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Bellocq’s Ophelia

Bellocq’s Ophelia was a beautiful yet grim portrayal of the life of a sex worker. There are many preconceived notions of sex workers in society, and I believe many of these notions are through the eyes of men that have been passed. Throughout the poems in Bellocq’s Ophelia, we see how Ophelia is constantly objectified. She is objectified by her profession and her body, including her skin tone. Two such lines that really struck me was in Countess P-‘s Advice for New Girls, “For our customers you must learn to be watched. Empty your thoughts- think, if you do, only of your swelling purse,” and then, “Think of yourself as molten glass- expand and quiver beneath the weight of his breath.” These two lines show how a sex worker should not think and how, when working, they are to be supple to a man and his wants and desires. Bellocq’s Ophelia is written through the eyes of Ophelia and her observations, yet, what is ironic, is the fact that the book is observing her through these pictures that capture the beauty of her and her life. We observe the objectification she is put through and how being a sex worker affects her. We see how the profession of a sex worker is not always black and white like we may have thought. So often when we hear sex worker and then are shown a picture, that is all that is able to be seen. However, in Bellocq’s Ophelia, we are able to see without hearing sex worker and that is what makes it beautiful.

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