If you had told me a little over a year ago that I’d be thumb-typing a column on a smartphone mere hours before posting time, while waiting for a ferry on an island off the coast from Seattle, I would have laughed at you. Yet that is exactly what I’m doing right now. Life is queer with its twists and turns, isn’t it? Here I am back at work again, making all sorts of personal, business and activist connections, running incredibly late on my deadlines and even using a damned smartphone…and being OK with all of that. It’s been a hell of a year, and I have all my loyal readers to thank for it.
Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category
I had hoped for this week to be a bit quieter, and I guess it was (though there was still a bit of upheaval). However, I confirmed my new office space with the landlord last Wednesday, and I’ll be moving in on the 1st; having that designated quiet space will, I think, make it much easier to catch up on my work and stay caught up (that’s the plan, anyway). Friday was the busiest day of the week for stuff y’all want to hear about, though: I gave two interviews, one to a reporter from Spokane and the other to a student from Portland, and then in the evening I went over to Mistress Matisse’s and we hung out, ate pizza and drank some kind of nameless pink cocktail that contained an awful lot of rum. I’ve never been much of a drinker, but Matisse is just so charming and reassuring that I feel comfortable imbibing in her presence without feeling as though I’m going to say or do something idiotic as a result. Anyway, we talked about doing a podcast together in the near future (I’ll announce it here and in my Twitter feed) and she gave me a couple of lovely dresses, one of which you can see here. And if you’re going to be in Seattle anytime soon and would like to see me in it (or in one of my other lovely things), just drop me a line and I’ll be happy to meet you to accept a donation toward my work in person! As of last week I can even accept credit cards via Square, so if you want to help out but don’t like PayPal, now there’s an alternative method.
Kaytlin Bailey first wrote to me several years ago; she had started hinting at her sex work experience in her comedy act and wanted my opinion about coming out more fully. I was honored that she had confided in me, pleased when she started to make it in comedy, and proud for her when she decided to fully own her experience. We went out together one of the nights I was in New York last summer, and I’m grateful she replied positively to my request for this guest column. Her story isn’t funny, but it is, I think, a triumph. Her one woman show will debut in New York City at The Tank Theater July 10th, 11th & 12th. You can follow her on Twitter at @kaytlinbailey.
I will never sleep with anyone ever again who doesn’t know. Not after he threw me up against a wall, or held me down on the sidewalk until I apologized for the things I had “done to him” five, six, seven years before we met. I was never afraid of a client, but I was terrified of a man I loved very much, who I thought I knew very well.
I started working as an independent escort when I was 17. There were other things going on in my life: I was the president of my high school debate team; I maintained an impressive GPA; I had a nice, age-appropriate boyfriend to whom I had dutifully lost my virginity months before; my parents gave me a generous allowance; I didn’t drink or smoke pot. I had never been raped, but I was sure that if I ever was I would report it and that my rapist would be punished. I had never been hit by a man. All of that came much later. For the first few months I couldn’t even legally rent my own hotel room; I remember one incident where after-school detention cost me over $1,000.
There were, of course, consequences. Making $400 an hour before I had any bills to pay, and spending hours in bed with deeply-unhappy rich men, gave me a lot of weird ideas about money & intimacy. I maxed out my Roth IRA for a few years and paid for a few decadent dinners with my friends, but mostly I parked wherever I wanted to; every morning I parked directly in front of the “no parking” sign in front of my high school, and never cared about the tickets because I thought I had “fuck you” money. I continued to see clients until it wasn’t fun anymore; I had the luxury of doing that. I went to college, got a few degrees, then started working in politics. At first I loved it; then I burned out, started doing open mics, became a comic and moved to NYC, in that order. And that’s when I met the man I thought I was going to marry.
I had so easily dismissed the slut shaming language of my hometown, the colloquial idea that there was such a thing as “the marrying kind”, or that anyone interesting enough to fall in love with would want such a woman (the kind I imagined busying herself with making cupcakes and saying no to perverse invitations). I saw the Madonna/whore complex, and maybe I bought into it a little too much; if there were really only two types of women, I was going to be the free & wild kind. I rejected the pervasive and perverse myth that when a man and woman go to bed together the woman gets up having lost something, and the man gets up having won something. I thought it didn’t matter how many men I slept with, because I was still me. And so I told him, and even though I hadn’t seen a client in over 6 years it broke his heart. His whole body crumpled up, and he shook first with grief, then with rage. He wanted so badly to make sense of me, to reconcile his love for me with things he thought he knew about “whores”.
Sometimes he would press me to give him the narrative of a desperate woman using her body as a last resort, or a victim of some horrific crime, or a stupid girl who got tricked into turning tricks. He was enraged by the truth, and couldn’t accept that I had been curious and turned on by the idea. I was not ashamed of what I had done until I saw what it did to him. It drove him mad, and so I left him even though I believed that he loved me. I left him because I knew that if I didn’t, he would kill me. And after I left I believed for a really long time that he was right, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
After I left him I started telling my story; I wanted to see if people who didn’t love me as much as he did could get past what they thought they knew about being a whore. They could. I started by telling audiences, tentatively at first. As a stand up comic I can tell my story with quite a bit of winking distance with lines like “its hard to go from making $400 an hour without a high school diploma, to making $10 with three degrees.”
I know there are consequences to telling my story. I’m afraid that stupid people on the internet are right. I’m afraid that when the sum total of my life is calculated I will have taken more than I have given. I’m afraid of giving birth to children that hate me. I’m afraid to tell my parents; what if I tell my Dad and it drives him to suicide? What if I give my mom the ammunition she’s always wanted to prove I’m not just difficult, but crazy? I’m afraid that I will find myself old, living in poverty, and neglecting myself and my dependent (a smelly dog who, justifiably, resents me). But at the same time, I’ve always suspected that people without a complicated history aren’t taking full advantage of life’s exhilarating opportunities. Sometimes I think I’m wired weird; maybe I’m crazy, or a “bad investment.” Maybe I’ve put myself in a percentile of people who are undatable…unloveable? But that’s what New York City is for; it’s where all the unmarriageable go to mate with each other.
I’m not an activist or a role model. I know it’s complicated & I don’t pretend to have a prescription for making anything “better.” I’m not even sure that the human experience can be made to be “better”; it’s pretty messy for everyone, even “the marrying kind” of girls. People ask me if I’m worried I’ll be pigeonholed. Yes, but also no. Was Dave Attell pigeonholed a porn addict? Jim Norton a pervert? Amy Schumer a slut? Chelsea Handler an exhibitionist? Well, yes, they were, but it didn’t limit them. I don’t know the future, so I’m choosing to talk about my experience, and I hope my audience finds me.
Regular readers know that I’ve been extremely pressed for time since moving to Seattle; practical concerns, a much-more-active social life, increasing professional demands and the adjustments that always come with a move have combined to eat away a lot of the time I used to use in writing. People used to ask me how I managed to get a column out every single day, and my answer was that I spent most of my time on it; now that I don’t do that any more it’s grown a lot harder to keep up. I used to be about a month ahead on everything but the news columns; now I’m days ahead at best, usually only hours (many nights lately I’ve finished up less than an hour before post time). I’m sure some of you have noticed slip-ups and not-quite-on-times, and other signs that doing a daily column isn’t as effortless for me as it used to be. But I’ve made two more changes that should make things go more smoothly again, one visible to y’all and the other invisible. The latter is simply that I’m getting, for the first time since starting the blog, a designated office space in which to work; this will, I hope, let me concentrate on writing (rather than my girlfriend) when it’s time to work, thus getting more done. The visible change is a sad one, but necessary: I’ve had to resign from doing my Sunday column for Cliterati. It’s just not possible for me to write another full essay every week, even though that later provides an essay for this blog as well. On the bright side, that opens up a Friday slot for other things (Monday was getting a bit cramped), but I still can’t help feeling a little sense of loss about it. Ah, well, time marches on and nothing lasts forever; the blog has changed in the past and will continue to change, I hope for the better.
Last week was another incredibly busy one; between one friend having a baby and another (Savannah Sly) leaving town to return to the East Coast, it was a very hectic week. Friday’s going-away party for Savannah was incredible; by the end I wasn’t even the nudest one there, and I got groped by the loveliest ladies! While cleaning up the next day I found panties, a short length of chain and a stun gun among the empty bottles and plastic Easter eggs, which may give you some idea of the sort of party it was. It was, in fact, my second party for the week; on Tuesday I got together with the same group who met on my second-to-last night in Seattle last November, and it was almost as lovely as it was that first time. Despite the good times last week, I hope this week will be much quieter; I have a lot of work to catch up on!
When I wrote last week’s diary, I was only barely keeping up with my work, but I’ve been slowly getting all the distractions out of my way and I’ve actually managed to get up to about three days ahead again; that’s not great, but it’s at least breathing room. All last week Jae was hard at work helping Savannah Sly with her musical, which was performed on Sunday night at the Highway 99 Blues Club; I wasn’t directly involved but I helped out all I could (mostly by driving people hither and yon). I also got to meet Dr. Charles Hill to talk about some research on sex work he wants to do, and did a little of the Good Work myself (though I still have a way to go before I achieve a normal rate of business again; 100 clients a day my arse!) Those of you who laughed at my tech-reluctance will also be glad to know that I’m even getting used to my “smart” phone, as evidenced by this selfie (taken in a local cafe). For a while the only way to keep myself from being constantly annoyed by an incessant series of “alerts” was to mute the sound for such things, but now I’ve figured out how to turn off the sound for everything other than text messages, Twitter DMs and business emails, and to assign each of those a different sound. Jae says they’ll have me in 2015 eventually, but I certainly hope it doesn’t happen too soon.