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During a half attentive rewatch session, I realized that at least two times in public Lord Baelish claimed buying and/or selling prostitutes in public. One of them was during the tourney joust between Loras Tyrell and Gregor Clegane and the other one was in the scene where Ros is crying. The problem is that slavery is abolished in Westeros, so Baelish could not buy or sell any prostitutes.

I checked it in the books. The only line by Baelish is

“I wonder how I ought spend your money,” Littlefinger called down to Lord Renly.

So, he did not mention anything about buying prostitutes. Since Ros is a series only character, the second scene is definitely not in the book as well.

My questions are:

  1. Does Littlefinger ever buy and sell prostitutes in the books and exclaim it publicly?
  2. How does Littlefinger get away with buying and selling prostitutes in the show?
  • 9
    Prostitutes are not slaves. They are not technically 'bought' they are 'hired'. – Möoz Feb 15 '18 at 0:34
  • I don't think the scene with Ros was exactly "in public". – JAD Feb 15 '18 at 7:20
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    Maybe more like buying contracts? That is, the 'prostitutes' are not chattel slaves (owned), instead more like indentured servants. So they had some contract to work the contract holder for a certain term in exchange for something? Perhaps some kind of old-age retirement or something? – Zoredache Feb 15 '18 at 7:54
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    "Barcelona sold Neymar to PSG, how is it possible? slavery is abolished in rel life!". just because there is a contract to "buy" someone doesn't mean it's slavery – Kepotx Feb 15 '18 at 7:57
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    @Kepotx But if PSG decide Neymar was a "bad investment", they can't recoup their losses by selling some rich guy the rights to torture and kill him with a crossbow. On paper, it's hiring, but (as some characters note, in show and books) in reality it's not really. And, Neymar can refuse; the crying girl from Lys seemed to want to refuse but couldn't – user568458 Feb 15 '18 at 11:31
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There is one example where Littlefinger mentions buying "whores". Although that's closer to buying the establishment itself and keeping the prostitutes are employees.

"Chataya runs a choice establishment," Littlefinger said as they rode. "I've half a mind to buy it. Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else." Lord Petyr chuckled at his own wit.
Eddard IX, a Game of Thrones

Additionally, slavery being abolished is... dubious at best. There is at least one example of it, both in the show and in the books. At Harrenhal, the captives are set to work in the kitchens, smithy, and so forth. Seeing as this was definitely not paid work, and definitely forced work, one might call this slavery.

I wouldn't be surprised if there were more examples why Westeros might need some stricter workplace laws.

In a Dance with Dragons, Tyrion also notes that the workenvironment in some places in Westeros isn't much above slavery:

Tyrion did not dispute him. The most insidious thing about bondage was how easy it was to grow accustomed to it. The life of most slaves was not all that different from the life of a serving man at Casterly Rock, it seemed to him. True, some slaveowners and their overseers were brutal and cruel, but the same was true of some Westerosi lords and their stewards and bailiffs. Most of the Yunkai'i treated their chattels decently enough, so long as they did their jobs and caused no trouble … and this old man in his rusted collar, with his fierce loyalty to Lord Wobblecheeks, his owner, was not at all atypical.
Tyrion XI, a Dance with Dragons

Whether employing a prostitute and taking some (or most (or all)) of their income as her "pimp" counts as slavery depends a bit on the complete arrangement I'd say.

So "selling a whore" might just mean letting someone have a tumble in the sheets with her, in exchange for payment. Which I think is pretty much the business model.

From Littlefinger's point of view, buying a whore by paying up front, or buying a whore by paying them a wage might just feel the same: You're paying money one way or another, and expecting a return on investment. If they're not meeting expectation, it makes sense to cut those investments.

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    Do you think the noble Starks paid Osha for her work? Or is that one of the examples where they need stricter laws? – Jungkook Feb 15 '18 at 7:44
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    Your quote does not address the question: he's considering buying the business, not the people. – ApproachingDarknessFish Feb 15 '18 at 7:44
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    @Jorrit I think that definitely is an example. She is a prisoner, allowed freedom of the castle in exchange for work. Comparable to what happened at Harrenhal, but with less physical punishment I guess. – JAD Feb 15 '18 at 7:49
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    A prisoner doing work is not slavery. It might be a close example but it’s also something we do in the real world today. Prisoners go out and do community service. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 15 '18 at 7:54
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    @TheLethalCarrot - If, in the real world, prisoners can be compelled to engage in labor, that sure sounds like slavery to me. – Adamant Feb 15 '18 at 7:58
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How does Littlefinger get away with buying and selling prostitutes in the show?

He doesn't because he doesn't buy or sell them, he runs the brothels where the prostitutes work and get's a commission from them (probably a large amount). Let's look at what I believe you're referring to in your two examples.

The scene at the tourney joust goes like this.

Petyr Baelish: 100 gold dragons on the Mountain.
Renly Baratheon: I'll take that bet.
Petyr Baelish: Now what will I buy with 100 gold dragons? A dozen barrels of Dornish wine? Or a girl from the pleasure houses of Lys?1
Renly Baratheon: Or you could even buy a friend.2
...
Renly Baratheon: Such a shame, Littlefinger. It would have been so nice for you to have a friend.
Petyr Baelish: And tell me, Lord Renly, when will you be having your friend?3
Game of Thrones, Season 1 Episode 5, "The Wolf and the Lion"

I've marked the parts that could potentially refer to buying prostitutes and I'll explain why that isn't the case.

  1. Here Petyr is talking about using a prostitutes services for a given time, he does not mean buying one for keeps.
  2. Here Renly is saying Littlefinger has no friends and he could buy one, it isn't referring to prostitutes at all.
  3. Here Petyr is referring to the relationship between Renly and Ser Loras.

In the second example of Ros crying Petyr is likely talking about buying the contract for the girl or just hiring her into his brothel. If he is indeed on about straight slavery, well, there's only him and Ros in the room so no one can hear anyway. He says the following.

Petyr Baelish: You know, you remind me of another girl, a lovely thing I once acquired from a Lysene pleasure house.1 Beautiful, like yourself, and intelligent, like yourself. But she wasn't happy. She cried often. I asked her why, but we didn't have the kind of rapport that you and I have. Yes, it was quite sad. Girls from the Lysene pleasure houses are expensive, extremely expensive.2 And this one wasn't making me any money. I hate bad investments.3 Really, I do. They haunt me. I had no idea how to make her happy, no idea how to mitigate my losses. A very wealthy patron, he offered me a tremendous amount of money4 to let him transform this lovely, sad girl. To use her in ways that would never occur to most men. But you know what occurs to most men. I would not say he succeeded in making her happy, but my losses were definitely mitigated.5
Game of Thrones, Season 2 Episode 2, "The Night Lands"

When you take 1, 3 and 5 together in context with each other he's clearly talking about the investment with the girl and not necessarily purchasing her. He could have hired her from the Lysene pleasure house on a semi-permanent basis for all we know.

Number 2 is referring to that even renting whores from Lys is expensive, likely they are "good quality", and this makes more sense when you take it in context of the first quote from Petyr to Renly.

Lastly, 4 is referring to the wealthy patron hiring the prostitute from Petyr to perform certain services for him.

Note here though that Petyr is using the story to threaten Ros to do what he wants her to do, make him money, as such the story is not necessarily true. It's also worth pointing out that slavery is not abolished in Lys and so those in Westeros need not know where Petyr had got the girl from.

"Slaves," he said. "My holds are full to bursting with ivory, ambergris, zorse hides, and other fine goods. I would trade them here for slaves, to sell in Lys and Volantis."
A Storm of Swords, Daenerys VI

  • In the quote it does sound to me like he bought her (presumably this isn't illegal in Lys), she didn't want to go but didn't have any say in the matter, then he kept her much like a real-life victim of trafficking to a brothel. We can pretty much rule out the temporary hiring idea because it seems very strongly implied that the patron paid to do something, at minimum, permanently disfiguring or crippling - and in context this story is told to Ros as a threat (especially given what does in fact happen to Ros when he judges her a "bad investment") – user568458 Feb 15 '18 at 11:25
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    @user568458 Slavery is legal in Lys, in fact it is said that there are three slaves for every free citizen in Lys, possibly highest Slave-To-Freeman ratio after Volantis. – Aegon Feb 15 '18 at 11:33
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    @TheLethalCarrot You try to read into Baelish's intentions. We have no proof that "Baelish is talking about using a prostitutes services for a given time", especially considering the fact that he mentions Lys, not any other place where slavery is abolished. – C.Koca Feb 15 '18 at 16:19
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    @C.Koca You're correct I have no proof that, that is his intention but that is the most likely explanation for his comment. Buying prostitutes is kept for brothel owners, which Renly is not, renting them for their services is for anyone. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 15 '18 at 16:20
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    @C.Koca Your question is How does Littlefinger get away with buying and selling prostitutes in the show? and my response is he doesn't you've interpreted the quotes wrong. In the case of the second one even if he is buying them he's only talking to Ros in a private room so no one else knows anyway. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 15 '18 at 16:28
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I cannot answer the first question without extensive research

As to the second question in the first clip it seems to me he is referring to buying a girl as in paying for her time not actually purchasing her

In the second clip he is not in public and while it does seem like he is talking about literally purchasing a girl it depends on how slavery is defined

Legally Littleinger could be in the clear if he purchased the girls contract from the lyseian (spelling) brothel or the girl in question could be an indentured servant which is technically not a slave.

Ultimately though even if Littlefinger is breaking the law who is going to call him on it, a slave is most likely not going to go to the authorities assuming she knew she could and those that frequent Littlefingers brothels dont know and would not care if they did that some of the prostitutes are slaves

TL'DR

Littlefinger gets away with it because no one cares

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