cover image Paying for It

Paying for It

Chester Brown, Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-77046-048-5

A compelling look into one man's history of employing prostitutes as a replacement for romantic love, this graphic novel is sure to create controversy. Brown has produced acclaimed but brutally honest autobiographical works before, but here he adds a new didactic element. In June 1996 Brown's then girlfriend broke up with him. After three years of celibacy and his growing conviction that romantic love is destructively possessive, Brown works up the courage to see a legal prostitute and finds the "burden" of anxiety over whether to pursue a relationship with any particular woman forever removed. The next 200 pages are an explicit—but far from erotic—dossier of the various women he did business with, until he meets one that he ends up with in a monogamous—but still financial—relationship. Although Brown intends the work to be a compassionate look at a profession that helps people, he unfortunately goes out of his way to anonymize the sex workers—never showing their faces and telling the story in tiny, cramped panels, giving the whole thing a voyeuristic feel. A lengthy appendix arguing that a system where paying for sex is preferable to romance-based methods is unlikely to persuade many readers. (May)