From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- The fictional film Maîtresse, starring Gérard Depardieu and Bulle Ogier, depicted a professional dominatrix.
A mistress is a man's long term sexual partner and companion. Historically, the term has denoted a "kept woman", who is maintained in a comfortable (or even lavish) lifestyle by a wealthy man so that she will be available for his sexual pleasure; essentially a kind of highly expensive, single-client prostitute. Today however, it is used primarily to refer to the companion of a man who is married to another woman; in the case of an unmarried man it is usual to speak of a "girlfriend" or "partner." The relationship is generally stable and at least semi-permanent; however, the couple do not live together openly.
Historically a man "kept" a mistress. As the term implies, he was responsible for her debts and provided for her in much the same way as he did his wife. In more recent and emancipated times, it is more likely that the mistress has a job of her own, and is less, if at all, financially dependent on the man. It is not uncommon for a man to have acknowledged children by his mistress.