Created By: Xzenu on June 17, 2012 Last Edited By: Xzenu on June 18, 2012

Nobles Are Prostitutes

Nobility is a thin facade over the unsavory and indecent social reality

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Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples


We are such similar creatures, you and I...
We both screw people for money.
--''Edward the industrial tycoon, Pretty Woman

Sex-workers are sometimes seen as the lowest of the low, willing to debase themselves to any length. But if this is why we don't respect prostitutes, the why do we respect the nobility? Because of their glorious, honorable and wholesome facade? Beneath all the bullshit, isn't it really the same thing?

Depending on the setting, "nobles" may refer to for example feudal aristocracy or the upper crust of global finance. In either case, this trope tends to pop up on the cynical side of Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. The person who brings up this trope is usually a noble, and a rather sad and disillusioned one at that.

The nobles can even be seen as being more depraved than the supposedly lowly whores: They have the power, yet they will sell out every one of their supposed principles for the smallest objective. Or the principles themselves may be nothing more than weak justifications for the abuse and self-abuse.

Besides deserving more scorn, the nobles may also deserve more pity. While regular prostitution may or may not be relatively unproblematic, the ladies of nobility have a much smaller chance of getting to chose their clients or in what way they have to sell themselves this time. This often takes the form of Arranged Marriage (often without any chance of Child Marriage Veto), Sex for Services (often political services) or some form of I Did What I Had to Do. The latter does not have to have any sexual component for a character to bring up this trope.

This is not about sex. It is about the idea that sex-workers sell themselves, screw people for money/favors, and so on, while being generally lowly & dirty. And the idea that the same applies to the supposedly glorious & honorable elite. As such, this is mostly a rather dark subtrope of Not So Different.

See also Deadly Decadent Court, Sex for Services, Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny. Contrast Unproblematic Prostitution, where a character may be royalty as well as a sex-worker without actually being this trope.

Note that this trope is about how the lives of nobles are being portrayed. Like other tropes that depend on a character or narrative to cast the scene in a certain light: No Real Life Examples, Please!.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • In Whatever Love Means, it is stated that all women in a patriarchal society are forced to be whores. The reason why whores-in-the-traditional-sense are so scorned is that they drive down the market value of the "respectable" women.

Film
  • In Pretty Woman, Edward has for a long time been growing more and more resentful about his work as a business tycoon. As he explain to his street prostitute friend Vivian that his job is to do hostile takeovers on other companies in order to break them up ad sell the pieces, she respond that it is just like stealing cars and sell the parts. He meekly defend himself with asserting that his job is technically legal. Moving on to discuss her own job as a prostitute, she explain that it is all about going through the motions of love like an emotionless robot while pretending to like it. His response: We are such similar creatures, you and I. We both screw people for money.
  • In Sara Dane, a lady is chocked to learn that the protagonist has gained social status by funding one of the Governor's projects - angrily dismissing this as Sara having bought her position in society for money. An older and wiser lady replies: "My dear, all social status is bought, in one way or another".

Live-Action TV
  • In Game of Thrones, the deeply unhappy and chronically depressed queen Cersei bring this up from time to time. She ragefully compare shipping off her daughter to an Arranged Marriage with pimping her out for street prostitution. Later she holds a long drunken rant about how noble women often get no other choice than to sell themselves sexually to whatever man happens to be victorious in battle. That a noble woman's primary bargaining chip is between her legs.
    • It has previously been shown that she have personal reason to e envious of regular whores: As a young queen, she was deeply in love with her husband the king - but he scorned her in favor of the endless supply of young women supplied by the local brothel.
    • It should also be noted that Cersei normally maintains a polite facade of righteous and glorious nobility. Her outbursts about how it's really no better than prostitution


Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples

Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    Hmm, any Chick Tract got this? They get close, with their visions of a fallen world, but the ones I remember are just "decadent elite AND whores", not "decadent elite ARE whores".
  • June 17, 2012
    TheHandle
    Perhaps the reason why vampires are so often represented as The Beautiful Elite.
  • June 17, 2012
    Huo
    Whore sounds too gender specific and sexualized.

    For example the common trope of a king must love too is a major theme discussed in the Three Musketeers where the King at times is like a gigolo, at times a regretful lover and at times someone who has to give up their love for politics.

    Mind you there are also whores as nobles in that but you'd have to examine it beyond the whores to get away from it as the nobility themselves pays a sharp contrast from nobles as cuckold vs. nobles as whores. Basically those who are more in power are less whore-ish than those who aren't. As viewed by the more powerful nobles of course.
  • June 17, 2012
    Duncan
    In Paula Vogel's Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, which is a Distaff Deconstruction of Othello, there is much discussion of class stratification between Desdemona, her maid Emilia, and the whore Bianca (the only characters in the play). Desdemona is spending her free time working in the whorehouse with Bianca because she's bored with all her privilege.
  • June 17, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I think the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire example needs a major rewrite (moreso than what I already added). Seeing as there is no mention whatsoever of Cersei being manipulative bitch who uses sex to further her schemes, and the closest thing to a true lover she has is her own twin brother, who is also the biological father of all three of her children (rather than her much loathed husband)
  • June 17, 2012
    TheHandle
    Or, well, basically everything House Tyrell does.
  • June 17, 2012
    aurora369
    The reverse, "whores are nobles", is true in Firefly, regarding the Companions. Not so for the regular kind of hookers, though.
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    @Huo: Roger that. As I wrote my first draft, I was choosing between "whores" and "prostitutes". I went with the former because it was more derogatory, which fit this trope. I didn't think of the gender issue. I have heard many times about male sex-workers and male prostitutes, but never about male whores. So okay, prostitutes it is. This trope is not Always Female, although there are probably more female than male examples.
  • June 17, 2012
    bigJoe
    It would be slut not whore whores do it for money sluts do it for the hell of it
  • June 17, 2012
    bigJoe
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    @Duncan: While I'm sure that the phrase "there is much discussion of class stratification" has a valid example under it, your description doesn't bring this to light.

    A noble working in a whorehouse just for fun is Unproblematic Prostitution, not this trope.

    I did consider naming this trope "Nobility Is Prostitution", but I decided that it had a higher risk of misinterpretations than the current name.
  • June 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The description still needs clarification. Does it have to do with sexual promiscuity of nobles at all, or specifically that they will have sex to achieve other ends, or do (other?) debasing things to achieve other ends? Or, does it mean nobles who are literal prostitutes, i.e. high-class hookers?
  • June 17, 2012
    LittleLizard
    Most tv series where nobility is involved showcase them as this. Think about it: Camelot, Rome, The Borgias, The Tudors, Game Of Thrones all show the noble world full of sex more than their poor counterparts. Though that may have something to do that all of them are on cable channels, high budget shows (and that real world works that way).
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    @zarpaulus: A Song Of Ice And Fire and Game Of Thrones may need entirely separate examples. For example, If the queen actively uses sex to further her schemes in the novels. In the television series, her sexual escapades are all about her being depressed, lonely, horny, and self-destructive. She talks about using sex as a bargaining chip, but she never actually do it.

    I the future, please add your suggestions in the thread, not in the description. YKTTW has no page history. :-/
  • June 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^Do they really show that they have more sex than their poor counterparts? Or do they not really show what poor people do at all.

    However, if the former, it makes some sense, since the nobles have a lot more time on their hands to have lots of sex.
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    @The Handle: Nobody in-universe consider the Tyrells to be lowly whores. On the contrary, they claim to be acting out of romantic true love. Yes, their devotion does seem a bit... convenient. Starting a trope about that now, calling it Love Or Prostitution

    @aurora369: Yah, and that inversion deserve it's own trope. Calling it Noble Courtesans
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    Trope description clarification incoming...

    @Nimmer Still & bigJoe: No, it's not about promiscuity, it doesn't even have to include sexual acts. It's about this notion:

    Not only do sex-workers sell themselves and screw people for money while being generally lowly & dirty... but hey, the same applies to the supposedly glorious & honorable elite!

  • June 17, 2012
    nathandoe2016
    A good trope name is Nymphomaniacal Nobles
  • June 17, 2012
    Xzenu
    @nathandoe2016; No, that would be for the concept that I have pointed out time and again that this trope is not about!

    The thing you are talking about is a valid trope, so take your name and start a new YKTTW thread for it if you care enough. :-)
  • June 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Ok, that's some clarification, but first two sentences are a little misleading. A reader might say "no difference? I guess nobles are having literal sex for money too then." I'm also not sure I like opening with the assumption, without comment, that everyone looks down on whores; yes, you do then say that maybe they're actually better, but it's still the first thing you see.

    I think the opener should call more attention to the metaphorical nature of the relation between the two. Something like (but more elaborate than) "Prostitues are often seen as willing to do the most debasing thing imaginable for money. Yet nobles, and other high-born and high-status people, are sometimes seen as even more depraved; they will sell out every one of their supposed principles for the smallest objective."
  • June 17, 2012
    jatay3
    In much of European history Courts had a sort of de facto concubinage in which the wife was for politics and The Mistress, who was for fun, almost had an official status.

    Slaves or servants in most countries were often raped, given "unusual pressure" or simply commanded to have sex with their master.
  • June 18, 2012
    Xzenu
    @Nimmer Still: Good idea. Done.
  • June 18, 2012
    theo
    Corrected some spelling and grammar in the article text. Wasn't originally convinced that this was a new trope, but having had a look around, it seems distinct enough from other tropes to pass.
  • June 18, 2012
    Fighteer
    I'm not excited about this. It seems like thinly veiled complaining -- less of a trope and more of a historical observation.
  • June 18, 2012
    Huo
    Not quite. Most of the authors who have used this trope rely on a more ignorant blind social norm stereotype version of nobility which in turn led to these works and as imitators mimic tropes, it got resurrected again this time being closer to a historical observation if only because new authors can't get away with just calling a king a pervert anymore.

    It's like how Shakespeare and whoever made the first popular version of Robin Hood and King Arthur bastardized or misportrayed the characters. At one point it was thinly veiled complaining of the present/non-distant history. Then it became just a common way to portray the flaws of those in ivory castles to create a more humane version of a class that authors rarely have the luxury to witness. Over time even the imitators who may understand the fine details behind each specific complaint ignore most of it for the sake of simply using it as a trope.
  • June 18, 2012
    Xzenu
    @Fighteer: The complaining is not supposed to be veiled, but it's supposed to be restricted to complaining done by characters. It shouldn't be used by tropers as an excuse for Complaining About Characters You Dont Like.

    Edit: I just added this paragraph:

    Note that this trope is about how the lives of nobles are being portrayed. Like other tropes that depend on a character or narrative to cast the scene in a certain light: No Real Life Examples Please.

  • June 18, 2012
    NimmerStill
    I like the new discription. (And not just because some of my text found its way in it!)
  • June 18, 2012
    Xzenu
    Thanks :-)
  • June 18, 2012
    Fighteer
    I'll say it again. This smells of an agenda. You are making historical observations while at the same time saying this is about the use of the trope in media. And you are well known to be biased in the matter. This will go into TRS within days of being launched and will probably get cut.
  • June 18, 2012
    Ghilz
    A) Not a fan of the title, since it's not about actual sex worker, and frankly, the description and the associated title is kinda insulting to actual sex workers.

    B) Description is terrible. Beside what Fighteer pointed out (Which I totally agree with), it's a rambling mess that never bothers to actually straight out tell us what the trope is. Instead it rambles on about the evil of prostitution and the evil of rich people / nobles.
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