Love for Sale is the first study to examine the ubiquity of commercial sex in Russian literary and artistic production from the nineteenth century through the fin de siècle. Colleen Lucey offers a compelling account of how the figure of the sex worker captivated the public's imagination through depictions in fiction and fine art, bringing to light how imperial Russians grappled with the issue of sexual commerce. Studying a wide range of media—from little-known engravings that circulated in newspapers to works of canonical fiction—Lucey shows how writers and artists used the topic of prostitution both to comment on women's shifting social roles at the end of tsarist rule and to express anxieties about the incursion of capitalist transactions in relations of the heart.
Each of the book's chapters focus on a type of commercial sex, looking at how the street walker, brothel worker, demimondaine, kept woman, impoverished bride, and madam traded in sex as a means to acquire capital. Lucey argues that prostitution became a focal point for imperial Russians because it signaled both the promises of modernity and the anxieties associated with Westernization.
Love for Sale integrates historical analysis, literary criticism, and feminist theory and conveys how nineteenth-century beliefs about the "fallen woman" drew from medical, judicial, and religious discourse on female sexuality. Lucey invites readers to draw a connection between rhetoric of the nineteenth century and today's debate on sex workers' rights, highlighting recent controversies concerning Russian sex workers to show how imperial discourse is recycled in the twenty-first century.
Introduction: Policing Russia's Public Women
1. Russia's Babylon: Prostitution in St. Petersburg
2. "Safety Valves of Social Passions": Regulating Commercial Sex
3. Tricks of the Trade: Elite Prostitution and the Art of Seduction
4. The Dowerless Bride on Russia's Marriage Market
5. "Hyenas in Bonnets": The Madam and Her Milieu
6. Commodifying Domestic Bliss: The Kept Woman in Russian Fiction
Conclusion: Continuity through Change—Sex Work from the Imperial Period to Today
Colleen Lucey is Assistant Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona.
Lucey's interdisciplinary approach to the subject offers the reader a comprehensive understanding of the key characterizations and tropes associated with fictional sex workers, contextualizing her close readings of literature and art within the lived realities for individuals in the sex industry during that time.
Lucey adds a fresh, literary perspective on well-explored questions of female prostitution, promiscuity, and domestic oppression in the period between 1843 and 1905.
Love for Sale contributes to scholarly discussions about sex work, representations of women in the literary and visual arts, and women's writing, among others. It is rigorously interdisciplinary and offers important insights into the relationship between nineteenth-century visual, literary, and professional cultures.
Love for Sale is an essential book for historians, literary scholars, and students working on themes related to gender and sexuality. Conceptually ambitious, elegantly written, and sensitive to the reverberations of the topic in the present day, Lucey's impressive work deserves the widest possible audience.
~Modern Language Review
AATSEEL Best First Book