Family Friendly Prostitution?


A brand new television show is airing on the Lifetime Channel. That is not a particularly earth shaking announcement unless you examine the program’s premise: a like-able wife and mother resorts to providing “happy endings” to her massage clients in order to support her family and avoid foreclosure on their mortgage.

Unlike Showtime’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl which is based upon research scientist, Dr. Brooke Magnanti’s life as an escort while completing her doctoral studies, Lifetime’s The Client List starring Jennifer Love Hewitt is apparently fictional. While Secret Diary of a Call Girl is produced in the UK, The Client List originates in the USA and targets a predominantly female viewership.

But what is perhaps most surprising, is that this latest entry in sex work as television entertainment portrays both the reluctant prostitute and her clients as average, one might even say normal, human beings. Gone are the stereotypes of drug addicted, incest surviving, man hating women servicing hateful and domineering men who have lost all respect for women. These stereotypes are so common they go unchallenged in the culture and continue to wreak havoc in the lives of the very real people who work for pay and pay for play in the sex industry.

Instead, we are treated to characterizations which reveal affection and meaningful connection between Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character and her mostly male clients.  The premiere episode even features a tearful exchange between Riley Parks (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and the wife of a male client. While the distraught wife warns Riley to stay away from her husband, Riley reaches out with that heart of gold assuring the jealous woman that her husband is still in love with her.

Is it by accident or design that the show’s producers created a scenario where our heroine prostitute lends her wisdom and compassion to help mend a marriage?  For those of us who have worked in the sex industry, we know this happens more often than outsiders would ever suspect. Public perception casts prostitutes as a corrosive influence on love, romance, marriage and family. But what if professional sex functions to support marriage and the family? Can we imagine sex work which heals and empowers?

What if the people getting paid for sexual services are truly service oriented?  What if they are gifted with an unusual capacity to nurture and attend to the emotional and sensual needs of others?

This normalization of prostitution is bound to outrage some viewers.  In fact, just today Massage Therapists Against The Client List, petitioned the show’s producers to stop production of the program.  the group’s premise is that The Client List perpetuates popular stereotypes of massage therapists engaging in “inappropriate sexual contact.”

While I understand the massage industry’s interest in preserving the reputation and good standing of their profession, it is a sad commentary on our cultural norms that almost everyone wants desperately to disassociate themselves from sex workers. Sex workers are simply people who get paid to provide a service which is more personal than most and far more palatable than many nursing jobs.

After schoolteacher Shannon Williams’ arrest for prostitution in 2003, I was invited onto FOX’s From the Heartland to debate a most unusual topic.  The question posed was a disingenuous “should prostitutes be allowed to be schoolteachers?” Former Congressman John Kasich (now Governor of Ohio) was of course adamantly opposed to the idea. Even to a veteran sex worker rights activist like myself, the juxtaposition of schoolteacher and prostitute felt blatantly contradictory.

But is it possible that logic and reason have taken a vacation on this topic? Is it fair to ask ourselves to suspend convention and entertain the idea that once reflexive shame is removed from the equation there isn’t much to dissuade us from accepting that any profession which practices compassion and sensual healing is just what the planet needs more than ever?


3 thoughts on “Family Friendly Prostitution?

  1. The problem is/was that sensual and emotional needs are neglected dimensions in both school and marriage. Do you really think the husband of that wife in the Client List would need a “happy ending” if his wife got him off? It’s as if she’s possessive about something she neither values or respects. Since that’s what the husband needed, that was translated to “I neither value nor respect YOU”. Enter the hand job………
    I see a relationship between schoolteacher and whore in that both nurture and construct outlets for a man (in this case) to learn how to communicate deepest unvarnished needs while acquiring the sensitivity and skills to provide for the needs of others. Convulted but an example may suffice. Schoolteachers teach basic skills so we can talk, listen to others, undetstand how things relate to one another. A whore COULD do the same thingthing but there is one big difference – she does this based on what she is paid. But what makes the whore so objectionable is that she has sex with many people. what if wives has as much sex with their husbands as whores do with other men?

    1. The assumption is that husbands stray because their wives are not providing what they need at home. I have not found this to always be true. I will never forget a man whose wife was drop dead gorgeous and had sex with him several times a week in just about every imaginable position and configuration including a three-way with another gorgeous woman just that week! And what does he do the one day his wife is out doing something other than having sex with him any way he wants it? He came to see me. Mind you, I was a pretty fussy escort and I had a long list of things I would NOT do. So this man paid me to be far less adventurous in bed than his wife was. Why? I asked him. Incredulously, I inquired, “Let me get this straight – you are living every man’s dream – having sex almost every day of the week with your wife, with your wife and another beautiful woman and that is still not enough to please you?” Know what he told me? “My wife doesn’t know I am seeing you.” So in the end, for this man at least, it came down to power. He wanted to do something behind his wife’s back. Period.

      You might think he was the exception to the rule. I did encounter plenty of men who were being turned down and shut out by their wives. But there were just as many men whose wives would do damn near anything to please them and they would rather pay for it. Often this seemed to come down to a very surprising factor: the thrill of being with a woman who will tell you to go to hell. I didn’t use those words of course, but I routinely declined many things clients wanted me to do for them and I could be moody and difficult to get along with. The more I allowed this side of me to come out, the more clients I attracted and the higher my fee went. I was rather shocked to say the least.

      1. Now were getting somewhere. Let me explain. The man that said he got all the sex he wanted said he was with you just to do something behind his wife’s back. There’s 3 things I see there. First, why is he excited about doing something behind the back of someone who gives him so much sexually? He could just be entitled scum but I don’t sense that in his comment. I hear something along the lines of him sensing the sex she gives is less than geniune – like it’s a tool to keep him.
        The other point I’d like to make is my comments couldn’t possibly fit all women. I was focusing on the type of woman who would complain about a show like the Client List have a near suffocating view of sex. They don’t provide it and they’ll be damned if someone else will whether the man likes it or not. As you can attest to in your own life, men in that position rarely stay there for long hence women like the heroine in the Client List are forever in business. Not just for the sex, but for the nonnegotiable emotional, physical and psychological needs (of which sex covers all 3) men need. Oughta have a look at the ladies who go to male escorts or gigolos too. They need sex too but no one talks about them too much. They’re often times just a sexual as their male counterparts. All that corporate ladder climbing means guys like me can just look up their skirts…;p (just kidding…….sort of). But after all that goal pursuing they want sex too. If the needs of the partner cannot be openly stated, expressed or engaged in without the emotional power politics (both sexes guilty there), the “Client List” will never end. Long story short, every married woman has at least one client on her “Client List” too. Question is is she genuinely taking care of her “client” or just suckering him in while nursing deep seeded shame about the needs she must meet? Love the conversation. It’s deep, truthful & fulfilling.

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