Roxanne, and the Moulin Rouge

"We have a dance in the brothels of Buenos Aires. It tells the story of the prostitute and a man who falls in love with her. First, there is desire. Then, passion. Then, suspicion. Jealousy. Anger. Betrayal. When love is for the highest bidder, there can be no trust. Without trust, there can be no love. Jealousy, yes, jealousy will drive you mad."

"The show must go on, Satine. We're creatures of the underworld. We can't afford to love."

-Both quotes, from "Moulin Rouge"

The thing that strikes me about this movie, though I love the musical numbers, and the costumes, is that Satine, as a high class courtesan, is somehow ruled by three men- the Duke, the writer, and her manager/pimp.

The Duke and the writer both believe they have claims to her- the Duke, in some ways, I feel is more honest, as he's clear about feeling that he's bought her body, asshole-ish though that is. The writer feels as if he owns her because he loves her, and when that turns out to not be the case, he publicly humiliates and degrades her, causing her to try to win him back (?!?)

As much as I like the prettiness of this movie, that really horrifies me. How does THAT demonstrate Beauty, Truth and Love? Satine spends most of the movie trapped in the chains of male privilege and jealousy, and somehow, because Christian is the "hero" of the tale we're supposed to be pleased that he gets the girl in the end, even if it's just for a moment.

Now, before you say "god, Kitty, it's just a movie!" I just want to point out that this confirms what the media keeps saying to us. This suggests that sex workers cannot afford to love, can't do anything but offer up their bodies for meaningless sex, because we're sex workers and it's part of the job.

Somehow being in this industry people expect you to resent and dislike your work and the clients you have. Clients expect that you won't really enjoy it, that you're lying to them. Everyone expects that you can't have a partner of your own, a lover, because he wouldn't "allow" it, or would "rescue" you from it. Or he'd be violently jealous. That jealousy, usually male jealousy, we're encouraged to watch out for and be scared of. And when a sex worker gets beaten, raped, or killed, society blames the profession, not the attacker. That is in part what makes sex work degrading- I feel sometimes as if, as a sex worker, I'm both expected to be in need of protection and also less than human- a creature of the underworld, as it were.

Granted, I've never had a punter that made me feel like a commodity. I never felt like I couldn't say what I liked or disliked. But I've also violently shaken off the chains of fear surrounding male jealousy, and am confident I can take care of myself. Not all women share that feeling. Hell, not all sex workers share that feeling.

Maybe that's why I'd saddened that when someone thinks of a sex worker in media, they think Satine or Vivian, not Inara from Firefly. Inara had what I admire in a courtesan, what I would like to see in the future of sex work. She had power in her own right, dignity, and had agency and then some. Clients didn't buy her, they petitioned her, and she chose from among them. If there was ever an example of the difference between a fee and a tribute, this is it. Why is that so rare...? ::sigh::

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