Paying For It by Chester Brown, 2011

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The cartoonist Chester Brown documents his experiences seeing sex workers in a comic book.  It’s primarily a memoir, with some essay at the end arguing for the unregulated legalization of sex work.  Finally, the book closes with an addendum by one of Chester’s friends (who is a character in the book), who describes the author from an outside perspective, clarifies his recollections of what happened in the scenes in which he appears, and pushes back on Chester’s pro-sex work arguments.

The art is simple black and white, with no major effort to appear like-like; just functional, like Dilbert.  I’m not sure how much was added to the story by telling it visually, but it’s unique and it makes sense for a cartoonist to tell his story this way.

The most interesting part of the book is the friend’s description of the author.  He describes him as highly unusual, and “robotic” (or some similar term).  He says that Brown’s emotional life is quite distinct from that of all the others he knows, and that this must influence his transactional perspective of sex work.

The author clearly seems unusual and unconventional throughout the book.  But he also seems earnest—seemingly not exaggerating his eccentricities or stances for show, but really believing in them.

His pro-sex work position is supported by libertarian arguments against government intervention and regulation, support of property rights, and harm reduction.  Some of these are standard arguments I’ve heard before.  However Brown goes further are argues, almost verbatim, that so long as you respect the property rights of others, you’ll lead a moral and meaningful life, which reads like a parody of his own libertarian ideals.

Ideas per Page:1 3/10 (low)

Recommend to Others:  No

Reread Personally:  No

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.





3 thoughts on “Paying For It by Chester Brown, 2011

  1. Realizing you are not saying you agree with the author, to those who might I say…

    Watch the “kids show” Newsies. Then, think about the show related to unions in relationship to this book and the author’s opinion.

    No matter what kind of work people do, they are more liable for abuse when there are no checks and balances and most specifically when the “employee” is forced into a workforce.

    Although some sex workers report being happy employees, research shows this is not typically the case.

    Most sex workers are forced into the situation and the work is done behind closed doors. Without freedom of will or regulation or standards the chance for abuse is significantly increased.

    Some self serving reasons why people who utilize sex worker services may not want regulations include:

    Regulations may times increases financial costs (wage increases for employees, costs related to licensing) which are passed onto the consumer.

    Regulation often demand traceable records.

    Finally, although there are male sex workers, this is a women’s issue, and this is the United States of America. So.. go figure.


  2. Some regulations may protect workers.

    The author argues that if regulations are too burdensome, the black market may continue to exist, without worker conditions improving.

    For example, in some US states where recreational and medical marijuana have been legalized, there continues to be a black market, where workers are not protected, and where the quality of the product is not regulated (how potent is that marijuana? What other substances have been mixed in?).

    Illegal drug operations can keep costs lower (they don’t pay taxes, licenses, have storefronts), and some patients don’t want to have to jump through medical hoops to get their marijuana.

    Legalization is something of a separate issue. Because sex work is currently illegal, sex workers cannot turn to law enforcement to report poor conditions or abuse. As you stated, the chance for abuse is significantly increased because this is the case.

    Sex workers are also prohibited from unionizing or publicly organizing because their work is illegal, which leads to the sorts of abuse featured in “Newsies”. (We’re gettin’ ready, to seize the day!).


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