Exploring The History & Culture Of Brothels Worldwide

Brothels have been around longer than you might think, sparking controversy and curiosity throughout history.

Today, modern brothels like Claudia’s Penthouse in Sydney, Australia operate in a regulated environment. However, achieving this level of safety has been a journey spanning centuries, marked by ongoing debates and efforts.

In this blog, we trace the origins of brothels from ancient civilisations to their contemporary counterparts.

Ancient world

Brothels have roots dating back to ancient civilisations such as Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. In ancient Greece, establishments known as “porneion” were prevalent. These venues serve to fulfil the sexual desires of men and were found in various city-states.

In the 5th century BC, the esteemed Athenian lawmaker and lyric poet Solon founded state brothels, implementing a system of taxation on the income of sex workers.

In Pompeii, archaeologists uncovered the remnants of a large brothel known as the “lupanar“, whose walls were adorned with erotic paintings. However, not all brothels shared the same standards. While those situated in the Second District of the City were notably unclean, the establishments in the Peace ward boasted luxurious furnishings. The elite sex workers significantly influenced Roman trends in hair, dress and jewellery.

Medieval Europe

The medieval Church tolerated brothels and prostitution. Theologians like Saint Thomas Aquinas echoed St Augustine’s sentiment that compares the elimination of prostitution to removing sewers from a palace — both actions would inevitably lead to corruption.

In medieval times, brothels adhered to strict regulations and were typically located on designated streets. Ecclesiastics and married men were prohibited from visiting. Sex workers, distinguished by their unique attire, were permitted to seek clients beyond the town walls but not within.

These laws persisted for three centuries, specifically until the 16th century when a devastating syphilis epidemic ravaged Europe. This led to the closure of these official medieval brothels.

The Renaissance

Venetian laws had a mixed approach to women in the brothel trade. While brothels were managed by women for safety, the laws limited them to certain areas and required them to always wear a yellow scarf. Additionally, these laws prevented them from attending church on feast days and flaunting luxury items like jewels or silk.

In England, the sex trade had a varied landscape. Southwark, a district in London, stood out as the red-light district of the time. Brothels began as steam bathhouses and were often referred to as “stews”. Interestingly, sex workers were actively involved in the theatre scene, with certain actors even owning profitable brothels.

In numerous societies, the establishment of brothels required licensing by the authorities. By the 18th century, Paris alone boasted 180 registered brothels. These venues, along with red-light districts, were no longer considered as inherently immoral places. Instead, they became recognised as legitimate spaces, fostering a sense of safety and control.

Present day

In recent years, brothels have become licensed establishments that are regularly inspected and required to adhere to health and safety standards.

The internet has also transformed the landscape of commercial sex work. Many brothels and independent sex workers leverage online platforms and social media to connect with clients.

Additionally, there are innovative approaches to providing sexual services in some regions. For example, in Japan, establishments known as “soaplands” offer erotic massages and bathing services. Similarly, in some parts of Asia, karaoke bars or “KTV lounges” may serve as fronts for commercial sex work.

Despite the varied nature of modern brothels, debates about their legalisation continue. Advocates stress the importance of ongoing dialogue to safeguard the rights of sex workers.

Claudia’s Penthouse in Sydney, Australia: the perfect place to kickstart your career

If you want to work at a top brothel that respects your limits and prioritises your safety, choose Claudia’s Penthouse — a massage parlour and gentlemen’s club brothel in Sydney.

Schedule an interview with our team and start maximising your earning potential!