How does Chester Brown in his graphic novel Paying For It show that sex work is a legitimate profession that supports the basic necessities of life as any other form of work does?
Chester Brown shows that sex work is a legitimate profession through his interactions with the prostitutes that he patronizes. Brown’s experiences are mindful. He treats the women conscientiously and tries to account for their feelings. At certain moments, he’ll check in with them to make sure they're all right. For example, when he thinks he might be hurting Angelina, he asks her if they should use a lubricant.
Such exchanges highlight the validity and compassion that constitute Brown’s experiences with prostitutes. For Brown, the stigma that surrounds the women’s profession doesn’t mean that he should treat them differently than other professionals.
Of course, Brown isn’t so sure about the legitimacy and humanity of sex work at first. Initially, he suspects that the stereotypes might be true. He fears that he could be robbed or cheated in some way. Soon, he realizes the business is upfront and honest. With some prostitutes, he shares his real name. Brown tells Anne his actual name and brings her one of his comics. Their close bond underscores the personal aspect that can be a part of sex work.
Anne’s story also draws attention to the issue of exploitation and force. Anne tells how she got into sex work. She wasn’t pressured or made to do it against her will. A friend suggested she try it out. She worked with the friend for a little while, then she moved onto a different place.
Anne’s trajectory shows how sex work can function like other legitimate professions. A doctor can work for different hospitals, a teacher can work for different schools, and a sex worker can work out of different spaces. As in other professions, Anne can set her hours. Anne doesn't like working nights, so she works afternoons.
Business for Anne can be slow, but overall it seems like Anne and the women make enough money for basic necessities. They’re not necessarily rich, but, as Edith says, they’re doing “okay.”
Another way that Brown tackles the legitimacy and humanity of sex work is by conceding the problems. Anne doesn’t like working at night because clients tend to be drunk. Yet the presence of issues doesn’t mean that sex work should be delegitimized. After all, most jobs have problems.
In the appendices, Brown continues to address debates around sex workers, sex slaves, and choice. Using scholarly texts and case studies, Brown argues that women should be free to choose their profession. He contends that resources and laws should be applied in such a way that reflects the dignity of sex workers and the specific demands of their job.