Iâ€™m trying to assemble my thoughts and feelings into some kind neat package for reading. A fellow activist and sex worker had an even worse experience than I did. I was shocked to read her posts. Frankly, I was hoping I was an anomaly. You know, once an indie always an indie. Or that Iâ€™m just a little princess (ex-boyfriends might agree with that one).
Marikoâ€™s horrifying account at least makes me feel Iâ€™m not crazy.
Still, I didnâ€™t have problems with the people there. I was welcomed. The problems I ran into were more systematic problems. And Iâ€™m well aware Iâ€™m the sort of person for whom the walls close in fast. This doesnâ€™t make me the ideal candidate for a lock-down brothel, but I thought I could handle this experience.
I do intend on trying another brothel. Kit Kat, Wild Horse/Mustang Ranch, and Sagebrush seem like candidates. I will be researching before I go. It will probably be the end of September or sometime in October. Probably not soon.
the sex work world tour
To clarify, this was not â€œresearch.â€ Not any recognizable form, at any rate. I got my eureka moment in early July to work around the world in a variety of situations in order to experience sex work at its fullest.
I simply want to know.
Iâ€™ve read all the academic sex work books everyone else has. Iâ€™m sick of reading observations (and Iâ€™ve certainly made plenty of my own). I want to walk a mile in someone elseâ€™s shoes. I want to do what other women do, whether to survive or because they like the job. I want to know what itâ€™s like. To discover universalities, differences and maybe find unity.
No matter what, as Iâ€™ve said in my comments â€“ it stops being â€œresearchâ€ when it starts being me. Having paid sex isnâ€™t research, itâ€™s sex work. It is reality. It affects me whether I want it to or not. I have memories of the men (and sole woman) from Bellaâ€™s and Iâ€™ll carry the memories until they fade. I expect the same from the rest of my travels. This is the beginning of a journey of knowledge, but it is not research.
Word has gotten back to me that I wasnâ€™t a team player and I didnâ€™t try to learn. Well, Iâ€™m not a great team player. I havenâ€™t worked for anyone else in years. I tried to be a good team player, but the definition seems to be make money at any cost.
This is where management and worker collide.
The issue in question is my body. My body. Not the owner or managerâ€™s fleshly temple. Mine. I live in it 24/7 and there are lines I will not cross. Some of those lines may flex with time (such as the money/class issue). Some of those lines never will (issues of risk).
Being an indie has given me a lot of strength and it has been sex work Iâ€™ve truly enjoyed. This particular brothel experience took away most of that strength. While I enjoyed certain individual men, I did not enjoy the experience as a whole. And since I was living the experience more than time spent with those clients, the overall sense is a deeply negative one.
For years while stripping and escorting, I have looked men in the eye and told them what I felt my time/energy were worth to me. They could like it or leave. Iâ€™m very comfortable with that. My short week of working at Bellaâ€™s took away that confidence. Hell, that confidence was shot within 48hrs of hitting the floor. There were clients I couldâ€™ve gotten good money out of, but I was incapable of demanding more. I was mentally cowed to the point of questioning my own worth.
We all have a price. Iâ€™m not going to be coy. My price is for my time/energy, not my soul; and I certainly donâ€™t consider it a price for my body. Itâ€™s a price for the whole package but itâ€™s not a strict purchase. I still have me when my clients leave.
When approached as a body for a specific function (sex), I also have a price. At Bellaâ€™s, it was lower than I liked and still it was considered exorbitant (judging by reactions). I did not like pricing my body yet this seemed to be required of me and so I did. In order to do that, I had to really look at questions of self-worth. Are all escortâ€™s rates tied into their self-worth? Mine are, at any rate. The self-worth question is a tangled one. Itâ€™s not just my niche in the open marketplace (i.e., my image), it also makes a difference if I feel good about myself when I leave my client. Do I feel like I made a fair trade of work for pay? Do I feel cheated? Do I feel like I was a real bargain and heâ€™ll be back again? Do I feel like I didnâ€™t do enough and I was sort of overpaid? Do I feel like this is the best job in the world?
Iâ€™ve felt all these things working as an indie escort at a flat rate that never changed (except when touring, when it would go up a small amount to offset travel costs). At Bellaâ€™s nearly every interaction with a customer (successfully booked or not) was a tangle of worries about what I was making the house, what I was making, how that compared to what I was used to making, how he viewed me, how I viewed him, what I would do with him privately, my total bookings for the day and other flotsam along those lines.
There were a handful of men where the anxiety disappeared and I was actually able to enjoy my work (and one who was quite the exception â€“ not a care in the world). But this legal and supposedly â€œsaferâ€ work actually produced much more stress than anything Iâ€™d felt as an indie.
Back to self-worthâ€¦I discovered when I retired how much my self-image was tied into my job and my income. It still is. I imagine this is true for people who have a serious work ethic. When almost every potential customer looks me in the eye and decides Iâ€™m not worth what I know Iâ€™m worth â€“ letâ€™s just say I donâ€™t have a cast-iron ego.
I consider sex work part of the service industry. As such, one of my main goals has always been to leave my clients happy. I feel good about myself and happy about my job. At Bellaâ€™s, I knew I had the social and sexual skills to make these men happy â€“ if theyâ€™d just let me. But few of them were willing to do that. Not only did it impede my money-making, it led to a deep loss of job satisfaction and tremendous frustration at being reduced.
Reduced to what? Iâ€™m not sure; only that rarely could Amanda the Escort fully blossom.
Reduction to a purely sexual being doesnâ€™t bother me. I can do that. I did that with a couple of guys and it was the experience I expected from a brothel. Different from escort work, more intense. Not bad. I havenâ€™t put my finger on the reduction Iâ€™m referring to. Iâ€™m not even sure I experienced it while stripping because sex and demeaning negotiation wasnâ€™t part of it. All I know is something was being eaten away. I was becoming less than whole. I have a feeling that once the process was completed, I would probably be a good team player.
Iâ€™ve never been much of a haggler. Ask anyone whoâ€™s gone to a flea market with me. I think itâ€™s offensive to both parties. More so when weâ€™re discussing personal service â€“ like sex work. I knew Iâ€™d have to get over this aversion to successfully work in a brothel. I still have a lot to learn.
But at Bellaâ€™s negotiation begins and ends with agreeing to whatever price he has in his pocket. The more experienced girls can bargain up. Us newbies are fully expected to bargain down â€“ give him what he wants and the house gets its 50% of that.
Since itâ€™s my body, time and energy thatâ€™s involved, I have issues.
What I was supposed to do with these $100 guys is promise them just this once to have sex with them for 10 minutes, take their money and tell the bartender/clocker to set it for 6 or 7 minutes. I know girls did this because itâ€™s pretty easy to clock someone going in and out of their rooms and itâ€™s easy to figure out who is doing what management suggests.
The idea was to either upsell him when the short time is up or heâ€™d fall in love with me in those few minutes, come back and spend more.
As far as I can tell, the men simply came back and expected everyone to have sex with them for $100. Remember, thatâ€™s actually $50 for me and those â€œ10 minutesâ€ actually takes up a good 30 minutes of my real time. There are street girls who wonâ€™t have sex for a mere $100. I canâ€™t blame them. Itâ€™s not worth removing my panties for.
I was told that because it was legal, it was cheaper. What kind of bullshit math is that? Legal is way more expensive for the worker. And why does â€œlegalâ€ equate to street prices? They are proud of not being â€œstreetâ€ but to me (street-inexperienced), there was not enormous difference. In fact, a savvy street girl would probably make more money and certainly have more freedom.
But I was going to be a good girl. The final straw really came Friday morning as I sat on my bed looking at my first lineup guy of the day. I was going to do the $100 sex/time-cheat experiment. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing. I was going to pretend to like this guy who isnâ€™t all that excited about me. I was going to take his money, tell him lies, cheat his time and have sex with him for a price I didnâ€™t consider worth it in order to manipulate him into spending more money. In truth, he was going to take what he got and walk away. I saw that. And I saw if I did this one, the next would be easier and I could do a whole day of this to make my board. $1000 and Iâ€™d make my board and the house would praise me. Thatâ€™s 10 men. A total of five hours of work (30 minutes per guy).
To someone stuck behind a desk five hours doesnâ€™t sound like much. Think instead about having sex with your boss or the Xerox repairman for five hours, 10 minutes at a time. Itâ€™s work.
I couldnâ€™t do it. Thatâ€™s when I knew for sure I was done. I took his hand and escorted him back to the bar with a smile.
As of today, Bella’s still owes me $1600, minus four days of board ($140) and a bottle of Astroglide ($?). Repeated calls/texts have not had the desired effect. I’m thinking since this is a legal brothel to get some legal counsel involved.
pps — 8/29/08
I got a note from Shaunia detailing the amount I should get. I miscalculated how many days of room/board I owe, the total was actually five ($175), not four. The Astroglide was $10, as I expected. Since I was late in responding to the email, I still have not received my money.
Her email also included some personal comments about this blog (some girls read it and were upset) and commentary reminiscent of the notes I sporadically receive from my recent ex-boyfriend. Does this indicate the type of relationship she has with the girls? I find it interesting and disturbing.
ppps — 9/9/08
Received money orders for my balance due. However, the tip my one client left was not counted (surprise surprise). They say it didn’t go through. His credit card company registered the full charge. Hmm…