Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hooker Please ~ Prostitutes in Literature

On account of reading and writing so much about prostitution lately, I threatened HERE to write this blog post, and now I did. I don't judge people for non-monogamy or for having jobs in sex work, but just for the record, I categorically oppose human trafficking, forced prostitution of any kind and the sexual exploitation of minors.

The two former prostitutes I've known in my life were both recovering drug users, and their sex work was directly related to their addictions. This doesn't apply to any of the five characters you'll read about below - obviously, for artistic purposes, there's a bit of a disconnect between reality and fiction.


I warn you, a spoiler is coming up for Mockingjay, so don't continue unless you've finished the entire Hunger Games trilogy.

Prostitutes in Literature I've Read Recently

1. A Hu-Li, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin. A Hu-Li is a supernatural kitsune, a fox shape-shifter. Owing to her supernatural ability to influence human minds, she never actually has to physically touch her clients. Until she starts falling in love, A Hu-Li is, paradoxically, a virgin prostitute, at least in the sense that she’s never had intercourse in her unnaturally long life.


2. Lorene (Alma Schmidt), From Here to Eternity by James Jones (currently reading). Lorene is Alma Schmidt’s “house name” at the Honolulu brothel The New Congress Hotel. She’s a native of Oregon who told her mother she was going to Hawaii for a few years to work as a secretary. Alma has a legitimate reason for wanting to earn her own money: she doesn’t want to have to depend on a man. The first night Robert E. Lee Prewitt meets her, he’s in love. She won’t marry him because, in order to preserve her reputation to the extent that no one would ever believe she’d been a prostitute, she intends to marry a high-status husband.

3. Finnick Odair, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Mockingjay is a war novel, and many outrages happen therein, but few upset me as much as Finnick’s fate as a 17-year-old Hunger Games victor. In Catching Fire, Finnick’s flirtatious nature made him seem like he was overly confident, cocky and proud. In Mockingjay, we learn his sexualized way of relating to other people is the result of exploitation from the Capitol – he was literally pimped out to wealthy male and female clients. Unlike Alma, Finnick gets to marry his true love, Annie, who is pregnant when Finnick is killed in battle.


Sidebar: What do Katniss Everdeen and Robert E. Lee Prewitt have in common? They look somewhat similar - tall and slim, with an olive complexion. They both come from a coal mining area, and both had coal miner fathers. Prew drinks like Haymitch, though.

4. Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris. 1,100-year-old French teen Sophie-Anne Leclerq is a recurring character in Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries series, until her true death. Definitely Dead is the book in which the heroine Sookie Stackhouse hears Sophie-Anne’s tale. As a mortal human, Sophie-Anne was the sole survivor of a wave of plague that destroyed her village. When she met up with other human beings again, they exploited her and put her to work as a prostitute. Her callous treatment by other humans is some of the reason why the vampire queen of Louisiana is so cold and calculating, a terrifying and powerful woman.


5. Myrtle,The Seven Descents of Myrtle(also known as Kingdom of Earth) by Tennessee Williams. I didn't actually read this one; via Kala's (TheDorkMistress') Tumblr, I heard this recording of the short story/dramatic monologue being read by Tom Hiddleston. Tom Hiddleston is one of the stars of Tumblr, beloved by fangirls everywhere for his portrayal of the comic book villain/Norse god Loki in the movies Thor and The Avengers. Hiddleston narrates the story as "Chicken," the character who steals his half-brother Lot's new wife, Myrtle.


(This is an odd image of Loki, but it resonates with the "seven descents" in the title - Dance of the Seven Veils, get it? But then again, in Norse mythology, Loki is sometimes female. He/she gives birth - the wolf-monster Fenrir, who may or may not appear as a character in The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, is one of the offspring of which Loki is the mother.*)

Myrtle and Chicken have a long, philosophical talk in which she describes being sexually harassed and then raped by her boss as a young teen. Despite the violence of her experience, she learned that she liked the sexual act itself* and became a prostitute as well as a showgirl before marrying Lot. Lot, afflicted with tuberculosis,is a pathetic figure; Myrtle married him largely out of pity. Lot calls Myrtle’s name all night while she’s up in the attic making love to Chicken, and in the morning the two come down to find Lot dead.

Prostitutes in Literature I Haven't Read

For this, I've enlisted the aid of the trusty New York Public Library Literature Companion. I feel as if there should be some character who comes immediately to mind when I think of literary prostitutes, and I’m having a brain cramp and just not thinking of him or her. Help me out here, blogosphere – who else belongs on this list?

-- Moll Flanders, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. Being a prostitute is counted among Moll Flanders’ misfortunes. Later in her life, she becomes rich, repents, and dies an honest woman. Stupid Flanders. 


-- Lulu, Pandora’s Box by Frank Wedekind. Lulu is the classic literary femme fatale – she literally causes the deaths of those around her. Like Moll Flanders, she grew up on the streets. In her declining years, Lulu is reduced to prostitution, and her final client is Jack the Ripper. Louise Brooks played Lulu in a 1929 silent film.


-- Maureen Wendall,Them by Joyce Carol Oates. Maureen is the daughter of Howard and Loretta Wendall, a working-class couple. Howard, a police officer, is once busted for taking money from prostitutes. After his death, Loretta relies too heavily on her young daughter to take care of her, and Maureen works as a prostitute to build an escape fund. Her stepfather finds out and beats her, resulting in a nervous breakdown. Maureen’s older half-brother, Jules, sexually abuses and pimps out a woman. So, typical Joyce Carol Oates: heavy, depressing dysfunction all around.


I do not volunteer to read any of these things. 'Specially not J.C.O. I'm still traumatized by "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been."


Follow on Bloglovin

1 comment:

ms.composure said...

gr8 post girl! as always :-)


http://infinitelifefitness.com
http://mscomposure.blogspot.com