Now that I’m able to fly again, I’m much more open to traveling for speaking purposes; in just the past few months I’ve done two talks (counting the one I’ll be giving day after tomorrow) and a number of interviews. As you can probably guess, that means I’m being asked more often (because these things tend to snowball), and people want to know how to go about getting me to speak at their events. It’s easy; just ask. No, I’m not being facetious; all you have to do is send me an email, tell me about your event and when and where it is, what you’d like me to speak about, and who you are. That last is important because, while I ask a $500 speaking fee for most events, I’ll donate my time to sex worker events pro bono (except for lodging and board, and honestly I’m not especially persnickety about that; I’m perfectly happy being put up in one of the organizers’ guest rooms and fed from their table). Thanks to the generosity of a patron, I can easily get around by air at no cost to myself, which lets me help sex workers all over the country without running myself into poverty. I only ask one favor: whether you’re paying or I’m donating the time, please ask me well in advance of the event; I want enough lead time to advertise for clients wherever it is I’m going.
Archive for the ‘Q & A’ Category
Live fast ’cause it won’t last. – Chris Stein & Debbie Harry
In Monday’s column “Crystal-Gazing” I wrote, “I don’t think it’s likely I’ll be around to see [the mid 2030s], but many of you will be.” Several readers asked me why I believed I wouldn’t make it to that point; after all, I’d only have to live to 70, and the average white American woman born in the 1960s lives to about 75. Now, I could point out that statistically, my chance of dying before 70 is roughly equal to my chance of living past 80, but that wouldn’t quite be true; a lot of the reason the life expectancy keeps increasing is that infant mortality keeps decreasing, so anyone who survives childhood isn’t statistically likely to live as much longer than her ancestors as it might appear just from looking at those life expectancy figures. Also, most of the female members of my family live into their ’80s, even if the male ones have an odd tendency to die under strange and often newsworthy circumstances (ask me about that if we ever get drunk together). That having been said, a fair number of relatives of both sexes have contracted cancer or more-exotic terminal diseases, some of them at early ages (like the maternal uncle who died of leukemia in his late teens), and I’ve had several close brushes with sudden death (two of them of the “hushed-nurse-saying-I-shouldn’t-be-alive” variety), so I don’t think my familial or personal life expectancy is quite as high as that of the general population.
And thereby hangs the tale. As I’ve stated before, I have absolutely no intention of ever enduring chemotherapy; if I develop cancer I’m going to seek out palliative care, put my affairs in order and let the disease take its course. I’ve seen more than my share of people I love spending their last days hooked to machines in sterile institutions, dying in infernal contraptions surrounded by shouting doctors and nurses pounding on their chests and shooting chemicals into their veins, or electrically shocking their soon-to-be-corpses, instead of expiring quietly in their own beds surrounded by loved ones. So I have a DNR order; if it’s respected I will die when I die rather than being dragged violently back across the threshold because mere humans have decided I’m not allowed to leave this plane yet. Furthermore, though the more strictly-rational among my readers may scoff, I’ve never claimed to be strictly rational; my several close brushes with death (and a frank assessment of the chances I have taken in the past and those I continue to take on a regular basis) have led me to feel that I’m living on borrowed time, and Death knows that “when he at last come to collect me it will be a rendezvous rather than a capture“. Death and I are old friends; he was gracious enough not to interrupt my work before it was done, and it’s the least I can do to return that favor when the time comes. He’s passed me by on several occasions when he probably should have taken me, and I’m not such a fool that I think he’s going to keep doing that indefinitely.
Nor would I want him to. I’ve clearly stated my philosophy on this subject many times, including in my fiction; it’s mortality which gives life meaning, and I think it’s a bit rude for those whose dance is done to keep hogging the floor rather than making “room for the new dancers who are always waiting for their turn.” And besides all of that, I’m far too independent to be able to enjoy a life of decrepitude and dependence, and far too vain to desire a life in which I’m no longer the object of desire. The song below has always been among the larger group of my favorites, and I don’t feel any differently about it at 50 than I did at 15; when I go, I want people to still be able to honestly talk about how beautiful I was. Shallow? Probably. Silly? Maybe. But my friends will tell you I rarely ask for anything, so I don’t think it’s greedy of me to ask that no one begrudge my wish to not have to endure years or decades of life after the things I like best about it are gone.
I don’t believe it’s likely to have escaped the notice of anyone reading this blog for more than about three minutes that I’m a whore. Besides the fact that it’s in both the name and the subtitle, and sprinkled liberally all over the blog, and discussed with great frequency, there are all those nude photos and hooker comments in the Twitter feed, and Google is your friend. Every so often some rando “slides up in my mentions” (as the young people say) on Twitter without apparently noticing that I’m a bona fide, card-carrying, earning-my-living-on-my-back prostitute, but I hardly think it’s possible for any person to visit this blog without working that out in fairly short order. I’m not just mentioning this as an exercise in the bleeding obvious; I’m bringing it up because it seems that occasionally someone loses sight of what that actually means. And what it means is this: I am a paid entertainer. I make my living by pleasing people, by diverting them, by giving them comfort and relief and solace and even advice (please note that last). Yes, we speak of “selling sex”, and certainly most of my clients are looking for skin-to-skin contact, whether that culminates in orgasm or not. But not all of them are, and unlike the pathetic control freaks we ludicrously refer to as “authorities”, I am not a pompous bean-counter who thinks it’s vitally important to draw firm and legally-binding lines between sexual and non-sexual activities. If I’m capable of doing a thing that makes you feel better physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or whatever, and you’re willing to pay me for doing that thing, we can probably strike a deal.
Please reread that penultimate clause. Obviously, I expend a lot of time and energy doing good for others that I don’t expect to get paid for; I do favors for my friends, I give money and time to good causes like SWOP Behind Bars and Toys for Tots, and my activism is almost entirely pro bono. On top of that, I answer reader questions (most of them requests for advice) nearly every week, and the only price I ask for it is that I be allowed to share the answer so as to help others and build this blog. But if you think the amount of my time donated to helping readers is inconsequential, I invite you to count the number of questions I’ve answered in the past, assume an hour of time to answer each question (it’s often two or more), and multiply that by my professional rate of $400/hour. Then try not to choke. This is not a complaint; Aphrodite gave me a mission, and I’m not going to stop doing it until I board the ferry. However, until that day comes, I need to eat, clothe myself & keep a roof over my head, and that requires balancing work I do for earthly rewards with that I do for heavenly ones. Part of the way I do that is by refusing to duplicate my own efforts just to please the lazy and narcissistic, and part by avoiding matters that stress me out. But I recently received a request for advice which went far beyond the limits of what I can afford to give, and I realized this column was necessary. Most of the requests for my advice are reasonably short and can be answered in an hour or so; others are similar enough that I can direct the reader to previous columns in which I’ve answered it. But this one was so incredibly long and complex that I couldn’t even take the time to read it all; I had previously answered the reader with links to earlier columns, but he wasn’t satisfied with those and sent back a missive longer than all those linked columns put together. A quick skim revealed that this person isn’t in anguish or deep confusion; he merely seems to be looking for me to provide justification for a course of action he’s already decided to follow in keeping with his pre-existing belief system.
While it’s not for me to judge another person’s value system, it’s for nobody else but me to make judgments about mine. And I judge that letters like this, which ask me to spend an entire evening of my increasingly-precious time to lend validation to someone on an issue about which he’s clearly already made up his mind, are not a worthy use of my limited pro bono resources. If you have a question you don’t think I’ve answered before and you genuinely want my help, it’s yours for the asking. And if you want to pay me for my time (I only charge $100/hour for phone calls in which I’m not required to come up with sexual fantasy talk), I’ll talk to you for as long as you want about whatever it is that’s eating you. Because if your issue is too complex to explain in a few hundred words (especially if your first few hundred are spent in telling me why I’m wrong about something I said in a previous letter), you’re going to have to pay somebody to listen to you and give you advice on it, whether that somebody is me or a professional therapist.
Are there alternate screening methods aside from P411? I’ve heard horror stories about the site’s actual discretion. A hobbyist can get verified if a P411 girl recommends him, but the catch-22 is getting seen in the first place. I visited two newbie friendly FBSM-only providers (they used LinkedIn for screening, which I felt was risky). The first one seemed offended when I asked about referrals, and the second was willing to help, but didn’t know how to use TER whitelist or otherwise offer a referral. How should I proceed?
As I’ve written in the past, there are indeed some well-known problems with P411, but most of those have been schemes to entrap and harm sex workers rather than clients. Certainly, being on a whitelist like P411 or Date Check can expedite matters, but if you’re nervous about such lists you don’t have to use them; referrals are one of the most commonly-used and widely-accepted methods of screening, and they don’t require an intermediary at all. You’ve already completed the first step by seeing two providers; some full-service escorts may not accept references from FBSM ladies, but I don’t think that’s the norm. All you need to do now is find an escort you like and provide her with the names, email addresses & phone numbers of the ladies you’ve already seen. If she doesn’t accept them (because she doesn’t know them, or excludes FBSM providers or whatever) you’ll need to try someone else, but I think you’ll be able to find someone pretty quickly. If possible, try to pick a lady who’s well-established and has been around for a while; once you can give one or two strong names as references, you shouldn’t have any more problems as long as you are generous, behave like a gentleman and otherwise act in such a way that escorts won’t have any qualms about vouching for you to our sisters.
How do you get deposits for appointments? I don’t mean the physical logistics like PayPal or whatever, but rather the larger question of actually getting men to pay them (say, if they want you to get a hotel room or travel a great distance to see them). Then, there’s the vastly larger question: how do escorts command more respect from clients in general?
Generally, the way anyone commands respect from anyone else in any sexual transaction is, paradoxically, by not needing them. Let’s start with a couple of extreme examples. Think about how you feel about men who are very emotionally needy; even if their deep neediness doesn’t induce you to run as fast as you can in the other direction, it’s not exactly going to endear them to you or inspire you to treat them with more respect. If anything, it’s going to discourage respect because A) it’s annoying, and B) respect isn’t necessary to ensure their devotion, so why bother? By the same token, one of the classic forms of abuse is to convince the victim that she’s unattractive in some way: she’s fat, she’s ugly, she has bad teeth and/or breath, she talks too much, her pussy smells, her sexual desires are repulsive and/or she’s no good in bed, etc, so nobody else but the abuser would want her. When a person has no options, they don’t feel they can command respect, because most humans reserve respect for equals or superiors (which is why people react so strongly when someone “above” them gives them respect).
So the answer to both of your questions is the same: the more well-known, well-reviewed and in-demand you are, the more respect you’ll command from clients and the more hoops (including deposits) you can demand they jump through. The more clients you have, the more you can turn away; the more you can turn away, the more guys who want to see you will be willing to do to keep your attention & goodwill. Some ladies are fairly good at creating the illusion of being very sought-after, but no matter how much you call yourself “VIP” and “exclusive” there’s no substitute for the obvious confidence that naturally comes from knowing you can tell anyone who annoys you to take a hike without it affecting your bottom line.
Can a client be an ally? A sex worker recently told me, “An ally who is not a client is a time-waster. Self-interest is irrelevant. The more people on our side, the better.” But I worry that the people I’m supporting will like me less if they believe I support their struggle out of self-interest. If you knew two male allies who were equally good at being allies, all things being equal, toward whom would you feel more warmly? The ally who is or has been a client, or the one who never has been? Or is the question truly irrelevant?
As a pragmatist, I don’t give a flying fuck why anyone supports decriminalization, just as long as he or she does. If a billionaire software developer is an ally because he has some software he hopes to sell to decriminalized sex workers, or a politician backs decrim because it will save huge amounts of money wasted on law enforcement, or a celebrity backs it because she thinks it will attract sex workers to buy her albums or see her movies, what difference does that make to me? Activists who demand ideological purity tests aren’t really interested in winning the War on Whores; they want a secret handshake club.
That having been said, an ally who has no “skin in the game” might be useful for a time, but what happens if his circumstances change? If he’s not invested in the outcome, it’s just a hobby to him. If anything, I think that allies who act out of enlightened self-interest are probably more trustworthy, because humans are humans and we all act out of self-interest at least to some degree. People who pretend otherwise aren’t “pure”; they’re just hiding their real motives, and that makes me wonder what those real motives might be. So while I welcome all allies, temporary or long-term, all things being equal I would prefer one who’s got as much to lose as I do if the prohibitionists aren’t stopped.
As my close friends know, I have a deep-seated dislike of interpersonal conflict. Now, I don’t mind mocking idiots on the internet, or chastising a stranger for being an asshole or a customer service person for not giving me what I want, or having an intellectual debate. And I’ll always support someone I love in an argument with a person I don’t, without even a moment’s hesitation. But when it comes to disagreement with a person I love, I will go a long way to avoid arguments, even to the point of giving in when I know I’m right because it isn’t worth the emotional pain. In fact, the single most abusive thing my first husband, Jack, used to do in our relationship (and there were many) was to refuse to let me avoid arguments; he’d insist on cornering me and goading me no matter how much I just wanted it to stop. So while I deeply disliked arguments before, I now have an aversion to them bordering on the pathological.
As you can probably guess, this also means it’s deeply uncomfortable for me when two of my friends argue with one another. I don’t particularly even like hearing one friend complain about another, but as long as they respect my desire to remain neutral I can live with that. But when there’s an implicit or explicit request for me to validate the person’s feelings (beyond the level of, “I’m sorry you and so-and-so aren’t getting along right now”), I have to draw a line. It’s possible I might be able to mediate a reconciliation, as long as the parties both agreed to be calm during the process, but even then I wouldn’t like it. And actually hearing two people I care about hurling harsh words at one another is so painful it makes me want to run away.
Lately, I’ve had a few requests from sex worker readers I don’t know to help them in fights with other sex workers I don’t know. And while I can understand their desire to get a well-known and highly-respected member of our community on their side, my answer has to be “no” because if I don’t know either participant there’s just no way I can separate facts from emotions and decide which actions were understandable reactions to provocation and which were pure assholiness. If the two of you can agree to calmly state your cases to me, and furthermore will agree to abide by whatever decision I make or compromise I propose, I can probably be persuaded to act as judge. This doesn’t mean I want that role; if I wanted to be a judge I’d have gone to law school rather than library school. But I understand that my position as one of the grande dames of the demimonde and my reputation for wisdom and rationality will naturally cause some people to want me to act in that role, and I won’t shirk my duty. Also, if you’re a sex worker and your adversary isn’t, it’s possible I may be able to help you (though again, I won’t like it) because I’m naturally going to sympathize with a member of my own tribe. If, however, you’re a whore fighting with another whore who just comes up out of the blue and expects me to take your side without hearing the other, I’m afraid I must decline. I mean, think about it for a minute: What if she had thought to contact me first? The only way to stop the drama is to lay everything out in the open, and that’s impossible unless I can hear both sides.