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Wait, are the Summer Isles problematic?


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I've come across a few people's opinions that the Summer Isles play into historical racism, that they sexualise the inhabitants just as Europe portrayed Africans and other black people as highly sexualised and promiscuous. Having done a bit of research into the latter... yeah, that's a really bad look, especially where our history is concerned regarding how American and Canadian law held black women to a double standard with white women.

But even with all that, I still can't equate that to the Summer Isles. They are a very sex-focused people, but I think that's a plus. Sex work SHOULD be respected, sex SHOULDN'T be subjected to repression and shame. I find Kojja Mo and Chataya to be great characters. They're not just there for the male gaze, they're established as being three dimensional figures. Chataya is an experienced and savvy businesswoman, Kojja Mo is a skilled sailor and a military leader. They're both more than their physical appearances, and they're more than their attitudes towards sex.

Plus the Summer Isles seem deeply appealing. They're not just a bunch of people banging each other non-stop; they're knowledge-seekers who produce some of the best archers and sailors in all of Planetos. Their history is rife with civil conflict and repeated attacks by slavers and raiders from beyond their borders. In many ways, they're more advanced in their way of thinking than anyone in Westeros.

Granted, I could be utterly mistaken, I might be missing something obvious. But it seems to me like the Summer Isles are the best of both worlds while still having plenty of flaws to prevent it from being 'paradise'. 

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Summer Island culture sucks because of its sexual exploitation of female children.  Skin color has nothing to do with it.

So-called "sex work" should NOT be respected.  A tiny tiny percentage of high-class prostitutes will make a ton of money, but the rest will just be used, abused and degraded.  This is inevitable.  And anyone who for whatever selfish reason buys into the lie is part of the problem.  To some extent this exploitation is inevitable and has prevailed throughout history, but will become 10 times worse when society actively promotes it.   We've seen this before.  Criminal pimps were bad enough in the bad old days.  But when you legalize prostitution, what happens in effect, is that the government gets involved in pimping in exchange for a cut.  . And then there is nowhere to run to.

I have no idea what GRRM's opinion is -- I am just stating mine.

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Posted (edited)

The view of sex work on the Summer Isles is hugely romanticised, both in and out of universe, although that’s common enough in fantasy fiction ( eg Anne Rice’s Beauty novels).  The notion of prostitution as a sacred calling seems like a gloss on something pretty ugly. There’s nothing romantic about Melisandre’s recollection of being sold as a slave, and inducted into temple prostitution.

IMHO, there is something disturbing to the idea that you can pay Chataya to do anything you like to her daughter, short of killing or maiming her (and no doubt from an early age. Barra’s mother was 13 or 14, when Robert made her pregnant) .  Westeros is a society in which whores are despised, although men make frequent use of them.  They get hurt and abused, as Alayaya does.  She has no choice in the matter.

Edited by SeanF
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"No, our women are proper and diginfied, unlike those black-skinned, sex-crazed savages".

Doesn't sound great, right? While certainly not the worst written example it does feel a bit like an orientalist fantasy - that other women in "less advanced" countries are more lewd. It feels like the kind of adventure novel from the beginning of 20th century where the male protagonist visit an exotic country and has sex with a local girl despite zero initiative from himself and its handwaived away as "local custum" and that she did want to have said sex due to "reasons".

The prostitution part is also a bit strange. If you honor the gods with your act - then why do you accept payment for it?

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I see that I explained this poorly - so let's make a new, better attempt.

In many adventure-books from the past it was common with action, but also to get the main character (usually a noble, always a gentleman and a perfect person in general) some sexual encounters, partly to reward this manly man and partly to incite the readers a bit. But these women couldn't be women from the same country or region. No, they needed to be foreign so the author didn't imply women in his home country were sluts. But the woman could be a whore either - because again, the main character is a gentleman. He does like women, but has no real contact with them. It is simply not proper for him to hunt for skirts and the readers won't accept if he visits a brothel or even flirts. His heart needs to be with his true love back home  - a platonic, romantic love and to keep the reader's sympathy. But you still want him to get some action and incite those readers a bit, so how to solve this?

Luckily the manly gentleman protagonist is stationed in an exotic country with other customs and rules than Europe. He might be a sailor, a soldier or an explorer (and almost always an officer) and not all scenes will be combat-oriented. He will be invited to some palaces by that foreign elite or maybe to another officer he doesn't really know well, with less high morals. And there the women will be - often described quickly in a scene or two and rarely naked at this point (if they were he would be expected to look away or maybe even leave, and we can't have that can we?). But maybe a foreign woman waits in his bed naked - maybe they met and she was instantly into him? Or she is a gift from his foreign host (Because, she can't sleep with everyone either - then she is a whore and it will come off like he has sex a prostitude. This must come off at least somewhat exclusive) So, without telling him, she waits in his bed naked. After all - then his morals haven't been compromised. He hasn't done anything untoward or shown any kind of sexual interest. But he doesn't want to be rude either and she is attractive. He is not gay after all (not that these novels had gays in them...). All the blame for this encounter is hers. Or maybe he is at a party, a celebration for a collegue of his who is not the perfect gentleman (but how he isn't the perfect gentleman hasn't really been described for him, otherwise he might not go there. The surprise is very important here). And is given a "lottery ticket" by the host. And then he wins a young black-skinned girl for the night who smiles at him when she takes him to her room. After all, he didn't know this would happen nor did actively seek female company. Any blame for this is at the feet of the host. 

The Summer Islands would be right at home in such a book. The manly gentleman officer protagonist Jon Beesbury is on the summer island the fight with his noble crew of westerosi smallfolk against the evil pirate captain The Ripper, who has been terrorizing the area. After a bussload of heroics he is invited to a summer islander noble and is expected to stay in his mansion. After the party (where he drinks modestly) he goes to his room. In his bed lies a sweet young hot girl (that was seen earlier in the book in a very short scene) completely naked who clearly wants him inside her. Manly genteman officer protagonist Jon Beesbury would of course NEVER have done anything to give the girl the impression that he was sexually interested, but now she is there and he does like women (and has a proper betrothed in the Reach that he will marry when his service is over). So they have sex, but since he didn't do anything to get her the audience will get the impression that he is not at fault, that this is the summer island's culture and it even would have been rude to reject her when she has gone to such lengths. And you don't want to get rude, do you? So when he meets his girl in the Reach later (she will also get a few short scenes) they will marry and his (as well as the readers) conscience has been unaffected by the event. 

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There is a lot of exoticism there ... but life on tropical islands is usually much more fun (in the imagination of people from Northern Europe) than elsewhere.

I'd say the way in which most of the Summer Islands society is described is not so problematic as it indicates a more peaceful setting and a more civilized way of doing things than Westeros and Essos.

The way sex is viewed there is both better and worse. The notion to see temple prostitution as a service to the people and the gods is quite different from prostitution for money ... but that your service is valued doesn't mean it is fun to offer it. However, one would imagine that sexual exploitation is less a thing on the isles as most of the people there serve in this capacity, at least for a time, which should make an impact on how you do it. The fact that it is viewed as great and is encouraged that you have sex with strangers - even people you feel no attraction to at all - is very much warped and certainly puts a lot of pressure on young people who might otherwise not be inclined at all 'to serve the gods in that way'. We see that to a point in Samwell's POV on the ship. While he does like Gilly, he doesn't want to break his vows and putting that kind of pressure on him is wrong.

That Chataya turns her own daughter into a whore in Westeros is abominable, of course, considering the treatment they get there. She is clearly not a nice person ... which might explain why she runs a brothel in KL rather than being a respectable person back home.

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1 hour ago, Protagoras said:

I see that I explained this poorly - so let's make a new, better attempt.

In many adventure-books from the past it was common with action, but also to get the main character (usually a noble, always a gentleman and a perfect person in general) some sexual encounters, partly to reward this manly man and partly to incite the readers a bit. But these women couldn't be women from the same country or region. No, they needed to be foreign so the author didn't imply women in his home country were sluts. But the woman could be a whore either - because again, the main character is a gentleman. He does like women, but has no real contact with them. It is simply not proper for him to hunt for skirts and the readers won't accept if he visits a brothel or even flirts. His heart needs to be with his true love back home  - a platonic, romantic love and to keep the reader's sympathy. But you still want him to get some action and incite those readers a bit, so how to solve this?

Luckily the manly gentleman protagonist is stationed in an exotic country with other customs and rules than Europe. He might be a sailor, a soldier or an explorer (and almost always an officer) and not all scenes will be combat-oriented. He will be invited to some palaces by that foreign elite or maybe to another officer he doesn't really know well, with less high morals. And there the women will be - often described quickly in a scene or two and rarely naked at this point (if they were he would be expected to look away or maybe even leave, and we can't have that can we?). But maybe a foreign woman waits in his bed naked - maybe they met and she was instantly into him? Or she is a gift from his foreign host (Because, she can't sleep with everyone either - then she is a whore and it will come off like he has sex a prostitude. This must come off at least somewhat exclusive) So, without telling him, she waits in his bed naked. After all - then his morals haven't been compromised. He hasn't done anything untoward or shown any kind of sexual interest. But he doesn't want to be rude either and she is attractive. He is not gay after all (not that these novels had gays in them...). All the blame for this encounter is hers. Or maybe he is at a party, a celebration for a collegue of his who is not the perfect gentleman (but how he isn't the perfect gentleman hasn't really been described for him, otherwise he might not go there. The surprise is very important here). And is given a "lottery ticket" by the host. And then he wins a young black-skinned girl for the night who smiles at him when she takes him to her room. After all, he didn't know this would happen nor did actively seek female company. Any blame for this is at the feet of the host. 

The Summer Islands would be right at home in such a book. The manly gentleman officer protagonist Jon Beesbury is on the summer island the fight with his noble crew of westerosi smallfolk against the evil pirate captain The Ripper, who has been terrorizing the area. After a bussload of heroics he is invited to a summer islander noble and is expected to stay in his mansion. After the party (where he drinks modestly) he goes to his room. In his bed lies a sweet young hot girl (that was seen earlier in the book in a very short scene) completely naked who clearly wants him inside her. Manly genteman officer protagonist Jon Beesbury would of course NEVER have done anything to give the girl the impression that he was sexually interested, but now she is there and he does like women (and has a proper betrothed in the Reach that he will marry when his service is over). So they have sex, but since he didn't do anything to get her the audience will get the impression that he is not at fault, that this is the summer island's culture and it even would have been rude to reject her when she has gone to such lengths. And you don't want to get rude, do you? So when he meets his girl in the Reach later (she will also get a few short scenes) they will marry and his (as well as the readers) conscience has been unaffected by the event. 

Yes, but a true gentleman, with a sweetheart at home, would politely decline the offer, and show the restraint that is expected of an Englishman or American abroad. 

Only a bounder would succumb to temptation.  A cad - like Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly - would invite such temptation.

I think it’s clear that the author’s sympathies are very much with the Summer Islanders, while he views the Westerosi as possessing irrational hang ups.

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4 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

 

That Chataya turns her own daughter into a whore in Westeros is abominable, of course, considering the treatment they get there. She is clearly not a nice person ... which might explain why she runs a brothel in KL rather than being a respectable person back home.

It’s one of those parts of the books that is full of squick.  Alayaya has been abused from a young age and has zero choice in the matter.  There is nowhere she could escape to.

Men pay Chataya to rape her daughter.

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21 minutes ago, SeanF said:

It’s one of those parts of the books that is full of squick.  Alayaya has been abused from a young age and has zero choice in the matter.  There is nowhere she could escape to.

Men pay Chataya to rape her daughter.

We would have to concede that Chataya isn't exactly doing things in Westeros the way they would be done back home. The best example would be sex slavery which is still very much a thing in Westeros. At least insofar as brothels are concerned as it seems that the various brothels in KL effectively own the whores there (very explicitly, I'd say, when the Rogare brother staffed his luxury brothel with Lysene whores in FaB). Also, of course, we see how this seems to be going with the horrible example set by Jeyne Poole.

Even Shae is effectively Tyrion's property after they make their deal. He gives her money, but the power is all his and it quickly reaches a point where she cannot possibly go away.

In that sense I'd say that Chataya is more a case of a woman going native in Westeros and doing 'sex work' the way it is done in Westeros. That she still teaches her daughter the ways of the Summer Isles I'd not really hold against her, even more so as we don't really know how unprotected Alayaya is within the brothel environment - I imagine that Chataya didn't foresee Alayaya being whipped by Tywin and the fact that she chose her daughter to serve as decoy in Tyrion's little game we can actually count in her favor. Would she have forced her daughter to actually service Tyrion as a prostitute? We don't know.

But in the end the whole thing is just money machine for Chataya. The best illustration for this is that she and her girls very quickly freed Anguy off his price money of 10,000 gold dragons - which was an enormous fortune.

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

We would have to concede that Chataya isn't exactly doing things in Westeros the way they would be done back home. The best example would be sex slavery which is still very much a thing in Westeros. At least insofar as brothels are concerned as it seems that the various brothels in KL effectively own the whores there (very explicitly, I'd say, when the Rogare brother staffed his luxury brothel with Lysene whores in FaB). Also, of course, we see how this seems to be going with the horrible example set by Jeyne Poole.

Even Shae is effectively Tyrion's property after they make their deal. He gives her money, but the power is all his and it quickly reaches a point where she cannot possibly go away.

In that sense I'd say that Chataya is more a case of a woman going native in Westeros and doing 'sex work' the way it is done in Westeros. That she still teaches her daughter the ways of the Summer Isles I'd not really hold against her, even more so as we don't really know how unprotected Alayaya is within the brothel environment - I imagine that Chataya didn't foresee Alayaya being whipped by Tywin and the fact that she chose her daughter to serve as decoy in Tyrion's little game we can actually count in her favor. Would she have forced her daughter to actually service Tyrion as a prostitute? We don't know.

But in the end the whole thing is just money machine for Chataya. The best illustration for this is that she and her girls very quickly freed Anguy off his price money of 10,000 gold dragons - which was an enormous fortune.

No doubt, she envisages Alayaya eventually inheriting the business.  She allows Barra’s mother time off after giving birth - so she’s not the worst of her kind.

But, I don’t envisage that saying No, to anything other than real brutality from a client, is an option for Alayaya, and Barra’s mother is so young that Ned is shocked.

Edited by SeanF
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1 minute ago, SeanF said:

No doubt, she envisages Alayaya eventually inheriting the business.  She allows Barra’s mother time off after giving birth - so she’s not the worst of her kind.

But, I don’t envisage that saying No is an option for Alayaya, and Barra’s mother is so young that Ned is shocked.

To be sure, we also don't know what services are offered at that place. If any practices are taboo, for instance. That is why I pointed that Alayaya being Tyrion's non-whore girl is actually kind of significant as it could indicate Chataya wouldn't have sold her to him if he had wanted her for (regular) sex.

Also not how the money is distributed. It is a brothel for the elite and as I laid out they must make a lot of money.

If Chataya shares (some of) the money roughly equally with her women and if their contracts with her are limited to a couple of years with them being rich landowners living in some of those city manses afterwards ... then she might not be so bad.

But unfortunately George never bothered with such details. I could imagine something like that for Chataya's girls, but definitely not for the bulk of the women in the trade, especially not for any working in Littlefinger's brothels.

The problem there clearly is that Chataya is in no way differently portrayed than the other pimps/brothel owners we meet.

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57 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Yes, but a true gentleman, with a sweetheart at home, would politely decline the offer, and show the restraint that is expected of an Englishman or American abroad. 

Only a bounder would succumb to temptation.  A cad - like Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly - would invite such temptation.

I think it’s clear that the author’s sympathies are very much with the Summer Islanders, while he views the Westerosi as possessing irrational hang ups.

Hmmm, we must have read different adventure books.

Of course the manly gentleman officer protagonist  refuses initially often a a bit half-heartedly (again not gay, real men should be interested in hot naked women or they are not the protagonist in these kind of books in the first place), but the hot naked girl will insist, because she very much want to have sex with him because he means so much to her or because she silences him and looks at him expectantly or something similar. The author here is clearly playing with the idea that it is rude and impolite to refuse such an offer, due partly to the different cultures and norms. And partly and especially with the idea that a direct female request should be fulfilled. Annoy a woman and you are shown to be a brute. But also, that said restraint is not important here in this exotic, not-home environment, where women (for some reason) have different skin tones. When in Rome and so forth. Showing restraint abroad is in general a bit too new of a concept compared with the books I am talking about. Rather, you are supposed to not be eager and wanting, but if good things happen to you, then that is another matter entirely. And maybe add some small nod like "stop embarrasing us in front of our foreign hosts". 

In short - the author will try the darndest to present this not so much someone succumbing but rather adapting to foreign uncivilized culture (very temporarily of course, we don't want this slut-behaviour back home thank you very much. Our women could get...ideas!). And women that make requests should get those granted by a true gentleman, like if it rains you give her your umbrella. These old-timey adventure books tend to argue that the true spirit of chivalry makes the courtesy due to the sex and it's not up to the gentleman to analyze the need. The manly gentleman officer protagonist might be raised Victorian, but due to his broad worldview he realizes that not every place is as noble as his sweet "insert home country here". Nor can he expect it too - when it's filled by savages with different skin colors. So any untoward that happens, unless the manly gentleman officer protagonist uncharacteristically seeks them out actively, is not anything that he can be morally blamed for. Especially if the woman takes the lead - and you are not allowed to speak against or act against a woman. 
 
I think GRRM is influenced here by these books. We are not really supposed to analyze where his sympathies are, because his sympathies are nowhere. He simply presents the Summer Islanders as a different culture, with its women (and men, but no one cares about them) more willing to sleep around. In the same manner those adventure books did. Of course, since his world doesn't exist in real life, GRRM is less interested in making a moral point about the superiority about his own civilized culture vs the savage exotics but as a white, western male that was young during the sexual liberation era I doubt he have the "correct" understanding about the issue either. Alayaya and her mother Chataya are not supposed to be seen as bad people. They just "are". And that's because GRRM chose to present their culture like this. Now, I am not saying that everything needs to be politically correct. There is a place for orientalism if you want it. But it's easy to see why others might find it off-putting. 
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Posted (edited)

Another issue with it is the wannabe tyrant in exilw in kingslanding

 

Robert seems a decent if neglectful guy in all other respects BUT he entertains the idea of conquering the summer islanders and putting a leader that lost their leadership struggle back in charge.

Edited by astarkchoice
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On 5/26/2024 at 3:47 AM, SeanF said:

The view of sex work on the Summer Isles is hugely romanticised, both in and out of universe, although that’s common enough in fantasy fiction ( eg Anne Rice’s Beauty novels).  The notion of prostitution as a sacred calling seems like a gloss on something pretty ugly. There’s nothing romantic about Melisandre’s recollection of being sold as a slave, and inducted into temple prostitution.

IMHO, there is something disturbing to the idea that you can pay Chataya to do anything you like to her daughter, short of killing or maiming her (and no doubt from an early age. Barra’s mother was 13 or 14, when Robert made her pregnant) .  Westeros is a society in which whores are despised, although men make frequent use of them.  They get hurt and abused, as Alayaya does.  She has no choice in the matter.

I think I see what you're saying, but I feel like you're equating prostitution with sex trafficking. Also, as long as the sex work is carried out consensually between adults, I don't like the notion of sex work being described as 'ugly'.

Off the top of my head, I don't know if Alayaya's age was ever given, and I didn't assume that her mother forces her to be a prostitute. What I was trying to say earlier was that I respect the Summer Isles' attitude toward sex work and sex itself. Especially when compared to the repressive patriarchy which runs rampant in the Seven Kingdoms. It always seemed to me that the Summer Islanders regard sex work as a high calling, which is a refreshing change from how it is so often portrayed in media and history. I wouldn't have assumed that Chataya would be cruel towards her employees, but maybe I overlooked some implications. 

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I think "problematic" is such a broad term that it can be applied to almost anything in any sphere of human experience and it wouldn't be entirely inaccurate, since by definition the only things which aren't "problematic" are those which are perfect. And in creative endeavours, subjectivity is such that even if I might think that Parasite or Once Upon a Time in the West are "perfect" films, there will be those who disagree - let alone ASoIaF. And when you start making the definition of "problematic" about cultural depictions and the way people respond to them, that just opens the floodgates even wider. In short, it's a term I don't really have much time for.

To me it seemed clear on reading the descriptions that the Summer Isles and their attitudes towards sex were not anything to do with black Africans (or by extension African-Americans) but ripped pretty much directly from the history of certain Polynesian cultures where attitudes towards sex were by modern standards (let alone contemporary European/American standards) incredibly relaxed. And moreover the Summer Isles are portrayed as a paradise: the sexual liberty on display there is not criticised as immoral but presented in such a way that I'd say we're almost meant to admire it.

As such, I felt that perhaps it was a bit gratuitous - there is a lot one can say about the way GRRM approaches sex as a subject and this fits squarely within it - but not offensive. Accordingly, I'd suggest that anyone seizing on it as evidence of problematic attitudes towards black people in general (and Africans in particular) has at best missed the reference/point and at worst is, (ironically) trying to appropriate other people's culture, and doing so almost specifically so that they can take offence. Course, I'm not a member of one of the cultures being referenced there so it's not, in a social sense, my call as to whether it's fair to take issue with it.

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3 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

I think I see what you're saying, but I feel like you're equating prostitution with sex trafficking. Also, as long as the sex work is carried out consensually between adults, I don't like the notion of sex work being described as 'ugly'.

The idea that 'sex work' as practiced is ever something between consenting adults makes little sense in countries where this is actually the case. I'm German, and we are the brothel of Europe. In such a scenario the demand for prostitutes is filled by way of human trafficking as very few people 'in the business' actually do think it is a great to fuck strangers for a living.

(How stupid that notion is you can easily deduce if you ask yourself if you ever felt the need or desire to become a prostitute yourself.)

George seems to be not exactly in favor of 'sex work' in his books as he describes the trade as that which it is - human trafficking, coercion and exploitation. Best examples for this are Shae, Jeyne Poole, and the poor women Tyrion rapes in ADwD. We don't meet a single whore who sees eye to eye with her client, and the whole thing is reinforced by the take that commoner women 'who overreach themselves' or 'get ideas' after entering into what seems to be a consensual relationship with a man of high birth are severely punished by various authority figures. Tytos' last mistress is treated horribly by Twyin, Merry Meg is beaten to death by her blacksmith husband after Prince Viserys sent her back to him, etc.

Prostitutes aren't people in Westeros and Essos, they are objects to be used by the people who buy them.

3 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

Off the top of my head, I don't know if Alayaya's age was ever given, and I didn't assume that her mother forces her to be a prostitute. What I was trying to say earlier was that I respect the Summer Isles' attitude toward sex work and sex itself. Especially when compared to the repressive patriarchy which runs rampant in the Seven Kingdoms. It always seemed to me that the Summer Islanders regard sex work as a high calling, which is a refreshing change from how it is so often portrayed in media and history. I wouldn't have assumed that Chataya would be cruel towards her employees, but maybe I overlooked some implications. 

The term 'sex work' doesn't really describe prostitution on the Summer Islands. It is a religious thing and the people doing it volunteer for it or are encouraged to do it as a service to the gods and the people. It is akin to a something along the line of mandatory military service (which isn't so much a job even if you get paid some money but rather a duty the state/community expects and demands from you).

It is speculation to a point but in light of the importance of sex in Summer Islander culture the notion that temple prostitutes 'work there for a living' seems to be very far-fetched. They might receive money or whatever they get regardless whether they do this or that job, unlike a real prostitute who either has work on the next cock coming her way ... or risk not being able to feed herself or her child(ren) (or even expecting threats/violence from pimps, etc.). After all, if the people doing this are revered for the service they do the community then you don't go to a temple there 'to buy some woman or her services' but you enter into some kind of religious act. This might actually give more power to the prostitute than the client, unlike effectively all real world 'sex work' scenarios. But this remains speculation.

The warped part of Summer Islander culture in this part has more to do with the lack of intimacy coming from such practices. If sex is a cultural thing society expects you the enter with loved ones and strangers alike then it would lose its importance in an intimate relationship. We see part of that to a point when Sam is effectively coerced into sex with Gilly by the Summer Islander crew. To them orgies are apparently a part of funeral rites, but they aren't for Sam.

However, I guess the damages there are pretty low as the culture there seems to be so advanced that within Summer Islander society personal limits, barriers, and preferences are accepted. People who like having a lot of sex (i.e. such with a strong sex drive) end up fulfilling the temple prostitute roles. If you don't feel that calling, so to speak, you don't have to do it.

With Chataya and Alayaya the obvious problem is that her brothel is in KL and is thus subject to Westerosi laws and customs. Whores are scum, not honoring the gods. It is a very exclusive brothel but if you got the coin you should get there everything you would get in any other exclusive brothel ... which would also include the deflowering of (un)willing maidens. As I said earlier it being exclusive and the owner being Summer Islander could mean that service there is also quite profitable for the whores and might be limited to a couple of years after the women can retire as wealthy women. But that is nowhere a given, nor would it be a very pleasant experience in Westeros to be a (ex-)whore.

The notion that anything is great in the idea that a brothel madam/whore puts her own daughter to work as a whore in a brothel in Westeros is horrible. Chataya should set up her daughter as the future wife of a wealthy merchant or even some lordling. She would have the assets to arrange something like that, like the Spicers did with the Westerlings. Instead she has her daughter work in her own brothel resulting in her being scarred for life. Even if she weren't scarred for life now ... what is a whore in KL? Just scum, plain and simple.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Canon Claude said:

I think I see what you're saying, but I feel like you're equating prostitution with sex trafficking. Also, as long as the sex work is carried out consensually between adults, I don't like the notion of sex work being described as 'ugly'.

Off the top of my head, I don't know if Alayaya's age was ever given, and I didn't assume that her mother forces her to be a prostitute. What I was trying to say earlier was that I respect the Summer Isles' attitude toward sex work and sex itself. Especially when compared to the repressive patriarchy which runs rampant in the Seven Kingdoms. It always seemed to me that the Summer Islanders regard sex work as a high calling, which is a refreshing change from how it is so often portrayed in media and history. I wouldn't have assumed that Chataya would be cruel towards her employees, but maybe I overlooked some implications. 

The problem is that there is a clear overlap, as @Lord Varyssays, between prostitution and sex trafficking in Kings Landing.  And, even where they are volunteers, they are plainly treated with contempt.  Whores are people you can rape, abuse, kill, with impunity, because they are the lowest of the low.

You’ll always get a laugh if you go on a walking tour of Old Southwark, because the tour guide will point to the the brothels managed by the Bishop of Winchester, in medieval times (brothels were banned in the City of London),  But the Church, which saw prostitution as a necessary evil, really did afford protection to the women who worked there.

But, that level of protection does not exist in Kings Landing.  In the capital, Alayaya will always be viewed as scum, when Chataya has the money to provide a much better life for her daughter.  Madam of a brothel is the best Alayaya can hope for in life.

Whores in the series are treated in much the same way as in the Roman Empire.  Cicero once got a client acquitted of raping a 13 year old actress (a term synonymous with whore), by arguing that her sort simply consented by virtue of their infamous profession.  Then, he launched a scathing attack on the prosecutor for bringing vexatious litigation.

Edited by SeanF
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28 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

The idea that 'sex work' as practiced is ever something between consenting adults makes little sense in countries where this is actually the case. I'm German, and we are the brothel of Europe. In such a scenario the demand for prostitutes is filled by way of human trafficking as very few people 'in the business' actually do think it is a great to fuck strangers for a living.

(How stupid that notion is you can easily deduce if you ask yourself if you ever felt the need or desire to become a prostitute yourself.)

One of my best friends is a sex worker, and he very much enjoys the job. He may be an exception rather than a rule, I don't know the statistics, but I do believe it is possible to make a distinction between someone who chooses to enter the profession of sex work and those who are forced into it. And just because I myself am not interested in sex work doesn't mean anything; how many essential jobs in our society are you willing to do? We all have our own preferences for what we want to do for a living, doesn't mean we have to look down on people who do a job you find distasteful (unethical is another matter, of course, but as I said, I don't think consensual sex work is inherently unethical)

28 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Prostitutes aren't people in Westeros and Essos, they are objects to be used by the people who buy them.

Correct, and that's why I prefer the Summer Isles' approach. 

28 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

With Chataya and Alayaya the obvious problem is that her brothel is in KL and is thus subject to Westerosi laws and customs. Whores are scum, not honoring the gods. 

Yes, that's true, but the problem lies with Westeros, not the Summer Isles in that respect. And on Chataya for setting up shop on that continent.

8 minutes ago, SeanF said:

The problem is that there is a clear overlap, as @Lord Varyssays, between prostitution and sex trafficking in Kings Landing.  And, even where they are volunteers, they are plainly treated with contempt.  Whores are people you can rape, abuse, kill, with impunity, because they are the lowest of the low.

But, that level of protection does not exist in Kings Landing.  In the capital, Alayaya will always be viewed as scum, when Chataya has the money to provide a much better life for her daughter.  Madam of a brothel is the best Alayaya can hope for in life.

Right, but again, most of the blame for that scenario goes to Westeros and the people of Westeros for being so abusive to sex workers. I don't see how that makes the Summer Isles problematic in their own views on sex work and sex itself. 
That was the point of my post; I'm fully aware that Westeros and Essos have deeply problematic practices regarding sex work. The Summer Isles, at least for me, stand as a much more progressive and admirable approach in comparison. I've heard complaints that the Summer Isles invoke old racist portrayals of 'exotic' cultures, and I was wondering how true that actually is. Because it seems to me that the Summer Isles are a positive portrayal, for the most part. They have a sophisticated culture, from what I can tell, they're renowned sailors and archers, they don't practice slavery (anymore), and they're miles ahead of other cultures in terms of positive attitudes towards sex.

Edited by Canon Claude
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