Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


Gilman notes that this story is "not literature." This editorial intervention marks this story as particularly revelatory about the culture in which she lived. "With a Difference" tells the story of a young woman who is rendered unconscious and raped after her drink is dosed with a sedative. Gilman suggests that this episode of victimization is representative of the sex trade industry, for the act is perpetrated by a "modern mercantile villain was worse than his prototypes; the ruin of innocent girls, to him, was not only pleasure but business." 

The scenario Gilman describes matches almost exactly this account from a former bartender in Charlton Edholm's 1899 report Traffic in Girls and Work of Rescue Missions*"A converted bar-tender in a large city told me one time, . . . 'When I was a bartender for years in a saloon with wine rooms, these procurers used to come there, and often I've seen one of these men bring a beautiful girl to the ladies' entrance, and of course he would try to get her to drink wine or beer, but oftentimes having been brought up in a Christian home, . . . she would refuse to touch the wine or beer, then he would wink at me, and I knew that meant an extra dollar for me, and I would drop a little drug into whatever that girl had to eat or drink, and in a few moments she would be unconscious and that fellow would have a carriage drive to the door, that girl would be placed in it and driven right straight to a haunt of shame; he would receive his twenty-five or fifty dollars, and that girl would be as surely lost as if the earth had opened and swallowed her. Hundreds of times I've done this, . . . "


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