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Eleven Minutes: An Insight Into Prostitution & Toxic Masculinity

On reading ‘Eleven Minutes' by Paulo Coelho, I could not help but ponder over the complexities governing the ideas of intimacy, sexual desires, and facets of genderism in the modern world.

This brilliant read brings forth the story of a young, smart, and independent woman who decides to choose prostitution as a profession to fulfill her longings. Disappointed by men, she starts projecting love as something that merely offers suffering and dejection. However, even though she conditions herself to give her body to strangers on lonely nights without getting attached, deep down, her affectionate side keeps calling her back. She can’t own her body anymore, but she owns her soul and keeps it safe from animalistic predators. In her long lost subconscious, she preserves her soul for that one person who would help her escape this miserable profession. Until she meets an artist who himself is clueless about what he wants from life, she struggles with the constant dilemma of not doing justice to the purpose and meaning of life. Surrounded by societal norms, biased gender prejudices, and extrinsic pressure, he struggles to not give in to the engulfing hole of toxic masculinity. Simultaneously, somewhere along the journey into her soul, on the path of self-discovery and just before she is blinded by the power of her ‘inner light,' she finds herself.

The book talks about how the misogynistic spheres of society condition men to believe that their capability as a man is defined by their superiority and sexual control over women. The pressure of proving oneself as a man fuels the creation of sexual predators in a patriarchal system. They are made to believe that all they want is sex and animalistic intimacy, and when they accept it, society blames them for turning into what it has conditioned them to be.

Having gotten the chance to read about Paulo’s views on intimacy, sexualism, spiritual longings, and philosophical orientations, certain things that have stayed with me even after years of reading the book. I will make an honest attempt to demonstrate them through this article!

Perceptions surrounding prostitution are directly or indirectly based on culturally determined values that are subjective- they differ between societies. While in some cultures it is viewed as a respectable means to earn a livelihood, in others it is seen through a sinful lens, dripping with shame and disgrace.

The sacredness of prostitution is a concept that most of us have never even thought of, let alone read about. As peculiar as it might sound to a certain group of people, being a mistress or a prostitute was considered to be a noble art of showcasing talent, skill, and wit. In the early ages, sexual intercourse performed in the name of prostitution was granted the context of religious worship, perhaps as a form of fertility rite. In the ancient city of Corinth, the temple of goddess Aphrodite employed a large number of female adulteresses and prostitutes who were viewed as holy women during classical antiquity.

Prostitution is a profession and it must be viewed as respectfully as other jobs are projected. While the darkness of the trade cannot be ignored, women also choose to become prostitutes to explore their sexuality, embark on sexual adventures with different men, live out their fantasies, and satisfy their fetishes. Sometimes, it is a gateway to experiencing intimacy in a diversified form. Sadly, over the years, prostitution has transformed from a choice, into a coercive activity. Thousands of females are pushed into sex work owing to their financial instabilities and household pressures. This has taken away the essence of viewing or experiencing prostitution as an art.

Today, the plight of prostitutes in the Middle-East and Asian countries stands more pitiable than ever before. Females are either misguided into joining prostitution, or forcibly trafficked and bullied into working as a sex worker. They are kept in unsafe, unhygienic, dungeon-like places with no access to emotional, psychological, and medical support. Even after relentlessly working for prolonged hours like a machine, they are not paid appropriately. Instead, they are sexually abused, beaten up, and emotionally drained into selling their bodies without their consent. Corrupt dealers forcibly make young, uneducated females sign contracts which they hold no knowledge of, whatsoever.

These clueless women work day and night till they are older. Once they reach a certain age, they are disowned by the traffickers because apparently, ‘they lose their essence of seduction and ability to provide men with the pleasure they desire’. These hapless, unemployed women are left with no choice but to work somewhere else at lesser prices or for free to survive because, in most scenarios, they have no family to go to.

It saddens me to think how these women do not get the chance to see the world outside cramped brothels. It saddens me to see the stigma we attach to them. It saddens me to hear stories about women being harassed, abused, and turned away by the authorities. It saddens me to see that that they are denied even a legal identity in many cases. That they are denied the opportunity to meet people, fall in love, rewrite their paths, and create a life of their own.

Imagine having to go through the physical, emotional, and psychological trauma associated with forcibly losing autonomy over your body to abusive men who are complete strangers. Just imagine. Does it shudder you to your core too?

Muskaan Balhara

Delhi South '22

Muskaan Balhara is currently pursuing an English major in Literature. She is mostly seen capturing sunsets and talking about absurd philosophies. She loves writing and prefers dogs over humans.
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