One of the great ironies of my job is that I’m not, by nature, a confident person.
My first year of university, I went days without eating because I was too shy to go into the dining room. I would slip out of my room to go to class, and not return until the evening, coming up by the back stairs in order to avoid talking to the people I lived with. Even when I’ve lived with friends, I’ve spent much of my time alone. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but because I was convinced there was something wrong with me.
[To be honest, I’m still trying to resolve these feelings of inadequacy: last year’s incident with the Ex hit me hard. The way that some of our friends ignored it, and still chose to spend time with him, didn’t help. I have no idea what he said to them (whether he said anything to them), and all of this has made me panicky and upset at times in the last few weeks. I’m working on getting the support I need for this now, with help from E. and my family.]
It’d be easy to assume that my anxieties would make it hard for me to be a hooker. But the truth is, it’s much easier to be brave when I’m not representing myself. It always has been: in high school, I was a (reasonably confident if not particularly successful) debater. I didn’t mind giving speeches in front of people I would never have dared to speak to on an individual basis.
The same is true of work: it’s not scary because I’m not really me, only a part of myself. If a client doesn’t like me, it doesn’t sting the way it would if they were someone I’d met in the “real world”. I can tell myself, the person they don’t like doesn’t exist.
I also want to apologise to those of you who’ve messaged me in the past and to whom I haven’t replied: it’s not because I haven’t appreciated your messages, it’s because I’m not always sure what to say in response.
In the Introduction, they describe an encounter where a venture capitalist, who attended one of Levitt’s lectures one day, had a “date” with a $300-an-hour prostitute later in the same evening. The venture capitalist notices a copy of Freakonomics in the prostitute’s apartment, and mentions that he had just attended a lecture by one of the authors of the book, in an attempt to impress the prostitute. Levitt and Dubner note: “The male instinct to impress the female is apparently strong even when the sex is already bought and paid for.”
This does not make sense. If monkeys and nonhuman apes routinely engage in prostitution, as the research by de Waal, Chen and Santos, and others seems to indicate, and if the evolutionary origin of prostitution thus dates back long before we were human, then it means that prostitution is evolutionarily familiar. If prostitution is evolutionarily familiar, then men’s brain should be able to recognize prostitutes and to treat them differently from “ordinary” women, whom they do have to impress if they want to have sex with them. In other words, there should be an evolved “hooker module” in the brain.
-Satoshi Kanazawa, "Do Men Try to Impress Prostitutes?"
I realise Kanazawa’s coming at this from a different perspective than I would but this article is incredibly frustrating to me. He’s looking to evolutionary psychology to explain that men* “shouldn’t” try to impress sex workers, rather than discussing the question raised in the title of the article, which is whether they do - a question that would easily be answered by, say, asking some actual sex workers.
And of course, if you did, you would get a variety of responses, but in my experience: yes. Yes, they do. Not all clients, of course, but there are certainly some who are keen to make a good impression. Sometimes it’s with gifts (food is a staple: one client I know of regularly brings his favourite ladies home-cooked desserts; another once brought E. a batch of custom-made cupcakes after she jokingly suggested it to him before they had even met) or with generous tips; sometimes they embellish their own life stories; sometimes they want to impress you with their sexual skills (these are usually my least favourite clients, to be honest).
If I were to speculate on why this is, I’d guess it has something to do with proving that they are still desirable. The public perception of paying for sex is that it’s “giving up”, that it’s finally admitting that you can’t get it any other way. In order to fight back against this belief, some clients feel they need to prove that they’re perfectly capable of impressing us and that it’s really the convenience that they’re paying for.
I suspect also because money and affection do not necessarily preclude each other. Cannot someone express “care” (or however we want to call it) for another human being, even if money is involved?
Oh! This is a good point which I hadn’t brought up, I guess because I don’t see it as “trying to impress” me so much - it’s absolutely true that clients and sex workers can care for each other. I like most of my clients, and I’ve even brought small gifts to bookings for one or two myself, once a relationship of sorts has developed. Looking at what I wrote, it does seem somewhat cynical - I suppose it’s one of those things that’s informed by how you feel about the person in question, and the clients I’m describing there have been ones who I liked less initially and thus I felt were trying to win me over.
Anonymous said: hi there
i'm currently a stripper and have been for almost a year now, so i guess we kind of work in the same industry. i always wondered what it's like to do escorting etc? do you think it's okay? or would you not recommend it? don't worry i would never judge anyone anyway. i'm just curious :) i love your blog btw, i always read it!
Firstly, thank you! It’s really nice to hear that people are interested in what I have to say, really.
To answer your question, well, it’s something that really depends on the individual. For me, personally, I really do enjoy my job - I’m lucky to be able to work for a really good agency with a boss who is more like a second mother to me (to the point that she came with me to the police station when my ex-boyfriend started harassing me, as did E.) and co-workers whose kindness I can’t even describe in words. It’s one of the most supportive environments I’ve ever been in, in that respect. I enjoy the ritual of work: the dressing up, greeting clients (it often feels like the same conversation again and again, but in a comfortable way), even the patterns of sex a lot of the time. I don’t think it would be true to say the sex doesn’t affect me at all, but in general it doesn’t stay with me - I’m more likely to remember conversations with clients than how they touched me.
That said, even among my circle of friends, there are people for whom it would definitely be the wrong choice. It’s not just about how you view sex, although obviously that’s an important part of it. You have to be aware of the possibility that you’ll get hurt, physically and emotionally, but also be able to realise that you don’t deserve it if it does, and holding those two thoughts together has sometimes being the hardest part for me.
In a lot of ways, it’s a better job than I expected.
Tonight’s client was a virgin and a refugee. He’d come north from Christchurch after the earthquake; it was his first time in my city, his first time staying in a hotel, his first time fleeing an earthquake, and so he said he’d decided he might as well continue the streak and make it the first time he had sex, as well.
I don’t have a lot of clients who are virgins. The last time was in August last year. He was eighteen, and utterly charming, and part of me wanted to tell him he didn’t really need to be doing this. But honestly, if he wanted to, why shouldn’t he? There’s no right way to fuck someone for the first time.
And yet… I still get the nerves I wrote about back then. The desire to make their experience more “special”; the fear that it can’t be because of what I am. I still haven’t completely escaped the feeling that there is something artifical about losing (abdicating?) your virginity on the clock. There isn’t: it’s real sex. I’m a real girl. It isn’t any less true because I’m paid to be there.
The man I slept with tonight is heading back to Christchurch in the morning.
When it feels as if the people I know are changing the way they act around me. Texts from people that say “you’re too good for that job”, and not having the energy or the vocabulary to explain to them that “no, I’m not” and it’s not because I think I’m a failure, but because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what I do. Subtle condescension and people telling people telling people because somehow they refuse to understand why I’ve asked them not to. The same people asking me for money and not seeing the irony of hating my job.
It’s not the work that gets me down.