Sober Escort?

ROMANTIC DREAM

The first sober escort I ever met was Maria. She was a spunky, sexy brunette who attended my home group. She worked a good program and still had a hard time staying sober for more than a few months at a time. Maria felt prostitution was an impediment to her sobriety and it was her wish to quit the business someday soon. I eventually lost track of her so I have no idea if she ever did quit prostitution nor do I know if she was able to sustain any long-term sobriety.

But I certainly recall the resistance I felt inside myself when some members of twelve step recovery assumed that certain professions or sexual orientations are inconsistent with a life of sobriety.

 

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Powerful Women

I have found it to be quite true, that men of a certain type of power and success, can be easily intimidated by female power. For instance, they often marry vapid women who are more interested in their money than them. So many of my clients expressed a sense of entitlement regarding their wives – they were providing for them so they didn’t feel incongruent about “cheating” on them. I often asked individual men if they thought their wife was also stepping outside the marriage. The very idea would often elicit a scoff as almost every man had convinced himself that only he would engage in such behavior.

What I found particularly intriguing was how many of these same men hungered for a sexual companion who was anything but malleable. It led me to begin referring to this phenomena in this way:

Our culture prefers that Wives are Dumb and Docile but that does nothing for the Libido. Men may want wives and girlfriends who are easily controlled but in bed they prefer a companion who is powerful and challenging. It is the electricity of some level of intellectual and emotional challenge which drives desire. This is why the Patriarchy requires the Whore/Madonna Complex: a splitting of femininity into two camps so that women feel compelled to pick a side and thereby deny half of their reality as a whole human.

There is a beautiful movie entitled Dangerous Beauty. It is about the life of a Renaissance courtesan from Venice, named Veronica Franco. The movie illustrates perfectly the choice women faced of that time between being accepted as a person worthy of marriage (wives were not allowed to read, write or pursue an education) and being a free woman fully empowered to delve into domains normally reserved for men. Veronica Franco was simply too independent and intelligent to be a wife and her mother despaired for her future, so she instructed her in the ways of a courtesan. As a courtesan, Veronica Franco, learned to read and debate men in conversation. She took up fencing and she wrote her memoirs. This was a life of power reserved for courtesans. The price for admission was living outside the protection and approval of society.

Today, we speak of prostitutes as if they all live and work in the squalor of the streets. The fact is that the majority of modern prostitutes operate from their homes discreetly supplementing their incomes and/or financing their dreams, whether that is an education, a sole proprietorship or perhaps their art. They too, are women who are not satisfied with the “good girl” role. They probably feel stifled and silenced and confined by popular feminine behavior. And breaking free of that provides a sense of power they have rarely experienced in other contexts.

It isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are possible arrests and evictions and serial rapists who love to prey upon sex workers because the law affords almost no protection for a “fallen woman.” But for some, the risks are worth it. Anyone who thinks it is just about sex doesn’t understand this fatal split in the feminine. Anyone who thinks is it just about money, doesn’t understand how deeply many humans crave freedom of expression. Sex work is about sex and it is about work, but more importantly it is about breaking free of the rules which dictate women are either “good” or “bad” – either worthy of protection or worthy of persecution.

Few sex workers relate to this on a conscious level, unless they are sex worker rights activists or sacred prostitutes. But I have seen the light in the eyes of women just contemplating sex for money and they look positively excited and energized with the anticipation of what that might feel like and look like for them. I always caution them about the down side – the risk and the illegality and the very real prices I have paid for my choice. I don’t choose to encourage anyone to do something with such a high price tag. But once a woman has crossed that line and experienced her power to reject the shame bestowed upon the “whore” she will likely never be able to return to ways of being in this world which require her to repress her true feelings.

That doesn’t mean she won’t move on to another profession at some point. It does mean that she will be very unlikely to work for an employer once she has tasted her independence. It can also translate to putting up with less domination or abuse from men in general. The woman who has been paid for her companionship is much less likely to put up with anything she doesn’t enjoy or appreciate in a personal relationship. Of course this generalization does not apply to street prostitutes who enter the business under the tutelage of an abusive pimp. Nor does it necessarily apply to prostitutes who work in legal brothels because by definition they have abusive employers. But for your average middle-class, college educated escort, independence of thought and action becomes a privilege few are willing to sacrifice for the approving nods of the masses.

Gross Governor Spitzer and Degradation

A topic which deserves some clarification in light of the recent resignation of New York’s Governor Spitzer is the different working conditions in┬ávarious branches of the sex industry. In reality, sex work spans a huge industry with drastic differences in pay, the services provided and working conditions. Since many people have trouble thinking clearly as soon as you mention “sex,” I like to draw parallels with food. For example, an 18 year old kid flipping burgers at McDonald’s is doing the same thing world famous chef, Wolfgang Puck, does for a living. They both prepare food for people to eat. Yet no one would argue that these two individuals experience the same working conditions or “job” satisfaction.

When it comes to sex for money though, the media, second wave feminists and voters are quick to equate street prostitution, massage parlors, brothels, incalls, outcalls, escorts and courtesans as the same thing.

I will be the first to admit they are equal “morally.” And that IS the primary reason all prostitution is lumped together – because most people are more concerned with the “moral” implications of prostitution than any other factor. The amount of money you make doesn’t change whether what you do for a living is inherently “good” or “evil.” And if that’s the discussion we want to have, then let’s bring it out in the open and stop dancing behind smokescreens like “oppression” and “sexually transmitted diseases.”

Got you with that last one, huh?

Well, in the United States, the fact is that prostitution only accounts for about 7 to 10 per cent of all sexually transmitted infections. Those numbers are very different in other countries but in our country, condoms are inexpensive and readily available. And contrary to what “abstinence only” sex education preaches, condoms DO work very well if you use them properly. I should know. I used them for over 14 years with over 1800 clients and stayed perfectly healthy the entire time.

Although prostitution was once considered the “fault” of the prostitute, it has become fashionable to cast sex workers as “victims” and label the profession of prostitution “oppressive” and “degrading.” The only way you can make this stick is either by assuming sex is inherently degrading to women unless they do it for free; or by conflating drug addiction and domestic violence with how a person makes a living.

Street prostitution does have a very high incidence of drug addiction and domestic violence. It is woven into the very fabric of this sector of the sex industry. Domestic violence in particular is an accepted part of the street culture. But treating either domestic violence or drug addiction as part of any profession is stupid and ineffective. Educating street prostitutes to the realities of domestic violence and providing domestic violence shelters for working prostitutes would work far better. Incarcerating pimps for domestic violence would also be a good first move.

However as the laws are currently enforced, street prostitutes are regularly rounded up in so-called street sweeps where they are jailed for a few hours, fined and released. They then go back to take a beating from their pimps for not making that night’s “quota” due to the arrest. And they have to “turn” even more “tricks” to pay the fine. It is a ridiculous cycle which turns your local government into a pimp and costs you tons in tax dollars to accomplish nothing (a city like San Francisco spends more than $7 million annually to put street prostitutes through a never ending cycle of arrests and fines).

Additionally, street prostitution accounts for only about 20 per cent of all prostitution in the USA. The rest of it is on the Internet and by referral. Many independent escorts are college students, college graduates and women in their 30’s and 40’s who are fed up with the “glass ceiling” and/or want to supplement their income. These are neither drug addicted nor battered individuals. Instead they are simply people who have made economic choices which fall outside of the norm.

Some say that prostitution cannot constitute a choice because of the limited economic options available to a given population. That is certainly a discussion worth having. But let’s not label it a discussion about prostitution. Economic choice affects all professions but especially dangerous or unpleasant tasks which could include field labor, garbage collection, emptying bedpans and cleaning septic tanks.

I would much rather catch a plane to a beautiful resort and sit on some bored business executive’s face than do any of those jobs. And that doesn’t mean that the average street prostitute shares my sentiments. If she is getting beaten and raped on a regular basis, any other job might look like an attractive alternative. But what if she could catch the plane to a resort and be pampered? Is it really the prostitution which is repugnant? Or isn’t it the violence and hatred which kills the soul? Decisions such as this are really best left to the individual.

One final word. Governor Spitzer was a lousy client. His whining about using condoms illustrates immaturity, selfishness and short-sightedness. His nitpicking about cheap train tickets and mini-bars points to the fact that he wasn’t ready for The Emperor’s Club. But then again, anyone who would order brunettes, blonds and redheads from an agency with such a pretentious name as if he were ordering take-out, reveals himself as a pretender to the throne.