July 17, 2018, 02:52:24 PM

Author Topic: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?  (Read 842 times)

Offline Saraband

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Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2018, 03:14:23 PM »
They were part of accepted social structure in olden times. Geisha in Japan, harems in Arabia etc...but 'courtesans' as popularly known in many  monarchial or feudal regimes of old times form a integral part of the society. In many cases, like Geisha for example...they are so much more than just "whores" as indicated in many books. They are reputed to be capable of intelligent conversation, Good in singing and dancing etc with sex being just part of their duties.

In the interest of clarification, and following Nora's correction on Geishas, I would also add that harems have very little to do with prostitution. In arabic culture, the harem is a space of the household reserved for the female members of the family, as well as female friends & guests. Historically, royal harems in certain periods did house concubines, but these would have very little relation to the term prostitute as we know it (ie someone selling sex in exchange for material gratification). All these notions that harems are somehow like sex zoos for powerful men is more of a Victorian fantasy misconstrued towards middle eastern cultures; they have also nothing to do with virginity specifically, for they are the space inhabited by both virgin and non-virgin women.

The notion that female prostitution has also always been more prevalent is also historically incorrect. I can only speak of particular periods I studied, but during most of the Islamic al-Andalus and Maghreb, male prostitution was prevalent, and it existed as a particular function of what is described in historical anthropology as the paradoxal ambivalence of homosexuality in western Medieval Islam. Its existence was acknowledged by the highest officials, at times it was prohibited, but mostly existed in al-Andalus legally sanctioned under specific Qur'anic guidelines, believe it or not. Similar phenomenons have been studied by other researchers in other areas of the Middle East, particularly Egypt and Ottoman Turkey, but I'm afraid anything falling outside Medieval Islam really stretches outside my comfort zone and I would let others speak in regards to that.

All this to say that, at least historically, there is plenty of precedent for prostitution as a male profession as much as a female one, if not more in the particular instances I mentioned. I don't mind brothels in fantasy at all, if they are sexist or not depends entirely in the way the author presents them, as well as the language used in the overall story. But I'm more interested in seeing different takes on prostitution, from which we may draw meaning and thought, rather than just stereotypical props for the narrative at hand.
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Offline Bradley Darewood

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Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2018, 03:28:16 PM »
So I feel I should take a break from adding sections to my overdue nonfiction chapter on civil war to post in this thread.  Because... err... priorities.

Highly recommended.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10999941-babylon-steel

I love the "Readers Also Enjoyed" section which includes "Steamed Up" steampunk erotica.

There's no rule that says brothels need to be women-only. I think it was in Rebecca Levene's book that you had a gender-neutral brothel, so to speak. This would balance the power, I guess...

There will still be a power imbalance between those who have money and those who don't.

The male sex trade is more ubiquitous than people think.  In Vietnam a Cafe-Um or "Cafe Hug" is where business is done by old men who have underaged girls sitting on their laps pouring their drinks and feeding them beef cubes.  I said no thanks to the underaged girl they sent my way so they sent me a dude.

In Saigon, dudes ride around on bicycles with special rattles in tight shirts offering massages for 1 dollar (spoiler alert, the massages aren't where they make most of their money-- interestingly they make money having sex with men then spend a good portion of it having sex with female sex workers at an insider discount. Also I have along story about that but it would take a long time to write here). There's also a "dating service" that sells Vietnamese men to status-conscious overweight Taiwanese women who want an attractive husband and the women are actually weighed and charged according to their weight. 

In Indonesia, violence against female sex workers is extremely common so the vast majority of street workers are men dressed as women-- like almost all of them. @Saraband 's post makes me wonder if there is some sort of historical legacy at work here. The female sex workers tend to stick to the tourist area, cafes and beaches and don't walk the streets.

In the US, male sex workers who serve women often have relationships with repeat customers, working for gifts or some sort of patronage. Women can find the men in specific resorts, beaches or frequenting places like furniture stores.  One-time sorts of arrangements are usually in response to ads (In my younger years i was actually approached by a girl at a party who wanted to recruit me to work with her as some sort of a team thing.)

Like @cupiscent noted, some sex work is entirely voluntary.

I'm not a pervert I'm just well travelled, I know lots of things and I worked for a human trafficking nonprofit.

Anyway Jmack has been reading my new first chapter of my WIP. It doesn't have a brothel in it, but my MC is a 15 year old thief and part of his backstory is that his mother had to turn to the sex trade when his father died, but his thieving helps her pay rent so that she doesn't have to.  So I'm guilty of about a million sins there: dead father trope, sex work trope... the mother only appears twice far later in the book so that might even be considered the dreaded "fridging" of a female character to color a male characters experience.  She does have her own arc in a later book I plan to bring her into a relationship of convenience with one of the antagonists of this book, but that subplot just didn't fit into this one. She's not super traumatized by it, but it's also not her first choice.

Anyway, a gendered sex trade, racialized poverty, and all sorts of things that suck are just part of the reality of our own past that I've brought into my novel. Maybe these tropes are a part of telling certain kinds of stories and that's okay. Or Maybe it just sucks and I'm an awful trope machine that should just revise everything again.  I really don't know. Sometimes I feel like writing is a minefield and I don't know where the mines are anymore.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 05:15:09 PM by Bradley Darewood »

Offline Peat

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2018, 07:28:22 PM »

Anyway, a gendered sex trade, racialized poverty, and all sorts of things that suck are just part of the reality of our own past that I've brought into my novel. Maybe these tropes are a part of telling certain kinds of stories and that's okay. Or Maybe it just sucks and I'm an awful trope machine that should just revise everything again.  I really don't know. Sometimes I feel like writing is a minefield and I don't know where the mines are anymore.

If you fall prey to the whole "I only write tropes! Everything's a trope!" thing and stop writing, I will be severely vexed with you. You are more than intelligent enough to write a book with heavy economic inequality themes without going into full misery porn/lovable orphans having the time of their life as they hunt rats.

Offline Bender

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2018, 11:47:19 PM »
> I find romanticisation of the sex trade to be problematic. But then again, fantasy romanticizes many, many problematic aspects of society, especially violence.

No offense, but I see your problem as readers trying to impose their own sense of faux-morality on the genre.

I don't see assassins guild getting the same moral treatment as a sex trade business, despite being considerably worse from a moral context.

Romanticization of violence happens, but I don't see that any different from Call of Duty or other host of games out there. Prince defats bad guys and dragons, marries the princess and lives happily ever after is taught to kids.  I grew up fantasizing Clint Eastwood' cowboy movies. Gunslingers quick on the draw gunplay gave me a thrill like none other.

Fantasy is by definition what is not real. And that includes morals and ethics.

And for record, I don't consider sex trade as a problematic aspect of society. I'd gladly support it's legalization.. subject to having rules to prevent exploitation.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 11:56:36 PM by Bender »

Offline Bender

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2018, 11:53:32 PM »
Wow wow wow... Geisha are NOT prostitutes. They're not more "than just whores". They're not whores at all. Geishas weren't hired out to have sex with! They were trained to be good conversationalist and party hosts, dance and sing.

I believe that was the point I was trying to make when I wrote they are so much more than just 'whores'
 8)

Offline cupiscent

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2018, 04:55:10 AM »
What a whole bunch of fascinating detail about historical and present-day sex-work this discussion has accrued! This is all really interesting and I think there's about a dozen great story ideas just rattled off here.

The thing about saying "Fantasy is not real! It can do whatever!" is that it then raises the question of why fantasy so often chooses to do the things it does. Why is a fantasy of commonplace and institutionalised prostitution more common than a fantasy of gender equality wherein sex is not something men pursue and women prevent?

For the record, I'll object to just about any story or scenario in which the women just exist as props, it's just that poorly done brothels in fantasy get the double-whammy of women-as-props and -as-blamelessly-sexually-available. Women and sex in fantasy is a whole other rant, this is just an intersection point! :)

Offline Nora

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Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2018, 01:09:13 PM »
Wow wow wow... Geisha are NOT prostitutes. They're not more "than just whores". They're not whores at all. Geishas weren't hired out to have sex with! They were trained to be good conversationalist and party hosts, dance and sing.

I believe that was the point I was trying to make when I wrote they are so much more than just 'whores'
 8)

So my problem is with the way you express the idea. To me "more than just" implies you are "that but also more".
"More than just whores" means "whores and also more". I may be wrong, I'll leave a native to decide on that, but that's how I perceive that sentence and hence why I mistook your meaning.
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2018, 04:02:06 PM »
Wow wow wow... Geisha are NOT prostitutes. They're not more "than just whores". They're not whores at all. Geishas weren't hired out to have sex with! They were trained to be good conversationalist and party hosts, dance and sing.

I believe that was the point I was trying to make when I wrote they are so much more than just 'whores'
 8)

So my problem is with the way you express the idea. To me "more than just" implies you are "that but also more".
"More than just whores" means "whores and also more". I may be wrong, I'll leave a native to decide on that, but that's how I perceive that sentence and hence why I mistook your meaning.

More than just - i.e. Nora is more than just a writer, she is a great person. Implies you are that thing and more as well.

So yes. I am siding with Nora here.


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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2018, 05:13:14 PM »
Technically, the phrase "more than just" can mean several things.  It's a matter of degree, the relationship of the things in question, the grammar involved, and most especially the speaker's emphasis, particularly on the word "just" - which can mean either "only" (in the sense of exclusivity) but also "a mere"

- A general is so much more than just a (mere) soldier. (even though a general IS a soldier)
- Rabies is so much more than just (merely) deadly - it is universally fatal.
- Rabies is so much more than just (only) deadly - it is debilitating and painful, as well.
- I hired a Certified Public Accountant, who is so much more than just a (both "mere" and "only") financial advisor (A CPA is not a financial advisor, having different qualifications and roles, but is legally permitted to do more)
- A milkshake is so much more than just a glass of milk (and yet, technically, it is a glass of milk)
- A skyscraper is so much more than just a (mere) hut (which it is not at all, though they are both forms of shelter)

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Offline Yora

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2018, 08:27:44 PM »
It has its roots in reality. They don't call that world's oldest profession for no reason.
That, and farming. And they both use hoes.  ;D

Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #25 on: June 21, 2018, 09:26:33 AM »
It has its roots in reality. They don't call that world's oldest profession for no reason.
That, and farming. And they both use hoes.  ;D

Rofl, that one got laughing.  ;D  I do like brothels in fantasy, although I've found only one in my readings so far. Littlefinger managed his enterprise extremely well in ASOIF, I'd give him that.

Offline Bender

Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #26 on: June 22, 2018, 07:00:55 PM »
This thread became so much more than brothel discussion.  8)

My apologies people, that was an incorrect term I used for Geishas.

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: What is it with brothels and the fantasy genre?
« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2018, 09:04:48 PM »
This thread became so much more than brothel discussion.  8)

My apologies people, that was an incorrect term I used for Geishas.

No worries. That was more than just an apology.
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