Posts Tagged ‘Madonna/whore’

I’m 23 years old and generally considered good looking and very intelligent, but I’ve never had any success with girls. I’ve been going to prostitutes once a month, and though they’re always lovely, in the end I feel horrible for doing this, instead of managing to get a girl by myself.  Is there something I can do to be more attractive to women?

retro paying for itI’ve written on several occasions about how men can be more attractive to women; probably the best one for your purposes would be “Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat“.  But since I’ve already answered that question, I’m going to ask you one instead:  What the hell do you mean by “I feel horrible for doing this, instead of managing to get a girl by myself“?  It seems to me that you are getting girls “by yourself”, in whatever quantity you can afford and whatever type you like.  Do you mean someone else is paying for you, and that you’re concerned he might stop at some point?  Or are you using counterfeit money or a stolen credit card, and feel horrible for hurting others by your theft?  Or is it that you imagine paying directly with cash to be somehow morally inferior to paying indirectly with presents and entertainment?  Surely you don’t feel “horrible” for  fairly paying a woman the price she wants, instead of tricking her with bullshit…is it that you actually know the price and what you’re getting for it, rather than getting sex of indeterminate quality for a hidden price you won’t know until it’s too late, that could even include legal proceedings against you and/or two-decade long financial obligations?  Because honestly, that doesn’t seem like something any sane man would prefer…is it a kink of some kind?  Because if so, I’m sure you could find a professional who’d help you to indulge it far more safely than experimenting with some possibly-unbalanced and certainly-unpredictable amateur.  Or maybe you’re laboring under the misapprehension that “real” men get sex for “free”, or something like that?  Because I can guarantee you that isn’t the case; every man pays, and the only thing that varies is the method of payment.  Help me out here, sweetheart; I simply can’t wrap my head around what you’re trying to say.

(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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Crowding what I do into the larger umbrella of “sex work,” without its own name, makes it seem as if I’m supposed to experience what I do as shameful.  –  Charlotte Shane

What’s In a Name?

I agree with Charlotte Shane on words like “prostitute”:

I’ve called myself a prostitute for about as long as I’ve been one…it felt like the most accurate term given the service I provide, and I like the solidarity of it, the refusal to kowtow to class-related stigma or what is sometimes called the “whorearchy”…I believe the difference between “escort” and “prostitute” is that one term relies on euphemistic window dressing while the other is unapologetic and unashamed…I’m at odds with the party line in this stance, though…Increasingly, prostitute is…regarded as a slur…Taking euphemisms on permanently and in a political context, outside of marketing material or work-related correspondence, feels to me like ceding way too much power.  The state forces me to use certain language to protect myself in some contexts; I don’t want to willingly employ that language in all others…


One rather nasty side-effect of prohibition is that it gives moral retards like Mary Mitchell leave to vomit their odious bigotry all over the pages of major newspapers:

Authorities say Roy Akins went to Backpage.com and agreed to pay a prostitute $180 for sex.  When the unidentified woman showed up at his…home…Akins…pulled a gun.  I imagine most prostitutes in this situation would have run straight to a pimp.  But after leaving Akins’ home…the…woman called the police…I’m grateful [Akins] isn’t being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street…the way this case is being handled makes it look like sex trafficking is a legitimate business…because this incident is being charged as a criminal sexual assault — when it’s actually more like theft of services — it minimizes the act of rape…For law enforcement to put what happened to a Backpage.com prostitute on a par with [real] rape victims…is an insult.

A few observations:

  • “I imagine most prostitutes…would have run straight to a pimp.” I’ll leave you to imagine what she’s doing while she “imagines” this.
  • Note the conflation of sex work and sex trafficking, and the badge-licking idolization of the clownish tyrant Tom Dart.
  • For another example of a woman using the “theft of services” slur, see the original of this title.
  • Given that last line, would Mitchell be more sympathetic toward the rape of a prostitute like me, who advertises somewhere other than Backpage?

Lack of Evidence

It’s rare to see someone attempt this defense with a straight face:

Lisa Marie Carroll, 34, was charged with one misdemeanor count of prostitution…Police [pretend] that she offered to perform various sex acts…for [specific] pricing…”I did not agree to have sex with that cop…I’m an escort companion and go on dates and sometimes clients make a donation and that doesn’t have to do with sex”…[a sleazebag cop accompanied her] to her room where…they both undressed and laid in bed.  The [cop then tried to get her to coomit to specific prices for specific acts] “And I said, ‘No, honey.  This is not how this works'”…A little while later, [the cops invaded] her house…

She’s lucky; many Pennsylvania cops rape women in order to arrest them.

Harm Magnification

Kerry Porth discusses the Harper government’s campaign to harm as many people as possible via increased prohibition:

…After winning a majority government in 2011, the Harper government quickly…introduced mandatory minimum sentencing for drug possession…despite warnings from current and former law enforcement from the United States…and respected Canadian drug policy experts…the Harper government has waged a costly war against Insite…[and] established 26 new requirements…that are costly, onerous and designed to prevent future sites from opening.  Then…the…government…reintroduced the old laws [that the Supreme Court had struck down] and introduced a prohibition on the purchase of sex and the explicit advertising of sexual services for the first time in Canadian history.  Despite a great deal of florid rhetoric about the government’s desire to ensure the safety of sex workers, the real intent behind the new laws was memorably stated by Senator Donald Plett: “Of course we don’t want to make life safe for prostitutes; we want to do away with prostitution. That’s the intent of the bill”…

The Proper Study

a…new Canadian study…concludes the average porn user holds, if anything, more egalitarian views regarding women than non-users.  Many pornography aficionados might even be “useful allies” in women’s struggles for equality in work, income and public office, the researchers…argue…Taylor Kohut…and his colleagues analyzed data from 35 years of the General Social Surve…the 23 per cent who reported having watched an “X-rated” movie in the previous year were no more or less likely than porn abstainers to identify as feminists, or voice support for the traditional family.  And the blue-movie watchers expressed on average more positive attitudes toward women in positions of power, and less negative attitudes toward abortion and women in the workforce than those who refrained from pornography…

Divided We Fall

Unfortunately, this revolting attitude is not unusual among picket-fence queers:

…had there been a sequel to [Pretty Woman], it would have been salacious. We would watch Richard Gere struggle with the fact that his girlfriend was a confirmed whore and had been with hundreds, maybe even thousands of men…There would be a scene at a dinner party when other women were whispering about Julia Roberts, all of them knowing that she could be found at one time on Hollywood Boulevard spreading her legs for any man with $200 in his pocket…I have been poor…and never once was selling my ass an option…When you make a choice to work in the sex industry…you are immediately shrinking your dating pool…I would never subject myself to a How-was-your-day,-honey? conversation with a partner who took anonymous loads for a living…


The robed simian who presided over this case planned to use this young man to “send a message” about having sex without a state license to do so; he should be caged for several years and then put on the “sex offender” registry for life.

A young man from Indiana who had consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl who told him she was [17] has been removed from Michigan’s sex offender registry pending his resentencing.  Zach Anderson [who was 19 at the time]…spent 75 days in jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.  He was given a five-year probation that banned him from using computers or the Internet and also had faced 25 years on Michigan’s sex-offender registry.  But…Anderson’s lawyer successfully argued prosecutors failed to remain neutral on a key part of the plea deal, which would have erased Anderson’s record if he stayed out of trouble…Anderson’s resentencing will be Oct. 21…

What “crime”? He had consensual sex with a physically-adult woman he believed to be a peer.  The concept of strict liability is an abomination in any civilized society.

They Still Don’t Get It

The jaw-dropping stupidity of this article takes precedence over the FBI money grab it talks about:

At the click of a mouse, almost anyone can buy a girl online, anytime…ads with identical phone numbers can be traced to other cities…a sign, police say, that the women are on the move with their traffickers.  Some ads even state “only in town for three days, special.”  That’s the pattern of traffickers, always on the move, according to…Charlie Benton, who is known locally as the foremost law enforcement expert on sex trafficking.  The ads give no clue, though, which women are being forced to sell themselves or are under 18.  And the men who often answer the phone aren’t about to volunteer that information…

Yes, that’s what touring looks like to the warped mind of a pig obsessed with BDSM masturbatory fantasies involving adolescents.  Guys, have you EVER called an independent escort’s ad and had a man answer?  Ever?  It’s almost idiotic enough to distract the reader from the FBI agent asking for more money to fulfill his sick dream of attempting to entrap and cage literally every single escort on Backpage.


So Close and Yet So Far

Why do so many would-be allies insist on including vile, insulting garbage like this in otherwise-supportive essays?

…You may not approve of prostitution, and many quite reasonably do not.  It raises serious, ethical questions.  Having sex with people for money is degrading.  It transforms an intimate and private act into a commercial transaction.  It can pose a threat to those involved, especially women…

Torture Chamber 

This is what our society refers to as “correction”:

…Gesnerson Louisius…was slammed in the back of his head with a bar of soap stuffed inside a sock.  Six inmates pinned him down, and one grabbed him by his throat, as two others dragged him across the carpeted floor by his ankles…The young prisoners, between the ages of 18 and 20, kept demanding that he pay them money to stop the beating, but Louisius refused…The extortion ritual is so common and well known by both inmates and corrections officers that it has a name.  It’s called a “test of heart”…Hakiem Blount, 18, grabbed a broom and began pushing it into Louisius rectum…as far up as he could push it…there were no video cameras in the room, and the one corrections officer assigned to the dorm that afternoon was inexplicably nowhere to be found…Louisius…lost a lot of blood.  His rectum was ruptured and he underwent an emergency colostomy…he…served out the rest of his three-year prison term while wearing a colostomy bag, and had five or six surgeries in prison that likely cost Florida taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars…

Uncommon Sense (#557)

The Professional Association Erotic and Sexual Services [of Germany] (BesD) criticises the draft bill by the Ministry for Family Affairs for a “Prostitutes Protection Law” in the strongest terms…the BesD concludes, “A law that pretends to aim at strengthening the right to self-determination of a group of people but then denies them the maturity to make their own decisions, attempts to paternalistically ‘protect’ them from those decision, needlessly interferes with their basic rights, and that, quasi in passing, also creates regulations to save society from this group of people, allegedly in need of protection, via arbitrarily expandable ordinances…should be rejected in its entirety.”  Instead, the association calls for a complete decriminalisation of sex work…

R.I.P. Candida Royalle 

Elizabeth N. Brown on Candida’s legacy:

Candida Royalle is the kind of sex positive, free-speech-friendly artist and advocate that…is…relatively rare in feminist circles…[she] founded the (now defunct) nonprofit Feminists for Free Expression (FFE), which described its mission as “working to preserve the individual’s right to read, hear, view and produce materials of her choice without the intervention of the state ‘for her own good'”…The group opposed speech-censoring legislation; defended free speech in court cases, on college campuses, and in the media; and opposed the book, movie, and music banning efforts that were popular at the time.  Royalle and FFE’s other leaders believed that “freedom of expression is especially important for women’s rights” and that the suppression of sexist messages “will neither reduce harm to women nor further women’s goals”…

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One of my readers is a long-time client of whores who’s very incensed by the prohibitionists’ demonization of men like him; he therefore wanted to write about the various ladies he’s seen, and I decided to give him a place to share that.

menopauseAbout a year after my wife’’s  menopause and plummeting libido ended all sexual activity in my marriage I started seeking sex workers.  A professional sex worker was a better solution than an affair;  I love my wife and don’’t blame her for what happened to her body and her feelings, plus I felt it was safer and saner to see pros than to risk entanglements with amateurs. I don’t really crave variety, so I like to find one sex worker I like and continue seeing her until she leaves the business.  The following is a description of all the ladies I’ve loved and learned from.

My first was Kate, a single mom in her 40s with a well-paying job in health care administration.  But she wanted to send her son to a very exclusive prep school, so she set up a website and began escorting.  Her minimum date was 4 hours, and she was by far the best GFE I have ever encountered.  Kate was well educated, extremely smart, and very determined; she and I had many long discussions over the years, on a wide range of topics.  Eventually her son graduated from the prep school and attended an Ivy League college, majoring in the same branch of science I work in; Kate introduced us and I mentored him, using my connections to make  sure he got interviews and opportunities. Once her son was established in his career, Kate married one of her wealthier clients and retired from escorting; she still works in her health care profession and manages a busy social calendar heavy on organizing charitable events.  We stay in contact and I count her as a friend.  After Kate I met Mary, whose day job was in the insurance industry; she wanted the income from escorting to help her establish herself in real estate.  She owned a number of properties, and the escorting income let her make repairs and improvements or pay the mortgages when there were extended vacancies.  I saw Mary for 9 years, by which time her investments had paid off to the point where she no longer needed to escort; she then moved to another city to be closer to her children and grandchildren.  We remain in contact and still see each other once in a while.

After Mary, I went through a period where I had more than one regular, because the ladies I liked were difficult to schedule with.  One of them was Ami; she was a whip-smart IT professional and a marathon runner, and she just escorted because it was a turn-on to her.  She didn’t really need the money and was extremely low-volume; in fact, she would only see me when we could schedule it around her busy work and training schedule.  But because her motivation was sexual, she lost interest after menopause; we still meet for coffee from time to time.  Another was Jane, who lived in another city that I visited several times a year for business; we didn’t discuss her work, income or motivations, but I believe her total income was several times mine (and I consider myself well paid).  Jane was well-connected in the escort world, so whenever we couldn’t get our schedules to sync up she would connect me with  low-volume UTR escorts (mostly part-timers)that she knew.  I never really enjoyed those experiences as much as I did my time with Jane or Ami, though; I just didn’t have a connection with any of them as I did with my regular ladies.  About four years ago it became much more difficult to get in touch with Jane, so I assume she retired; she’s the only one of my regular ladies I’m out of contact with, and I wish it were otherwise.  After Jane I met Candy, a full-time sex worker supporting two children (one with special needs); one of her other clients recently proposed, though, so she has told me she will be retiring soon.

happy older manI feel enriched by my experiences with these wonderful women; I’’ve learned valuable things about myself and about life that I never would have known otherwise.  None of these women would stand for being labeled ““exploited”; all were fiercely independent and proud to be living life on their own terms, using their intelligence and understanding of men to improve their lives.  In over 20 years of seeing sex workers, I’’ve never met or heard of a pimp; none of them had ever  experienced any violence except at the hands of the police, and the only drugs involved were prescriptions for our aging bodies.  I think any of them would have bitch-slapped anyone who tried to “”protect”” or ““save”” her.  The control freaks who want to dictate what I and a consenting adult woman can do in her bedroom like to pretend that clients view sex workers as “toilets” or “collections of orifices”, but my experience is completely opposite:  Their professional services and care help me in countless ways.  I’’m happier, less stressed, and more focused when I can have satisfying sex every week or two; I am more productive at work, sleep better, and am more engaged with my friends and family.  In fact, I’’m quite certain that my marriage was saved by my decision to seek the services of sex workers; when I’m  celibate my judgement becomes impaired and my sexual fantasies and dreams become distorted to the point of being disturbing.  Without sex workers I almost  certainly would have started an affair, made inappropriate advances, or filed for divorce to get “official” permission to seek partners for sex.  Long-term marriage is an economic institution, and my wife and I are healthier, happier, and wealthier than any of our siblings precisely because we remain married while they divorced.  I’’m grateful to the sex workers I’ve known for their part in that outcome, and they have continued to enrich my life long after the financial and sexual relationship has ended.

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Once a Client

Though you and your husband are divorced now, your marriage was successful for a long time.  How did you manage to transition from thinking of him as a client to thinking of him as something else?

2-headed girlThe short, pithy and only-somewhat-accurate answer is, “I didn’t”.  It’s very popular to imagine love as an emotion which transforms all relationships into something completely different, but that’s poppycock; the fact that I love Grace never changed the fact that she was my business partner, and it doesn’t change the fact that she is my property manager now.  Her role as my manager is separate and distinct from her role as a person I love, just as an accountant who prepares his wife’s taxes is no less her accountant simply because they love one another.  I honestly believe that the pretense this isn’t so is one of the most important reasons marriages fail so often nowadays.  As I wrote in “Housewife Harlotry“,

Just because a man is another man’s friend doesn’t mean he can’t also be his doctor or business partner, and if he thinks their friendship means he can neglect the economic relationship he will find that neither lasts very long.  Similarly, a woman who thinks that “love” means she can neglect her defining contribution to the marriage, sex, may strain both interactions (the love-relationship and the socioeconomic partnership) to the breaking point.

Even during the most intimate phase of our marriage, I absolutely never lost sight of our respective socioeconomic roles in the relationship: he provided me with income and I provided him with sex, companionship and other wifely contributions.  In other words, because he never actually stopped giving me money for my companionship, I never stopped being a whore and he never stopped being my client.  The fact that I loved him didn’t change that underlying relationship, just as the eventual dissolution of that relationship didn’t change the fact that I love him; they are two distinctly different things.  Likewise, I think it’s absurd and dangerous to conflate sex with love; just because I have sex with someone doesn’t mean I love him in any way, and just because I love someone doesn’t mean I want to have sex with her.  Human relationships which are more than superficial tend to be complex and multi-faceted, with different components and aspects.  And effacing the lines between those aspects, or conflating them with one another, nearly always results in harm to the aspects and usually to the whole relationship.

(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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I just don’t get why an intelligent girl with a good family and  boyfriend would start to sell her body.  She was so honest and let me look for a few seconds into her soul, and I saw who she is and I don’t think she wants this.  I want to help her, but to her I was just another bad guy who paid for that and don’t deserve her respect.  I want to understand why is she doing this.

The Shadow 2-15-38Sell her body“?  Do you mean she started doing sex work?  You mean she chose an extremely lucrative job with shorter hours than most, extreme flexibility and no boss?  Sounds pretty damned intelligent to me; in fact, it’s the career I chose as well, and I’m generally considered to be reasonably intelligent.  Now, if you meant something more literal, like selling blood or eggs or some other part of her body, I stand corrected; however, something tells me that you just mean she became a whore.  She chose one job over the other options available to her, for the same sorts of pragmatic reasons anyone chooses his or her job over the others available at the time.

You say she “let you for a few seconds into her soul”; I’m not sure what sort of mystical or pharmaceutical process was involved there, but I can assure you that unless you are The Shadow or Dr. Strange or something, I sincerely doubt it was her soul you saw.  To be honest, it sounds to me what you were seeing was the constellation of your own needs you projected onto her.  You seem to have some sort of guilt (“I was another bad guy who paid for that”) about a simple business transaction, and you appear to load sex down with all sorts of Deep Meaning and metaphysical weight that it simply does not have, except in the minds of people conditioned from an early age to believe a load of rubbish about how something even dogs and chickens engage in is somehow a “sacrament” when highfalutin’ monkeys with notions do it.

You’re probably thinking about now that I’m an incredible bitch, and that I’m being very mean to you.  On the contrary; I’m doing you the great favor of trying to wake you up to the fact that sex is nothing more than a biological activity, and that the only “meaning” and “sacredness” it has is that which we choose to invest in it.  Eating can be a rich and wonderful bonding experience and the center of powerful rituals…or it can be a mundane thing one does because one is hungry.  And nobody pretends that the latter somehow “violates” or “degrades” the former, nor that there’s anything wrong with cooking or serving food for pay.  Nobody would say a waitress is “selling herself”, or pretend that a diner is “bad” for buying a hamburger.  And nobody, but nobody would pretend that there is some deep psychological motive behind a cook working as a cook, nor state that he could tell in a few seconds that said cook “really didn’t want to do this”.  Sex work is work, nothing more or less, and sex workers have the same range and complexity of feelings about it as other people have about their jobs.

(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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Aya de Leon teaches creative writing in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley and blogs here on WordPress; her sex worker Robin Hood novel, Uptown Thief, will be published in the spring.  This essay grew from a conversation she and I had on Twitter; I was so impressed with her ideas, I asked her to expand them into an essay.

Hollywood has a lot in common with the sex industries; for one thing, it thrives on selling sexualized access to young women.  Some would argue that Hollywood only sells images and fantasies of sex, while the sex industries offer more; however, any in-depth exploration of the film and TV industries reveals widespread transactional sex and sexually predatory behavior towards women (we need only look at Lena Dunham’s autobiography or recent revelations about Bill Cosby to see examples).  In addition, women of color are marginalized in both industries, and most female participants are seen as less valuable as they age.  While the sex industries have niche markets for women over 35, and particular actresses manage to remain hot commodities in Hollywood beyond their youth, both industries cater to male appetites for young and naïve ingenue-type women.

Children for SaleRashida Jones (39) and Jada Pinkett Smith (43) are two African American actresses who have recently found themselves standing at the crossroads of Hollywood and the sex industries.  Jones produced the documentary Hot Girls Wanted, and Pinkett produced the CNN special report, Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking.  There are vast differences between the two, but what they have in common is the way they reflect both women’s attempts to reinvent themselves from aging black actresses into producers.  Former Hollywood ingenues themselves, both women have seized an opportunity to reassert their relevance via spotlighting the sexuality of younger women, in the time-honored role of moralistic crusader.  Both women concentrate on the sexual exploitation of young women, and in both cases they miss the mark (Pinkett by an especially wide margin).  Rashida Jones faced heavy backlash for her slut-shaming comments when she began to publicly voice her concerns about “pornification” and sexualized behavior of younger women in mainstream media.  But at least Hot Girls Wanted was a collaboration with a pair of women filmmakers who put together a compelling and coherent (albeit problematic and whorephobic) narrative.  In addition, it maintained the focus on the young women, as opposed to including Jones in the film; in contrast, Children for Sale features Pinkett as commentator, and its central story is about her emotional journey around the issue.

The only compelling quote in Sale was Pinkett’s “People who are having sex with children are not johns and tricks.  They are child rapists and pedophiles, so we should call them what they are.”  This crucially differentiates between sex work and sex trafficking, but unfortunately, she doesn’t demand that level of precision around other language in her film.  To begin with, her subtitle “The Fight to End Human Trafficking” is misleading because the vast majority of human trafficking is non-sexual labor; ending sexual trafficking would only end a small portion of human trafficking.  But then, the entire film was misleading and imprecise.  Pinkett claims that girls as young as 11 are being trafficked in the United States, but she presents no evidence to support this claim, nor shows any girls that age, nor reveals any situations where girls were being held in slavery-like conditions.  We see interviews with young (adult) women who go from stripping to full service sex work, and Pinkett slurs stripping as a “gateway drug”, but that doesn’t constitute a story of child sex trafficking.  The central interview subject in the film tells of starting a relation with a seductive older man when she was 14; he later manipulated her to have sex with other men in the back of a barbershop for money, but she continued to live at home and go to school.  While she was clearly exploited and the sexual activity was statutory rape by any definition, this isn’t a story of slavery.

Jada PinkettAnother problem:  from the beginning, the police are presented as heroes and saviors.  There’s a raid, and a young “victim” is found, yet she “refuses help” to return to the “only life she’s ever known.”  A psychologist then attributes this refusal of help to a lack of self-esteem.  But if she’s a victim, why is she being handcuffed and marched into the back of a police cruiser?  And what rescue services do police have to offer young people?  Juvenile hall?  Foster care?  Even the trafficking survivor-led program they profiled doesn’t have long-term housing options.  By aligning herself first and foremost with the police, Pinkett is inevitably unable to effectively investigate anything; as a visiting celebrity, she doesn’t have any real connection with anyone in the situation.  The entire tone of the film is set by various images of blurred face individuals with voice-overs by police and anti-trafficking advocates, and police cruisers driving down streets.

In fact, the film totally fails to provide visual documentation of the “facts” of Pinkett’s narrative.  One segment included a tour of an area where the anti-trafficking advocate says there is supposed to be a great deal of street solicitation, but for some reason it’s quiet that night, and they don’t send cameras on any other night to capture it; we must take their word for it.  There may indeed be 11-year-olds being trafficked in the very places Pinkett was looking, but she never found them.  In other cases, the production manufactures what it fails to capture.  They interview a grandmother who calls a hotline for help with her 14-year-old granddaughter, and the police work tirelessly to find her; she is discovered with another “victim”, a fifteen-year-old, who is allegedly on the way to her first trafficked sexual encounter.  Thus, they “rescue” both girls from “the life.”  Yet all of these assertions remain unsubstantiated by evidence of any kind; only in the hysteria surrounding child sex trafficking could such shoddy reporting get such a large platform.  People have an appetite for sexual drama and tragedy, especially with black women; it need not be well-documented or even have a coherent narrative, only salacious innuendos.

Hot Girls WantedUnlike the CNN documentary, Hot Girls Wanted had a coherent story, following one young woman and her cohort through their introduction and overall disillusionment with amateur porn and the sex industries; the New York Times‘ Mike Hale described it as characterized by “an uncertain tone that vacillates between weary outrage and motherly concern.”  The film exposes some real problems with working conditions with “amateur porn”, which though it is actually very organized and professionalized, sells the scenario of the initiation of a given young woman into porn.  Thus, after the first film, their prospects quickly decline.  However, these labor practices where the “it girl” fades away and the spotlight moves on are not exclusive to amateur porn or even sex work; they are certainly at work in Hollywood, as well.

Furthermore, Hot Girls Wanted ignores the fact that today’s young women face relatively bleak prospects for employment and career development, even if they do go to college, and the internship model for entry level professional positions effectively excludes poor and working class girls.  In this time of limited prospects, sex industry entrepreneurs can exploit young women’s aspirations for something other than dreary work for low pay, no security and no benefits.  Yet Jones’ solution to the situation is to deny young women the choice.  Harvard-educated Jones is the daughter of wealthy celebrities; she has always had access to fame and money without taking any risks of her own, yet she criticizes girls for taking the risks associated with sex work in the hope of gaining fame.  She suggests that a central problem with amateur porn is that the women involved are too young to make their own decisions, but I would argue that the only way one learns to make decisions is by having the power to make them.  Young women entering the sex industries generally face two kinds of older adults:  On the one hand, they face shaming adults with little information about the industries who judge their desires and dismiss what they hope to gain; on the other hand, they face exploiters who withhold information, exaggerate and romanticize the payoffs and underplay the risks.  In either case, the young women generally cannot get the support they need to make informed decisions, which would include access to older adults with accurate information and probabilities about women’s trajectories in the industry, as well as non-judgmental listening and feedback.

Rashida JonesI see both Children for Sale and Hot Girls Wanted as part of a classic cycle for women in general and black women in particular.  Many young black women enjoy the attention that sexual currency brings, yet when they get older, many pick up the rallying cry that “we’ve got to save these young girls from themselves.”  I don’t think it’s coincidence that both of these older African American actresses are making films and speaking out on these topics; after all, the media aren’t interested in what black women have to say about global warming or the IMF, and they don’t put a microphone in black female hands to talk about Middle East foreign policy or immigration reform.  Jones and Pinkett are actually doing the very thing they claim to despise, trading on the public’s fascination with young women’s sexuality.  It’s a quandary all women must face:  when a society is far more interested in a woman’s sexuality than in anything else about her, how can she navigate through her life?  Yet neither documentary includes veteran sex workers, the women who did figure out how to navigate through the sex industries, especially those who entered the industries on someone else’s terms and then figured out terms of their own.  In Children for Sale, they are non-existent; in Hot Girls Wanted, their stories are glossed over.  The girls who stay in the industry are reduced to a footnote, while the film’s main subject quits and moves in with her boyfriend (in an implicit “happily ever after” ending).  Due to the lack of input from veteran sex workers both films lacked nuance, breadth, depth and insider information, and reached deeply flawed conclusions.

As an over-35 black woman, myself, I understand the need to stay relevant and maintain career momentum; like Jones and Pinkett, I’m a non-sex worker who chooses to write about sex work.  However, any vision of justice for people in the sex industries must be informed by a spectrum of voices that centers those currently working in those industries.  Criminalization and social stigma shrouds much of sex work in secrecy and silence, so a casual observer cannot get a clear picture of it (much less a celebrity with a camera crew).  These are areas of society that desperately need clear illumination, not the distorted and exploitative stories in today’s media; unfortunately, Jones and Pinkett chose to produce work suffused with moralistic narratives, which can only fail to change conditions for the young women they had hoped to help.

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The whore is despised by the hypocritical world because she has made a realistic assessment of her assets and does not have to rely on fraud to make a living.  –  Angela Carter

Because of the stigma against it, sex work is often taken up by women whose choices are otherwise limited; in other words, it is often the best of a limited range of options.  And for much of recent history, it was virtually the only worthwhile option available to women viewed as sexually “soiled” or “ruined”, often through no fault of their own.

Squirrel Tooth AliceTake Mary Elizabeth Haley, for example.  She was born in Belton, Texas in 1855 to James and Mary Haley, a fairly well-to-do couple.  Unfortunately for Libby (as she was called), if her family hadn’t had bad luck it would’ve had none at all; first they were financially ruined by the Civil War, and then the nine-year-old was abducted by Comanche Indians in 1864.  It took her father three years to raise the ransom the Comanches demanded, and even after she was released her ordeal was far from over:  “civilized” whites assumed she had been raped by the Indians, and her parents found themselves with an unmarriageable daughter.  Her father seems to have been deeply in denial about her ostracism, however; when young Libby’s looks and personality attracted a suitor mature enough not to care about her “reputation”, her father responded by shooting the man to death because he was too old.

Libby was both intelligent and pragmatic, and thus understood that her hotheaded father would either murder or frighten away any man willing to overlook her history, so at 14 she ran away to Abilene, Kansas and became a dance-hall prostitute.  Nobody in the boomtown knew anything about her, so it wasn’t difficult for her to find a boyfriend:  a professional gambler and sometimes-cowboy named Billy Thompson, younger brother of the gunslinger Ben Thompson.  From 1870 to 1876, the couple drifted across (mostly) Kansas and Texas, following the cattle drives or running from the law and/or people Billy had cheated; each brought in money by their professional skills, and they were married in 1873 after the birth of their first child.

Near the end of 1876, however, their luck began to change.  In October, Billy was arrested by Texas Rangers and extradited to Kansas to stand trial for the 1873 murder of Sheriff Chauncey Whitney; miraculously, he was acquitted, and for the first time they felt as though they might actually settle somewhere.  Both Billy and Libby were quite good at their professions, and had put aside a sizable stake;kissing prairie dogs they purchased a ranch and a dance hall/brothel in Sweetwater, Texas, and moved into management (Billy as a rancher, Libby as a madam).  During the years they had spent much of their time on the range, Libby had developed a fondness for prairie dogs; now that they lived in town she started keeping them as pets (some said she even walked them on leashes).  From this and the prominent gap between her front teeth, Libby at last gained the name by which she is known to history:  Squirrel Tooth Alice.

The next twenty years went quite well for them; both businesses prospered (especially the brothel), and Alice’s fame spread across the West.  They had nine children in all and their marriage lasted for 24 years, until Billy died of some sort of stomach condition in 1897.  Alice continued to run the brothel until she retired in 1921 at the age of 66.   Alas, her declining years were not as happy as they could have been; though several of her daughters followed their mother into our honorable profession, several of her sons inherited their father’s worse characteristics and turned to crime.  Alice lived in the homes of several of her children who had settled in Palmdale, California, and when she became too ill to care for themselves she moved into the Sunbeam Rest Home in Los Angeles.  There she died on April 13, 1953, at the ripe old age of 98.

Prohibitionists are fond of pretending that because sex work is often a constrained choice, that this is an argument for criminalizing it (as though it made any moral or logical sense to remove the best choice from a limited range of options!)  How would it have helped young Libby Haley to cut off the means of her escape from the narrow-minded bigots of her home town?  Prostitution not only allowed her to make a living, but also to find love, acceptance, fame and personal satisfaction; I guess the prohibitionists would prefer she had died a lonely charity case, unsullied by either men or money.

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