Posts tagged ‘Politics of Sexuality’
People joke that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. This would seem to imply that prostitution somehow qualifies as a “profession.” It’s a job. But it’s hardly a profession. The last time I checked no one issued a diploma in prostitution.
Most prostitution in the United States is illegal. It is legal in only twelve rural counties in Nevada. Some of those counties don’t even contain brothels. There are essentially three forms of prostitution: street prostitution, brothels, and escort services, otherwise known as call girls.
The overwhelming majority of prostitues are girls and women, although there are some men. Most of the men service other men, but a tiny percentage of male prostitutes service women. Prostitutes are generally paid by five factors: the venue they work in, their clients, and their race, youth, and level of physical attractiveness.
Women are paid more than men on average. Younger women are paid more on average, as they are seen as less of a risk for sexually transmitted disease. This could also be due to just a taste for younger flesh. White women command higher rates, and by default one could conclude that young, attractive white women make the most money from prostitution.
Street prostitution is the lowest rung of prostitution. It exists in every major US city in pocket neighborhoods. Typically, police run a sting in one neighborhood, and they scatter to two or three other areas until they’re raided there, and then go back once again to the point of origin, and the cycle continues ad nauseum.
A lot of prostitutes are forced into prostitution, so-called white slavery. Some are not forced but, rather, coerced. The average age for the beginning of a prostitute’s career is 12-14 for a girl and 11-13 for a boy. Staggering, huh?
Lots of times kids begin their careers on the streets as runaways. It’s not something they’ve chosen to do but instead it’s something they do on occasion to survive, to buy a hotel room for the night or some food to eat. Eventually, these kids end up doing it regularly, and it becomes a job for them. Given that they’ve run away from home so young, I think it’s safe to assume that most of them come from abusive homes where they were already beaten or expected to service a family member sexually.
It’s not uncommon in some suburban areas of the United States nowadays for girls to be recruited from middle class homes by pimps. Sometimes they’re enticed by the promise of good money and an escape from boredom. Who knows? Maybe they thrill to the danger involved. Sometimes these girls are coerced with threats of violence to their families. “I know where you live.”
A lot of people think that prostitution should be legalized. A lot of the people I’ve talked with about this are men. And I think they mean well. I really do. I even think that it’s possible that they don’t paint a sex worker with the same stigma that the rest of our society does.
There’s a great argument for it. Look at Amsterdam: Land of All Vices Legal. They’ve really cut down on some of the reasons people cite for their objections to prostitution: human trafficking, the exploitation of minors, the rampant spread of STDs, the threat of sexual abuse and battery to sex workers, the highway robbery of pimps and madams who steal a significant percentage if not all of the sex workers’ wages.
All these evils have been eliminated in Amsterdam, if we are to believe them, simply by legalizing prostitution. Who wouldn’t want to improve these people’s lives by simply legalizing and regulating and thereby legitimizing and taxing their “profession”? What narrow minded person would be opposed to such good?
I would. I would be that narrow minded person. I’ll tell you why. With very few exceptions, the women who are involved in sex work come into it by happenstance, by force, coercion, or exploitation. And then they feel trapped there because it is all they have ever known or because they don’t know how to do any better, or because they think the greater world will never forgive them the stigma associated with an arrest record for prostitution. And, largely, they are right. I think very few major American corporations would hire people of either sex who have a conviction for prostitution.
Some women fall into prostitution of their own accord. But they inevitably do it for the money. They do it because they can make $2,000 in an hour by having sex with a stranger when I make $3,000 in a month doing other work. I realize no one’s going to pay me $2,000 an hour to have sex with him, but that’s beside the point. These women don’t become prostitutes out of some sense of adding to the common good or a sense of self-satisfaction that they get out of sexually servicing men. I’d be very surprised to hear any woman say that, and if she did, then bully for her, and I would tell her that maybe she should remain a prostitute.
But I think it’s kind of funny that the women who glamorize prostitution for us, such as the Heidi Fleisses and the Sidney Biddle Barrows and the Xaveria Hollanders of this world, don’t derive their satisfaction from being sex workers. They would lead us to believe that it’s a victimless crime. Who doesn’t like sex? The woman gets paid handsomely. The Happy Hooker stereotype.
If these women were so happy as hookers, then why did they become madams? And after some of them got caught, then why did they become authors and reality TV stars? Why not just move to Amsterdam and continue to enjoy doing what they do so well? Good question.
And finally, the best argument for not legalizing prostitution. Well, there are two of them. The first is that there is no such thing as Whore Barbie. When they make Whore Barbie in the Streetwalker, Chicken Ranch, and Escort versions, then maybe we should consider legalizing it as a profession because that means that little girls will see it as being something to aspire to when they grow up.
And the other best argument would be if the men friends of mine who think prostitution should be legalized would really wish for their daughters, sisters, and mothers to be whores. Really. Would you be okay with that? You think she would be fulfilled and self actualized? When you really, really feel that way, and prostitution has a four year degree at the university and a pamphlet in the high school guidance counselor’s office, then maybe we should consider it.
You might wonder what a sex name is. And if you do, then you can join my club, because when the concept was first mentioned to me, I was equally clueless. This is how the subject came up. I have a friend who is a great educator about a variety of subjects. She is the alpha female in the relationship, as, I believe, nearly all my good girlfriends are. I play second fiddle, or Tonto, if you will.
This girlfriend…we’ll call her Katina, because that is her sex name, and the name under which she has given her official permission to be written about in my blog. Katina sends out a weekly email. It’s like her version of a blog. She writes quite well, I might add, and has some legitimate criticisms of my blog; i.e. too long, too wordy, repetitive (did I mention that I’ve had sex recently?), strays from subject. But I digress.
Katina’s weekly email goes out mostly to the people that she considers to be her closest friends. One of these friends had an email address that contained the name Sheila. Now Katina and I know a couple of Sheilas, but neither one of these women were in Katina’s circle of friends, to my knowledge. And Katina doesn’t have any Australian girlfriends. So, I asked her who was the woman with the Sheila email address. She answered, “Oh, that’s [so and so’s] wife.” I know this woman and her husband, and I know that her name is not Sheila. So, I asked, “Why does she have the name Sheila in her email address?”
Katina answered, “Oh, that’s her sex name.”
“Her sex name?” I asked.
“Yes, her sex name. As in what she likes to be called when she’s doing freaky shit.”
“Wow. Really? Like what?”
“The kind of stuff you do to spice up your sex life after you’ve been in a relationship for a while. You know, wigs and handcuffs, stuff like that.”
“You know. Uh, uh, uh. Oh, Sheila.”
I admit to taking some poetic license with this exchange. I didn’t exactly copy and paste our chat dialogue and then email it to myself, but with the snippets of a spoken conversation on the same subject added in, that was the gist of it.
Later, I was speaking about this very topic with another, male friend of mine, over pizza and beer. This friend, a shy male guitar player (see About Love and Music), has given his permission to be henceforth written about in this blog, as Shy Guy. I was talking about how this would be a great subject for my blog. Shy Guy agreed.
Then Shy Guy had a brilliant idea. “You could use this to cover yourself if you ever cried out the wrong name in bed. Like, say you accidentally say the name of your ex-girlfriend during the act. You could cover it by saying, ‘Hey, baby. That’s your sex name!'” Of course, this plan can only work if the person you’re having sex with doesn’t know you very well and doesn’t know the name of previous partners of significance, in which case you probably wouldn’t be having freaky sex yet. Nobody wants their sex name to be the same as their partner’s ex. So, this theory has holes in it. We’re working on it.
Soon after our next to the last breakup I moved in with my last roommate, a woman I will refer to as The Train Wreck. Before we were going to move in together she insisted on meeting me for drinks at Baby A’s because she had something to tell me. By that time, Rat and I hadn’t been broken up for very long, and I think this was our second breakup. We maintained a friendship. Maybe you can guess what Train just had to tell me before I moved in with her, but I did not see this coming. She told me that she wanted me to know that during our last breakup, she and Rat had slept together.
Since we were broken up at the time, he was perfectly free to have sex with whomever he wanted, and since it was a one time thing I wondered why Train didn’t just keep this news to herself. Just why was a purging of her conscience necessary? And the truth is that it wasn’t. This woman wanted to hurt me. And she was successful on that score.
I did get upset. Besides the obvious, I got upset that when we had gotten back together after that breakup, I had questioned him, in the interest of my sexual health, about whether or not he had had sex with someone while we were broken up. He told me he hadn’t, and when I called him from my cell phone at Baby A’s to chew his ass out, he insisted that the only reason that he never mentioned it was because it would have upset me for no reason. Call me cynical, but I think the reason he failed to mention it was because he didn’t want to wear condoms again for the next six months. The truth is that if he had just been upfront with me in the first place I wouldn’t have been that upset. Would I have been a teensy bit jealous? Yeah. That’s normal. But I would have gotten over it.
And even after this fiasco/soap opera scene, Rat and I did get back together one last time. It didn’t last long. Maybe two months. And during that time, he got down on bended knee and asked me to marry him. There was no ring. I didn’t need or want one, but Rat insisted that I would have one. Even right after this happened, in my state of happiness at the prospect of spending the rest of my life with the Rat Bastard I loved, I told The Train Wreck that he would never marry me. I’m psychic like that.
The end came like this. The Rat Bastard was over at Train’s and my place for an evening meal. Afterward we were sitting in the courtyard together, enjoying the autumn weather at sunset. I was sipping on a glass of white wine. He said he had something to tell me. I wondered if it was along the lines of the time that he admitted to having told me some whopper lies when we first got together. Lies like the one about the non-existent older brother who died in Vietnam or the time he spent playing minor league baseball were what I was expecting.
What he had to tell me was that he would still marry me and that he loved me, but that he was pretty sure now that he was gay. Lately, he felt almost exclusively sexually attracted to men. He had to have sex with another man. He had to have the freedom to do that. So, if I would just look the other way, he promised he would never have sex with another woman. Only men.
In truth, this should not have shocked me. Our sex life had been lacking one thing for me recently: frequency. I had bitched about it and bitched about it. I could have done it every day. More often than not, he had an excuse for why he couldn’t. He was tired. The headache cliché for us was when he started getting these whopper headaches whenever he came. That dried us up for awhile, as did the stroke he thought he nearly had once while we were fucking.
If he was exclusively sexually attracted to men, I questioned him, then just how did he manage what must have been the chore of having sex with me? Did he have to close his eyes and pretend I was someone else? He admitted to something along those lines and then when I continued to dig for more information, he said, “Why are you torturing yourself?” It was a good point. I gotta wonder. After all, the issue was his. It wasn’t mine. My only crime in this scenario was being a woman, something that in and of itself makes me desirable to approximately 90% of the male population. But to me there was something particularly hurtful about the idea of him having to imagine someone else in order to perform. To this day, I’ve never had to imagine that I was having sex with anyone other than the person with whom I was actually having sex.
I told him to get out. So, he left. He came back five minutes later because he left his wallet inside the house. Even losing the love of your life becomes a comical moment. On this week’s episode of, “Here’s Lucy,” Lucy breaks up with her gay boyfriend after he asks her to look the other way while he has anonymous public restroom sex with strangers. I didn’t say a word to him. I didn’t scream. I didn’t cry. I never did. I sipped my white wine and read my book. Then I slipped quietly back into the house and went to sleep. A week later he was sleeping with the same ex girlfriend whose garage he had once lived in.