Looking at Hookers

10 Jul

Nothing brings out the self-righteous quite like prostitution. You can write about adulterous politicians, scummy bankers, violent mafia bosses, vicious drug peddlers, self-appointed gurus, hedonistic celebrities, whatever you like – and it’s likely there’ll be a few people out there who just want to express their outrage.

But bring up the hookers and suddenly hardly anybody wants to say anything other than make clear that A) They think prostitution is wrong B) They are not for it C) Shame on all people who say anything than the first two. Of course, these days the web has turned into a vast confessional (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) so there’ll be a few people who’ll also chip in that D) They’ve hired certain services – just once! – and don’t see why it’s anybody else’s damn business and E) Human trafficking is a big problem.

Lost in all of this will be the actual issue at hand. Take Steven Soderbergh’s latest movie The Girlfriend Experience, about a call girl who provides the fantasy of being the client’s girl-friend, complete with conversation, dinner date, and cuddling up in bed. Or Tracy Quan‘s latest article on The Daily Beast about male prostitution.

I found both (and Quan’s work in general) to be fascinating, exploring a world that has been depicted time and again on screen and in novels, fetishized in some cases (Bollywood’s Virgin Whore, for example), and yet what do we know about it? It might be the world’s oldest profession, but like any other profession, people who’ve never availed its services or worked in it or been connected to it in some other way know little about it other than its barest definition.

As ER neared its series finale this year, for example, people involved in its conception remarked that it was an eye opener in its time because the audience up till then had no real idea of what went on in a hospital emergency room. Now I would wager that we’ve all seen a lot more ER doctors than we have prostitutes, and yet what do we all know about hospitals really? Similarly, if you’d asked me what I knew about the sex trade, I would never have replied that perhaps men who buy the services of a call girl would like her to pretend to be their girlfriend.

In fact, I thought prostitution must be all slam bam goodbye – an impersonal transaction like that scene from Monster’s Ball where Billy Bob Thornton hires the town hooker who casually walks into the room and exchanges brief pleasantries before pulling down her skirt and bending over. He could have been buying a pack of cigarettes at the local gas station. So this idea, explored in both Quan’s article as well as Soderbergh’s movie, that there’s a strong element of fantasy and connection involved took me aback.

Now that I think about it, of course, it makes perfect sense to me that the clients would like it to be something more than straight up sex. After all, even porn has a fantasy element to it. What I find interesting is that the people responding to Quan’s articles or Soderbergh’s movie or their like have certain fantasies of their own.

In the male hooker piece, for example, there were people who refused to believe, or at least pretended not to believe, that women could possibly pay for sex. Women are apparently too smart, too nice, too powerful, too emotionally strong to pay for it. Completely overlooking the fact that they’re apparently not too smart, too nice, too powerful or too emotionally strong to provide it.

Then there are people who’ll read the whole thing but then feel compelled to judge the people involved – and it’s not always the morality of the act itself that’s in question. There are those, of course, who feel prostitution is a sin and shame on everyone involved, but then there are those who wonder how the sex trade in general ties in to human trafficking, those who object to certain details, who can see certain discrepancies in the business model…

Anything really, to avoid looking prostitution in the face.


Posted by on July 10, 2009 in Life, Personal, Video


11 responses to “Looking at Hookers

  1. Arti

    July 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    “Anything really, to avoid looking prostitution in the face”… Don’t know if you caught this, but Oprah spoke to a woman who works at a brothel in Nevada. Watching her interview made me think this was really the first woman I have looked in the face, who has introduced herself as a hooker. Instances of men desiring her for the girlfriend-experience rather than the wham-bam stuff is also discussed. Her presenting this work as a complete choice, a temporary way of putting away some extra savings – almost as a ‘consultant’ job – is sort of jarring and thought-provoking at the same time.

    Since your blog gives no love to html links.. 🙂 I’m going to ask you to head over the Oprah website and search for “Moonlite BunnyRanch”.

  2. Geisel's Fourth

    July 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Am: Might as well wind the week down by polishing off that penchant to provoke (in this case, thought). And why the hell not? This is the first I’m hearing of the Soderbergh movie — sounds interesting. (BTW, how my pseudonym — the anagram for “self-righteous” — came to stand for that Dr. Seuss best-seller “Green Eggs and Ham,” which was #4 on the famous-kids-books-of-all-time list for the longest time, I have no clue!)

    Arti: I skipped over to your site and this line (#4 on your list) caught my eye: “I am determined to turn out at least one wheel-thrown clay pot that is symmetrical. And I promise my art teacher that I will then proceed to dent it in random places to understand the beauty of asymmetry and imperfection.” Quite the allegory for one’s perfection at birth, profoundly foiled by pockmarks from the passage of time over pustules called experience…Thanks for painting that pretty picture.

    And oh, I did read the intro and discovered your #9 buried in #1: “..taking a detour wherever you want, finding some majestic secret that nature has created and stashed away in a hidden place, listening to the wind and absorbing the vision in front of you. It is a kind of meditation, if you will.” Sure is! (Mental detours tend to have that exact effect as well, and I guess that’s what you’re alluding to.)

    I’m sure you’re second-guessing, as we speak, your note in #8 (as to your gender being self-evident from #3), thanks to the (irreversible) damage done by Amrita’s post from yesterday! Tee hee.

    • musicthis

      July 11, 2009 at 2:20 am

      Thanks, Geisel’s Fourth 🙂 I.. yes.. [quietly shuffling away, talking to myself… would a guy like Jensen Ackles..hmm… David Boreanaz.. hmmm… Batman Beyond…. damn..]

  3. sachita

    July 11, 2009 at 1:39 am

    Ever since i read this interview, i have viewed things very differently. ofcourse, our movies portray them even worse than hollywood ones!

  4. complicateur

    July 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

    As Chris Rock say’s “There’s s%^t I’m conservative about and s%^t I’m liberal about. Guns – conservative, prostitution – liberal”. 🙂

  5. Alexa

    July 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Similarly, if you’d asked me what I knew about the sex trade, I would never have replied that perhaps men who buy the services of a call girl would like her to pretend to be their girlfriend.

    The overwhelming majority of people have no idea about what we do, what our clients are like, why we do what we do, or why they elect to use our services. For example, a great many of my clients simply are not in a position where they have the time to invest in developing a relationship with someone, so they elect to work with me. They can have a temporary relationship, enjoy the companionship, enjoy the interaction, and, yes, enjoy the sex, and then go on about their business until they feel the need to indulge again. It’s rarely someone just looking to get his rocks off.

    Quite frankly, I think most people would be surprised to find that many of us have advanced degrees, are multi-lingual, well-traveled, sexually-articulate, and very emotionally deep individuals.

    If you get the chance, CNBC occasionally re-runs a show they did a few months ago called “Dirty Money.” It’s about the middle and higher end of escort work. You should watch it.

  6. Ramsu

    July 13, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Interestingly, someone who has petitioned the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court’s judgment on homosexuality has argued that, by the same token, prostitution should be legalized as well, so long as it is between consenting adults and in private.

    The petitioner’s point has been something like: “Since you won’t legalize prostitution, how can you legalize this alone, since the situations are similar.”

    I wonder if the SC would hear the argument, scratch its chin and say, “Yeah, you’re right, let’s legalize prostitution as well.”

    • Alexa

      July 13, 2009 at 7:29 am

      The difference is that prostitution involves a commercial transaction and is therefore different from consensual purely private conduct.

  7. Amrita

    July 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Arti – no no, my blog loves links! It just likes to mull over them for a little while before releasing them into the wilds of the page! Was this the woman whose father was giving her wax jobs and stuff and pimping her out? Or was that Tyra? Will look it up, thanks!

    GF – It’s an interesting movie. It’s definitely art house though. And yes, if not the end of the week, then when?!

    Sachita – that documentary and reading up on the kids in retrospect is heartwrenching. Did you see that doc?

    Complicateur – next stop Las Vegas?

    Alexa – It was definitely very eye-opening for me. I’d read Tracy Quan’s books and she gave a talk to a class I once took but for some reason I never put the woman in front of me with the actual job itself even though we discussed it quite a bit. It sounds silly when I say it now like that, but even though I knew she’d worked as a call girl and she talked about the job, I simply disregarded that fact. I guess I was the first person in whom I recognized that tendency to look elsewhere.
    And then I was watching the Girlfriend Experience and something just clicked.
    Thanks for the rec. I found a trailer online – this one?

    Ramsu – they should! That would properly explode their teensy weensy minds.

    • Alexa

      July 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

      Amrita, yes, that’s it. It looks like CNBC will be airing it again this coming Friday and Sunday nights.

      BTW, my professional web site appears in the show twice. Hehe. 😉

  8. Rahul Sharma

    July 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Pretty Heavy Stuff!

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