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“Pretty Woman” Is Real

Ahh, marital bliss.

If there’s one element Pretty Woman is most commonly maligned for, it’s the improbable ending of a street working prostitute whisked away by a filthy rich client. Civilians love to crow about how wildly unrealistic it is to think that a john will ever marry his sex worker and yeah, if you’re entering into sex work with the goal to use it as a dating service, you’re probably going to be a disappointed. That goes for clients and providers. But it’s not uncommon for sex workers to have romantic, unpaid relationships with men they first met as clients. I’ve been in just such a relationship for almost six years. And at last count, I know five married couples who fit the same bill. (I should stipulate that two of these are now divorced, which is consistent with the national average.) It’s not just escorts; strippers, too, can end up with a patron. Nor it is limited to folks who work indoors. A street worker I know spoke to me once about a burgeoning unpaid relationship with a former client, although she made it clear to me (and to him) that she had no intention of quitting work just because she began dating him.

That’s where Pretty Woman really gets it wrong: even when sex workers find a man willing to support them, they often want to keep working.

“Two and a Half Men” Meet a Prostitute

I don’t purposefully watch “Two and a Half Men,” but like many popular sitcoms, it eventually becomes part of the cultural atmosphere and thanks to the public ubiquity of TVs, even the unwilling breathe it in. I first caught wind of an episode involving a prostitute when I was with a client. (Of course.) He turned on the TV in his hotel’s sitting room and then we retired to the bedroom. It wasn’t long before I started hearing the sounds of “hooker!” floating in. I think my guy was too wrapped up in my feet—figuratively; my feet aren’t quite that big—to notice, but I was aware and slightly embarrassed. Related: this one time a client and I went to see Cedar Rapids during our long weekend and ended up sitting through scenes featuring a sweet, hotel hustling lady who, if memory serves, has the obligatory “you think I like going with all those different guys?!” moment. Awkward! Dear World: when I’m playing girlfriend to a client, I need you to erase any and all references to prostitution because it makes us both feel weird. Kthanx.

Anyway, the next time I happened to be in the vicinity of a TV tuned to “Two and a Half Men,” I had a feeling that fate was about to be kind and hit me with that “hooker!” episode again. And sure enough, it did. Surprisingly, it was not as terrible as I anticipated.

Blood Money

Oh yeah—we're going there. (Image of menstrual blood by Petra Paul)

I lean in to Dana and whisper, “I’m scared.” She is affectionately studying the Walgreens display of sex stuff. I pick out a sex sponge with innocuous packaging. Its white printing across a pale blue background and scientific language reaches its target population: overly educated hookers. I toss some tampons, makeup applicators, and condoms into my plastic basket.

“I really don’t understand,” Dana whispers back, cradling assorted vaginal cargo. “With all that shit up your, uh, pussy, how are you going to put a dick in there?”

Like many best friends, mine are easily prevailed on to indulge my wiliest adventures. Take Dana, for example. We’ve been known to enable one another; everything from breaking and entering, drug use, marriage, and other terrible ideas.

We stand side by side as the grisly Walgreens checkout clerk waves my incriminating purchases across the barcode scanner. Ignoring the multifarious ways in which we, together, develop bad, bad ideas, Dana and I determine that that the most steadfast way to mask my period while providing my weekend long Girlfriend Experience, or GFE, is to stick as many things up my vagina as possible.

I am preparing to fly across the country to see Greg, my John. I made the mistake of greedily accepting his lucrative business proposal before considering the time of the month. This is my first time selling sex while on my period. Although a somewhat devoted feminist, a few thousand dollars is enough to persuade me, although begrudgingly, to shave my legs and use feminine hygiene products.

So You Think You Can Fuck A Sex Worker For Free?

(Courtesy of Instagram user local_._honey)
(Courtesy of Instagram user local_._honey)

Sit down. I have news for you. If you’re trying to date or hook up with someone you know from their work in escorting or porn, without paying them, your chances of success are close to zero. This is true even if we favorite your adoring comments on Twitter.

It may come as a shock to hear this. You may feel like sexual attraction is only part of the connection you have with this worker, and that paying would deny the authenticity of that. Or maybe you think that you are a really good (looking) person and only creepy or unattractive people pay. Maybe both you and the sex worker are queer and/or have similar politics. You know sex workers and are down with decriminalization. There are many reasons you may feel you are exceptional.

You are operating under a basic misunderstanding of who we are and what we are doing. Which is this:

1. Portraying an inviting version of ourselves, one with genuine elements but oriented to be pleasing to as many people as possible.
2. …because we are trying to make a fucking living.

I am not writing this to make you feel foolish. I am writing this because in the last week I’ve had multiple experiences of people approaching me in person, calling me on the phone, and hitting me up on social media trying to have unpaid sex with me. It’s been hard to turn people down, because as both an escort and a porn performer, I am not trying to get a reputation as a “mean person”. When I do turn people down directly, they don’t listen or they’re patronizing as fuck. An anonymous internet post telling you how it makes me feel is really the best I (and tons of other sex workers) can do in the hope you get the message.

I feel devalued and strung along. When people contact me by way of my ad or social media I assume they are interested in seeing me as an escort. I’m excited and open in response. I like my job, I like meeting people, and most importantly, I like making the money I need to survive. When I realize that you’ve called me to jerk off or that you want to take me out to dinner and try to woo me into unpaid sex, I go through an emotional arc from excitement to confusion to pure rage. That is not the start of a good relationship.

Ask Ms. Harm Reduction: Getting High With Clients

If your session looks like this, Ms. Harm Reduction urges you to read this month's column. (Image by Flickr user Doki hawk)
If your session looks like this, Ms. Harm Reduction urges you to read this month’s column. (Image by Flickr user Doki hawk)

Dear Ms. Harm Reduction,
I’ve been escorting and doing pro domme work for a year and a half. Sometimes I do a gram of coke with regulars, or even do drugs with new clients on occasion. I’d like to be smart about this, but I feel like I can’t ask the the sex workers I know for advice because none of them would ever take that risk in the first place. Do you have any tips on how to stay safe while partying with clients?
Wilder Than (my) Friends