Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the Raising the Rent blog tour!
Giveaway: I’m offering a $20 Amazon gift certificate to a randomly chosen commenter on the tour. (See here for a full list of the blogs I’ll be guesting on, in case you’ve missed any)
I’ll be making the draw around teatime on Monday 1st September, GMT. Good luck! 😀
Never fall in love with a customer—especially if it’s sex you’re selling – Raising the Rent
As befits the oldest profession, there’s a long history of writing about rent boys.
The earliest stories I’ve read myself come from Sins of the Cities of the Plain, by Jack Saul (the cities in question being, of course, Sodom and Gomorrah). The book, one of the first works of gay pornography to appear in English, purports to be the memoirs of a young Mary-Ann, or rent boy, as he frigs, fucks and gamahuches (fellates) his way through Victorian London.
The extent to which sodomy is carried on in London between gentlemen and young fellows is little dreamed of by the outside public.
– Jack Saul, Sins of the Cities of the Plain
So is it fiction, or fact? Undoubtedly, a mixture of both. Known personages are mentioned, such as Boulton and Park, a couple of Victorian cross-dressers who were put on trial in 1871. They were acquitted when it was discovered that cross-dressing was not, in fact, a crime—which must have led to a few red faces from the prosecution! 😉
Another early(ish) work, Jean Genet’s influential “epic of masturbation” Our Lady of the Flowers, written in prison in 1943, tells of a male prostitute who comes to a tragic end. In fact the tragic end is something of a feature in rent boy tales, particularly those of a more literary, ahem, bent.
But what about a happy ending for our fictional renters that actually turns into a happy ever after?
The idea of a prostitute finding love with a customer is, of course, not new—Verdi’s La Traviata (literally, the fallen woman) is a courtesan who sacrifices herself for the love of a client. Yes, female prostitutes get their fair share of unhappy endings in fiction, too.
Still, there’s always Pretty Woman. That, of course, was at heart a re-telling of the Cinderella tale, with the lowly “working girl” swept off her feet and saved from a life of, shall we say, menial work by the modern version of a handsome prince.
I’d like to think there’s a little more equality between my heroes; Nathan may be young and poor, but he doesn’t plan to stay that way, and his plans don’t rely on any sugar daddies. Stephen, for his part, wouldn’t be half so interested in Nathan in a romantic sense if it weren’t for his determination to make something of himself.
Question: do you have a favourite fictional depiction of a prostitute in a book, film, theatre or any other art form? Did the prostitute get their happy ever after?
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy.
She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Never fall in love with a customer—especially if it’s sex you’re selling
Rent boy Nathan’s determined to get an education and get off the streets for good. But when he turns up for his first day at college he’s horrified to find his English teacher is one of his regular customers: Stephen, the one Nathan dubbed The Voice because of his educated, honeyed tones.
Stephen’s just as shocked to see Nathan sitting in his class, not to mention terrified he’s about to be exposed as having paid for sex with a student. This could mean public humiliation and maybe the loss of his job. But when Nathan shows he’s only interested in getting his A Levels, not in blackmail, Stephen realises there’s more to the nineteen-year-old than meets the eye.
Nathan still has to earn a living, though—and when a customer turns ugly, he finds himself unable to work and homeless as well. Stephen steps in to help, and Nathan starts to think they could have a future together—but Stephen’s guilt and lack of trust could end this back-to-front romance before it even starts.
Warning: Contains unfashionable haircuts, unreasonably long words and a May-December romance between a not-so-streetwise rent boy and an erudite English teacher.