Memoirist & Muse
I discovered Madeleine: An Autobiography on campus, scouring the shelves on behalf of a graduate-level linguistics paper for which I, a creative writing student, was wholly unprepared, when I spotted it amid myriad human sexuality titles.
The thick paperback’s cover was a deep, forest green with white and gold letterpress and a silvery old photograph of a plain but pretty young woman — all silk and fur and pearls. I took the book home and devoured it, the linguistics material — though interesting — sat for I’m sure several days too many in an untouched desktop stack.
Chapter after chapter, Madeleine* illustrates how erotic labor is bound to every other topic that matters: power, pleasure, identity, justice… What strikes me most is the narrator’s paramount argument against the conflation between consensual adult sex work and “white slavery” (now known as “sex trafficking”).**
Furthermore, her demonstration of the legitimacy of professional companionship as an option for the free-thinking and business-minded woman/femme in capitalistic patriarchal society — which of course stands in direct contradiction to timeless cautionary tales warning girls of an exploitative-by-design industry — well, it was enough to convince me.
Aspects of the narrator’s demeanor and biases convey a time when racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, and etc. pervaded the personal worldviews of many if not most European descendants living in North America. (I believe the narrator was born in the mid-to-late 1870s.)
Within the grace which I allow some of her unsavory prejudices are reminders of her inability to vote (1920) or sign for her own bank account (1960s) or acquire her own mortgage (1974). It is my wistful hope that, based on the book’s afterword, “Madeleine” was able to later in life shed the snobbish patina of respectability that so burdened her character with insensitivity and disdain.
I also hope you, the reader, are able to endure any eye-roll or cringe-worthy moments to extract meaning and inspiration from the narrator’s independent spirit, insatiable drive, and often radical vulnerability.
You can read Madeleine: An Autobiography adapted (annotations to come!) for the 21st century reader here, or in its original 1919 form here. If you are looking for additional reading on the topic, or have some titles to share, check out The Madeleine Archives for more!
Madeleine Blair, 2022
I’ve been dreaming of producing a Madeleine: An Autobiography audiobook: a collaborative aural performance that both entertains listeners with Madeleine’s story and makes her message available to a broader audience.
I don’t believe in asking anyone — especially adult entertainers — to work for free. Your Patreon contribution will go toward the talented performers and producers who will make this project a reality.
Interested in performing?
Are you a dulcet-toned siren with an interest in performance, literature, or public speaking? Please send me a message if you’d like to contribute your voice to this collaborative audiobook project. 33 parts available.
Sex workers only, please.
Madeleine Blair is an editor, memoirist, sex workers’ rights activist & professional companion based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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