Love for Sale

Love for Sale

Representing Prostitution in Imperial Russia

NIU Series in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

by Colleen Lucey

Published by: Cornell University Press

270 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm, 30 b&w halftones

  • ISBN: 9781501758867
  • Published: September 2021

£40.00

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.