MARYWEPT_cover300Canadian comic artist Chester Brown is probably the most well-known punter-writer our there. His latest, Mary Wept Over The Feet of Jesus: Prostitution And Religious Obedience In The Bible, is an analysis of the Bible as a graphic novel. (Maybe Brown likes illustration because most clients need pictures in their books.) This review of his newly published book is composed of an edited version of an email and g-chat conversation between Tina Horn and Caty Simon.

Caty: I was surprised by Chester Brown’s Christianity as demonstrated by this book. In its afterword, Brown explicitly identifies himself as a Christian, albeit one focused on mysticism who’s “interested in personally connecting with God, not in imposing my views on anyone else.” His avowed, classic libertarianism in his sex work client graphic novel memoir Paying For It (2011) would’ve had me assume that he was a fervent atheist a la Richard Dawkins. His libertarianism does come up at an interesting point in this book when he puts the words “it’s none of your business how other people spend their money” into Jesus’ mouth when he chides Judas about not judging Mary for spending money on anointing oils for Jesus’ feet rather than on charity.

Tina: Especially when you consider that he ran for Canadian Parliament in the Libertarian Party! This was in the years right before Paying for It came out.

Caty: So he’s actually having Jesus Christ parrot his party politics—that’s ballsy.

Tina: When I was a teenager, I thought Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was the shit, because it taught me more about what the Bible actually teaches than most of the aggressive Christian kids at my high school. Mary Wept puts me in mind of C.S. Lewis: a Christian highlighting the hypocrisy of other Christians through rational interpretation of their text.

Caty: When people say that Judeo-Christian values oppose prostitution, it gets me fuming, because it’s a lot more complicated than that. There are plenty of heroic whores in the Bible, and many more Biblical heroines who explicitly had transactional sex at some point in their stories. So I enjoyed how Brown highlights the stories of women like Rahab, the prostitute who sheltered Hebrew spies from discovery when they scouted out the city of Jericho, and Tamar, the woman who whored herself out to her father-in-law in disguise in a complicated plot to expose his hypocrisy. I only wish he’d included the story of badass Judith, the woman who beheaded the general Holofernes as he lay drunkenly asleep in her tent after possibly purchasing her services, ushering the Hebrew army to victory.

Maybe Brown felt like he just couldn’t compete with all the exquisite Renaissance and Baroque era artistic renditions of Judith in her moment of triumph, like this one:

Trophime Bigot's "Judith Cutting Off The Head Of Holofernes" (via Wikimedia)

Trophime Bigot’s “Judith Cutting Off The Head Of Holofernes” (via Wikimedia)

But I think the real reason Brown didn’t include tales like Judith’s is because he seems more focused on outlining these sex work-related Biblical narratives in order to glorify sex workers’ clients. He has a convoluted thesis going about men whoremongering as a transcendent challenge to rigid religious dogma. This ascribes nonexistent significance to an activity which is really morally neutral, and it obscures all these awesome sex working Biblical women in stories which are about them. In a memoir about being a sex work client like Paying for It, centering the client perspective makes sense. But in a book like this, it feels beside the point. I’d love to see how this material would look tackled by a sex worker amateur Biblical scholar/comic book artist.

Tina: The book does explore the subjectivity of the clients more than that of the women. Brown’s reinterpretation of a lot of these stories seems to amount to, “God totally says it’s ok to be a whoremonger!” Which is great, but I would love to see more, “God says it’s totally cool to be a whore!” Not because I personally need the validation, but because undermining Christian values with their own text is a longtime favorite sport of mine.

Caty: So, what do you make of Brown depicting God as some sort of Biblical version of a WWE wrestler? His God is BUILT.

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Prince centerfold calendar spread from Creem Magazine

Prince was a centerfold; scan from Creem Magazine, June 1985

A game I like to play with my stripper friends sometimes is one where we pick our desert island strip club musicians: If you could only have five artists to dance to, ever, in the club, who would they be? The one artist that’s on everyone’s list is Prince.

There is no other catalog of music that has a broader application for strippers. Working in a club that banned hip-hop? Working in a hip hop club but feel like you can’t pull it off? DJ who doesn’t understand your requests? “Only top 40” rule? Old crowd? Young crowd? Prince has it covered like no other. And like Josephine said to me the other day, “Literally the worst pole dancer cannot screw up ‘Darling Nikki.'” When I was a baby stripper, dancing to Prince was how I learned to dance sexy on stage. “What would Prince do?” I thought, and then I humped the floor, and made more stage tips. [READ MORE]

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LVMadam3_Layout 1The Las Vegas Madam: The Escorts, The Clients, The Truth is the tell-all memoir of Jami Rodman, the madam who came to fame by employing former Olympic middle distance runner Suzy Favor Hamilton as a high-end escort. It covers her childhood all the way up through the formation and subsequent closure of the escort agency she started, Haley Heston’s Private Collection.

“Real life is complex. I got lucky, most don’t. This story is for them—the families pulled into the mess, the misplaced mothers, the stolen lives. May tomorrow be a better day.”

From the moment I read those words in the dedication, I had a bad feeling that this book was going to be written more to play to outsiders’ expectations than to advocate for the people Rodman worked with. Her employees were among the highest-earning escorts in the industry. If Rodman believed that even these privileged few qualify as having “stolen lives”, I had a feeling that she and I would have little in common.

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When Beyoncé’s “Drunk In Love” first came into our lives, every stripper I know considered surfbort to be the highlight of her night at the club for a solid month. My escort friends curate playlists for their incall appointments and memorize which song signals the end of a session (try Semisonic’s “Closing Time” if the 90s are your thing and subtlety is not). If you ever pay me for sex, we will bump uglies to a bump-n-grind playlist of today’s top 40 hip hop. My middle-aged white clients probably do not identify as R&B fans, but their involuntary bodily response to a good beat makes my job a lot easier. The truth is that every professional has her favorite playlist for work, but not all songs are created equal. Any music that keeps our heads in the game despite the threatening click of loose dentures during cunnilingus is already doing a service to sex workers. But in addition to salvaging some of our least sexy sexy times, certain cultural producers seem to be the lone voices unironically celebrating our savvy skills as sex professionals. Enter Canadian rap artist and Drake’s protege PARTYNEXTDOOR.

This guy joins a proud list of his countrymen (Drake, The Weeknd) in his lyrical appreciation for ladies of the night. But while we’ve long extolled his fellow Canucks for the special place they hold in their hearts for girls like us, there remains a significant disparity between him and the rest: PARTY doesn’t simply remark on the beauty of his hired hands. He lends a socio-political complexity to hegemonic narratives surrounding paid affection in a way his colleagues haven’t quite accomplished.

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Those two biblical lovebirds, Ruth and Boaz. (image via the New York Public Library Digital Collection)

Those two biblical lovebirds, Ruth and Boaz. (image via the New York Public Library Digital Collection)

Dear Tits and Sass,

I’m 28 and I’ve been a stripper for almost seven years. The last couple have definitely been the hardest, but the most profitable. I’ve created a life better than I could have imagined for myself before I started dancing—riding horses at nationally rated jumping shows, buying a house, driving a nice car, zero student debt and actual time to go to college as an adult, traveling to marathons and going on luxury vacations often, eating healthy food, and more. I wake up every day to a life I love, good friends, my pups. I’ve spent the single years doing my own thing.

I’m ready for and really want a partner. I haven’t dated in almost five years, save for a month of dating an impotent obese man. My 65-year-old customers probably have exponentially more sex than I do. Dear God, I want a steady flow of conversation that doesn’t involve being paid, and holy cow I would love a steady supply of dick before my vagina dries out like the Sahara. Online dating was a big fail on one free site and two paid sites—the few dates I had were either okay and didn’t work out, or sucked. I choose not to date customers of the club I work for as a personal boundary. I’m not so much into casual sex, but the few partners I’ve tried have led me to believe that I’m an unsatisfying-penis magnet.

It’s gotten to the point where even thinking about dating really sucks, and makes me unhappy for days when someone brings up the idea. It seems like as soon as I reveal my job, guys either flee or do the “trophying” thing until it quickly gets old for them. Recently, a friend wanted to introduce me to her boyfriend’s attractive pal. When I asked her if she’d told him about my job, she said she and her boyfriend would wait for me to tell him.

I feel like I’m tricking someone into a date with me if I don’t come with a huge red flag, a scarlet “S,” and some infamous Jaws-esque warning music. I don’t want to quit my job, and I’m not apologetic about what I do, but it does seem to be a big deal to men who aren’t meth addicts, have all their teeth, and live indoors. I don’t think it’s fair if they’re set up on an outing with me if they’re being…um, tricked. I’d want to know if someone was setting me up with someone that had a pretty big possible dealbreaker.

My question is: How in the fuck do I start dating again? Do I tell prospective gentlemen about my job, and when? Should my friend tell this man about my job before he decides whether he would like an outing with me? Do I lie entirely for as long as I can, despite my work being at obvious hours, and the stilettos and g-string laundry that litter my house? How long do I lie? Do I really have to wait another six-to-sever years (quittin’ time) before men will take me seriously as a partner?

Sincerely,
Calloused Masturbation Hand [READ MORE]

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