How do Chester Brown's illustrations in Paying For It help normalize sex work?

Quick answer:

Brown's illustrations help normalize sex work because they reflect realistic intimate moments. For example, in the scene where he tries to “last longer” with Carla, his illustrations highlight how awkward it is and later he depicts himself lying in bed overthinking the encounter. These are experiences that people can relate to, in or out of sex work.

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In his autobiographical graphic novel Paying For It, Chester Brown aims to deconstruct negative stereotypes about sex work. For instance, he wants to show that women who work in prostitution are not dangerous or suspicious; they are just like everyone else working to pay for their expenses. He also wants to show that having sex that you pay for is just as normal as having sex and not paying for it. One way he does this is through illustrations of his own naked body. He makes himself vulnerable and expresses his awkward thoughts, from wondering when to take off his shoes to wondering whether or not to use more lubrication in intimate moments. These close-up and personal moments are quite different from typical depictions of prostitution in popular culture, which tend to fetishize or criminalize it.

For example, consider the scene in which he tries to “last longer” with Carla, and she gets frustrated and says she is in pain. In this scene, like many others, Brown does not shy away from the awkwardness of physical intimacy and aims to portray it as accurately as possible. Afterwards, he draws himself lying in bed wondering how he should approach his next encounter with her. The illustrations of physical problems in this scene and the images of him reflecting on them afterwards are quite common experiences that help him normalize sex work.

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