!), and apparently had one woman’s arms and legs broken until she went insane. *teethsuckholyshitfuckthatdude* It has been hypothesized that because Hugh so clearly hated women, and that because Isabella hated Hugh with such a passion, he had sexually assaulted her at some point, but either way, he was horrible, even by medieval standards.
He and Edward made like a shitload of enemies between 1320 and 1326 who plotted a myriad ways to kill them, including—I’m not kidding—voodoo. In response to a brewing war between Edward and the English nobility spurred on by Hugh, Isabella forcibly took a greater role in politics, and attempted to get the Despensers exiled several times, but Edward always manged to bring them back, like a bad penny, or herpes. Edward finally gave her one of his trademark kissoffs by confiscating all her lands, imprisoning all her staff, and taking all her kids. He wanted her to sign an oath of loyalty to Hugh, but she was rightfully like, “fuck that noise,” and in 1325 she returned to France, gathered an army with the help of her brother, Charles IV, and the really pissed off English nobles, and a hot little slice named Roger Mortimer.
Disclaimer: Mortimer and Isabella might have been having an affair back in England, but either way, once in France, the queen finally got the crowning she deserved (that doesn’t make sense, sorry, whatever, they boned a lot, let’s move on).
In 1326, this mediaeval Bonne y Clyd invaded with a very small force, but such was the state of Edward’s unpopularity that the country essential descended into mob rule at the news of her arrival. She laid siege to Bristol and retrieved her daughters, and soon captured Edward and Hugh as they tried to flee the country. Isabella or her followers essentially killed every higher-up still allied with Edward, with Hugh given a particularly humiliating public castration and disembowelment (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewewEW). Edward was placed under house arrest rather than executed, since he was legally still Isabella’s husband, and her legal basis for deposing him was minimal (even though bitch showed mad restraint for sitting it out as long as she did, if you ask me). Her son was confirmed as Edward III, with Isabella acting as regent. Somewhere along the way, Edward II dies—it’s unclear whether he was assassinated or simply died in prison, but the most sensational story is that he had a heated fire poker shoved up his butthole (EWWWW).
Now Edward really was a first class tit, but I don’t know if anyone really deserves to have the last of the red hot pokers nonconsensually inserted into their ass. But, you know, Middle Ages, anything goes.
Isabella and Mortimer co-ruled for about four years until her son came of age and promptly deposed his mom’s main squeeze. She had a nervous breakdown, and was briefly arrested, but eventually was give a massive pension and remained in close contact with the court and her grandchildren. And, like many retirees and shut-ins, she developed an interest in astrology. So, all’s well that ends well in the land of Medieval Times: where women who engage in the same shitty, philandering, power-obsessed activity as their shitty, philandering, power-obsessed husbands are forever remembered as despicable SeeYouNextTuesdays.
Hello Scandalites! It’s back to school time, and in honor of all the wee baby scandal-lovers that are headed, freshfaced, off to another year of
equality-promoting peace-mongering liberal bullshit indoctrination higher education, For Shame! brings you a theme week close to our collective hearts: Siblings Week.
LH and MR are not the only historically minded gossip hounds in the respective B and G families, no, no! We’ve got raunchy tales of debauchery, told in the blog’s trademark (charmingly) foul tongue, and served hot and salacious by the native brilliance of REB and AMG. Their posts won’t necessarily be about scandalous bloodlines, but trust us when we say that the our fascination with ye-olde p-in-v is clearly genetic.
Unfortunately, KAB’s siblings are, in her words, “lame,” and will not be participating unless there’s some kind of 11th hour sports movie miracle. But, we love her anyway, so we’re not too put out. And I, JAF, have been tasked to introduce this exciting new foray into having other people write posts for us, because sadly I was destined to tread the paths of this earth in fraternal exile, carrying on the legacy of the great House of F solely upon mine well-developed shoulders. Either that, or I resorbed all my potential siblings in the womb, we may never know.
So, as a bit of an appeteaser for the week (and, in vain personal honor of my recently completed master’s dissertation on “The Medieval Ages”), I’ve got a mini post about the all kinds of fucked that Charlemagne’s 18 kids were.
Now, Charlemagne himself was a pretty scandalicious slab of man meat. He was shredded like lettuce, over six feet tall, with soul-piercing blue eyes, and a luscious ginger mane and a magical mustache that just begged to give rides. He was generous with his cashmoney, his kingdom essentially created the French and German empires, his patronage of the arts created a cultural renaissance, and he loved to partay, but disliked drunkenness (because he had class, bitchez). He had four and a half wives (one was annulled, but whatever, they totally boned), five known concubines, and probably like a bazillion other pieces on the side, because, come on, he’s the most powerful man in Christendom and he looks like a Ken doll. What wench in her right girlbrains isn’t gonna try and get into those hose, amirite?
Via these prime lays, Charlie, in his seventy odd years in this mortal coil, sired a slew of progeny: 11 ladybabies, and 7 normies (boys). He was exceedingly devoted to all of his children, legitimate and otherwise. They willingly traveled with him nearly everywhere he went, including military campaigns, and were uniformly highly educated in The Seven Liberal Arts. These, thankfully, have evolved from the totes blahh originals of “Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music,” to “BuzzFeed, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Intro Psych.”
His sons populated the governmental and clerical hierarchy of early medieval Europe (proving the old maxim that kids are “cheaper by the dozen and a half when made for dynastic purposes”), but his daughters were essentially left to their own devices….which was fucking.
There was a reason ol’ Charles was in charge, and he foresaw that if his daughters legally attached their ladybits to corresponding men, he’d have more sons-in-law than you could shake a crosier at, grabbing for a piece of his Holy Roman EmPIEre (DOYOUSEEWHATIDIDTHERE????). So, they were allowed to carry on as many relationships as they wanted, but they could never marry. No forced marriages, no political arrangements were ever made. His daughters’ common-law husbands were even rewarded with places in court (one was actually canonized), and Charles reportedly “loved the shit out of” the buttloads of illegitimate grandchildren which were produced, BECAUSE MAYBE HE TOTALLY WANTED HIS DAUGHTERS TO BE HAPPY LIKE MAYBE JUST A LITTLE I DON’T KNOW EMOTIONS AND STUFF.
Anyway, this fairy tale called eighth-century France ends when Charlemagne dies in 814 and his son, Louis the
Wetblanket Pious, takes over and locks up his sisters who haven’t entered the monastic life for being slorebags.
So that’s my fast n’ nasty introduction to Sibling Week—stay tuned for more scandal de la familia!*
Happy Birthday America! I know we haven’t graced the pages of the interwebs for quite some time, but it’s because we’ve been waving flags, camping out and having picnics, and celebrating various reasons to be proud of our country (well, except that last one, but you know what I’m getting at).
So on this, the fourth day of the month of July, we’re taking the opportunity to bring you not the scandal of a founding father or an illustrious politician, but rather the epitome of the actual idols in America: a celebrity athlete.
BUT WAIT, I know you’re thinking there’s a disconnect between the social progress made by our nation in the past week, and the inexplicable hero-worship of someone who tosses balls for a living. WELL HOLD ON PATRIOTS, CAUSE IT’S ABOUT TO GET SCANDALOUSLY PROGRESSIVE UP IN HURR. And regular scandalous too, don’t worry.
For you see, on this day in 1910, Jack Johnson, an African American heavy-weight boxer, knocked out his white rival, Jim Jeffries, sparking race riots across America.
The bout was deemed the “Fight of the Century,” in which formerly undefeated Jeffries came out of a six-year retirement to fight Johnson, the current heavy-weight champion. The total winnings (split 75/25) were equivalent to over two million dollars in today’s spacebucks, and tickets to the 20,000 seat sold-out spectacle were being scalped for almost triple their original price. President Taft and Arthur Conan Doyle had been approached to guest-referee. The match was held in Reno in 110 degree heat, and scheduled for three 45-minute rounds. Jeffries had very little interest being the representation of the white race in taking down this troubling black upstart, and originally refused the fight multiple times, but was eventually persuaded (I’m assuming by that two million dollars, but, hey, I could be wrong). All in all, it was a B-fucking-D.
Racial tensions were running high, and no alcohol (normal) or guns (psst, lame) were allowed within the arena. By the fourth round, it was clear that the older Jeffries was going to lose, but the blood sport continued for another eleven rounds, with Jeffries being knocked down twice, and nearly KO’d. However, the NYTimes remarked at the time that never had a fight been so one-sides, but that Johnson had fought fairly throughout.
Here would be a nice moment to pause and give a bit of background on Jack Johnson. The son of former slaves from Galveston Texas, he could read and write, which was plenty scandalous for the time. Well, that, and HE LOVED DATING WHITE LADIES. AND PROSTITUTES. OPENLY.
He reportedly had so many biddies on rotation in and out of his hotel room, that a keen-eyed reporter once asked him how he did it, to which Johnson replied “eat jellied eels and think distant thoughts.” And I mean, come on, are we gonna blame them? The man was beautiful.
According to Johnson, though no record survives, he first married another African America woman named Mary Austin, back in Texas in 1898, though it appears they separated by 1902. He then took up with a black prostitute from Philly named Clara Kerr, who lived with him in California until she ran off with his friend, taking most of his clothes and jewelry. He tracked them down in Tuscon and had Clara arrested for burglary, but apparently they reconciled and started living together. This lasted until he couldn’t find any money-making fights, and she up and R.U.N.N.O.F.T.
During a fight tour of Australia, he had a fling with white Alma “Lola” Toy, which scandalized the Sydney press. From this point on, while he did not exclusively see white women, he said publically said he would never marry another woman of color because of the heartaches he had suffered with Mary and Clara. I mean, that’s kind of like saying you’ll only eat apples because you ate two rotten oranges… Whatever dude, just pick some better fruit next time.
When he returned to America in 1907 he took up with Hattie McClay, a white prostitute from Manhattan. Their relationship was plagued by societal outrage–hotels refused to admit them, and several matches and even a parade were cancelled because Jack was travelling with a white woman who he referred to as “Mrs. Jack Johnson” (though they were never legally married). By 1909 they were separated, but continued to bang on the sly until 1911, when Jack paid Hattie $500 for the return of all their steamyass correspondence. A tale as old as time, true as it can be, barely even friends, because one is a prostitute, not-so-unexpectedly.
He next started seeing Belle Schreiber, another woman of easy virtue at an exclusive, all-white brothel in Chicago. At least five women were fired by the madams there for sleeping with Johnson, but Belle hung on and became Jack’s new main lay. Even during his first legal marriage, Johnson and Belle continued to play bang-around-the-rosie, ’cause, you know, why not? Now Belle was a tenacious little miss thang, and much like a bad penny (though come on, she’s at least a six or seven), just kept comin’ back. More on that later.
Ahem, so, after that lengthy bonerlude, back to boxing.
For years, Johnson predominantly fought other black boxers, eventually becoming the World Colored Heavyweight Champion, and gaining the nickname, “The Galveston Giant.” While whites would fight black boxers, the World Heavyweight Championship was reserved for whites only. In 1902, Joe Gans became the first African American World Lightweight Champion, and finally in 1908, Johnson was able to fight against the white Tommy Burns, beating him with a knockout after fourteen rounds. So there’s just a lot of “issues” going on around here.
Johnson was troublingly vocal and proud of his physical prowess, and I would go so far as to maybe even call him a bit of a, howyousay, “dick.” But then again, if you’d grown up in a society where you’d been constantly made to feel worthless because of the color of your skin and not the content of your character, you’d probably be a bit of a dick as well. For one thing, he was open about his penchant for not just white laydays, but laydays in general. He verbally taunted his opponents of all races, in an out of the ring. He loved cigars and fur coats and opera and fast cars and tailored suits, and really just all the finer things. He was once pulled over for a speeding ticket for $50, gave the officer a $100 bill and told him to keep the change because he (Johnson) would be returning at that speed.
Straight up, Jack, straight up.
Thus, racial tensions are running high on that July 4th in Reno, with people calling for a “Great White Hope” to knock Johnson out. The 1910 match with Jeffries was supposed to be Johnson’s great takedown, and instead, we’ve got a black boxer who refuses to be defeated, is flamboyantly proud, hyper-masculine, dates white ladies, and has just knocked out the former reigning world champion. HnnnnnnnnnnnghI’msouncomfortablewiththissituation.
The fight triggered huge riots that night in more than 25 states, with whites taking to the streets in protest just as African Americans were heading out to celebrate. Eight blacks and five whites were killed, and hundreds were injured across the country.
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.! S.! A.!
Johnson became even more famous, and continued his wildass partying and pastyladyboning. In 1909, he’d met a white, wealthy, socialite divorcée named Etta Terry Duryea. They married in 1911, but the union was not a happy one to say the least (cf the “dick” moniker). Johnson regularly physically abused Duryea, who suffered severe depression and took her own life in 1912. *teethsuck* THEN, less than three months later, Jack married Lucille Cameron, who was, yes, you guessed it, also of the Caucasian persuasion. Heyyyyyy.
This marriage was deemed to be in violation of the Mann Act, which said you couldn’t transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. Supposedly Lucille was a “prostitute,” and apparently Johnson was “black,” but you know, we may never really know the details. Either way, Lucille refused to press charges and the case was dismissed. Though about a month later, Jack was charged for the same thing with, waitforit, BELLE SCHREIBER!!!1! Boom, full circle.
He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but, like many good Americans, skipped over to France when shit got a little too real stateside. He and Lucille lived in Europe, South America, and Mexico until 1920, when he surrendered to federal agents and in fact ended up only serving 355 days out of his 366 day sentence. Hey, look at that leniency!
Sidenote: Around about this time, Johnson opened a swank night club in Harlem, which he sold in 1923 and which would then become the famous Cotton Club.
Jack kept up his philanderin’ ways, and Lucille eventually divorced him in 1924. The next year, he married Irene Pineau, who stuck with him till he died in 1946, and who, as far as Wikipedia tells me, was not a call-girl.
So there you have it! Jack Johnson: ladylover, barrierbuster, kindofadick, American.
Also, a special thanks to my friend, DCH, whose blog History’s Hotties, was a big inspiration for MRG, LHB, and myself to have our own blogbaby (blayby). She first wrote about Jack Johnson before it was cool. You can read her post here.
Happy Memorial Day, scandal lovers! I hope you’re getting yourself prepped for what appears to be (at least on the eastern seaboard) an historically chilly final weekend in May, because, you know, spring, whatever. Light that grill, thaw those processed meat products, and head on down to your closest Norman Rockwell reallifepaintingtownplace and remember to forget that today is about veterans.
Ok, woah, #sorry, pause, no, I’m not making a blanket statement (though we here at for shame! love blanket statements) about how maybe kinda sorta the last Monday in May has become more of a balls-to-the-wall celebration of all things America, rather than a relatively somber occasion to honor those who died serving in our armed forces, despite numerous flag ceremonies, public addresses, and various local military parades and demonstrations. But let’s be real, when it’s nice outside, anything goes so long as it’s garbed in the red, white and blue. And while no parade is a true parade without the participation of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, this blog at least deals in “history” of “things,” such as the true meaning of Christmas Memorial Day. And we talk also about sex scandals. And this post elegantly combines both!!
So in honor of both the armed services of the United States of America, and our blog mantra (blantra)— re: the loving recitation of history, warts and all—I bring you a double-header of historical military sexploits.
*Also, disclaimer, I apologize that this post in particular is riddled with Arrested Development (Easter) eggs. I’m just so excited to look at fourth season, Michael.
TOM DOOLEY (I) PUTS THE SYPH IN SYPH-IL WAR (not our best, but it’s a holiday after all)
So first on the docket is a FUN FACT: Memorial Day was originally conceived in remembrance of the sacrifice of soldiers in the Civil War, with my very own alma mater spearheading the movement in the immediate aftermath of the war. Thus, truly, madly, topically, we come to our first Tom of the day (and I don’t know about the rest of you, but he sure ain’t gonna be the last ifyouknowwhatImsayinIthinkyoudouptopfordrunkbonfiresyesssssanyway).
Thomas C. Dula (pronounced “Dooley” in the local twang) was an impoverished Confederate solider from North Carolina with an early taste for tail—aided, I can only imagine, by his brand loyalty to Dapper Dan pomade. Though his age at the time is unknown, he was apparently nailing the literal girl-next-door, Ann Foster, when she was 14. He failed to put a ring on it, and Ann married a man named James Melton in 1859. Tom and James both fought in the war, and were both taken prisoner, both survived and probably got some sweet scars and sweeter prison tats, you know how it goes.
But as soon as Tom, dat rascal, got back home, he got right back to riding that
But, as Tom knew, one is never enough, so why not keep your dick in the family? Pretty soon he hopped on one Laura Foster’s poontrain, Ann’s cousin.
Laura started to grow some bellyfruit, which was probably Tom’s, and he promised to marry her. So she set off one morning in 1866, apparently to rendezvous for their elopement, but was never seen again. WoooOOOOoooOOOOO!!!! *flashlight waving*
While there are multiple folkloric suppositions as to who did what why, the simple fact remained that Laura was dead, her body dumped somewhere, and Tom probably did it because he had commitment issues, or Ann did it because she was jeal. It was as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.
See, Tom thought Laura had given him the syph while they were riding the bonercoaster, and that was just plain rude. He actually in fact may have caught it from ANOTHER Foster, Pauline, who was treated by the same doctor that testified both Tom and Ann had it, then passed it to Laura. But either way, Tom passed it on to Ann, then she to James, and this is how you get those terrifying charts they have in Health Centers were you just want some goddamn aspirin rather than a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that sure as shit isn’t your hangover. Jesus, kids these days.
Anywho, the novelty of a murder in a relatively small community, combined with all the Sex and the Appalachian Trail stuff going on, made the case supah famous. Tom fled to Tennessee, but was brought back for trial (represented by Zebulon Vance, who is the absolute tits, as far as living Faulkner characters go). Tom testified that Ann had nothing to do with it all (cause that’s love, guys), and though he maintained his innocence throughout, he was executed by the state after two years of imprisonment, in 1868.
Subsequently, a romanticized mythos grew up around the story, with poems and ballads composed even to this day. Because what’s more romantic than boning half the chicks in town, then killing the one you knocked up. America, amirite?
TOM DOOLEY (II) PUTS THE GAY IN MILITARY RE-GAY-LIA (again, cf ‘holiday.’ )
And on a brief, slightly more reverent note, our second Mr. Thomas Dooley was a humanitarian and author, and openly homosexual Navy physician.
According to those close to him, while his sexuality was never discussed, Dooley made little or no effort to conceal it, and openly carried on relationships with other men from adolescence onward, even exploiting his appeal to other gay officers in order to receive choice assignments after joining the Navy in 1944.
After med school, Dooley worked in refugee camps in Vietnam, and became a symbol of Asian-American cooperation and humanitarianism, despite having also been a CIA informant. In 1956 he wrote a book about his experiences in Laos in the 1950s, and while on press tour, he was investigated for homosexual activities and forced to resign from the military. He returned to Asia independently, then was forced back to the US by malignant melanoma, dying in 1961.
Openly flamboyant, and also openly and devoutly religious, he was even considered for canonization, received a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, and JFK cited Dooley’s example when he launched the Peace Corps. I mean, there’s no two ways about it—you’re a good man, Tom Dooley.
So yes, we joke a lot, but this piece is dedicated with genuine honor and deepest gratitude to those who gave their lives so that I could live in country where I am both allowed the education which introduced me to history and humor, as well as the freedom to express my opinion without fear. I can never truly thank you.
Today is 72nd anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s suicide. She is known by many, understood by few. Advocater of feminine real-estate, inducer of fear in an unnamed few, Nicole Kidman—a modern enigma. So in honor of her pocket full of stoneshine, here’s a mini-post about one of modern lit’s many sort-of-love-affairs-slash-maybe-kind-of-sort-of-obsessions-which-resulted-in-a-rull-nyyce-piece-of-writing.
Virgingin Woolfy (neé Stephen) was born in 1882, with a silver spoon and a much-derided Roman nose. She was exposed early by her intellectual parents and their intellectual friends to the rest of the Victorian and Edwardian intellectuals and they all just had quite the intellectual time together. Whatever, read about it yourself or something. She was plagued by nervous breakdowns, physical illness, and depressive periods, most likely brought on by genetic predisposition, the early deaths of her parents, and sexual abuse by both of her half-brothers as a teenager. And that’s all super shitty, no one denies that, BUT, she and her sister Vanessa eventually left their old home and bought a house in Bloomsbury, and surrounded themselves with a rising group of artists, writers and generally interesting people. They were (highly creatively) called, “The Bloomsbury Group.” So, hey, not too shabby in the end. In 1912, she married Leonard Woolf, in what was not always an easy, but still a life-long and very close partnership.
I know, I know, you’re thinking: “Where’s the scandal? This is a mini-post—she’s giving us all this background bullshit, and now she’s telling us about a “happy” marriage!?? I might as well just go back to not working.”
WELL HOLD UP SON, GET READY FOR SOME AMOR PROHIBIDO!!!!1!
So in this Bloomsbury Group, there were a number of proper members and those who sort of milled around the outside as friends-of-friends.
*Also, sidenote, let’s just be upfront right now, I think most of the members were way too full of themselves and weren’t actually as interesting as they thought they were (I’m looking at you, Clive Bell), BUT, that in no way negates the fact that I would do any number of horrible things if asked to have been a part of this Collective of A-holes. They pulled one of the absolutely best hoaxes I’ve ever heard about, in which 6 members, including Virginia, blackened their skin and dressed as supposed members of the Abyssinian royal family, and were given a tour of the English Naval fleet at Weymouth, took press photos for newspapers, and bestowed fake military honors on several British officers. Fucking aces.
Anyway, the various hangers on included the writer and professional gardener (she was English, after all), Vita Sackville-West. 10 years younger than Virginia, they met in 1922
at a meeting of the Droopy Eyelid Club and began a tentative relationship. As the poets say, carpe Vita.
Now, Vita was a firecracker—she was sleeping with like errybody, and would continue to do so—but Virginia, as it would turn out, was a lot of talk and pretty little show. They apparently only did the sex twice in their entire relationship. But, the lovechild which resulted is one of the most transcendentally beautiful pieces of writing
an impressionable 20something could have ever come across in a 25 cent book-bin in the English language: Orlando.
And whoooodawgy, those two times must have been some electric sex.
An extended piece of poetic prose, Orlando tells the loose narrative of a boy, beginning during the reign of Elizabeth I, who lives through significant epochs of English history, including the Restoration, the imperialist period, the Enlightenment, the Victorian era, and eventually to the present (as in, the 1920’s). Somewhere along the way, the boy becomes a man, the man becomes a woman, and thus becomes a full human being. As Nina Simone would say, “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new gender for me, and I’m feelin’ exactly the same.”
Packed with sweeping description and intense psychological exploration, it’s a mediation on sexuality, nature, history, authority, autonomy, growth, power, poetry, purpose, and—most importantly—love in all its forms. Oh my Lord but it’s beautiful. And if this all sounds a little too “difficult,” or “pretentious,” or “good,” then just watch the movie with Tilda Swinton, which is fucking gorgeous (and also includes a lot of the humor in the book), and you’ll get the general idea and have only been obliged to give up 2 hours of your time from browsing BuzzFeed rather than like, a day.
Because for serious, y’all, there are few books that have hit ol’ JAF as hard as this one. I have no mind for quotes, but I’ve tended to remember ones from Orlando at various formative junctures in my life. I have never read any other Virginia Woolf, and I don’t really want to, because—again, let’s be real—she was kind of an asshole (and as a fellow asshole, we don’t tend to like sharing our mutual asshole territory), and I don’t really want the purity of this extraordinary piece of writing to be sullied. And don’t hate—I bet most of you are never going to read The Casual Vacancy either.
I’ll just leave you with a quote from Vita’s son, which pretty well sums it up:
“The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.”
Now go grab yourself a cheapass copy, the way Virginia grabbed herself a ladymuse. You welcome.
Dearest readers, what better way to begin your bleary-eyed Saturday mornings than with a strong cup of coffee for your overworked bloodstream, and a cup of knowledge for your mindbelly: an only slightly belated super topical post about dirty Popes!
Now please internet, this is not to say that we here at for shame! are in any way accusing Pope Benedict XVI of doing any of the things we’re about mention—in fact, every one of these holy perpetrators lived in my own very favorite times, the Medieval Times ™, and as we’ve established, anything goes before the Renaissance, heyo!
Also, most of this is probably totally bullshit, and anyway, to err is human, etc., etc.
Alsoalso, it wasn’t 100% completely mandatory for someone in holy office to be celibate until 1139, but let’s just say it was a pretty good idea if you weren’t dipping your wick in very saucy inkpot that came along.
Thricealso, MRG has already touched on the beauty of beatific sin, so you should probably read that too because it’s excellent.
Quadralso, all of these men have been dead for a reaaaaally long time, and no further defamation can been brought upon their reputations that hasn’t already been set down in a textbook you were maybe probably definitely supposed to read for your intro to religion class in freshman year but were too busy making desperate eyes across the library floor at the junior field hockey bros. Ha, turned that shit back around, now didn’t I!
So be quiet, sit back, and enjoy a list (because there’s a lot here, and I’m just as tired as you this aftermorningnightnoon) in which we bring you history’s most scandalous papal authorities. More like Holy LOVEsee, amirite???!!?!?
Pope Sergius III (904-911)—the father of Pope John XI, but NBD, they did that a lot though in the early Middle Ages. Oh, those wacky papal dynasties! The better bit involves Sergius’ ladylove, Marozia, a Roman nobelwoman and senatrix—that’s right Latinfans, a lady senator! Marozia was John XI’s mother, BUT, after Sergius died, she started sleeping with his sucessor…..
Pope John X (914-928)—he gave Marozia the title of senatrix. She was seen by many historians as the power behind the papal throne, and probably an inspiration for the legend of Pope Joan (which, unfortunately so soon after International Lady’s Day, I have to debunk as medieval myth—take my word for it, I’m an historian.).
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!
So while John X was fooling around with Marozia, HE WAS ALSO SLEEPING WITH HER MOM, THEODORA!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!111!!!!!11!! She was characterized by a contemporary chronicler, Liutprand of Cremona as being a “shameless whore… [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man.” Which, is actually kind of a compliment. Own it Theodora, own it. Through her powerful poonnections, Theodora got Marozia married off to Alberic I, duke of Spoleto in 909, whose supah riches didn’t stop him getting killed in 924.
At some point, Marozia turns against John X, and after Alberic dies, marries John’s archnemesis, Guy of Tuscany. They then attack Rome, arrest John (Guy smothers him with a pillow, #goodnightsweetpope), and Marozia sets up two puppet popes, Leo VI and Stepehen VII until her son, John XI comes of age in 931 and can be made head of all Christendom from 931-935.
Guy dies in 929, and in 932 Marozia marries her halfbrother, Hugh of Arles (more like Ewwww of Arrghdonttouchme!!!!1! Ahh, shit, I’m on fire today.), King of Italy. Marozia’s son, Alberic II, from her marriage with Alberic is NOT into this, and instead of sending a polite decline to the wedding invite, he brings an army to their wedding, imprisons his mom, chases his stepdadhalfuncle out of Rome.
She dies probably in 936, but still, woman did werk. Check this: Her other son with Alberic, David, was father of Pope Benedict VII (974-983). Alberic II was father to Pope John XII (955-964), and a kid named Gregory, who would father both Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024), and Pope John XIX (1024-1032), and another son called Alberic III who would father Pope Benedict IX (1012-1055) (he was an antipope, but it totally still counts).
Phew, so I know that was a lot, but to sum up, Theodora and Marozia either slept with, controlled, or directly or indirectly sired 8, count ’em, 8 popes, arguably the most powerful position of authority in medieval Europe.
I, on the other hand, haven’t gotten out of bed today. Hey, different strokes.
The others are far less complicated, but no less interesting. Please stand by for further popesex in 5, 4, 3, 2,
Pope John XII (955-963, son of Alberic II)—was described as having has a collection of women, and making the sacred palace into a whorehouse, and living the lifestyle much more suited to a secular prince than, you know, a pope. He apparently had a thing for adultery, sleeping with (according to our old, reliable friend, Luitprand), “the widow of Rainier, with Stephana, his father’s concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece.” Some historian I’d never heard of calls him “the Christian Caligulia,” which is a fine bit of alliteration, if I do say so myself, sir! Also, his mistress could be another progenitrix for the Pope Joan myth (It doesn’t really matter, because either way, the medieval people were just hellafraid of a ladypope. I get it, I mean, she probably would have redecorated all that gilt and incense and heavy velvet and made everything sooooo gaudy.). Apparently John died Downtown-Abbey style, after being stricken with paralysis during sex. That, or he was murdered moste fowlee by a jealous husband—either works for me.
Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044, 1045, 1047-1048, and son of Alberic III. These guys are everywhere!)—he was ousted twice in favor of other, probably less shitty popes, as you will see. Apparently, he was between 18 and 20 (or maybe even 11 or 12) when he became pope, and had no actual qualifications other than family connections. An actually holy man, St. Peter Damian, described him as “feasting on immorality” (which, in my mind, is like a chocolate fountain with the insane calories as a proverbial stand-in for sin). He was probably homosexual, but it also just seems like he slept with anything that moved. There’s intimations that he also killed and raped people, which seems like a fast escalation from “orgy,” but then again, if the Middle Ages were anything like a Starz show, then he was probs burying bodies like erryday.
Pope Paul II (1464-1471)—alleged by some to have died from indigestion because he ate too many melons. That’s “science,” and I don’t understand it, so I’m going to go with the rumor that he actually died while having the secks with another man.
Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484)—handed out papal offices in return for blahjays. Jeanyus.
Pope Julius III (1550-1555)—had a hugely scandalous relationship with Cardinal Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte, who he took in as a ward from the street, then made cardinal when he became Pope. Innocenzo was totally unsuited to the responsibility he was given, but the two openly shared a bed, and nobody could really tell him to GTFO, and it was just a PR nightmare for the Church at the time. When he died, nobody was all that sad.
So on that note, the end!
Good [insert applicable time of day], readers! Hot off the presses, we’ve got a nice slice of scandal pie to brighten up your [insert applicable day], because rather than read about the Iberian campaigns of Justinian as I most definitely probably completely 100% should be doing, I decided to make much better use of my time and yours.
I’d like to introduce you all to a friend of mine, the Empress Theodora, wife of the aforementioned Iberian-campaigning Justinian. She lived in a fun little time called “the 6th century,” in this hip and happenin’ place called “the Byzantine Empire,” and whooodawgy did she get up to some shit. At least, according to the Late-Antique best-seller, The Secret History, by the imperial advisor and one of the last historians of the classical world, Procopius.
PSYCH, it was never a best-seller because not only was it unpublished for over a millennium because it was supah salacious and 99.999997% bullshit, there was no such things as a best-seller list in the 6th century! HISTORYFACT’D!!!1!
But for the sake of your average, casual, johnny-come-lately, historical-sex-scandal-reading public, we’re going to give The Secret History the historical credibility and r-e-s-p-e-c-t for which its author so long pined—and now appears to have finally achieved in the hearts of Classics majors everywhere, and as an ironic footnote in
the Pulitzer Prize winning a mildly popular internet blog.
Now there are certain things we know about Theodora that are just regular, “truth” facts, and don’t come from Procopius. I shall make a list, because I am feeling unambitious today (slorry):
- She was born in poverty in 500 A.D.
- Her father TRAINED MUTHALUVIN BEARS, and her mother was a dancer and an actress. In Late-Antique terms, I’m not even being glib when I say Theodora’s mom was a straight up prostitute.
- Her dad died and her mother sold her and her sister at a relatively early age to a low-rent brothel which catered specifically to soliders, and Theodora eventually moved up to become a stage performer. But she’s totally only doing it to pay for college, guys.
Here’s where we enter the salaciously murky world of historical conjecture (mmmmmm….). According to our erstwhile chronicler, Theo apparently made a name for herself in the redlight district of
Istanbul Constantinople Istanbul Constantinople Istanbul Constantinople with an extra special version of Leda and the Swan. I think Procopious describes the show much more better than I ever could, so to him I cede the blog floor (bloor):
“Often, even in the theatre, in the sight of all the people, she removed her costume and stood nude in their midst, except for a girdle about the groin: not that she was abashed at revealing that, too, to the audience, but because there was a law against appearing altogether naked on the stage, without at least this much of a fig-leaf. Covered thus with a ribbon, she would sink down to the stage floor and recline on her back. Slaves to whom the duty was entrusted would then scatter grains of barley from above into the calyx of this passion flower, whence geese, trained for the purpose, would next pick the grains one by one with their bills and eat.”
‘Round about this time, at the weary old age of 16, Theodora became the bangmaid of an imperial official named Hecebolus, who whisked her away to that most romantic of second-rate late Roman military outposts, the Libyan Pentapolis in North Africa. She put up with his abandonment, beatings and sleep apnea, for no apparent reason (aside from the glaringly obvious) for four years before returning to Constantinople. She gave up actressing and became a woolspinner near the palace, but her reputation for—WAIT FOR IT—her wit, beauty, and character—DIDN’T EXPECT THAT DID YOU NO NEITHER DID I IT’S OK—drew the heir apparent, Justinian’s, eye.
Welp, ladiez, he was a romantic, and wanted to hit-it-and-not-quit-it. Unfortunately, not only was there a law against marrying those of the hooker persuasion, his aunt was not down with having a trollop prancing about the royal digs, dropping goosefeed out her vajay for all to see and sample. But, then his aunt kicked it, and Justinian’s uncle, the emperor, changed that law, since he had a soft spot for interpretative dance, and Justinian Put.A.Ring.On.It. in 525. This was good of him, considering he’d knocked Theodora up in the interim period (or maybe somebody else had, whichever you prefer, we don’t actually know, hey! this is a fun game).
Two years later, she was empress of one of the largest and richest empires in the Late Antique world. I have to assume that this is the highest an illiterate, homeless, stripping single mom has ever climbed, without her own Lifetime movie…. YET. According to Procopius, she continued to skank-it-up with basically e’rybody and their brother, and Justinian was too blinded by her magic thighs to notice. Because, as we all know, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or break a biddy of her sex-addiction AMIRITE??
As empress, any time Theodora (apparently) had between doling out handies and blahjays to every Thomas, Dickus, and Harricus, she spent engaged not in the ways of the secular flesh, but in charity and progressive legislation for women, since they were considered second class citizens or property or some historyfact shit like that. She passed laws that prohibited forced prostitution, closed brothels, expanded women’s divorce and property rights, instituted a death penalty for rape, gave mothers guardianship over their children were they to leave their husbands, and forbid killing a woman for adultery. This elevated the status of women in Byzantium far above their contemporaries in the Middle East or the rest of Europe. She also opened a convent specifically for ex-prostitutes where they could either live the rest of their lives or learn another trade to support themselves. Blerg. She was the S’est of the SBWs.
Incidentally, Procopius described Theodora’s convent as being the forced confinement of 500 prostitutes, who wanted to go back to having sex with multitudes of faceless, abusive men for pennies so badly that lots of them committed suicide to escape being “transmogrified against their will”!!!!!!1! But, he did also drop the TMZ x-clusive truthbomb that Justinian and Theodora were demons whose heads detached from their bodies and roamed the palace at night. Soooo, Imma go with Procopius. On everything.
Anywho, Theodora died in 548 and Justinian was genuinely like super sad about it, and continued to carry out a lot of causes she believed in and put her in official portraits with him and stuff like that. So it was nice. The end.