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PRETTY BABY by Chris  Belcher Kirkus Star


A Memoir

by Chris Belcher

Pub Date: July 12th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-982175-82-5
Publisher: Avid Reader Press

A professor of writing and gender studies reflects on the life path that led her into part-time sex work as a professional dominatrix.

Belcher grew up in a working-class West Virginia town where secrets—like her queerness—“burn through [the community]…like a match dropped in a dry October cornfield.” Aware from age 10 that she was gay, Belcher plunged into adolescence determined to lose her virginity to a boy because she believed “there was some kind of power girls got from fucking.” Her social persona as a high school cheerleader seemed to conform to stereotypes of femininity, but Belcher quickly realized that heterosexual sex empowered men rather than women. A college relationship with a bisexual woman inadvertently introduced Belcher to sex work. In the guise of a gay male, the author later enticed a queer man she met online to visit her for a tryst in a campus bathroom, reveling in the pleasure that control over men gave her. Belcher felt the same “rush” several years later in graduate school. A financially strapped humanities doctoral student in Los Angeles, she followed her lesbian lover’s lead and became a professional dominatrix. Suddenly, the queerness that had made her feel like an outsider became a source of personal power. “My clientele wanted a woman who would never want them in return,” she writes, “and at that, I excelled.” But while sex work paid the bills her university work did not, it also left the author vulnerable, not only to expulsion from the “safe” middle-class world of academia, but also to the vagaries of male violence. As it explores issues of class, gender, and sexuality, this refreshingly bold, boundary-breaking book reveals that no matter how formidable a woman is, she is still subject to the ever present threat of patriarchal brutality. “I knew that female supremacy was manufactured in the dungeon,” writes Belcher. “Still, when I was in there, it did sometimes feel good to say no.”

A provocatively lucid, impressively rendered memoir.