Whore Pride

Young, Empowered Sex Workers Want Respect Along With Your Dollars

When I tell a new acquaintance about my experience masturbating for HBO's Real Sex, he asks, "So, you jerked off on TV and got paid for it—doesn't that make you a prostitute?" No, but there are plenty of happy whores working the city.

Jane Vincent is a self-proclaimed slut and whore who blogs about her sexual activities, paid and unpaid, at Educated Slut (educatedslut.blogspot.com). The baby-faced 22-year-old trolls for clients on Craigslist, but does not actually have intercourse with them. Instead, she finds guys willing to pay $200 to $400 an hour to go down on her, have her pee on them, or engage in other fetishes (she's saved her menstrual fluid for one client). In addition to starting a sex workers' collective, she's a student and works part-time at a reproductive-rights organization. She turns tricks for cash, because she likes it, and to further her sex ed goals. "In addition to the money," she says, "I really feel like I'm helping people out."

I ask Jane why people would fork over such hefty sums for sex with a stranger. She's quick with her answer: First, it's easy; there's not the confusion of dating and wondering if a girl will put out. Because she's a sex educator, she can tell them exactly what's happening. She can show them where her G-spot is or explain the ins and outs of female ejaculation, like their own personal museum model, but one they can try out for themselves.

Audacia Ray (wakingvixen.blogspot.com) also blogs about her various forays into the sex industry, and shares Vincent's outlook. "I do a good number of sessions teaching guys about their prostates, trying to make knowledge of anatomy exciting, rewarding, and sexy. It's been my goal to create a safe space for clients to feel comfortable in."

I run into another friend on the subway, and she lets slip that she's been doing sex work on the side; she's flush from the $100 she's just made for a 10-minute hand job in some guy's car. My first instinct is to worry—is it safe? She doesn't seem so concerned, though she's not as organized as the other two. Just starting out, she's stumbled into the trade to pay the rent. Ray feels safer in her sex work because of the precautions she takes: "I'm way more conscientious about my personal safety, surroundings, and knowledge of who I'm with than I am when I meet someone and have recreational sex. Before I see a new client, I know his full name, address, where he works, and different ways to get in touch with him. Recreationally, I've had sex with people whose names I didn't know. So which is more dangerous?"

Whoring, as these women refer to it, seems to be on the upswing among young, politically active, feminist, and largely queer women. A glut of recent books have probed both the darker and lighter sides of sex work, from Michelle Tea's illustrated autobiographical memoir Rent Girl to 29-year-old Nelly Arcan's sobering novel Whore, chronicling the misadventures of a young Montreal woman. According to Greta Christina, a former peep show dancer and editor of Paying for It: Sex Workers Talk About Their Clients(Greenery Press, 2004), whore pride isn't completely new. "If you're getting into sex work now, you've got over a decade's worth of sex workers before you who've been openly defined by their line of work, and you don't need to reinvent that wheel—you can just roll with it."

Vincent's most interesting comment comes during casual conversation. When I confess that in college I was rabidly anti-porn, she tells me, "I'm being so public about my sex work now, in case in 10 years I'm some conservative Republican housewife. I want to be able to prove that this is what I did and what I stand for." In the course of writing this column, I went on two dates with Vincent. We didn't talk about sex work, but I obviously knew and wasn't bothered by it. It simply wasn't an issue for me. But in telling other people, folks who rarely seem shocked by almost any outrageous erotic activity I bring up, I could see a subtle change in their body language, a combination of fascination and horror. Sex work remains a taboo even for those who condone all manner of sexually outrageous acts. I think it's because explicitly putting money into the equation makes some people feel slightly inadequate or cheated, causing them to rethink the very nature of consensual sex and what their bodies and time are worth.

Clearly, the image of the hooker as street worker has changed. These women aren't ashamed of what they're doing and are propelled by a sense of empowerment along with the paycheck. It's clear why that's seductive; hearing about the sums they earn makes me wonder whether I could venture into that territory. Probably not, because I think I would then feel cheated every time I had sex for free. But I'm impressed with both their entrepreneurial spirit and the ways they force others to confront their stereotypes about sex workers. These are not people you'd ever know had sex for money unless someone told you. They look like any young, white, femme-y girl, dressed up for a night on the town.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
New York Concert Tickets
Loading...