Paying For It: a Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John, by Chester Brown

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39 Responses to “Paying For It: a Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John, by Chester Brown”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are there any “normal” comics artist?

    Surely, only weirdoes become comic artists.
    Case in point: Robert Crumb.
    Another one: Chris Ware.
    That Charles Burns is another.
    Dan Clowes too.

    And there there are the ladies:

    Sophie Crumb.
    Julie Doucet.
    Roberta Gregory.

    Case rested.

  2. joeposts says:

    People offended by this should probably steer clear of most underground comics. Especially R. Crumb’s work.

    Stick with Marvel. I hear the new Thor movie is good.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Also relevant, from a Toronto escort: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/bianca/ .

  4. duncan says:

    I think it’s funny that the other books Amazon recommends as “Frequently Bought Together”:

    (This one) Paying for It by Chester Brown Hardcover $15.85
    Mister Wonderful: A Love Story by Daniel Clowes Hardcover $13.57
    Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine Hardcover $9.73

  5. EeyoreX says:

    Joe Matt and Chester Brown are basically the Johnny Knoxville and Bam Magera of indie comix:

    They systematically amplify their personal sociopatic and self-destructive tendencies to a point where it can be used for comic- and/or dramatic effect. Then they record the resulting events for posterity and sell it as a slice-of-life.

    The end result may be catharic, it might be entertaining and it’s most probably art.

    It would be a grave mistake, however, to interpet it as “documentary”, let alone “authentic”. These Toronto hipsters do NOT play in the same leauge as, say, Harvey Pekar, even though they really, really would like you to think so.

  6. osmo says:

    I know too many prostitutes and ex-prostitutes, male and female, to find anything endearing with johns. And I know too many self-proclaimed liberterians with a need to justify their inability to cope with or be attractive to other humans with some post-randian nonsense – to fall into that pit of faux-politics. I wish (actuall) liberterians would try to have some ideological rince up at one point, shake the tree and make all the bad apples fall out.

    But I’ll download it, nothing like stealing from looser johns anyway :)

    • Brainspore says:

      But I’ll download it, nothing like stealing from looser johns anyway :)

      I know too many victims of theft to find anything endearing about thieves.

    • gravytop says:

      If hadn’t cultivated such a liking for stealing from your Johns (nothing like it!), perhaps you wouldn’t have developed such strong moral qualms about the sex trade?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Prostitution should only be legalized if we ensure that sex-workers can unionize by simple card-check. What sex workers need is the right to collectively bargain for better wages, hours, and most importantly working conditions including basic health and safety. This would also benefit their clients, and the spouses and other partners of “johns” as well. The spread of disease would be lessened, public heath generally would improve, and public health costs would go down.

  8. 3lbFlax says:

    You might not agree with Chester Brown’s opinions or behaviour, but you can rely on him to produce an honest and superbly crafted book, every time.

    Here’s a very recent interview with Chester from The Comics Journal, which touches on the emotional ‘flatness’ Mark mentions here:

    http://www.tcj.com/a-johns-gospel-the-chester-brown-interview/

    Thanks for bringing this up as together with the TCJ interview it prompted me to check the release status on Amazon UK – it’s still not available on there, but several independent sellers have it in stock, so it’s on its way to me now. Looking forward to it.

  9. KateZeGreat says:

    I’d give it a gander if it was laying on a table, but…Ugh. You summed it up nicely Osmo…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was a big fan of Yummy Fur back in the day and reading beyond the surface of his books one found a good bit to think about.

    I look forward to reading this.

  11. Jack says:

    I really don’t understand detractors of this work. Nobody is forcing you to buy it, and I am intrigued not so much because of the subject matter as much as it’s one of the few memoirs I can think of that touches on a topic not touched on. Too many memoirs and underground comics are focused on fairly cliched topics such as “I did drugs!” or “My parents were mean to me!” And in the right hands with the right story, those subjects are interesting. But mostly they are tired and played out.

    Someone admitting not only why they solicit prostitutes, but giving the backstory as to how it happened is really a unique P.O.V.

    And please, I don’t want to hear anything about the conditions of sex workers or “deep” thoughts like why are “Johns” always men. If you don’t understand biology and how all males are predisposed to promiscuity, don’t talk. And if that sounds sexist, I a sorry. But let’s face facts: Most women who want to simply “get laid” can walk into a bar and in seconds meet someone. Same is not true for men.

    Gender roles should not define a person, but being willfully clueless as to how natural biological behavior plays out in the world is naive at best. And if Chester Brown feels that he needs to do this to satisfy his urges, fine.

    I have watched tons of so-called “normal” relationships “survive” with tons of abuse, dysfunction and worse happening. At least Chester Brown is strong enough to admit what he does, why he does it and not hide his secrets behind closed doors.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry but that whole all “men are biologically predisposed to be promiscious” spiel is a load of crap designed to subjugate the sexual rights of women and keep the sexes divided. It’s ignorance. Read ‘Sex At Dawn’ by Christopher Ryan, you might learn something.

      Women are just as sexual as men, it’s just that when we act on our desires or show any sign of sexual autonomy we get labelled as massive cum-guzzling sluts by a conservative religious society.

      For the record, I’m a part-time sex worker who never suffered child abuse and isn’t funding a drug habit.(and yes, we can read all those long technical words in Boing Boing!) I can’t afford a shoe AND record collection with just my day job wages, and plus I actually like sex. Most johns are male, probably because of the point I made above. Which is a shame because I would like a little more variety now and then.

      However, as stated by other posters above, I do feel strange about people whose sole form of sexual contact is with
      workers. It makes it too easy not to bother even trying to communicate with other humans as, you know, humans.

  12. loki_monster says:

    What a turd. Oh so sorry you had your heart broken like 99.999% of the rest of us, but having your heart broken does not entitle you to feed into the sex trade. A significant number of prostitutes are *actually* victims of abusive childhoods, sex trafficking, abusive pimps, and a legal system that punishes the sex worker, not douchebags like Chester Brown who patronize sex workers. Those things are way worse than being a psuedo-victim in your own mind like good ol’ Chet here. Disgusting.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Some of your readers might be interested in Mykola Dementiuk’s newest book “100 Whores: Memories of a John.” It contains 100 short vignettes of real experiences, 5 short stories of prostitution in New York City, and a novelette called “The Christmas Whore” which immortalizes an O’Henry-type story that will leave you laughing — and crying. 100 Whores has a few illustrations but mostly well-put-together words by a new author who won the Lambda Literary Award last year. I am proud to be his editor.

    Sally Miller
    Sally@SallyMiller.com

  14. Borgs_of_Canada says:

    Chester Brown also wrote the excellent “The Playboy”, a comic book about his use of pornography, his masturbation and the impact it had on his “real” sexual life. Probably the most intimate and honest bio I read. I am looking forward to read this one.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wait a second… some people consider easy, anonymous sex to be erotic? Inconceivable! For shame! For shaaaame!

  16. Gulliver says:

    Words. Fail.

  17. Yamara says:

    These aren’t cows.

  18. gwailo_joe says:

    Are sex workers bad? Seriously;

    Do they deserve condemnation? The correct answer is: nope.

    Would you want your children or family members to participate in the industry? Generally, no again.

    However! It is as human and natural as brick laying and code writing.

    Learn to live and let live, otherwise: have a Coke and STFU.

    • Gulliver says:

      > Would you want your children or family members to participate in the industry? Generally, no again.

      But is this because its wrong in and of itself, or because it’s dangerous as a criminal enterprise? Obviously this varies from person to person.

  19. gwailo_joe says:

    Actually. . .we already know that.

    People that fuck for bucks should be left alone: their life is already difficult enough.

    But those nasty, dirty johns! Shame on them! Nice example to the youth, you filthy rutting swine!!!

    I have had relations with sex workers going on 20 years, the code is not esoteric: be respectful. avoid drama. . .Pay up.

    And… be nice and ~have fun!~

    right? otherwise, sheesh… ‘nobody should pay to have sex!, that’s bad!’

    ‘Only people in loving, life=long committed relationships should have intercourse with the goal of breeding in mind: otherwise: SIN SIN SIN you foul apes! SHAMESHAMESHAME!!!’

    That kind of thinking is myopic and unrealistic.

  20. senorglory says:

    Osmo, how is it that you know so many prostitutes and ex-prostitutes, both male and female? that’s rather unusual, and probably rather interesting. do tell.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Having sex for money seems possibly less tiring and potentially more lucrative than raising two children and keeping house for room and board, and the occasional high end handbag.

  22. Hools Verne says:

    As somebody who hasn’t read the book, thinks prostitution should be legalized, and believes that the rights of sex workers should be held to the highest standard, and that they should stop being maligned and ostracized by both sides of the political spectrum: everything I have heard and seen about this book makes me it seem like Chester spends most of the pages rationalizing some pretty shitty behavior on his part.

  23. Hools Verne says:

    Wow, so many typos. My skull stinks of brain farts.

  24. Anonymous says:

    So legalize the trade. Protect the workers. Make sure they are not slaves/underage and allow consenting adults to trade money for sex and sex for money. Make sure prostitutes are not afraid to go to the police when there is abuse.

    Funny thing about the sex trade today.

    If two consenting adults decide to have sex and money is exchanged. It’s illegal.

    However if we film them having sex, post it to the internet, then it’s legal.

    Prostitution vs. Pornography

    I say as long as they are consenting adults it is okay.

    As soon as underage, slaves or people are otherwise forced to act against their will – then that should be prosecuted.

  25. dainel says:

    Why is it that Johns are predominantly male?

  26. Ignatius says:

    Always in search of irony in action, comments in ‘liberal’ leaning sites are usually pay dirt. Criticizing any work sight unseen (and by extension their creators who may or may not share the created perspective) is apparently how all types of people deal with their discomfort in reading or tolerating opposing viewpoints not just ‘close minded’ conservatives who hate art.

    Having actually read some of Mr Brown’s previous works I am looking forward to his view on a subject that will never lend itself to facile right/wrong moral arguments.

    • Gulliver says:

      It’s not the immorality that’s tragic. It’s that the author gave up on real intimacy for some hollow parody of it. You can no more buy love than you can buy friendship. Even sex is fun because it’s mutually enjoyable. Love and lust are reciprocal exercises. Otherwise it’s nothing more than masturbation with venereal diseases, and as we all know…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-TA57L0kuc

      YMMV. I’m not judging character, but I say anyone who gives up on sincere relationships is throwing away the best part of life, and life ain’t exactly overflowing with reasons for joy to begin with.

      • Anonymous says:

        “It’s not the immorality that’s tragic. It’s that the author gave up on real intimacy for some hollow parody of it.”

        Do not judge until you have walked in his shoes, though hopefully you never will. There are many of us who, through no fault of our own, are quite incapable of close human relationships. We are not evil people, nor are we lazy and “gave up on intimacy” easily (in fact we may have worked at it for years, and inadvertently hurt many people with our clueless hearts before we realized “I can’t do this.” Sometimes I think of homosexuals who were guilted by society into trying and trying to be straight as the best analogue.) We may still have all the normal sexual urges and desires, and the need to deal with them, but intimacy on a deeper level is alien.

        I have no opinion on prostituion, have never gone to one, but I don’t doubt that perfectly rational and humane reasons can be made either way, and the existence of abused sex slaves or happy hookers is not enough to prove either case.

        • Gulliver says:

          @ Anon #27

          > Do not judge until you have walked in his shoes, though hopefully you never will. There are many of us who, through no fault of our own, are quite incapable of close human relationships.

          You’re right, and I readily concede that, to the limit such things can be determined by a brief interview, Chester Brown does not sound unhappy or depressed in Mark’s podcast.

          > We are not evil people, nor are we lazy and “gave up on intimacy” easily (in fact we may have worked at it for years, and inadvertently hurt many people with our clueless hearts before we realized “I can’t do this.”

          I certainly did not mean to suggest that. I merely wished to express that I think that living without emotional intimacy is missing out on something wonderful. Perhaps I worded it poorly. Love has played a seminal role in my life, and I can only speak from my own experience. Others should absolutely follow their own drummer and if emotional intimacy is not part of what they choose, I surely wish them happiness and prosperity in whatever are the keystones in their lives. People are different and what floats my boat won’t float everyone’s.

          > Sometimes I think of homosexuals who were guilted by society into trying and trying to be straight as the best analogue.)

          Like I said, I’m not judging anyone’s moral character, only why I would not eschew emotional intimacy. My view is always that as long as they coerce no one, people should be free to live however they choose. I’m not a libertarian in the economic sense, but I am an ardent civil libertarian.

          > We may still have all the normal sexual urges and desires, and the need to deal with them, but intimacy on a deeper level is alien.

          I’ve gone though times in my life when I wanted to be alone, the last time for several years in my mid-twenties when I was focused inward on choosing who I wanted to be. So while my reasons were probably not the same as they are for everyone, I do understand the desire for solitude of the heart.

          > I have no opinion on prostituion, have never gone to one, but I don’t doubt that perfectly rational and humane reasons can be made either way, and the existence of abused sex slaves or happy hookers is not enough to prove either case.

          I agree. The fact that sex slavery exists highlights not that “paying for it” or “being paid for it” is immoral – that argument can only be made, in my humble opinion, from the axiom that sexuality is sacred to some higher moral authority such as a deity – but that society fails epically to protect victims of the crime of slavery which is, in my not so humble opinion, on the same level as murder. Slavery should be morally reprehensible whatever the slave is being forced to do. And restricting what people can do though it coerce no one is the mirror image of that. I happen to think that prevalent vice persists in economies like the sex and drug trades because moralists of all stripes and poltical bents conflate the personal well-being of all with what they deem to be best for them, whether by controlling how they are allowed to live their lives for the good of society or their own hypothetical immortal souls. It’s basically impossible to get rid of a trade neither the sellers nor buyers will turn each other in for, so the whole ecosystem goes underground into the opportunistic arms of the criminally inclined who are ever eager to make a killing on easy, tax-free money.

          My personal nonplussedness with regard to sex as a business transaction is not a moral objection. It’s that it’s creepy. Think of the holodecks on Star Trek. It’s often been joked that holodecks wouldn’t cater so much to the Parrises Squares or rock-climbing crowd, as they would quickly become virtual bordellos (or perhaps romance holonovels for the less physically aroused). But consider how many people would steer wide of physical intimacy in that uncanny valley full of apparently Turing capable zombies. Sex is one step further in that your partner or partners really are cognizant of the sex. If they aren’t there because they enjoy you enough to want to do it for its own merits, it would be like having sex with a puppet controlled by some coolly detached operator. There would be zero emotional engagement. Instead of a social activity, sex would become an empty routine. That does not sound anymore appealing than walking up to strangers and paying them for hugs. Porn and erotica achieve all of the necessary physical stimuli, but detaches the masturbator as completely as the people actually posing or having sex.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvZmoaTI0HY

          Peace

      • adamnvillani says:

        It’s not the immorality that’s tragic. It’s that the author gave up on real intimacy for some hollow parody of it. You can no more buy love than you can buy friendship.

        And how dare he write about this unpleasant side of himself!

        No, seriously, have you read any Chester Brown? I haven’t read this book of his yet, but I can pretty much guess that it’s not going to be a treatise about “Hey, prostitution is GREAT! It makes me feel SO GOOD about myself!”

        • Gulliver says:

          >> It’s not the immorality that’s tragic. It’s that the author gave up on real intimacy for some hollow parody of it. You can no more buy love than you can buy friendship.

          > And how dare he write about this unpleasant side of himself!

          Let’s try this again, shall we? If I criticize English food as bland and unfulfilling, am I criticizing the character of food critics who enjoy and write about English food? The answer is no, I am disagree with their taste in food. Am I criticizing the character of the cooks that prepare and serve English food? No, I am criticizing their food.

          > No, seriously, have you read any Chester Brown?

          Only “I Never Liked You” while I was waiting several hours for friends doing gift shopping in a Half Price Books. It was good enough that I did not set it down and move to something else in a store filled with books, so that should indicate something of my opinion of the author’s writing.

          In this thread, however, I was commenting on Mark’s blog post and his podcast interview with the author. If that was previously unclear, now it should be clear.

          > I haven’t read this book of his yet, but I can pretty much guess that it’s not going to be a treatise about “Hey, prostitution is GREAT! It makes me feel SO GOOD about myself!”

          To repeat, the tragedy, in my personal opinion, is not that the author decided to “Pay for It” but that he decided to swear off emotionally intimate romantic relationships. It’s a tragedy in the same way that it would be a tragedy if someone swore off ever watching sunsets; i.e. not a moral tragedy, a tragedy of missing out on something wonderful. Again, this is my opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

      • wrybread says:

        You realize this isn’t a “how to” book, right? As in, whether or not you agree with the subject’s moral decisions isn’t exactly the point of the book? In fact, it seems to me that this sort of honest portrayal is made all the more interesting by it being foreign.

        I’d also be curious to know what percentage of the above people with extreme anti prostitution opinions are American. Amazing how differently prostitution is viewed in Europe, and pretty much everywhere else in the world.

        • Gulliver says:

          > You realize this isn’t a “how to” book, right? As in, whether or not you agree with the subject’s moral decisions isn’t exactly the point of the book?

          For the fourth time, I have NO moral objection to the author’s decision to do ANYTHING indicated in the blog post. I have an OPINION that he is depriving himself of something great.

          > I’d also be curious to know what percentage of the above people with extreme anti prostitution opinions are American.

          I am American, and I have no objection to people exchanging sex for money. I do have an objection to laws that criminalize consenting activities, thereby making it impossible for those who sell the activity (and this goes for everything from sex to drugs to gambling to boxing rings) to obtain legal recourse or legal protection from buyers that cheat or harm them, or for society to regulate and tax their business as a legitimate part of the economy.

          > Amazing how differently prostitution is viewed in Europe, and pretty much everywhere else in the world.

          The problem with this statement is that it implies that a section of land with a government can hold views. Only individuals can do that. Unless you’re suggesting that where a person is born or lives deterministically influences what they think and believe.

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