In Chester Brown’s graphic novel Paying for It, he perceives prostitution as a solution to his problems with women. He wants to have sex with women, but he doesn’t want to form a romantic bond with them. As the first part of the graphic novel illustrates, Brown’s past relationships have not gone great. He lives with an ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Sometimes, he hears them having sex.
To escape his carnal malaise, Brown turns to prostitutes. At first, Brown sees prostitution as a potential swindle. When he goes out on his bike looking for sex workers, he brings money but not his wallet. On his way to visit Carla, he worries that it’s a scam. “What if a bunch of guys are in the apartment and they mug me?” he frets. Brown’s concerns are unfounded. He has a professional interaction with Carla that doesn’t come across as unseemly or exploitative. Afterward, Brown marvels at how “honest” and “upfront” it was.
Not all of the interactions are portrayed as free from tension. His encounters with Angelina and Wendy, for example, cause him consternation. Overall, Brown’s patronage of prostitutes is portrayed as a humane, legitimate transaction. When problems arise, they can be discussed and worked out.
The drawings reinforce Brown’s respectful portrayal of prostitutes. He maintains the privacy of the sex workers by hiding their faces. He keeps their humanity with realistic renderings of their bodies. More so, by explicitly detailing his naked body, Brown makes himself vulnerable.
In the appendices, Brown enumerates further misconceptions about sex work. He argues that women should have the choice to pursue sex work just like they have the option to seek any other occupation. Brown acknowledges that sex work comes with its own dangers, but if sex work was decriminalized and laws reflected the validity of sex work, the harms could be better addressed.