[Editor’s Note: Charlotte Rodgers participated in Ron Athey’s “Gifts of the Spirit,” a large-scale performance exploring automatic writing, of which we featured here.]
Opting to take the form of an alphabetized primer instead of a chronological memoir, P is for Prostitution covers roughly 30 tumultuous years of author Charlotte Rodgers’ life. Its simplicity smartly frames events truer to the process of memory than traditional memoirs, granting Rodgers the ability to effortlessly jump from subjects like drug rehab to Santa Claus, all whilst decorated with illustrations by Ruth Ramsden.
Rodgers takes on an objective standpoint; she acknowledges both high and low points with equal prowess, moving from melancholy states to ecstatic ones with the skill of a seamstress. P is for Prostitution is as fearless as the life Rodgers is recalling and comes as a liberating move for the author rather than a narcissistic one. Rodgers does not wallow in the pits of self-loathing, dwell on injustice, nor preach against the follies of her youth. Instead, her celebratory approach encourages an openness for the totality of experience. Music, drugs, sex, and social expectations are documented first-hand from New Zealand to Hong Kong from the ’70s through the ’90s. Her pre-internet insight on various countries gives us a fascinating historical perspective on counter-culture and how those individuals navigated the worlds around them.
Why write a life’s review at this point?
I’ve always relied on a creative outlet of sorts; for years my writing tended to be more essay or article format, generally exploring experiential, magickal praxis’ and trance work. My primary outlet though was my 3D artwork which I created from bones and roadkill; I felt I could free flow into this artwork, as I wasn’t limited by the sometimes constrictive construct of structured language. Six years ago or so I had my mind blasted away by interferon to treat Hep C, and as I had worked with blood in my art and magick for years, I became fascinated by the idea of contaminated or tainted blood and how it affected spiritually directed art work. Thus I wrote The Bloody Sacrifice, soon followed by an anthology I put together, A Contemporary Western Book of the Dead, inspired and precipitated by the death of my mother. The ‘Modern Primer’ was the final part of an informal Trilogy; tidying up the loose ends, putting my dead and my past to rest. Of course, it could also be a standard rite of passage that happens midlife, where one sums up and accesses the past, to prep for the future. Midlife crisis is such a nasty term, isn’t it?
I feel like the world has quite changed; everything from surveillance, internet culture, drug culture, to our economy has rendered some of your experiences unfeasible today.
I could go on for hours about the differences between my era, and this one! Hakim Bey was pretty clear that the internet didn’t provide the freedom of information that it initially promised to be. My era was similar to this one in a general feeling of an imminent ending; a darkness and constrictive feeling that promotes a frantic edge. I think it was easier for me to burn bright, party hard and come back from the edge than it is now. I also believe that I had more freedom to find and express my individuality. Trends, looks, roles, were not so defining. The same names… like Burroughs, Crowley, Manson, and Gen P-Orridge are still being thrown around by young looking for their place and kin. Bulimia, addiction, self-harm. All still relevant, although more analyzed (what you focus on expands?) and more widely adapted as part of young lives. The drug culture has become even more of a money culture. Crack changed the drug scene a lot, brought in a greater element of violence, and made a user’s life much more dangerous and shorter.
How did the grotesque, chaotic, and lovely illustrations by Ruth Ramsden come to be?
I had a copy of Mark and Ruth Ramsden’s wonderful Dark Tantra Tarot and after reviewing some of Mark’s books, I had been in occasional contact with them. I loved Ruth’s art and when I showed her the draft for my book, she was not only enthusiastic about collaborating on it, but also understood me completely. “I see yellow and spikiness,” I think was one of my obscure directives!
Was writing this a cathartic experience? Do you have any particular hope for what readers (and new generations) get out of it?
Writing this book has freed me. I am writing fiction now which is a joy, like flying free after all the pits and troughs I’ve been staggering in and out of whilst writing about my own sexdeathbloodpain journey. Basically this is a personal take of finding my place and my kin and my self. I’ve had people thank me for writing it; people who were also in the sex industry (not a rare thing at all), or who had habits, or eating disorders, or cut themselves. It often isn’t the acts that destroy people, it is the guilt and shame that society places on them for participating in said acts. If just a few people relate or get some hope, or humor, or relief, I did something right. I know that I did right by writing this for myself, and all those I loved who didn’t make it.
P IS FOR PROSTITUTION – An Exclusive with Writer Charlotte Rodgers
by JC Gonzo