Belle de Jour: romanticizing prostitution

Belle de Jour posterProstitution is the oldest job in the world and also one of the biggest topics in cinema. Many directors approach it from several different perspectives, usually sexualizing the women’s body. The director Luis Buñuel explored this matter from a different angle in Belle de Jour (1967).

The actress Catherine Deneuve gives life to the character Séverine; a wealthy housewife bored with her sex life. Throughout the film, she fantasizes a kinky sex life with her husband and other men, which shows a heavy contrast with the reality. Her husband is a sweet man but he is too nice to fulfill her fantasies and pleasure. The character achieves her desires by joining a brothel during the afternoon, where Belle de Jour – her prostitute name – is born.

Even though this character is sexualized during the film, it is done in a way that is right for the atmosphere that Buñuel creates. He shows the story of a woman that finally finds a way to be herself and to accomplish all of her sexual desires. While it is common to join prostitution for money, she does it because it arouses her. In addition, this life choice has an impact on the character’s development. In the beginning, she is an innocent polite person, but by the end, she is confident and only follows her own rules.

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Luis Buñuel on the set of “Belle de Jour”

In Belle de Jour, prostitution is romanticized. It is seen from a perspective that does not exploit women’s sexuality but instead features the way they find to achieve their inner desires. Usually, there is an assumption that prostitutes are objects to satisfy men’s desires. However, Buñuel challenges this idea and shows that it is possible that prostitutes might be the ones using men to please themselves.

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Luis Buñuel and Catherine Deneuve

While men are usually in power, this film comes to the women’s defense to show that women can be in power as well. Belle de Jour puts men and women at the same level, where both can have their own fantasies and be in charge of their decisions.

Throughout the years, women have been fighting for their own rights and against the discrimination and inequality when it comes to men’s empowerment. It is fascinating to see a man – Buñuel – create a movie in ’67 from a feminist perspective, where the main character, by the end, is the winner. Even though women already share some equal rights with men, it is still a long battle and Buñuel shows with this film that men and women are equal from a sexuality perspective – they both have desires and while men use prostitutes for pleasure, prostitutes can also use men.

The paper Prostitution Policy: Legalization, Decriminalization and the Nordic Model, 2015 Seattle Journal for Social Justice, discusses the different women’s positions in prostitution and the way society looks at it. It explains the controversies of this profession, as well as the different arguments about whether it should be legalized or not.

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Catherine Deneuve and Jean Sorel

After watching Belle de Jour and reading Prostitution Policy, it is impossible not to reflect on this topic. Prostitution is a profession that will never stop existing and, even though it can be an exploitation of the women’s sexuality and seen by some as an insult to someone’s dignity, it is essential to try to understand it from the prostitute’s perspective.

This profession is the woman’s choice and she should be respected for her decision. Whether it is legalized or not, it should be considered support when it comes to their health, considering this is a job that can have a significant impact when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases. Also, it is important to keep in mind that prostitution is not only about men but also about women that should not be objectified.

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