August was a difficult month that saw very little time for writing. The beginning of the month started off slowly with mixing administrative duties along with squeaking in a few hours here and there to get some writing done.
At the time, I hadn’t had it in my head of the things I needed to do later in the month. I was working on my next release, which is a story in my greater Hadrian Empire works, but I was also working on this website and several formatting details for my kindle books.
And then, I received an email. An event I’ve exhibited at yearly for the past 8 or 9 years had been canceled, but an online version was set to go on the last weekend of August. I had known this was coming, but with everything going on, I’d forgotten about everything I needed to do to prepare for it. And it was a lot.
For my other work, I craft things, and sadly I’d neglected my online store. It took two weeks of fourteen-hour workdays to make, photograph, and list everything I made to not only prepare for the event but also to update my store. It was a huge undertaking, and I didn’t have any extra time to write through all of it, which means I’ve not been able to work on my next release.
However, over the weekend (admittedly double-timing the event), I worked on a few short projects. The first was the speculative article on Mary Ann Nichols and was followed by two more biographies on characters in Cavern of the Writhing Floor. They will be the final post-release additions to the story. The first will be a biography on the Old Soldier, one of the antagonists to Kelsie Copper. The second will be the story behind Queen Aterkarina and the Burrowing Queen Slug.
Since these are finished, I can say that the Old Solider Biography will be released on September 5th, and the Queen Aterkarina Biography will be released on October 3rd.
From what I’ve read, it’s not known as to why she started drinking heavily. However, we can speculate as to possible reasons based on what we know of her and her environment. They weren’t well to do, having to live with Mary’s father for some years. As a woman, Mary was unable to own property or control any finances, or even have a bank account unless her husband was involved, so she had very little recourse if her husband were to cheat on her or abuse her.
They also had five children together. Keep in mind that in that era, one in 200 women died during childbirth. Even today, people who live in poverty, especially among women of color, face a much higher mortality rate in childbirth than those with more resources.
Pregnancy and childbirth are not easy on the body, and she could’ve had injuries and infections that may not have healed well. It wasn’t until the 1870’s that surgeons began washing their hands, so the conditions she may have given birth in were nothing like what we’d see today.
I could see very well why a woman might start drinking to cope with so many children, possible pain and injury from pregnancy and childbirth, and a husband that may have cheated on her.
After they separated, she worked different types of cleaning oriented jobs, because there were so few options for women to work in that age, even if she’d had much of an education. She was also a sex worker to earn money, which in of itself can be very difficult to cope with and lead to a heavier dependency on alcohol.
Sex work, even today, is seen as shameful, even though there has likely never been a time when its so common place with the tens of thousands of women who rely on different forms of sex work to either fully or partially support them financially. From women who sell nude photos of themselves on snapchat to cam models, the porn industry, all the way to full service sex work.
Along with society demonizing sex work, despite the vulnerable nature of the people who do it, they have almost zero protection. If a client becomes violent with you, you can’t go to the police. They’re more likely to arrest you, prosecute you, and put you in jail than to care what a man might’ve done to them. Making sex work illegal means you have to choose between safety and making enough money to live.
Even within the legal forms of sex work, the prejudices are very sexist to ridiculous levels. There was a case where a woman teacher had previously modeled underwear, and she was fired from her position teaching children. Similarly, elsewhere, a male teacher was found to have been an underwear model, and he was praised for being so handsome.
Police have repeatedly shown that they’ll rape sex workers in exchange for not pressing charges, and some police have been found to be running prostitution rings, exploiting vulnerable women. The police know they have power over these people and aren’t afraid to use it.
Mary Ann Nichols died 31 August 1888. She’s thought to be the first victim of the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.
To this day, sex workers face violence and death, but all society seems capable of doing is making it less and less safe, to where there is nowhere for them to turn should things go badly. And should they try to find more societally acceptable work, their past could ruin their chances. And yet, for many, sex work is the only way for them to survive.
When, as writers, we include sex workers as characters, and especially if we make them victims, it’s important to portray them as human. I don’t believe that every sex worker needs to be portrayed in a positive light, but it’s important to not demonize them for being sex workers.
I’ve included sex workers a lot in my stories. I’ve been a sex worker for nearly ten years in the realm of BDSM, so it’s an area I’m familiar with. I’ve known sex workers who are really awful people, I’ve known some who are wonderful people, and most I’ve known fall somewhere in between because they’re human. We’re all human. We all have faults, skills, make mistakes, and show varying levels of compassion to others.
In Kindly Mrs. Roberts, I’ve portrayed a 1940’s housewife who needs to make money to assist her family financially. It’s a type of work she’s skilled at and enjoys, but this doesn’t make her a bad person.
In 8mm Model and Desperate for Divorce, I’ve portrayed a woman who became a sex worker because it opened up more avenues for financial security than fashion modeling did. In The Exchange, I portray a woman who became a sex worker to earn money for her family, so her more domestic husband could stay at home and raise their children. It gave them the ability to focus on what they were good at rather than be forced into a situation neither would have enjoyed.
In Fear of a Successor Wife, I’ve portrayed several women who are or were sex workers with different experiences in that work. I’ve included a chapter devoted to one character’s beautiful sexual experience with a client. I’ve also included another character who struggles with the trauma she faced at having to endure it to survive while growing up.
Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a sex worker, whether it’s by choice or survival, or whether it’s enjoyed or endured. As writers, we need to express the diversity of experiences of people. And if you have only ever included sex workers as sex objects rather than characters, or have only included them as victims, perhaps examine why it is you do this. Whether it's simply easy to do or having some prejudices you weren’t previously aware of. Self reflecting isn’t a bad thing. Knowing you have them and knowing why we feel something can be helpful when writing, because it helps us to understand others.
If you were to write Mary Ann Nichols as a character in your stories, how would you portray her? What challenges would she have faced? What path would have lead her to where she appears? How would you develop her story?
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