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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

The 1920s and ’30s were the heyday of the pulps, cheaply-produced magazines crammed with new fiction in almost every genre imaginable.  They were the forerunners of comic books and, in a way, of television and video games in that they provided affordable entertainment and tried to reach every possible niche market.  Like their modern successors, they were often condemned by critics as lowbrow, but had a certain undeniable charm; many of the best stories are still read and anthologized today.  This story was based on a dream I had on my first night in New Orleans at the end of my recent tour; perhaps it was inspired by a poster of sci-fi pulp covers Denise had on the wall of the guest room.  Though modern science has rendered its setting highly dubious, I ask that you approach it as readers approached those old tales from nearly a century ago:  as an imaginative tale of adventure on a fantastic world.

Saturn as Seen from Titan by Chesley Bonestell (1952)Every time I looked up at that spectacular view of Saturn, I congratulated myself on having had the good sense to invest in topside property.  Though it had meant a heavy mortgage, the expenditure of every penny I’d made my first year on Titan, and the calling-in of every favor I had accumulated, it was totally worth it; nearly every visitor to the colony preferred my club to the ones down in the red-light district, as did every local with any poetry in his soul.  Sure, it meant I had to charge more for drinks and house fees, and to maintain a more discreet atmosphere than the anything-goes places in the backstreets.  But you know what?  I never liked working in that kind of place, and I’ll be damned if my name was going to be attached to one.  I could never have afforded the rent or the bribes to own a place this classy on Earth, but here it was still wide open for a gal with a little bit of business savvy and a lot of what Mama Nature gave her.

That’s not to say that I didn’t breathe a little sigh of relief every time I sat down with my books and saw loads more black ink than red.  While it’s true that there are few things more dependable than gents’ desire for booze and female company when they’re months away from population centers with a more even distribution of the sexes, it’s also true that hospitality is always a precarious business and a proprietor always needs to be aware of developments that might queer the whole deal faster than sunset on Ceres.  And on the particular night of which I’m about to tell you, one such development walked through my door and none-too-politely requested my company.  Well, demanded is maybe a better word.

Said development was about 190 centimeters tall, wore a badge and a blaster and looked a helluva lot like Fred McMurray; I mean the young Double Indemnity Fred McMurray, not the old Disney-comedy one.  Which is kind of a funny coincidence, because I’ve often been told I look a lot like the young Barbara Stanwyck.  By the time I excused myself from mingling and reached the office, he was looking through my file cabinet.

“Didn’t your mama ever tell you it’s not polite to riffle through a lady’s drawers without her permission?” I asked from the doorway, projecting a nonchalance I did not feel.

“You’re required to keep these available for inspection on demand; I’m demanding.”

I shrugged.  “Suit yourself.  You’ll find they’re all in order; I pay my lawyer and my CPA to make sure they are.  In fact, I could’ve delivered ‘em to your office and saved you the trouble of coming all the way across town.”

“I wanted to look the place over for myself.  You know this sort of business isn’t supposed to be operating on the surface; you appear to have been grandfathered in somehow, but I want you to know that I’ll be watching, and if this place becomes a nuisance…”

I was sitting at the desk by this point.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance too, Marshal,” I said, blowing smoke in his direction before stubbing the cigarette out in the ashtray.  “I get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

“Count on it,” he said, slamming the door on his way out.  I will not record what I said the moment he was gone, because I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m unladylike.

Though I learned long ago to keep control of my temper when dealing with men, I was boiling inside and knew it would be a mistake to go back to the floor right then.  So I left things in the capable hands of my assistant Frances, put on my thermal suit and decided to go for a walk along the lakeshore.  Now, if you’ve never been to Titan (and let’s face it, that’s probably a safe assumption), I should probably explain that the lakes, rivers, swamps and seas here aren’t made of water but of a liquid hydrocarbon mixture; it would probably smell like tar or gasoline, but since you need a helmet to go outside I can’t be sure.  If you absolutely have to know, ask a chemist.  Anyhow, the native life seems to like it all right; the shallows of the lake swarm with bugs during the day, and even at night you can hear lots of things moving around in the water.  Oil.  Benzene?  Oh, you know what I mean.

McMurray & StanwyckI was plenty mad when I left the dome, and by the time I had cooled off I had walked about three kilometers beyond the end of the well-travelled path.  Not that I was worried, mind you; humans are by far the largest animals on Titan.  The second-largest is a kind of giant slug massing about 30 kilos, and I suddenly realized I had walked right into the middle of a much larger aggregation of them than I’d ever seen or heard of.  They like to lie in the mud sunning themselves during the day, in groups of maybe a few dozen at a time, but it was rare to see ‘em at night.  Yet here I was, surrounded by hundreds of the slimy things; though they are usually very shy and always flee the approach of humans by sliding into the lake, these weren’t moving at all and I bet Doc Robinson would’ve given a month’s pay to trade places with me right now because what had made me stop and wake up to my surroundings was nearly putting my foot in one.

Doc could’ve saved his money, though, because I’d have gladly traded places with him for free.  Yeah, they were harmless…but this was a much larger grouping than anybody had ever seen in one place, and at night to boot; it gave me the heebie-jeebies, and I decided that even the company of the new marshal would be preferable right now.  But as I turned back, I realized that there was no place to go; the slugs had slithered onto the path behind me, and I couldn’t move from the spot where I was standing without stepping on one.  I don’t scare easy, but let me plop you down alone on another planet, surrounded entirely by shapeless aliens, and let’s see if you do any better than I did.  I was totally terrified, and I guess I must’ve had my oxygen valve turned a bit too low for the combination of exertion and excitement because when they started closing in and actually crawling up my legs I passed out.  Aw, who am I trying to kid?  Like the heroine of a Victorian melodrama, I fainted.

By the time I opened my eyes again, my radiophone’s readout said 23:14; I had only been out for maybe half an hour, but my surroundings were completely different and I shuddered when I realized the slugs must’ve dragged me here.  I wasn’t sure where “here” was, exactly, but it looked like a cave and the rocks were wet with slime.  The entrance was above, so there was plenty enough Saturn-light for me to see that the group which had captured me was only a small fraction of the number here; there must have been thousands.  Though I was still petrified they hadn’t actually harmed me (except for the nice new grey hairs I had probably sprouted), and in fact were giving me a wide berth; the only bad thing was the unshakeable feeling that they were looking at me (despite the fact that they lack any visible sensory apparatus at all).  After about ten minutes of calming myself, I decided to risk the radiophone; Frances answered.

“Hiya doll.  Keeping things together over there?”

“Janet?  Where in blazes are you?  You’ve been gone for over two hours!”

“No time to explain now.  Is Doc Robinson still there, and sober?”

“Yes and mostly.  You want me to get him on the phone?”

“Please.”  The slugs hadn’t moved; could they hear, or detect radio waves, or both?  If so, they didn’t seem overly concerned.

(What do the slugs want with Janet?  And even if she escapes them, how will she deal with the new marshal?  Be here tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!)

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 10th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Buyer's RemorseMost people have probably had the experience of buying something and regretting it later.  Sometimes it’s because the product is substandard, or because it was deceptively advertised and turned out not to be what the buyer expected.  Sometimes one simply gets caught up in the moment, as at an auction or while on a shopping trip with friends, and then feels differently once one is out of that situation.  And sometimes one spends the money while locked in the grip of powerful drives, like hunger or lust, and later experiences remorse over buying overpriced food products or dropping a lot of money on porn or sex workers.  In most cases, no harm is done; the buyer can simply return the unwanted item for a refund.  When the regretted purchase is an ephemeral, however (such as dinner, a show or sex), returning it simply isn’t possible; the ethical person chalks it up to experience and perhaps learns his lesson, but other, less moral types scheme to steal the money back.

Nearly every sex worker has encountered buyer’s remorse at some point in her career; dishonest workers who are better at the sale than the performance  encounter it frequently, but even the best, most conscientious whore sees it from time to time.  Part of it is the nature of male sexuality; some men lose all judgment and perspective while in the throes of desire, and do things they wouldn’t if the “big head” were fully in control.  In the worst cases they may rape, molest or otherwise violate someone; in lesser cases, they might commit career- or marriage-ending indiscretions of the sort that keep blackmailers in business.  And in the situations sex workers encounter, they simply spend more money than a more prudent man would have…which might possibly attract the attention of a wife or employer.

Even in cases where the money isn’t really an issue, some men are overcome by feelings of guilt or shame after release.  Such a client may go from enthusiastic and outgoing to withdrawn and unfriendly; the conversation which was so effortless suddenly becomes labored or ceases entirely, and an invisible wall suddenly goes up between him and his date.  In an incall situation, he will hastily dress and leave immediately; in an outcall he will try to get the escort to do the same.  Sometimes such a man will even rush for the bathroom in order to place a physical barrier between himself and the focus of his shame, or will become blatantly rude in order to drive her out all the more quickly.  A few rare outliers might even become violent and/or attempt to steal the fee back, but even among those a reaction this extreme is highly unusual:

A dominatrix and two friends accused of holding one of her clients hostage and “torturing” him have been cleared of all charges…the alleged victim [claimed he]…was held at knifepoint…forced to dance around in…women’s underwear and clean his face with a toilet brush…while being filmed.  The man claimed he had gone to the home of…Sinead Nijjer…under the impression she was willing to have sex with him for free, having twice previously paid £50 pounds for oral sex.  He told the jury that when he got to her flat…he was jumped on by two men…and…subjected to the embarrassing ordeal, which included him being forced to suck Ms Nijjer’s toes and being told his…“penis would be cut off”…[he further claimed] his captors threatened to release the video footage unless he paid them…[but] he was able to escape when he exaggerated breathing difficulties he was having and one of his alleged captors called 999…Miss Nijjer [explained] the alleged victim had come to her flat…for a [domination] session which he refused to pay for…The victim denied making up the story to cover up his embarrassment at being found by paramedics in…women’s underwear…[and] that he had faked the panic attack to get out of paying…

remorseIt doesn’t surprise me that this outlandish drama came as the result of buyer’s remorse over a fetish session; though the shame reactions I described above were often connected to vanilla dates, in my experience they were more common in kink or fetish sessions.  This should surprise no one; though vanilla sex is loaded down with culturally-inflicted shame and paid sex even more so, kink is burdened with the greatest weight of it.  And if even ordinary sex can provoke such strong rejection of the sex worker in some clients, that might be all the more true of someone who craves humiliation, but got more of it than he bargained for.

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Unfaithful Husbands pulp coverI’m a retired escort who, like you, married her favorite client.  From the beginning I made it clear that sleeping with other women was okay, but secrecy, lies, and emotional engagements were not; I also requested that any sex outside of our relationship be with professionals rather than  amateurs.  We have a very active sex life, and every few months I’ve reminded him that he could see escorts if he wished as long as he told me about it (just the fact that he did, not the details).  He’s always said that he hasn’t, but recently I accidentally  stumbled across evidence that he’s had many appointments since we’ve been together; I also found email exchanges with his ex including plans to get together.  I feel terrible for bringing this all on, but I also feel betrayed, hurt, and upset that he would lie to me.  Am I wrong for feeling this way when I gave him permission to see escorts? Is it worth talking to him about?  Am I being naive or silly? 

First of all, feelings are never “wrong” or “silly”.  Humans are emotional creatures, and can’t help what we feel; we can only control how we act upon those feelings.  Nor do I think you were being naive; in fact, quite the opposite.  As a sex worker yourself you know how men are, and you did everything you could to circumvent the possibility that he would hurt you by deception; not only did you give him permission to see others, you were even careful to re-iterate that permission a number of times.  The fact that he completely ignored your very simple and reasonable requirement – that he let you know whenever he did see another lady – is, I think, more than adequate reason to feel betrayed and hurt.  You gave him an outlet to be physical with other women, but instead he chose to act in a way that feels to you like emotional infidelity; I’m sure I would feel just as betrayed and hurt if I were in your situation.

There are several reasons why a man might cheat on his wife, and as I discussed in “Preventative Measures” only some of them can be prevented by things the wife might do (such as taking care of him at home and allowing him “strange” in controlled circumstances).  I suspect this passage applies to your husband: “if it’s the illicit nature of trysts with hookers which turns him on, that’s going to present a problem; if he craves sneaking around behind his wife’s back, he’s not likely to be satisfied with activities she attends, arranges or even simply condones.”  Think back to when he was your client; did it seem that “sneaking around” to see you turned him on?  Because that’s what his behavior seems to point to.  Only he can say whether he has emotional feelings for anyone he’s seen (like his ex), but secrecy?  Check.  Lies?  Check.  Amateurs?  Check.  It’s as though he was purposefully breaking as many of the rules you set as possible; perhaps that in itself gives him a thrill.

Two Faced ManI definitely think you need to talk to him about this; try to remain as calm and reasonable as you can manage, and explain to him how you found out and why you’re hurt.  Don’t let him derail you by accusing you of spying on him; you were acting in good faith and even if it what you did were wrong, his sins are far greater.  Also, don’t let him pretend he really believed his behavior was OK; unless he’s remarkably stupid I think it’s pretty clear that he knew he was breaking the rules.  Unfortunately, I can’t give you any advice about what happens next; there’s no way to know how he will react, what he will say, and how you will feel about his reactions.  I also can’t tell you whether it would be “right” to stay with a man who behaved like this, or whether you “should” leave him.  But I will say this:  I can virtually guarantee that this will happen again, probably repeatedly, no matter what he tells you.  So your decision about the future of the relationship needs to take that into account.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs, and explosions, and fallout.  There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.  For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy; and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn.  And the pity of it is, that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.  –  Rod Serling

The Monsters are Due on Maple StreetIn the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”, the residents of an ordinary suburban neighborhood – people who have lived alongside one another for years – quickly turn paranoid and hostile when weird phenomena convince them that they are witnessing the beginning of an invasion from outer space.  Every nonconformity, every idiosyncrasy, every unexplained incident, every behavior or characteristic even slightly outside the local norm, serves as the basis for accusations that certain individuals are either alien collaborators or even aliens in disguise; naturally, witch-hunting and violence soon ensue.  And though the pace of the hysteria’s development is obviously exaggerated so the drama can fit into a 26-minute television episode, the basic psychology is correct:  in a moral panic, humans will inevitably try to cast some of their own as members of the “enemy” (witches, communists, Satanists or whatever) and to lynch those so selected, with or without the formality of a kangaroo court to declare the victims members of the (largely or wholly) imaginary bogeyman hordes.

We are unfortunate enough to be living in a real-life version of “The Monsters Are Due”, but instead of aliens, the panicmongers claim we’re being invaded by “sex traffickers”; instead of the action unfolding over one night in a small neighborhood, it has unfolded over ten years on a rather provincial little planet.  And while there really are aliens about in the Twilight Zone, the villains on our real-life Maple Street are the self-proclaimed leaders and invasion “experts”.  One thing is the same in both stories, however:  once the panic reaches a high enough pitch, the hysterics start pointing fingers at each other for the flimsiest of reasons.  Submitted for your approval one Troy Martinez, who inhabits a twilight zone called Las Vegas:

A Las Vegas pastor’s idea to report to police suspicious businesses who decline to display a human trafficking hotline poster is being met with skepticism by business and civil liberties leaders.  The new human trafficking awareness effort is being suggested by Pastor Troy Martinez, of the East Vegas Christian Center as part of his involvement with…Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s Faith Initiative…on…human trafficking.  Martinez presented a hypothetical scenario of his plan, which is in its infancy, at a meeting Thursday.  Picture this:  A few…volunteers go to a…bar and ask the owner to put up a poster with the national human trafficking hotline.  The owner agrees and a volunteer notes it on a form before moving to another business, a nail salon, perhaps.  The salon owner doesn’t want to hang the poster, and someone makes note of it on a form.  Maybe volunteers observe a lot of single men hanging around the establishment and decide that is suspicious, so someone writes that down, too.  Then, those notes might get passed on to law enforcement.

j'accuse Maple StreetThe scenario drew suggestions from those attending…[a] working group meeting that the bar seemed forthright, but the nail salon was a different story.  “Well they’ve got something to hide.  They don’t want the poster.  They don’t want to cooperate,” one member said.  The idea of citizens informing on local businesses who rejected displaying a poster bewildered Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada…[who] said it sounded like the [US government's] “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign on steroids…Martinez’s idea is modeled after a Los Angeles law that requires establishments — including adult or sexually oriented businesses, massage or bodywork services, emergency rooms and bars — to post the national human trafficking hotline…volunteers filled out a questionnaire noting if the owner was in compliance, aware of the law and if the owner agreed to hang the poster.  According to Martinez, the community began to identify which businesses were legitimate and which businesses were being used as fronts for human trafficking or sex trafficking…Martinez [claimed] that…“a lot of people…were rescued because of the reporting system”…Martinez’s conclusions, however, don’t match what actually has happened in Los Angeles, according to a leader of the grassroots campaign…who…said while the potential is there for volunteers to stumble on a human trafficking front and report it, that has yet to happen.  Also, no one has been rescued as a result of the poster outreach survey…

Case in point one moral panic, a phenomenon in which people voluntarily relinquish their reason, their knowledge, and their consciences in pursuit of ghosts and shadows, and in doing so plunge themselves, their neighbors and those they believe they have cause to fear into a nightmarish, yet very real Twilight Zone.

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I do not mind what she does as long as she comes back to me in the end.  –  George Keppel

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII of the United Kingdom, had an interest in women which is notable even by the promiscuous standards of noblemen.  Naturally, among his dalliances were a plethora of professionals, among them Skittles and La Belle Otero.  His first semi-official mistress was Lillie Langtry, whom we discussed in May; today I’ll introduce you to the last (and longest-lasting) lady to hold that position, from three years before his coronation until the day he died.  She had a number of things in common with Lillie: an ability to get along with their royal patron’s wife, Princess (later queen) Alexandra; a gift for discretion so highly-developed that many people to this day don’t realize (or else deny) that they were whores; and most importantly, a similar motive for taking up the profession.

Alice Frederica Edmonstone was born on April 29th, 1868, the daughter of Sir William, 4th Baronet Edmonstone, and his wife Mary.  Sir William was a retired admiral, and Alice (the youngest of nine children, all but one girls) grew up in Duntreath Castle on Loch Lomond, the home of her family since the 14th century.  Her childhood appears to have been wholly unremarkable; none of the short biographies I consulted have anything at all to say about her personal life before June 1st, 1891, when she married George Keppel, son of the 7th Earl of Albemarle.  But while her husband was of a good family with a long history of service to the Crown, he had very little money; had the two of them been content to raise their daughters quietly in the country his income would have sufficed, but both of them loved city life.  It was expensive to keep up with London society in those days, and since Alice was strikingly beautiful (with an hourglass figure, alabaster skin and thick chestnut hair) the two of them soon hit upon a simple plan: she would take on wealthy lovers whose income would finance their lifestyle and provide George with business connections.  He wasn’t her pimp, not exactly; she found her patrons and charmed them with her own abilities.  George’s contribution was to stay out of the way and provide her with the appearance of respectability.

The historian Victoria Glendinning wrote that Alice had the “sexual morals of an alley cat…sexual faithfulness to her husband wasn’t a value to her.”  But this is merely the ignorant attitude of an prudish amateur.  Cheating “alley cats” hide their affairs from their husbands; Alice planned hers with George.  Nor was he a weak cuckold sitting alone at home while his wife wandered; he also had many affairs, with Alice’s full knowledge and approval.  Her daughters later described their parents’ marriage as a “companionship of love and laughter”, and though this certainly could be taken as a biased view, it must be pointed out that the Keppels remained happily married for 56 years and died within two months of one another; though there is some speculation that Violet (born 1894) may have been the daughter of a lover, Sonia (born 1900) strongly resembled George, so there is little doubt that he was her father.  Though their relationship may seem strange to those outside of the demimonde, I’m sure every sex worker reading this will recognize it; they loved and trusted each other, and sex with others had no effect on that.

Alice’s first arrangement, with Ernest Beckett (later the 2nd Baron Grimthorpe), began less than two years of her marriage; it is Beckett who is believed to be the biological father of Violet.  Next was Humphrey Sturt, the 2nd Baron Alington.  There were a few others in the second half of the ‘90s, but on February 27th, 1898 she met “Bertie”, and the rest is literally history; within weeks she had replaced his previous mistress (the indiscreet Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick), and she remained with him until his death in 1910.  The arrangement was extremely lucrative for the Keppels: though Edward was notoriously stingy (by courtesan standards) with direct payments, he enriched them indirectly in several ways.  First, he gave her part ownership of a rubber company, from which she made £50,000 (about £3 million today); he also had his own top-notch financial advisers manage her investments, and got a high-paying job for George.

Even before she met the (then) Prince, Alice had acquired the reputation of being one of the most talented hostesses of her era.  She was intelligent, witty, well-informed and never unkind or intemperate, and she brought these characteristics and others into her role as royal mistress.  She was so discreet she even hated people to mention her relationship with the King a quarter-century after his death, and she was the only person who could bring him out of the black moods he often fell into.  These traits made Queen Alexandra actually fond of her, thus smoothing what could otherwise have been an extremely difficult relationship:  His Majesty insisted on having Alice in his entourage practically everywhere he went.  This was not only for her companionship; she was noted for her wisdom and political judgment, and the King depended on her advice.  Furthermore, so great was her skill at conversation he often employed her to feel people out on delicate topics, or to let his opinion be known without making an official announcement.  The reverse was also true; when ministers or other officials wanted to further explain opinions with which Edward disagreed, Alice could present them to him in such a way that he would at least listen without getting angry.

But despite her influence, she was unable to convince the King to cut back on his smoking and heavy eating, even after his health began to fail.  When he was dying in May of 1910 he asked for her to come to his deathbed, but apparently that was too much for the Queen; as soon as he lost consciousness she ordered the doctors to get rid of Alice, who reacted with uncharacteristic loss of composure.  She became so upset and hysterical, in fact, that she had to be removed by the guards; from that point on she was no longer welcome at court.  Alice had developed genuine feelings for Edward over the past 12 years; furthermore, she was by this time 42 and had become a bit plump, so she was no longer able to function as a courtesan.  She and George decided it would be best to leave London for a while, so they spent two years travelling in the Far East (ostensibly for their daughters’ education).  Upon coming home they bought a new house and returned to society, albeit more quietly; Alice also helped run a hospital in Boulogne during the First World War.  In 1927 they bought the Villa dell’ Ombrellino near Florence and lived there the rest of their lives except for 1940-1946, when the Second World War forced them to return to the UK; they stayed in the country for a time, but then moved into the Grosvenor Hotel in London in spite of the Blitz.  By the time they returned to Italy Alice was terminally ill with cirrhosis; she died at the age of 79 on September 11th, 1947, and George followed her two months later.

Famous harlots do not usually have interesting descendants, but Alice Keppel is an exception.  Her elder daughter, Violet, became involved in a torrid lesbian affair with the poetess Vita Sackville-West; apparently, Alice’s sexual liberality stopped short of That Sort of Thing, so Violet was induced to marry Denys Trefusis and break up with Vita.  Violet became a novelist and her affair appears in fictionalized form in a number of works, notably Virginia Woolf’s Orlando; she subsequently had other lesbian affairs, but because she learned to be discreet about them after Vita her mother had no objection.  The younger daughter, Sonia, married Roland Cubitt and had a daughter, Rosalind, who in turn married Bruce Shand and bore a daughter, Camilla, less than two months before Alice died.  When Camilla grew into a young woman she met and became involved with a great-great grandson of her great-grandmother’s most famous patron, but because he needed to make a political marriage, she instead married a cavalry officer named Andrew Parker Bowles.  The tendency to be a royal mistress, it seems, runs in families, though unlike her famous ancestress the Duchess of Cornwall eventually married her Prince of Wales.

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Since the very beginning of this blog, I’ve endeavored to be brutally honest on the subject of sex work; I have neither exaggerated the good aspects of the work nor hidden the bad ones.  This is not only because of my sincere belief that honesty is the best policy, but also because ugly truths that are hidden become weapons for enemies when discovered; sex worker activists must hide nothing, so the public will understand that we’re being just as honest about the things we deny as those we confess.  This month’s guest column is about one of those unpleasant aspects of sex work; sex workers’ ad copy often presents us as insatiable sex goddesses getting paid for having a ball, but in truth we really aren’t all that different from other women and work sex is generally much more about work than sex to us.  The essay is also quite unusual in that it asks for advice, much like a Q & A column; however, since the question came from a celebrity I thought it needed a different treatment.  Furthermore, though I was able to give the lady some advice from my own experience, in my opinion she needs very specialized input pertaining to an area of sex work I have no personal experience with:  commercial porn.  Because the nature of the question would tend to undermine her public persona, she asked to be published anonymously and of course I have agreed;masked woman I used the name “Anonyma” both in reference to Catherine Walters, and because the title “Guest Columnist:  Anonymous” has already been used.  Please respect her wish for anonymity by not speculating on her identity in the comments.  I hope that readers with porn industry experience (I have at least two of you in mind) will weigh in, and if you feel your advice is better given privately please email me with “Anonyma” in the subject line and I’ll forward it to her.   

I am an award winning porn performer. My image is that of a hypersexual young woman who is insatiable—a sex symbol for my fans. But off camera, that image could be farther from reality.  At first, my porn life didn’t interfere too much with my  real life; I was still able to have sexual relationships on camera, and my libido was as high as ever.  But after I was in the industry for a while, my sex drive dropped to non-existent and the thought of a man’s penis penetrating me now makes me cringe.  Why?  A lot of reasons.

On set, I’m expected to have sex for hours.  After a while, the sex isn’t pleasurable; it’s actually quite painful.  Long days on set paired with exhaustion cause tears and cuts in my vagina- oftentimes it happens on set and I am told to power through to complete the scene.  Having sex with a tear is excruciatingly painful.  My many sexual partners and exploits have also led to another painful problem:  pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection that causes inflammation of the uterus and ovaries. In other words, every time a penis gets deep inside me the pain is unreal.  Normally, pelvic inflammatory disease is treated with antibiotics and abstinence from sex, but being that my job is to have sex, it comes and goes for me.

Sexual trauma from my past has also given me a mental block that arises whenever I have a sexual encounter.  I, like many other survivors, suffer from PTSD because of the assaults I have experienced.  Also, the thought of having sex and not being paid for it now bothers me; it’s as though I only view men as dollar signs, as games to be won.  Before, I always loved men AND women!  But now I’m encumbered by this aversion to men, and the thought of having sex with a man does not appeal to me in the slightest.  I still find men attractive, but I don’t have the urge to jump on him and fuck him like I used to.

Obviously, this is causing issues in my relationship with my boyfriend.  He is amazing and understanding, but I feel guilty for not being able to please him; we have only had sex 2 times this summer (I know, it’s horrible).  I have seen a therapist and he advised me to quit sex work, and maybe he’s right; maybe it is causing permanent damage to my psyche.  But it’s my livelihood and I still love it in most ways.  Does anyone have any advice?  What do I do to get over this mental blockage?  How do I begin to have a normal sex life again?  Help! 

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Would you care to comment on this?  “…this video…[shows] a boy [being] sexually assaulted and molested by an adult woman, to the huge entertainment of a bullying, out of control crowd.  The boy is obviously trying to go along with good humor, fear-grin plastered across his face, but as things progress it’s obvious he’s being humiliated, shamed, and disturbed over sexual behavior he doesn’t fully understand, and being mocked the whole time for it…

inappropriate lap dance(Readers can watch the video at the link if they like, but it isn’t necessary to follow my response).  As you probably know, I vehemently oppose characterizing adolescents of either sex as “children”; it’s hard to tell the boy’s age from that video, but I’d guess he’s in puberty rather than pre-pubescent, and therefore not a “child”.  And if he’s not a “child”, that can’t be “child molestation”, Q.E.D.  Furthermore, I consider the criminalization of every possible transgression to be a smoothly-paved road to totalitarianism; there are at least five distinct levels of offense, of which criminality is the most serious.  When one uses a legalistic term like “child molestation”, one is at least strongly implying (if not outright stating) that one believes state violence would be an appropriate response to the situation; I do not agree that sending a goon squad to beat, chain, humiliate, cage and ostracize that woman for life would be an appropriate response to her offense.

Next, we have to consider the principle of harm reduction.  No matter how much prudes and child cultists wish to pretend otherwise, the evidence is that adult-adolescent sexual contact usually has few if any long-term effects; as I wrote three years ago, “most of the trauma associated with sexuality involving minors derives not from some mystical property of sex itself, but from the considerable fuss adults make over it when it is discovered (including endless invasive and uncomfortable interviews with creepy strangers asking highly personal questions), not to mention guilt over getting someone else in trouble”.  When I was gang-raped by three cops (which I’m sure you will admit was a far more egregious violation of my person than what we see in this video) I did not report it because “from my viewpoint the rape could last an hour and be over except for nightmares and flashbacks, or I could let lawyers and judges and cops subject me to a waking nightmare, a slow-motion rape that might go on for months or years.”  Some people who have been raped or sexually assaulted want to go through the legal process in order to gain closure, exact vengeance or attempt to protect others from violation, while others do not; it is nobody’s business which the victim chooses but his or her own.  Even full-out aggravated rape is not the end of the world, and non-violent sexual humiliation far less so; in the case of the boy in the video, the emotional and psychological damage from a protracted criminal prosecution would be vastly greater than any he experienced during this episode, and to what end?  To please adults whose sensibilities were offended, or who just have an axe to grind?  I think not.

axe to grindThen there’s the issue of projection.  As a side-effect of empathy, human beings have the unfortunate tendency to project their own emotions onto other people; we ask ourselves, “how would I feel in that situation?”  When it helps us to connect to others, to view their hurts as serious and their needs as worthy of consideration, it is a good and positive thing.  But when it causes a person to overrule the statements or wishes of the other, to say, “no, you’re wrong, you don’t feel that way because I would feel differently in your place”, or to demand state violence be inflicted on someone against the wishes of the actual victim, that is a horse of an entirely different color.  It’s fine for you to say, “I would be humiliated and upset if I were in that boy’s place”, or even “I believe that boy was absolutely mortified and traumatized”.  It is not fine, however, for his parents to demand retribution unless he wants it himself, and it is tyrannous for the state to demand such retribution on the grounds that the “victim” is state property.  Moreover, it is absolutely outrageous for uninvolved strangers to demand such retribution against the victim’s wishes on the grounds that it made them uncomfortable; that is the basis for virtually all prohibitionism, and thus a moral and social abomination.

I believe that what that woman did was probably wrong (in a moral sense) and certainly inappropriate; since I know nothing about the people involved I cannot say anything else for certain.  If I had been there I would have put a stop to it, but since no responsible person did we are left with nothing but a very limited amount of information…far too little to ruin two lives over.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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