Roxanne

The Soviet Union doesn’t want you to put on that red light. The Soviet Union doesn’t want you to put that dress on tonight.

The real version

In the mid 1980’s, there was a spike in prostitution and freedom with body expression. The women of the USSR did so in the name of ‘glasnost’ and put forth a sentiment of ‘openness and transparency’. This is not necessarily what Gorbachev had in mind when he was created ‘glasnost’, which was the policy or practice of more open consultative government and wider dissemination of information, but women saw an opportunity and took it.

There was a strong backlash to the ladies of the night and their forthcoming with their career choices. In fact, they pushed back by criminalizing anything that could remotely be related to prostitution. “Where do we draw the line between flirtation over an expensive dinner in a restaurant and love for sale, between the innocent encounter and the criminal act?” USSR government wanted to quench the free body movement as fast as they possibly could. But what they slowly started to realize was that they were locking up some of the brightest girls the newest generation had to offer. Last semester I read a book written by someone who collected all of the stories of various criminals, including prostitutes, and these women were quick with quips about clients and their professions. My favorite quote was from one woman who said,

“Many guys come just to talk. We need to raise the fees for chats. Our brains are worth more.”

Many of these women were aware of the consequences of their actions. They just didn’t care because this was a part of their lives that they just used to financially support themselves to the next chapter. The rest used their bodies as an act of rebellion because they knew that they would be tried, but there would be no repercussions for the male involved. Women saw this as a challenge to push the system to its limits.

“Down with shame!”

I found this topic overall very interesting because it’s more taboo so not many people talk about sex workers. In fact, at the time, USSR borrowed the word “sex” from English when discussing prostitution because it was too taboo to discuss in Russian. These women’s stories do not get the limelight because of image issues, so I wanted to provide a judgment free space to discuss such subjects. In actuality, these women are working for a paycheck to bolster themselves for years to come.

Sources

11 thoughts on “Roxanne

  1. Annika, what a great topic to pick! It’s super important to talk about sex workers since, as you pointed out, society so often sees their trade as taboo and illegal. That quote about raising fees for chats is so great, that sounds like an awesome book!

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    1. Agree with Emma 100%! Also, have you seen Interdevochka? (there’s a still from it in the image gallery for the 17M module you used.) It’s pretty powerful — about sex work, adolescence, social decay — it made a huge stir in the Soviet Union when it came out.

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    2. Thank you! I’m trying to remember the name of it, because we read it in my Russian Culture and Civilization class last semester, but I only have pictures of the pages I really liked and wanted to remember.

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  2. Great post, Annika! I really enjoyed reading about this topic and you’re right in saying that it is not talked about or acknowledged enough because of how it is considered taboo. I think it is very important to shed light on the topic and show both sides of the story in showing how intelligent and quick witted a lot of these women were.

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  3. This was a really great post! Its so interesting that they used English to talk about it in some cases because it was so taboo. The image you picked is also really powerful and I think it was a really good addition.

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  4. I really enjoyed your title! It is absolutely applicable. I can not believe that a word for sex in reference to prostitution had to be borrowed from English because it is so taboo. The image you chose is very powerful and sends a powerful message. I think it is important to realize that this is the oldest profession. It seems that the Soviet Union severely over reacted and to the point flirting during a meal can be considered prostitution. It is not surprising that woman wanted to push the boundaries of Soviet society.

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  5. I found your post very interesting! I wrote about the same topic, but I really liked the quote you used. I think it really shows how taboo sex was in the Soviet Union at this time! I was shocked when I read that there wasn’t a word for sex.

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