Whore Next Door: The Jesus and Mary Kink

I was never forced to go to church or to read the Bible — and I feel like I missed out.

From the research I've done, Catholics make great lovers. Perhaps the built-up guilt and shame — combined with years of kneeling while gazing at a nearly naked dude in bondage — does something to the sexual psyche that simply cannot be replicated, no matter how many kink conferences I attend.

Moreover, the Good Book is full of insight into ancient humanity, especially in regards to sex work. The Bible is full of bad ass whores, and in Chester Brown's latest work, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, Biblical portrayals of prostitution and religious obedience are examined via graphic novel.

Until last Thursday, Brown had existed to me only as a bespectacled line drawing inside a series of black and white cartoon panels from his earlier graphic novel, Paying For It, which chronicled his experiences as a patron of sex workers. I was setting up microphones inside Green Apple Books on 9th Avenue in the Sunset when I recognized him immediately, though I'd never seen a photo (just like it is when I meet a client for the first time.) His hair was longer than in his drawings and he wasn't wearing glasses, but his cartoon rendition of himself had captured his essence so accurately I embraced him like an old friend, though we were still very much strangers.

Luckily, he didn't seem too put off by my intense enthusiasm for him and his work as I interviewed him in front of a small audience of fans.

The evening began with a slideshow of some of the Bible story cartoons featured in his new book, where disobedience and free thinking are rewarded and endorsed by the Judeo-Christian God, leading the reader to conclude that perhaps, as Brown said in the interview, “Disobedience can be a better approach to one's spiritual life.”

Brown grew up going to church every Sunday with his family. He's read the Bible a bunch, supplemented by tons of scholarly texts on the scriptures.

He is also is a client of sex workers. Well — just one, currently. He's been monogamous with her for over 13 years, but in his previous book, Brown invited readers along for the ride as he discovers the ins and outs (puns in this column are always intended) of paying for sex. Brown is from Canada, where selling sex is legal, but buying it is now criminalized.

Though the subject matter of his work is of course sexual, intercourse isn't the main event. The sex acts in Brown's comics take a backseat to the intellectual investigation of the quandaries posed, such as: “Why is sex work illegal?” “Did Jesus approve of prostitution?” “Does God want us to obey him?” “Was Jesus's mother a prostitute?”

Based on the findings of several modern day Biblical scholars such as Yoram Hazony and Jane Schaberg, Brown theorizes there is Biblical evidence suggesting Jesus's mother may have indeed been a sex worker. He cites Mark 6:3 and John 8:41 as evidence as well the genealogy of Jesus put forth in the Book of Matthew, which includes five women who were either prostitutes, or involved in some kind of sexual impropriety.

Though it may be blasphemy to suggest the Virgin was a whore, based on the very little I know about women's options during Jesus's time, it's hard to imagine a woman of meager means like Mary wouldn't have been doing some kind of survival sex work.

Brown's matter-of-fact presentation of these huge theological questions is not only accessible, but truly enjoyable to continue mulling long after the book's ironic conclusion.

“The roots of our culture's whore-phobia are in the Bible,” he states in the afterword.

As an enthusiastic patron of the sex industry, Brown admits he is of course biased. But he was also keen to remind me: “The Bible doesn't clearly say one thing or the other.”

Brown simply thinks that some writers of the Bible valued obedience and piety, while others valued life, love, and free thinking — not so different from today's world of Westboro Baptists preaching fire and brimstone, while sex-positive Christians write op eds for XOJane.

Perhaps, after thousands of years of rereading the same book, we can conclude that not too much has changed, but maybe at the very least we can begin to shine more light on the importance sex workers may have played in the founding of the world's largest religion.

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