How do Chester Brown’s drawings in his graphic novel Paying For It show that paid sex is the same as unpaid sex?

Brown shows that paid sex is the same as unpaid sex by filling his illustrations with realistic details. For instance, in his first encounter with Angelina, he observes her cellulite before sex and asks her name after while putting on his clothes. This makes the characters seem real and their experiences seem “normal.” It’s also noteworthy that Brown’s illustrations of sex happen in empty rooms with faceless women, as this lets him highlight the simplicity of paid sex.

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One of the defining (and, to many readers, alarming) characteristics of Chester Brown’s autobiographical graphic novel Paying For It is its vivid depictions of sexual intercourse. Brown aims to normalize paying for sex and deconstructs stigmas about it. The illustrations help him normalize sex because they do not feature anything out of the ordinary that would not happen outside of sex work. They actually depict many awkward encounters that are common in unpaid sex. For example, when he first is intimate with Angelina he includes thought bubbles above his head to show that he is thinking about what will happen next. He also uses a mix of aerial shots and close-up shots to show the reader exactly what the experience was like. These images, like so many others in the book, make the encounter seem cold, awkward, and impersonal. There is nothing special or passionate about what happens, but the details in the illustrations do make it seem realistic. Consider the image in which Brown observes Angelina's cellulite, or how he asks her name when he is putting his clothes back on. Small details like these in the illustrations make the characters and their experiences seem quite believable.

In addition to normalizing sex work, Brown also suggests that paying for it is in many ways better than having sex in a relationship. Recall how he says:

"It's because I do see sex as sacred and potentially spiritual that I believe in commercializing it and making this potentially holy experience more easily available to all."

Here, Brown argues that the satisfaction he finds in sex should be commodified. Throughout the book, he feels that the emotional complexities of relationships make unpaid sex difficult to enjoy and thinks commercializing sex would combat this issue. This perspective is evident in his illustrations of sex, which are all set in empty rooms with faceless women. In a feature on the book, writer Noah Berlatsky explains that the intimate encounters in these scenes are intentionally “joyless” and full of “repetitive predictability.” In removing everything but the physical act of sex from his images, Brown suggests that sex should just be about physical pleasure and that paying for it makes that physical pleasure easier to attain.

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