In "Paying For It", Chester Brown preserves the anonymity of the sex workers whom he depicts in the graphic novel by never showing their faces. How does this affect our interpretation of the graphic novel? Why does he employ this strategy?

The facelessness of the sex workers calls attention to the problematic nature of paying for sex. Either the women are faceless because they are not "individuals" in the same way Brown's girlfriend is, or because he has not emotionally "earned" the right to see their faces.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The fact that we never see the faces of the sex workers has less to do with "protecting their identities" (they are cartoon characters!) than reinforcing the distinction Brown makes between free sex line and paying for sex. The sex workers are presented as ordinary people providing a service. After...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The fact that we never see the faces of the sex workers has less to do with "protecting their identities" (they are cartoon characters!) than reinforcing the distinction Brown makes between free sex line and paying for sex. The sex workers are presented as ordinary people providing a service. After his first time with a prostitute, Brown is exultant that the whole thing, which he had severely stressed over, was handled in such a straightforward manner. He explains to his friends that "Carla" was not sketchy in any way, but was "nice." Once he got over the initial problem of getting to see Carla, his experience was free from the anxiety that characterized his relationship with his girlfriend.

In a sense, the facelessness of the escorts underlines how he is not romantically linked to them. It is as if their faces are a part of their personal life that he has not paid for. On the other hand, the facelessness also emphasizes Brown's obsession with having sex. That is, the purpose of having sex is physical relief, rather than emotional closeness. This is a central theme of the comic, and one that is deeply problematized. In this sense, the facelessness can be seen perhaps as a kind of lack of moral courage (an inability to look these women in the face) or as a measure of respect (Brown has not earned the right to depict their faces).

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on