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Last week I published a letter from an exceptional woman:  though she’s a Christian with a strong personal aversion to sex work, she has deeply considered the issues and realized that there are many, many problems in “anti-trafficking” discourse.  After my last letter she wrote again with more good questions, but her letter was so complex that I have separated out the individual questions not only to make this column easier to read, but to protect her privacy by eliminating personal details.  If you haven’t yet read last Wednesday’s column, you really ought to do so before proceeding with today’s.

A friend of mine belongs to an anti-trafficking ministry which gives out gift bags to ladies in brothels and tries to build friendships with them.  The gift bag includes shampoo and sometimes cookies and earrings, and also a packet of tissues, inside which they have slipped a hotline for getting out of prostitution.  Would you personally find such a message with a hotline number insulting?

trafficking soapMost sex workers would probably consider that more funny than insulting, because the idea outsiders have that we’re all “trapped” or “victims” or “slaves” is very amusing when it isn’t backed up by uniformed thugs.  But once the cops start smashing down doors, beating, raping and robbing sex workers before caging them and giving them criminal records that will follow them for life, it goes far beyond mere insult.  The idea that we’re “victims” is a symptom of what you mentioned in your first letter:  the refusal to listen.  It’s kind of like the way gay people are treated in some churches:  “I can’t understand how a man could be attracted to another man, so there must be something wrong with them.”  The old narrative was that sex workers were “bad” women, but over the past 800 years Christianity has slowly shifted toward viewing us as “fallen” creatures to be redeemed, and that became the dominant social discourse in English-speaking countries from the 1880s on (largely due to the influence of the Salvation Army and other groups promoting the “white slavery” hysteria).  After criminalization became the norm in the US (from 1910-1914), people naturally started seeing prostitutes as “criminals”, and that view persisted until the beginning of the present moral panic in 2004 (though several years earlier in Sweden).

I have seen sites that quoted (at least they claim) comments from clients about prostitutes, 95% of which were horrendous.  So why do clients come to you?  Is it really that men who are willing to buy women are often aggressive and do not respect women in general? 

Those “client quotes” are totally cherry-picked.  The idea that men pay good money to spend time with women they hate is about as absurd as anything I can think of; it’s related to the radical feminist notion that all intercourse is rape.  The fact is, I was often treated better by the men who paid me than guys who just dated me, and that’s a very typical experience.  The majority of sex workers’ clients are either horny or lonely, and that’s it.  They’re not looking for women to “objectify” or “abuse”, and the only people who can believe otherwise without being lied to are people who believe the Marxist foolishness that all economic transactions are innately exploitative, or those who believe that all sex not sanctified by marriage (or all heterosexual sex, period) is bad.  The only reason they pick on sex work is that when they try to apply those ideas more universally, most normal people mock, shun or ignore them.  Sex workers have been turned into a pariah caste against whom rhetoric that wouldn’t last five minutes when directed against anyone else, suddenly becomes palatable.  The most common form of prostitution these days is probably GFE escorting, where GFE stands for “girl friend experience”.  In other words, the majority of clients want a girl who is nice and friendly and chatty and sweet, just like a regular date.  Yes, there are bad clients…but that’s true of every business in the world, as anyone with experience in retail or waitressing can tell you.

Do you not mind when a man comes to you only for your body, with no interest in your personality, your soul, your mind, your history?  Although if I must think of sex work as normal work, I suppose it would be as ridiculous as if I asked an office worker, do you not mind that your boss has no interest in your personality etc and that you are reduced as just a working cog in a cooperation.  In an office, ideally you’d find a caring manager who does care about your well-being – and I guess there are clients who are similar?

sex dollAs I explained above, most clients are.  If you talk to sex workers who have had “straight” jobs, you’ll find they usually felt far more objectified in those than in sex work.  People who talk about “bodies to be used” must have a very low opinion of men, to believe that that’s how men see sex.  In fact, one of the most annoying client behaviors is when they go on about “I want to give you pleasure” and “what would you like to do?” and that sort of thing, which many of them do.  We hate it because it makes it much harder to satisfy a customer who won’t say what he wants, but as you can see it’s exactly the opposite of that “objectification” jazz.  When I was an escort I advertised myself as “the thinking man’s companion” because I have a hard time “dumbing down” my conversation and wanted to attract men who liked that…and there were plenty.  You were talking about reviews earlier; you know who gets the worst reviews?  Girls who just lie there like a “body to be used”.  What prohibitionists claim men are looking for, is actually the thing which will probably kill a sex worker’s business faster than anything else.

My anti-trafficking friend never says “prostitute”, but rather “ladies in the sex industry”; she also never gives out their names “in order to protect their confidentiality”.  But if sex work is just work, what difference does the word make?  And why wouldn’t prostitutes want people to know their names?

If sex work were completely accepted, normal and legally protected, I would agree with you that there would be no need for aliases.  But that isn’t the way it is, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  Your friend is wise to be discreet.  As for the term “prostitute”, it’s a very legalistic word that has acquired  considerable negative baggage.  So while I myself use it because many outsiders with whom I discuss it (especially lawyers & politicians) see it as a neutral term, it is in fact pejorative and should be avoided.  “Sex worker” is considered the most polite term; “prostituted woman” is the most insulting and demeaning because it casts us as passive, inert victims without intellect, will or agency.

I’m uncomfortable saying that sex work should be okay and treated as any other job, but I’m also uncomfortable with criminalization because everyone has the right to choose what they will do and how they want to live their lives.  How do I resolve this conflict?

Now we’re getting into the philosophy of harm reduction, which is quite complicated but here’s the nutshell version.  I personally think cocaine is awful; I hate the way people act when they use it, I hate the way it makes their noses run and their mouths get crusty, I hate the weird fantasies they have when they’re on it.  Eventually I got to the point where I’d refuse clients I knew were using it because I didn’t want to deal with it.  However, the harms that result from cocaine aren’t nearly as bad as those that result from attempting to suppress it, such as the establishment of a surveillance state, empowerment of police to violate civil rights on a massive scale, bloody cartel wars, bad (even fatal) reactions to tainted drugs, the attraction of criminals to the business, the vast waste of money and the highest incarceration rates in history.  I don’t have to like cocaine or approve of its use to recognize that its prohibition is a horrible thing and the wellspring of myriad evils, and you don’t have to like or approve of sex work to have the same view about its prohibition.  And considering that it is the prohibition of sex work that is the chief enabler of coercion, I would think that every moral person who is truly concerned about that would join with the UN, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many others in calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

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An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not the invasion of ideas.
-  Victor Hugo

Gene usually got dressed quickly, gave Katherine some kind of rough estimate of when she should expect him to call again, asked her what she had planned for dinner and then told her what a lovely time he’d had before heading out the door.  But when he fumbled with his shoes, tied his tie unevenly, and otherwise delayed leaving while making no conversation at all, she knew he was nervous about something.

“Kathy, I just wanted to let you know that I saw Victoria Tate, but I won’t again,” he finally blurted out.

She took his hand and smiled.  “I think you sometimes forget that I’m not your wife, Gene; you don’t owe me fidelity.  You can see Victoria or any other escort you like, and you don’t have to report it to me or seek forgiveness.”

“Well, usually I don’t; I mean, you know I’ve seen other girls before, and that I always come back to you.  But somehow, it just seemed different with Victoria, like I was betraying you or something.”

“That’s silly; how could seeing Victoria be any more a betrayal than seeing anyone else?”

The Wish by Theodor von Holst (1841)He paused for a moment, then: “Because we both know she’s marketing herself as a younger alternative to you.”  If the statement hurt her feelings, she gave no outward sign.  The situation was obvious to everyone in town:  Victoria used similar advertising copy, presented herself in the same general fashion, even provided the same kind of amenities at her incall.  Both women were tall, charismatic, classically-beautiful brunettes, both well-educated and well-spoken, both endowed with that indefinable quality known as “class”.  But while Katherine was well over fifty,  Victoria was still under twenty-five.  And while Katherine had never really learned to take full advantage  of the marketing possibilities the internet offered, Victoria knew every last one.

“Do you remember Melinda Van Doren?  She was the most highly-regarded escort in the city when I started working in 1975.”

“No, I didn’t try the hobby until after my first wife and I divorced in ’81, and I don’t remember the name.”

“That’s because she retired in ’79.  Well, you know it was all services and word of mouth in those days, but I had new ideas.  When I first started it was just to pay my way through school, but by the time I graduated I realized I wanted to make a career of it.  So I paid bribes, placed private ads, offered spiffs to every concierge in town, and slowly began to win Melinda’s clientele from her.”

“I can’t imagine you being so…”

Ruthless is the word,” she laughed.  “I was a different person then, an awful, hungry little upstart intent on invading and capturing my rival’s territory.  It wasn’t until Melinda confronted me that I changed.”

“What did she say to you?”

“Oh, it was so long ago…suffice to say she made me see the error of my ways.  She retired not too long after; moved to one of those countries where American dollars go a long way.  Costa Rica, I think it was.”

“Well, I’m glad you changed; I don’t think I’d have liked you like that.  I know I don’t like Victoria.  Hey, maybe you need to talk to her like Melinda talked to you.”

“Yes, maybe I do.”

After Gene had gone, Kathy opened up the email folder where she had saved all the other messages on the subject…and there had been several, both from clients and from escorts.  She was very popular and respected, and a number of people were upset about Victoria’s tactics…which had in the past few months gone from mere competition to character assassination, rumor-starting and, last week, a poorly-executed attempt to get her arrested (which might’ve succeeded if she hadn’t had an informant in the vice division).  Clearly something had to be done, and soon.  She picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Victoria, this is Katherine Nolan.”

“How did you get this number?”

“That’s not really important.  We need to talk.”

“About what?”

“I think you know the answer.”

“Look, I really don’t have time right now…”

“Yes, you do.  In fact, I think you’ll be very interested in what I have to say.  I’ve been thinking about retiring for a long time now, but putting it off because I needed someone to take care of my gentlemen for me.  And I think you just may be the woman to do it…”

An hour later, Victoria opened the door to usher Kathy into her incall.  Though she had been understandably suspicious of Kathy’s motives, the offer had been too good to pass up:  the older woman had said she was tired of drama and felt it was better to bow out gracefully rather than contribute to strife in what had previously been a largely-harmonious community.  A few hours of small talk, a few empty promises, and the field would be clear; if there was any chance at all Kathy was being honest, Victoria had no choice but to risk it.  And so they chatted over coffee, and after a while Victoria actually found herself beginning to like the veteran courtesan, and to feel a few pangs of regret for her unscrupulous tactics.

“Think nothing of it, my dear,” said Kathy; “you’re young and determined to succeed, so it isn’t surprising you might overstep the bounds of propriety from time to time.  Why, when I first started working, years before you were born, I was just as ambitious.  But then I had a meeting with the older lady with whom I was in competition, just as you and I are meeting today, and after that day everything was all right.”

Possession“So she made you the same offer that you’re making me?”

“Yes, that was how she got me to invite her over, just as it got you to invite me.”  Kathy’s voice suddenly sounded different – cold, strange and very, very old.  Victoria was transfixed by her gaze and felt a sudden wave of inexplicable terror wash over her; she tried to scream but the sound was strangled in her throat, and though she tried to struggle it was as though she was held fast by the tentacles of some invisible nightmare.

*******************************************************************

“You know, I really need to compliment you on your exquisite taste; some of these pieces are really fine,” Roger said as Victoria walked with him to the door.

“Thank you, but I’m afraid I can’t take credit; an older escort helped me find a lot of it.  You may remember her, Katherine Nolan?”

“No, I only moved here two years ago, but I think I’ve seen her name mentioned on the boards.  She’s out of the business now, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she retired in 2010 and moved to one of those countries where American dollars go a long way.  Costa Rica, I think it was.”

.

(Inspired by a comment made by Dr. Laura Agustin about a statement made by Gloria Steinem.)

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Here are three propositions from the stance of a Devil’s Advocate.  1) A sex worker puts on an act to please her client; might he not then think that all women are acting when they’re being nice to him? How can he tell reality from acting, and does it matter?  2) If women could make as much money doing other kinds of work, there would undoubtedly be fewer harlots.  So, harlotry needs women to be impecunious, and men to have money. If there was real equality or equivalence, would harlotry become an historical oddity?  Is it therefore in the harlot’s best interests to maintain the patriarchy?  3) Sex workers see men at their best and worst; wouldn’t a retired courtesan therefore make the best partner for a man?

Nana by Edouard Manet (1877)1)  It’s certainly possible that a man could become paranoid in that way; in fact, it’s the plot of Jacques Brel’s song “Next”, which I featured in my very first hooker songs column.  However, I’ve never actually heard a man complain about that in real life or online; while clients do indeed seem concerned about telling the difference between a professional’s behavior  and genuine romantic interest, they seem less worried about amateurs’ behavior and more concerned about not being able to enjoy themselves fully because they know it isn’t “real”.

2)  You’re making several assumptions here which are simply not true.  The first, which is a very common one, is that men have more disposable income for some external reason (“patriarchy” or whatever), when in fact most of the reason is that men and women have different priorities.  Men will always make more than women on average, because a lot more men are willing to sell their souls, give up personal time and drive themselves into an early grave in order to succeed.  Furthermore, only a certain segment of whores do the work because they are in dire need; a lot larger fraction (especially in the West) simply prefer the work to the alternatives.  Take me, for example; don’t you think I could succeed in some high-paying conventional career?  Of course I could, but I don’t want to; being a whore is for me much easier and much more pleasant than the other options which bring in the same level of income.  I’m not remotely alone in feeling that way, and that won’t change no matter how much artificial “equality” the social engineers inflict on society.  That’s one of the main reasons the neofeminists hate us and want our profession violently suppressed: whores will never be good little collectivist worker bees in their totalitarian dystopia, so they want us to have no other option.  In short, the so-called “patriarchy” will maintain itself without the help of harlots and in spite of neofeminist attempts to reprogram human nature to fit their psychotic delusions.

3)  My husband certainly thinks so, and I’m sure he’s not the only one.

(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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Soon after the publication of September’s guest column, blogger and regular reader Sasha Castel suggested that I do an essay on my beauty hints.  But as I told her, that wouldn’t be much of a column because I honestly don’t have any other than “be scrupulously clean, wear your hair in an attractive style and pick clothes that flatter your figure and express your own personal style.”  I know I’m very lucky in this respect, but I have excellent natural color so I don’t really require makeup unless I’m really dressing up; when I was working I never wore it unless the client was taking me out.  And my hair…well, let’s just say it does what it likes anyhow and I’ve learned to live with that over the past 30 years.  However, I suggested that SHE could write a beauty hints guest column…only she’s never been an escort, though she has been a mistress.  Is that a kind of sex worker?  Some say yes, some emphatically say no, and once again we see the absurdity of trying to draw arbitrary lines between natural female behaviors.  Here’s her essay on how to be a good mistress…which not only serves as a worthy sequel to “Keep Doing What You’re Doing“, but also provides excellent advice for a courtesan, an escort with a treasured regular, or even (to a large degree) a wife whose husband fully supports her as mine does.  So…what’s the real, substantive difference between these roles again?  Why are some legal and some illegal?  And how can any rational adult pretend that one is commendable, another is tolerable but the other constitutes “enslavement” or “crime”?

Top Hats by Erte (1975)I didn’t set out to become a mistress. I met the man in question (I’ll call him Carlos) in the course of my job.  He was well-known, one of the most recognized and praised opera singers in the world.  We spoke, liked each other, and went out to dinner.  Shortly thereafter, we went to bed, and I became “The Other Woman”.  I didn’t want to marry Carlos, just enjoy his company while he was in town.  He favored me with meals, drinks, occasional gifts, and most importantly, knowledge and wisdom.  I learned a great deal about the music business from him, which served me well in my career.  I also learned about being a mistress.  Unfortunately, I can’t give advice on how to find a man (on both occasions that I’ve been a mistress, it just happened), although it behooves you to appear nicely dressed and groomed if you’re in the market.  But if you do become someone’s mistress, here are seven guidelines that will make the affair a good one, for you and for him.

1. Be available.

If he calls you, go to him.  In this situation, your needs are subordinate to his.  What a terribly retrograde statement, but true.  He is providing the material goods while you are providing the companionship; you can’t do that from a distance.  Be with him as often as he wants you to be; if this doesn’t sit well with you, reconsider your position.  If it’s a position of equality you want, become someone’s girlfriend rather than a mistress.

2. Be discreet.

Resist the temptation to blab to friends about your hot and powerful new lover.  You don’t want to become the object of gossip, and you don’t want to cause problems with his marriage.  Use a pseudonym when referring to your dates, and also when storing his number in your mobile phone.  Avoid being photographed together.  If you wear perfume, apply it with discretion or forego it altogether to avoid olfactory traces left behind.  Be certain that all the jewelry and accessories you arrived with are with you as you leave.  If you attend events together, and someone introduces you as “Mrs. Carlos”, don’t contradict, just smile and say “how do you do”.

3. Be safe.

Birth control is mandatory, obviously.  The Pill or other hormonal methods are best.  If you need to take other drugs while on the Pill (especially antibiotics) be aware that they reduce the Pill’s effectiveness, sometimes to catastrophic effect.  Make certain you have a clean bill of sexual health before commencing sex; you don’t want to give him (or his wife) an STI.  If you are having other sexual relationships at the same time (not recommended), be sure to use a condom, correctly and regularly, to prevent disease transmission.  Understand that some STIs like herpes and HPV can still be transmitted through genital contact without penetration.

4. Be fun.

Get into his interests, or take up one of his hobbies, so you can have dates without necessarily involving sex.  He’ll be pleased at your enthusiasm, and it takes away some of the pressure on him to perform like a sexual Superman at every encounter. 

5. Be caring.

If he doesn’t want to go out, stay in.  If he’s sick, take care of him.  If he’s craving a food, cook it for him.  And above all, LISTEN.  I think that just as much as sex, what I provided for Carlos was a sympathetic ear to unburden himself.  I listened.  In fact, if I were to name the number-one most important quality in a mistress, it would be the ability to listen.  Listen to your man, try and understand his problems, offer solutions if they occur to you, but mostly just allow him to speak his mind in a way that he can’t do with his wife.  Your empathy and perspective will be as valuable to him as your sexual talents, perhaps more.

6. Be sexy.Coquette by Erte (1981)

Of course, this is the crux of the matter.  If he wants to play, do it.  He may have secret kinks he’s not comfortable sharing with his wife; indulge them.  Does he want to role-play?  Tie you up?  Have a threesome?  Be spanked?  If it can be done safely and doesn’t repulse you or harm you, make his fantasies come true.  Naturally, the usual rules of sex play apply:  sane, safe and consensual.  The only fantasy I’d hesitate to enact is any sort of public sex fetish, for purely practical reasons; exposure is not at all sexy.

7. Be realistic.

When it’s over, it’s over.  Don’t try to hang on past the affair’s natural life.  Enjoy what you had and move on.  For the love of all that’s holy, don’t threaten him with exposure if he doesn’t continue seeing you.  That’s psycho behavior, and it won’t make him like you:  it will have quite the opposite effect.  Keep the memories happy, and let him smile privately whenever he thinks of you.

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I don’t have experience in the sex industry, but want to learn what my options are; how can I do this?  How I might get started?  What the pros/cons are for each segment?  What are the specific qualities that are suited for each profession?  I’m 31, intelligent and already have a good job, but I’ve ALWAYS had a desire to make money with sex, though I worry I’m not pretty enough.

Young Girl Bathing by Renoir (1892)Different kinds of sex work are better for different people; for example, I really didn’t like stripping, and I hate domination, but GFE (Girl Friend Experience) escorting was a perfect fit for me.  However, I have friends who stripped for years and love it, and some who enjoy domination much more than escorting.  Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way to figure out which one you like best other than trying them.  Many sex workers try several before settling on the one they like best; some even go back and forth between different types at different times in their lives.  Since you live in a large city it should be relatively easy for you to try a number of things, especially stripping and agency escorting; if you enjoy the work with the agency you could then go on to independent escorting.  The reason I’m suggesting an agency at first is that, since you already have a “straight” job, that would let you get your feet wet without risking undue exposure until you’re sure you’ll like it.  Don’t worry about whether you’re pretty enough; if men make passes at you, you are.  I’ve known some stunning girls who didn’t do as well as others who were just normally pretty, because they had less attractive personalities.  Looks are good bait, but unless there’s some substance underneath she won’t get either repeat business or referrals.  The women who do best at escorting are the ones whose company men really enjoy, and each of the other types of sex work has its own skills and characteristics that are just as important as looks.

One good place to start is my Questions page; about halfway down there’s a section called “mentoring” with questions other ladies have asked me, hyperlinked to the posts where I answered them.   Take a look at those, then go online and look at the strip clubs and escort services nearby.  Most are ALWAYS hiring, so that’s not usually an issue; after that it’s just a matter of getting your courage up!  If you have any other questions after reading those posts, please feel free to ask.

(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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Hating on models, sex workers, and similar seems to be a significant subtext of what [feminist] groups support…yet they are often the first to ask why young women don’t want to call themselves feminists.  -  Brooke Magnanti

Rough Trade

California has a crime victims’ compensation program

…which helps people out with expenses like medical treatment or mental health care…you’re ineligible…if you have any other means of getting them, whether that’s insurance, a wealthy aunt, or a court ruling.  The program’s…regulations [also] disqualify anyone who was hurt while “involved” in an act of prostitution…

BDSMNaked Bear-type Man Chopping Wood by Charlie Goodwin

A 35-year-old [Austrian] woman advertizing herself as a dominatrix promised strict discipline to paying clients on her farm…[but] the men found themselves consigned to farm labor such as chopping wood in the nude and mowing the lawn while wearing black fetish masks…in effect, they were paying for the privilege of doing farm work…

License to Rape

One wonders what his “informal training” consisted of:

A…San Bernardino police officer was arrested…on charges that he forced two prostitutes to have sex with him while he was on duty…Jose Jesus Perez, 46, was indicted on four civil rights offenses that involved aggravated sexual abuse “while acting under the color of law”…If convicted, Perez faces a maximum sentence of life in federal prison…Perez…had informally trained other officers on how to interact with prostitutes…

The Swedish Pimpocracy

The Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) has a close partnership with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and British GCHQ, according to information provided to the European Parliament…investigative journalist Duncan Campbell…told the committee that…Sweden was the third major partner in the surveillance cooperation…

Decentralization

We don’t know if Birmingham, UK-based Passion VIP is…the first escort agency to add bitcoin to its…payment options, but…we have not heard of another one…Tracy Elise

Size Matters

Tracy Elise has fired her attorney and has chosen to represent herself in court…she also filed six motions ranging from being allowed to travel to being allowed to use the internet.  Two years ago, police raided…the Phoenix Goddess Temple…[claiming] it was a house of prostitution, but parishioners said they were just practicing their religion…

The Punitive Mindset

The balance between crackdowns that play to punitive public sentiment and a public health approach that will actually reduce harm and prove most effective in protecting communities is one [Lord Chancellor] Chris Grayling should bear in mind, as he considers a crackdown on sex in prison…The prison service instruction manual states:  “there is no rule specifically prohibiting sexual acts between prisoners, but if they are observed by someone who finds (or could potentially find) their behaviour offensive, a charge…may be appropriate”…this results in…a system ripe for abuse…A blanket ban on sex in prison leads to prisoners failing to report rape or sexual assault for fear of punishment…[some] prisons refuse to issue barrier protection…some prisoners are sanctioned for requesting too many condoms.  One prison governor even said they had no need to issue…[them] as his prison contained no homosexuals…

Where Are the Protests?

As usual when sex isn’t involved, the word “trafficking” is entirely absent:

…America…[has an] underground market for adopted children, a loose Internet network where desperate parents seek new homes for kids they regret adopting…Through Yahoo and Facebook groups… the unwanted children [are passed]…to strangers with little or no government scrutiny, sometimes illegally…The practice is called “private re-homing,” a term typically used by [pet] owners…most of the children ranged in age from 6 to 14 and had been adopted from abroad…

Girls, Girls, Girls!

Except for the predictable whorearchy (“dancers resort to prostitution”, etc) this is a decent article about how the summer slump in New Orleans affects the stripping business.  It affects escorts as well, of course, though in my experience it tends to recover more quickly in September for escorts than for strippers.  Since I don’t write much about my stripping days, readers may find it interesting that the first club mentioned in the story was the first one I ever danced at, though it had a different name back then.illegal anti-whore sign

Legal Is As Legal Does (TW3 #7)

Outspoken Christchurch [New Zealand] city councillor Aaron Keown has taken matters into his own hands to ban sex workers from Manchester St.  Residents woke on [August 27th] to find the street plastered with “No Street Workers” signs…Two days later…council workers removed them, saying [they] were illegal.  Keown, who paid for and installed the signs himself…said…police and council bylaws had failed to keep prostitutes out of the residential area…[he] plans to create another set of signs next week…

Held Together With Lies (TW3 #14)

Even with new and vastly-broadened definitions, UNODC still only claims that “40,000 people…came into contact with the authorities as trafficking victims in 2012”, very similar to the 24,000 it claimed had been “rescued” last year.  Is anyone seeing a pattern here?

First They Came for the Hookers…

Lap dancing clubs could soon be banned in Glasgow under plans for a tough new licensing regime…new criteria for sexual ­entertainment venues…will allow councils…to set the number of sexual entertainment licences they permit…at zero.  Glasgow City Council has called for the power, which would effectively ban lap dancing bars in the city…Currently lap dancing clubs only need a public entertainment licence, which cannot take into ­account the type of entertainment being offered…

Because obviously, bans on stripping are always 100% effective.

Reframing

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #34)

The man in charge of tackling human trafficking and organised prostitution in Northern Ireland has come out against proposals to make it an offence to pay for sex…PSNI Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall has denied that human trafficking is a bigger problem here than elsewhere and revealed that men purchasing sex have sometimes reported human trafficking to the police…Lord Morrow has argued that similar legislation in Sweden led to a big decrease in human trafficking and street prostitution.  These assumptions have been challenged by DS Marshall, who…fears that Lord Morrow’s proposal would not help matters and would prevent men…reporting any suspicions they had…

Enough is Enough

The powerful story of a woman who understood the difference “between saving a life and prolonging a dying”:

My mother died shortly before her 85th birthday, in a quiet hospital room in Connecticut…She slept in her own bed until the night before…[and] was lucid and conscious to the end.  She avoided what most fear and many ultimately suffer:  dying mute, unconscious and “plugged into machines”…or…demented in a nursing home.  She died well because she was willing to die too soon rather than too late…

Poe Folks

Jemima ably mocks a recent anti-whore article by casting it as self-parody:

The New Statesman isn’t known for its sense of humour so it was a great surprise to see this amazing parody piece by Sarah Ditum  showing other journalists how not to write about…sex workers.  First…she shows how [headlines] can set the entire tone for a piece, cleverly creating straw man questions:  Can a feminist ever support the sex industry? followed by insinuations about the mental state of any sex worker with…what kind of society is it that makes that a rational choice for women? Fabulously done, a question that is meaningless…[followed by] a “have you stopped beating your wife yet” question…The Two Paths

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #38)

Criminalizing things makes them magically vanish!

Switzerland has raised the legal age of prostitution…[to fall] in line with an international convention it signed in 2010…it [is now] a criminal act to pay for sex with anyone who is under 18…[instead of] 16…People who pay for sex with [illegal workers or look at pictures of them]…face up to three years in prison…brothels or escort services that hire anyone under 18 could face up to 10 years…

The Public Eye (TW3 #49)

Here’s a long-form review of American Courtesans by a marriage therapist:

American Courtesans [is] an invaluable resource for therapists, clients, sex workers…[and] the general public…it’s important to call attention to the sex-negative view our society holds…anyone who is open about their needs, desires…and…sex can become a target for judgment, criticism, and even violence…Society wants to “invisibilize” these needs and desires and sex work makes them explicit…

Dirty Laundry (TW3 #135)

Sadistic Irish judges apparently think it’s funny to rob sex workers and give their money to an organization dedicated to destroying their entire profession: “Two Romanian nationals have been given custodial sentences after gardai raided a brothel…A substantial amount of cash was seized…along with paraphernalia linked to prostitution…Judge Conal Gibbons…instructed that the money…be donated to Ruhama…

An Ounce of Prevention (TW3 #312)

An HIV vaccine created by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University may be able to completely wipe out the…virus from the body…[it] is being tested…in monkeys [and] researchers hope…[it] will soon be able to be tested in humans…The approach uses cytomegalovirus, or CMV…a common virus…carried by a large percentage of the population…researchers found…infected cells were sought out and destroyed…

Real People (TW3 #316)Fish Girl

Here’s a nice little profile of Siouxsie Q of The WhoreCast, who’s currently performing in a play she wrote called Fish Girl (in which she portrays a mermaid).  The article also mentions the legal difficulties to which I alluded in the last paragraph of “The Free Speech Mafia”.

An Example to the West (TW3 #316)

Sex workers in Jamaica gathered…to demand rights, respect and dignity…the Caribbean Sex Workers Collective are ‘advocating for equal rights, and an end to stigma and discrimination’…

Policing for Profit

Sam Leino was ultimately convicted on a single charge of possessing prescription drugs…For that, his wife and their three children are homeless…“the Philadelphia DA has made civil forfeiture into a vast, unaudited revenue stream, profiting from an upside-down legal process through which the DA has the power to bleed property owners dry of financial resources…with minimal or no evidence of criminal wrongdoing”…Because the owner of a piece of property…needn’t even be charged…the Leinos had already lost their home by the time Sam Leino was convicted…In fact, the government can actually freeze your assets before any proceedings begin, making it difficult to hire legal representation for either your criminal trial, or to…reclaim your property.  In this case, the Philadelphia DA’s office actually evicted…[the family] from their home…The office…eventually withdrew the claim…[because] the family had fallen behind on their mortgage payments and the bank foreclosed, meaning that the home was no longer theirs for the government to take…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

After publishers of Front, Nuts, Zoo and the Sunday Sport…refused to put their titles into sealed modesty bags, the Co-op has [announced it]…will no longer stock those titles.  It is unclear which lads’ mags will remain on the shelves in modesty bags – but…(physical) lad’s mag sales were falling anyway…if major retailers were making the money they used to from carrying the magazines, this campaign wouldn’t have had any traction at all…[model] Jodie Marsh blasted the Co-op’s decision on Twitter, suggesting that the groups involved with the campaign to ban lad’s mags “need to turn their attentions to areas where women really need help”…

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #336)vandalized brothel

The outrage continues in Bangladesh:

Hundreds of Islamists  vandalized and looted  a 250-year-old brothel in…Madaripur…and…threatened to harm the remaining workers further if they did not leave the area…the local leaders of both main political parties…are not only competing to buy Muslims’ votes…but are also interested in ejecting the sex workers from the downtown area in order to seize the valuable two-acre lot…

And to add insult to injury:

The…attack…rendered at least 500 sex workers shelterless…the infirmaries in the district refuse them essential treatments…[after] the attackers…warned the hospital authorities not to give [them] any healthcare…Some of them have had their ears and noses cut when attackers whisked their ornaments away…The attack…was a clear violation of a High Court order…Mahmuda Akhter – district Women Affairs Officer – was tasked with investigation into the incident, but…allegedly joined hands with the attackers…[saying] “I am with the majority.  No one wants a brothel in the city centre”…

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This is the second part of the story of a Nigerian sex worker in Amsterdam; if you missed the first part yesterday, I urge you to go back and read it first before continuing.  I did as little editing as possible because I wanted to allow Onioja her own authentic voice, and the postscript is absolutely verbatim at her request.

paspoortAn immigrant’s life is hard in any case, but if you come from a country like mine with a dubious reputation in this part of the world, the problems are almost insurmountable. Even in this relatively tolerant country with many official so-called integration programs and requirements for immigrants, every new arrival is marginalized and stigmatized.  You feel it right away at border control; the officer is polite and friendly, but despite your visa, your passport is turned inside out and you must show every piece of legal identification paper you have and explain your plans.  If you’ve never experienced them, the problems of migration are hard to grasp.  It requires enormous courage to leave family and friends behind, but you do it because of dreams and illusions of opportunity that override rational doubts.  Unfortunately, my culture is dominated by irrational beliefs and superstitions such as voodoo and belief in evil spirits that can only harm and hurt people.  So though I work hard to keep it under control, I also run on fear and worry about evil that may hurt me.  I wish I could get rid of it, but it is in my blood like my faith in God; to counterbalance it I nurture love, kindness, and honesty, and I am hungry for logic.

Only some of my colleagues know that I’m a practicing Christian, and some of those who do ask how I can practice a faith that condemns my work as a mortal sin.  I say that I don’t practice a faith, I practice life; they don’t understand because they don’t understand what faith is.  Faith is irrational.  So I choose to go to church to get together with other faithful people to pray and sing in a service that honors God, but I rarely care for what pastors have to say; instead, I use the service for reflection.  Being baptized and raised as a Catholic doesn’t mean I signed an agreement with that church to be docile and obedient; I’m not about to be held hostage.  Faith doesn’t keep me from using my brains so that I remain stupid and blind to all possibilities, and my brain sees no conflict between sex work and the Lord’s message to love all other people.  In fact, sex work lets me use my God-given talents for other people’s benefit better than any job I’ve had.

It also lets me turn liabilities into advantages.  For example, in accordance with the tradition in my country I was fully circumcised at such an early age that I have no memories of it; this may be one reason that I’ve never been much drawn toward having sex for my own pleasure.  But I don’t miss what I have never had, so to speak, and being circumcised seems to help my work because I don’t get easily distracted when I service clients.  After so many years and different clients, I can count on one hand those who have said or shown in some way that they notice the circumcision. Many eyes have been up close, and many fingers have touched me there, but though I look and feel quite different from a woman with intact genitals I’ve had very few reactions.  So I often wonder how much real affinity most men have for their partners’ bodies.  It’s telling that those who noticed also asked about my other erogenous zones and how to sensitize them; many men don’t seem to know we have other erogenous zones than genitals and nipples.

Because of my superstitions I don’t advertise on the internet or through social media; it would expose me to evil spirits beyond my control.  So I had to invent and develop casual methods to meet the right men in places where they usually hang out for leisure, and become accepted there as a black, single, migrant woman.  I decided it was better for my work to be myself, an authentic black woman, rather than an inauthentic white woman with a black skin.  So I dress in Nigerian gear, wearing Nigerian accessories, bring my music, dance tribal women’s dances with booty shaking and lap work, and talk my language when we make love.fufu  My favorite trick to loosen and warm up clients is bringing homemade food such as fufu, which is made to be eaten from a bowl with your fingers, sitting on the floor and no napkins.  Getting messy with their fingers and lips breaks the white pattern of what is civilized, and sets the mood for being more “natural”.  In their daily life, my Dutch clients are completely removed from nature, which means that having sex comes to them in a more roundabout way than to men back home; they love it of course, but compared to the average man in my country, sexual embarrassment and Puritanism is in this people’s genes.  By my standards they’re a bit uptight and formal even when they are at leisure and buttoned down; wouldn’t it be boring if I would only mimic the habits of their culture and not mix in my own?

Sometimes I think that my work gives me the chance to act as a kind of ambassador for integration; I think that if all migrant sex workers did such things, it would make our work even more valuable.  Of course, true integration requires those from both cultures to leave their comfort zones and mingle somewhere half way:  while white cultural DNA has acquired a sort of anti-black gene, blacks don’t naturally go for the whites either, so while I’m exposing them to our ways I’m also learning to get a handle on theirs.  I listen to what they tell and ask, and how they react to what I say and do.  My work has thus opened the door to a real understanding of a society so different from my own.  I’m also working on integrating and overcoming prejudice, stigmatization, and marginalization in my life outside of work; for example, my kids are in school and I am acquainted with some other mothers. Now and then my kids play after school with kids from Dutch-born parents, but there are also mothers and even teachers who simply neglect me when I say hello.  So it’s a long, slow process, and my work has helped me more to move forward than anything else.

Doing sex work for just over six years has made it possible for me against all odds to accomplish what I wanted.  I bridged the abyss between my culture and social class – the lowest of the lowest – and this culture.  I am now pretty well integrated.  I am on the level where the rule has become the kind of personal contacts that leads to an invitation like this – telling my story.  I am appreciated and respected, and so is my work; I often get thank-yous and compliments for my performance.  I don’t come cheap but I know that my fee is totally appropriate for the quality of my services and my personality.  And here is the best part:  by doing sex work – in total freedom, the way I want it – I am slowly achieving what I’ve always wanted.  And that is, having children in the best possible situation, as part of a society to which we belong, with real opportunities to achieve our goals.  If my kids should fail, it’s not for lack of freedom and opportunities.  This is what sex work has brought me; no other way of life could have made it possible.  Praise the Lord.  Amen.

Postscript:  Thank you, Maggie McNeill, for this opportunity.  Your invitation first scared me, but saying yes and doing the work has been a breakthrough in getting my superstition dismantled.  AND I discovered that I have a long story to tell.  This is just the beginning.  God bless you.  I am not a writer (although I might become one), but this dear client gave me generously all the help I needed for now.  I owe you a good one, baby!

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Angel_Holding_ManI am stunned by the amount of understanding and compassion with male sexual frustration you often display in your writing; not many women are that sympathetic to this particular hardship.  Because I was very obese during my teenage years I never quite developed ability of talking to women, and because my parents were abusive alcoholics I have a lot of difficulty in forming any kind of relationship.  I am now 22 years old and though I’ve lost the extra weight and have some good things going in my life, I’m still very depressed and so sexually frustrated it sometimes manifests as a painful feeling in my chest.  I think spending some time with compassionate professional might help alleviate the pressure so it would stop being such a distraction.  How exactly should I proceed with this? How do I contact the girl, how should I explain my situation, and how can I make sure that she is sympathetic and honorable, so the whole experience is therapeutic and enjoyable and not frustrating and unsatisfying?  Though I hide it from everyone I am actually a very sensitive and fragile guy and I would hate for the whole experience to end up in more trauma.

I do believe it’s possible for an escort to help you to develop confidence, if you pick the right one.  Luckily, this isn’t as difficult nowadays as it used to be because of the magic of the internet.  I’ve given some general advice before about how to use it to get a good, reputable escort, and you might also want to read my advice to a young man whose frustration has turned to anger and fantasies he’s uncomfortable with.  Though your reaction to the lack of physical intimacy isn’t the same as his, the core problem is not dissimilar.  As such, my advice to you is similar:  Go onto the escort boards, research the ladies in your area, and find one with a reputation for patience who also advertises that she’s “newbie friendly”; these ladies will be more likely to be willing help you though the screening process, and will also probably have more experience with virgins (don’t worry, you’re not remotely alone in that department).  If you take your time and find a kind, sympathetic professional, I think there’s a very good chance a few visits with her will help you to develop the confidence you need to go out and speak to girls in a non-professional setting.  Good luck, and if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

(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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sex refusalI grew up in a conservative Christian family, didn’t start dating until my twenties and married in my early thirties to a beautiful woman with whom I have great kids; my family life is wonderful, but my sex life is not.  Though I’ve used pornography off and on since I was a teenager, I was quite naive about sex and was a virgin when I married.  My wife doesn’t really enjoy sex and sometimes is averse to it, so sex has become very mechanical.  Two years ago I started going to strip clubs to find some relief from my sexual frustration, and I met a beautiful dancer who is a very intelligent college student.  I enjoyed talking with her and often would tip her $100 just to talk for 30 minutes, then last month she told me she had started escorting for a few clients she had met in the clubs.  It was awkward with her the first time, but by the third I was fully relaxed and uninhibited, and I felt like a huge knot inside me was untied.

I discovered your blog around the same time as I started seeing my lady friend in private, and it has been a great encouragement to me; I have a few questions I hope you can help me with.  First, my wife and I are in counseling for our sexual problem, but do you think she can potentially grow sexually and be freed from her inhibitions?  Should we be seeing a sex therapist rather than a regular marriage counselor?  With regard to my companion, I would like to know if you have any general advice (since I’m such a late bloomer), and also if there are things I can do besides being a good client (clean, on time, respectful of boundaries, courteous, and donation upfront), to show her that I really appreciate her. 

Most of all, I thank you for showing care to clients like myself.  It is meaningful to learn from your experiences and benefit from them.  It seems unfair that I haven’t even paid you for your advice! 

From what you’ve said, you have a good marriage in every way except for sex, and you don’t want to ruin that; so you need to be careful and discreet so neither your wife nor any neighbors or church members find out.  Since you’ve been reading my blog you understand that sex workers are caring professionals who help men (including many like yourself) to deal with sexual urges you couldn’t otherwise explore, but your wife and others probably wouldn’t understand and there would be major unpleasantness.  I’m very glad to see that you didn’t mention any sense of shame or guilt with your escort; if anything, it looks exactly the opposite to me (“I felt like a huge knot inside me was untied.”)  But it’s also important that you not let yourself get carried away; when a person has been sexually repressed for years as you were, the feeling of sexual release can be intoxicating, and can interfere with your judgment.  So keep seeing your escort (who sounds really perfect for you), but if you start getting feelings as though you’re falling in love with her you need to step back mentally and recognize that it’s the hormones talking.

brainwashedA sex therapist might indeed help more than a general counselor if your problem is due to culturally-inflicted hang-ups rather than other issues merely reflected into the bedroom.  However, it’s important that A) you find the right one; B) you are very patient; and C) your wife really and truly wants to get over her hang-ups.  It won’t be easy, and she will probably never be as uninhibited as your escort; after all, you yourself know the kind of brainwashing she got, and it’s much worse for women than for men.  I’m assuming she is in her thirties, and it’s not unusual for a woman to mature sexually during that period; however, if she’s much past 35 and you don’t see any signs that she really wants to loosen up, I’m afraid the prognosis isn’t very good.  I’m not saying it’s hopeless because human nature is a complex thing, but in order to correct a sexual problem one has to recognize it as a problem in the first place, and some sexually repressed people simply refuse to admit that it is.

You may find “Advice for Clients” helpful, plus my answers to reader questions in two previous Q & A columns; however, it seems to me that you already know a lot of that.  It’s not necessary for you to compensate me in any tangible way, but if you really want to you could send me something from my Amazon wish list; please don’t feel you have to, though.

(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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Since time immemorial and all over the world, men have wanted more sex than they could get for free.  So what inevitably emerges is a supply of women who, for the right price, are willing to satisfy this demand.
-  Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

SuperFreakonomicsI first heard of Freakonomics and its sequel several years ago, but because my stack of reading material is always much too high I never took the time to pick up a copy of either.  My interest began to ramp up two years ago when Satoshi Kanazawa mentioned SuperFreakonomics in the column which served to introduce us when I replied to it; his follow-up column which discussed our correspondence  sent an absolutely tremendous amount of traffic my way (I still get hits from it every week), so I became much more interested in the books and would probably have eventually bought them myself had Ted not sent them to me the following November.  Being a stickler for doing things the right way, I read Freakonomics first and reviewed it one year ago today; the fact that it has taken me this long to get around to reviewing the sequel is due in part to my reading many other books in the interim, in part to not having nearly as much time to read as I might like, and in part to my just finally catching up from the holiday backlog.

The books were written by economist Steven D. Levitt (of the University of Chicago) and journalist Stephen J. Dubner (formerly of The New York Times); Levitt is interested in economics in its larger sense, the study of how human beings react to incentives, and Dubner makes Levitt’s investigations interesting to read.  As in the first book, they covered a number of subjects: the chapters are entitled, “How is a Street Prostitute Like a Department-Store Santa?”, “Why Should Suicide Bombers Buy Life Insurance?”, “Unbelievable Stories About Apathy and Altruism”, “The Fix is In – and It’s Cheap and Simple”, and “What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common?”  There is also an epilogue named “Monkeys are People Too”, which I’ve already discussed in a previous column.  And though chapters two through five are fascinating, enlightening and well worth the time of anyone who’s interested in psychology, sociology, criminology and/or global warming, the first chapter provides so much material that I’m going to dedicate the rest of this column to it.

For some reason I’ve never been able to adequately fathom, economists tend to be remarkably stupid about prostitution, often abandoning skepticism and proper data-gathering to embrace ludicrous claims they would never accept about any other economic activity.  Furthermore, virtually all books written about prostitution by sympathetic outsiders have a mixture of correct and incorrect information, and this one is no exception; however, I’m pleased to say that they got more right than they did wrong, and that none of the errors are due to buying into moronic prohibitionist myths.  In fact, the chapter serves as a thorough refutation of the most damaging and pervasive sex work myth of our times:  the notion that most whores are (or ever have been) coerced.  Though the book was published in 2009 the words “sex trafficking” do not appear anywhere in it, and prohibitionist laws are correctly framed as a product of the social purity era:  “The white slavery problem turned out to be a wild exaggeration.  The reality was perhaps scarier:  rather than being forced into prostitution, women were choosing it for themselves.”  They demonstrate that about 2% of American women in the 1910s were prostitutes (already considerably lower than the 19th century average of 5.5%) and that the average Chicago whore of the period made almost twelve times as much as a factory worker.  Furthermore, they clearly understand a principle I’ve pointed out before:  the reason there are far fewer whores now, and the reason we make relatively less than we used to, is that so many women are giving it away now that the market simply won’t bear the prices and volume it used to a century ago.

Levitt & DubnerUnlike his more credulous colleagues, Levitt recognizes harlotry as an economic activity like any other, governed by the same laws and responding to the same pressures.  In order to demonstrate this, he and Dubner look at two types of sex worker: opportunistic (and sometimes seasonal) street workers on Chicago’s south side, and a high-end escort named Allie in a different part of the same city.  But while the information on escorting is sound because it was provided by Allie herself (who contacted Levitt upon hearing he was interested in writing about the subject), the information about streetwalkers was collected by a man I’ve written about before: Sudhir Venkatesh, the Columbia sociologist known for his incredible credulity, his sloppy scholarship and his ethics violations.  Some of the conclusions the authors draw from Venkatesh’s data seem reasonable, such as the claim that many streetwalkers prefer to work with pimps because they bring in better clients (resulting in higher income even after the pimp’s 25% cut).  Others seem highly doubtful, such as the declaration that going without a condom only costs $2 more on average; in New York, he claimed it was typically 25% more (and as I pointed out then it’s difficult to fix a “usual” price on desperation).  But since there’s absolutely no way to tell the good data from the bad, nor to determine whether Venkatesh’s numbers are merely distorted or outright lies on his part (or that of the women he surveyed), this section of the chapter is absolutely worthless, and that includes the credible and highly-publicized “finding” that 3% of all tricks were freebies given to cops to avoid arrest.

The Venkatesh streetwalker study is definitely the weakest part of the book, though as I stated above it’s impossible to tell how wrong his numbers are.  My only other quibble is a minor but important one; it represents a flaw in Dubner’s thinking which is common even among sex workers, but which must be dispelled if there’s ever to be any progress.  Though Allie recognizes that she is no less a whore than any streetwalker, Dubner writes “she has less in common with that kind of woman than she does with a trophy wife…she isn’t really selling sex, or at least not sex alone…”  The error, of course, is that sex is purely a physical activity; Allie is very much selling sex, she’s just selling a richer sexual and sensual experience than the streetwalker is.  We wouldn’t claim that a dinner theater was fundamentally different from a hot-dog stand merely because the food is better and it comes with a lot of extras; the trophy wife is a whore as well, and though it’s true that a high-end escort is closer to her than to the streetwalker, it doesn’t change the fact that all of them are whores, and that no bright, clear line can be drawn at any point on that spectrum.

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