Being a fan of anything that might be seen as objectionable, I of course had to check out the show Harlots on Hulu. At first it seemed like it was going to be a soap opera in the world of prostitutes; two madams of two different houses looking for ways to outdo the other, a theme that has been done in all sectors of life, not just those that involve madams. My husband wanted to quit watching it right away. But he’s squeamish, although he’ll deny that to his last breath. Being also a huge fan of Jessica Findlay Brown, I stuck it out and I’m glad I did, because half way through season one I was hooked.

It got me thinking about a few different things in life. First of all, the show doesn’t glorify prostitution, but merely shows it as another arena for life to take place. They do what they do because they have no other choice. Women who appear at first to be shallow and feather-brained turn out to be anything but. Yes, their ways of expression are different given their lack of breeding, but the thoughts are there and the depth of emotions is there. Ultimately it’s about human nature…the good, the bad, the ugly…about how abuse breeds abuse, and hate breeds hate, about man’s need for validation, for power over women.

– “Women will always be at the mercy of men’s power.”

– “It’s not your power we’re at the mercy of. It’s your weakness.” — Harlots, Season Two

Wow, wasn’t expecting that! That kind of depth from a prostitute who is supposed to be uneducated and the lowest of society. And it’s believable. It does not take a college education to give people insights into life. Perhaps experience, another kind of education, is more valuable when it comes to that.

Second, the issue of “tough love”. Margaret Wells, recruited when she was only ten to sell her body, knows nothing else. So she raises her own daughters to be prostitutes because, in her mind, that is the best she can do for them. No one was kind and gentle with her – how would she even know what those words mean?

Tough love, believed in by many even now, is the only kind of love in the show.

– “Love is strongest when it’s cruel.

– “Does it ease your pain inflicting it upon others?” – Harlots season 2

Whoa…that made me stop and think. Is love strongest when it’s cruel? And is that love? What if those who dish it out believe that is love and know no other way of showing it? That’s what they were subjected to by their parents. They felt the pain. But then why would they dish it out to their kids and not stop it? Why would they not adopt a kinder, more compassionate love? Children will face enough hurt and misery in life without getting it from family. Shouldn’t family provide support, compassion and kindness, the cushion for the fall when life becomes painful?

Maybe they don’t question their parents “cruel love” because people like to believe their parents love them. If they admitted their parents were wrong, maybe they would have to question that love. Because if you truly love someone, why would you hurt them? So people ease the pain inflicted on them by their parents by inflicting pain on their offspring. It’s a vicious cycle.

My father was all about tough love, both verbally and physically. I have no doubt he loved me, but I couldn’t wait to get away from him. When my son was a teenager, I caught myself behaving in ways my father would have, and was backed by others who believed in tough love and encouraged me. Then I saw the effect it was having on my child. Our words have a huge effect on our children. And a wise friend said to me, “Be kind to your child. Love him.” That doesn’t mean spoil him or give him everything he wants, but essentially speak to him from a place of love, not anger and frustration. I became mindful of this and threw in a “sweetheart” or “honey” when I spoke to him, then changed my entire approach to motherhood. Because I did not want to be my father and did not want my child to feel like he couldn’t wait to get away from me.

It was a changing point in all our lives. All of a sudden he became hard working, responsible, considerate. I saw the results of compassion versus anger. Maybe I was trying to ease my own pain by inflicting it on him, by continuing the cycle of tough love, but I was also hurting myself and my family. When I decided it was not about me anymore, but about him, I eased my own pain and his. It took the focus off pain and put it on love and growth.

In the end, I think the only way our pain is eased is not by inflicting it on others, but by consciously choosing not to. By consciously choosing to be kind and compassionate.

The show “Harlots” is nothing if not thought provoking and once again Jessica Brown Findlay does not disappoint!

Have you seen it? What do you think of the show and the issues in the show?

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