THE SEX TRADE BUSINESS
Sadly, the first time someone attempted to lure me into being a sex worker, I actually put myself down and said, “You mean someone would actually pay to touch me?” I still had not grasped the idea that sex has no boundaries and does not discriminate. There is a market for anything and everything if you look hard enough.
I was about 13 years old when I ran away from a home for troubled children Upstate. My intention was to use my “missing” status as a way to get attention from my family. I would have rather been a problem to them than thrown away and forgotten. I would eventually call my dad, but would be coy until my family gave up and took back custody of me—having already awarded me to the state—because I was not going to disappear gracefully. I disliked feeling like I was a “bad child,” but since that was how they presented me, I internalized it and tried to blend in with the other undesirables of the world.
Having run away from school, I wound up at Grand Central Station. It felt like one of those Mission Impossible movies; first I had needed to escape the Pleasantville Cottage School, and now figure out how to take the train with no money. I saw the ticket collector on the train and made sure I hid in the bathroom every time they walked by.
I had nowhere to go, but something compelled me to return to where my home had once been: Manhattan, New York.. I could not accept that I was shipped off and nobody in my family wanted me. Once I arrived in NYC, I talked to anyone who would talk to me, and therefore started my first street exposure to Times Square. It was like a red light district, which means SEX, SEX and more SEX.
There were pimps and “hoes” and strip clubs and peep shows, not to mention X-rated theaters with large print titles for their movies like Debby Does Dallas. Luckily, I had not yet run into any “real predators” and got a slower start to my self-destruction. But here was my first exposure to the concept of selling sex, and it would stay with me for years to come. (Reword however you like! This part of the chapter—when the narrator is about 13—just needs a slight transition into the following paragraphs, where she’s older.)
As a teenager, sex was not much of a consideration for me. I was a tomboy and not as sexually active as most of my peers. I did, however, discover a new coping device: masturbation, which eventually became chronic. An early teen at the time, I had been sliding down the banister in my house and felt an unfamiliar sensation in my genital area. When I finally had sex at 16, I was kind of disappointed. I had already gotten used to my own stimulation, although masturbation was less sexual than stress relieving; it was a way to try to feel something other than how I felt. One of the issues that arose was that when I engaged in sex with a partner, I could not experience an orgasm. I do not want to give you the number of men I have slept with, because I cannot even guess, but I can tell you that it is in the thousands—and yet I have only had two orgasms in my life from another person, and neither were from my boyfriends. I got used to only trying to satisfy my partner. If I grunted when they did, they assumed we had simultaneous orgasms, so I figured—why rain on their parade? But I worried that there was something wrong with me. Though I enjoyed the intimacy and connection that could accompany sex, I viewed it as a job or chore.
Becoming a sex worker was so out of character for me. I do not know if I was insecure about my body or simply shy. A lot of people assumed that since I talked a lot and cracked jokes, I was confident, but in my case, it was an attempt to hide feelings of social awkwardness. Despite this insecurity or shyness, when I was about 19 I had my first escort job and learned about prostitution from a call girl angle. I later started working in peep shows due to not wanting to sit inside a car from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. waiting for calls. I think a falling out with one of the drivers was what pushed me to go to Midtown, walk into a peep show and ask if they were hiring. The Indian-looking man pointed me to the back and showed me the basics, warned me never to put my hands through the window, and let me start right then.
At first, I did not get the point of what I was supposed to be doing, but soon I learned the way the peep shows worked. The customers go into a booth and put change in a coin slot and the window goes up.
It felt awkward at first, but gradually it became fun. You never had to look at the person’s face since they were in a dark booth and you were on a lighted stage. It made it easier to desensitize yourself, as you never even had to see their expressions. I learned quickly, though, why the boss had said to keep my hands behind the window; it was due to men wanting handjobs. Once there is physical contact, peep shows can get busted for promoting prostitution.
For the most part, it was silly. A guy would say, “I’ll give you $5 if you touch her tit”—“her” being the female next to me—but by the time I had taken the money the window closed, and he had to pay again for a two-second act of me honking my colleague’s boob. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
My time at the peep show would not last long. Due to the handjobs, crack and new developers trying to clean up Times Square, peep shows became unstable and could not support a drug habit like mine. I met a man around this time and thought I had fallen in love. I moved in with him in New Jersey, and for the next two years traveled all the way to Manhattan every day for my legal job as a telemarketer. As I mentioned in my last book, this man purposely gave me AIDS and died soon after. I was dumbstruck. I ran to my family and they wished me well but otherwise sent me on my way. I was told I would be dead within six months to two years. I needed money and had nowhere to go, and though I had been an outcast in my family for a long time, it still made me sad that my brother never even tried to say goodbye.
I did not want to spread the disease I had acquired from a boyfriend, so I assumed the only job I could do that would not require me to have sex was a topless dancer. I walked to a Midtown strip club called Flash Dancers on Broadway. It had a long staircase going down into a lower-level club with a doorman. I was nervous as hell. I did not know how things worked in a strip club, but I knew I would figure it out just like I had figured out everything else in life: on my own.
Well, I walked into this club and was told to get up on stage and show what I had to offer. I had made sure to wear heels and the prettiest underwear I owned, so I got up onstage and just danced around, took off my bra, and tried to bend over from time to time. When I came down he said I could start the next night.
I was so happy, I thought being a stripper was a badge of honor since a stripper has to be pretty and have a nice body. Being one meant that I looked good. I went to my dad’s ex-girlfriend’s house, where I bragged and had her take pictures of me in my fancy underwear. The next night I went to the club and immediately got up on stage. I walked around the poles because I had no clue what they were there for—I assumed they held up the ceiling—and watched the other women sitting in the audience. I thought, What a bunch of lazy bitches. Well, more money for me. Then I noticed that I had been there for hours and only had about $20 in singles. In the dressing room, another stripper asked me, “Why do you be on stage all night?” I said, “To dance. That’s what we’re here for, right?” After the first night came to an end, I left with about $75 and said to myself, “What the fuck is going on?”
As I left the boss said, “I’m not going to charge you tonight because you danced all night.” I just dismissed it as a joke, but I soon learned that the women made money on the floor and the VIP room, not on stage. It is not too far from prostitution and peep shows—just a different platform. There is also a charge to the strippers; they do have the opportunity to make a lot of money doing lap dances and private shows, but the house has to be paid a fee.
After stripping for two weeks and making no money, I was not bragging anymore. I quit before I even had a chance to learn the ropes and, unfortunately, went back to what I knew best: being an escort.
Becoming a diseased prostitute is one of the most shameful moments that a person can go through in their life. When I had been a street hooker—which is another story in itself—I learned from other hookers who had been taught by their pimps to keep an unwrapped condom in their mouth when about to give oral sex. You can then put the condom on before the man can protest, and since it is a turn off to mention condoms, you take control of the situation by keeping the condom in your cheek and basically putting it on with your mouth. You save a lot of bullshit this way and possible transmissions of diseases.
Unfortunately, despite whatever made me just going back to prostitution, it still felt like walking with a cloud over my head. I had crossed a line that I could never truly accept, so I just got high and got money to get high and the cycle continued.
My last year of working as an escort was decades later and I was finding clients through Craigslist. I was burnt out, too old for this game and trying to hide how ugly I felt with nice coats and French manicures and pedicures. Unlike the typical escort service, Craigslist gave sex workers a way to work independently, and exposed them to pimps online instead of on the streets. I hired a personal driver named Romy, who was also a friend. I do not use the word friend loosely, but he was an honorable partner in such a crude business. Since Romy knew how to use computers and I did not, he took care of my online ads and wrote what he thought a man would want to hear. He came up with an idea to advertise that I would escort clients to a swing club, and they could experience what “swinging” actually was. That became one of my main angles for a while, and business was actually pretty good until there was a Craigslist Killer on the loose. It brought public attention to the fact that Craigslist was selling sex, and the police getting involved also scared a lot of clientele away. One night I got a call to a very fancy hotel near Battery Park. Romy and I drove down, and while I felt ugly, awkward and diseased, I knew I had a hundred-dollar-a-day dope habit, so I walked into the main lobby hoping to not get stopped. I made it to the elevators and eventually the room, where a large white man answered the door. He seemed hesitant and asked me if I was going to be good to Daddy. I gave a half-ass, yeah and he let me in. I noticed right away that although he was in his late forties, he looked like at one time he had been a jock. Big and muscular. I pictured him playing some sport that rich kids played.
He actually put me over his lap once I had stripped down to my undergarments, and put the $200 in my bra, the street pocketbook. He spanked me lightly and kept asking, “Are you going to be good to Daddy?” I was thinking give me a break but continued to play along.
After some time, he got up and said he had to go to the bathroom. I stayed put, doing my time just like in jail, since he had paid for an hour. Then all of a sudden, I felt a tug on my neck and started choking. He had wrapped a belt around my neck as a tight noose. He choked me as he dragged me down to the floor and I was on my knees as he stood over me. I did not resist at all because this was not going to be resolved by resisting. He was big, strong and had me at a disadvantage; I did not even have any balance or leverage. I just played limp and his energy seemed to decline when there was no struggle. He moved to a different position, and the second I felt the belt’s tightness slack, that was my cue. I did a weird type of tuck and roll and got the belt out of his hand. Now I was standing and had the belt in my possession. I started talking shit, trying to take my power back. I hoped that he would apologize and say he was into kinky bondage and got carried away.
Not at all. I saw a darkness in his eyes as he moved towards me. He wore a look as if to say, “You challenge me?!” I took the $200 out of my bra, threw it on the bed, and grabbed my coat and ran out the door without anything else. I got back to Romy and told him what had happened, and although that should have been the final straw for me, it was not unfortunately.