“A woman should not be so cheap”. The Prostitute as a Constructed Other in Estonian Post-Soviet Life Stories


  • Riikka Taavetti University of Helsinki



Post-socialism, sexuality, prostitution, Estonia


This article discusses the construction of the female prostitute figure in Estonian life stories on love and sexuality that were collected in 1996. As prostitution was mentioned in the questions posed in the call for writings, more than half of the 61 respondents discussed their attitudes as well as experiences concerning prostitution. The writers portray prostitution as a stable phenomenon that is needed in society; one that cannot be eradicated but should be controlled. Additionally, prostitution is connected to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and particularly to AIDS. The image of prostitution constructed in the writings carries ethicised meanings as it is exoticised as well as portrayed as something inherently Estonian. The main point in this article is that the figure of the female prostitute was constructed as an ‘other’ in the life stories, a sexual outsider who is needed in the society but who is nonetheless perceived as essentially different from the writers themselves. The contributors used this othering in their writing to construct their selves as well as the concept of acceptable heterosexuality.

This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing on August 17th 2016, and published on August 28th 2017.

Author Biography

Riikka Taavetti, University of Helsinki

Riikka Taavetti received her Master of Arts in archival science from the University of Jyväskylä and a Master of Social Sciences from the University of Helsinki, where she is currently a doctoral candidate in political history at the Department of Political and Economic Studies. The topic of her dissertation is queer memory, archives and life stories in Finland and Estonia. Her most recent publications address queer Archives [“A Marshall in Love. Remembering and Forgetting Queer Pasts in the Finnish Archives.” Archival Science 16 (2016): DOI 10.1007/s10502-015-9251-7 , 289–307] and queer youth life stories [“Reflecting the Queer Me. Memories of Finnish Queer youth From the 1950s Onwards.” Lambda Nordica 3-4 (2016)]. She is associated with the LivingMemories research project (, which focuses on diverse identities and shared experiences of traumatic memories in six European societies.