My goal in life is to continually increase my awareness, to every day make the tiniest step to understanding myself and the world just a little bit more.
Of course I read, write, think, meet new people, listen to opposing view points, meditate, go on long walks, and drive my car nowhere particular, listening and thinking.
But I wanted to do something out of the ordinary, so I built what I call the ‘perspective project.’
Once a month, I’m looking to find misunderstood people such as prostitutes, the Amish, Scientologists, homeless people, just people that we have an overall consensus of. We think we know what a ‘prostitute’ is because we know his/her profession, but just as you wouldn’t think you know a doctor because of his/her practice, the same rule applies. What they do is just a tiny fraction of who they are.
Part One: Meet a Prostitute with an Open-Mind
I visited the best place to find anything illicit: Craigslist.
Within 5 minutes, I found tons of ads for prostitution in very clear terms, contacting one and explaining my situation, who I was, and that I would pay for their time.
We agreed to meet at her home 4 hours later, I felt a little bit nervous. I wasn’t sure if this would be awkward or if she would take offense at my interest in her, even though I explained my goal of going into the meeting with a blank slate and just looking to learn about her, what she was interested in, her family etc.
I arrived and knocked on the door, and as she opened the door I wanted to retreat, but I stayed and she politely said hello.
I sat down at her kitchen table, and she offered me some warm chicken noodle soup she was making on the stove, which I immediately found amusing because she’s already broken the stereotype within 5 minutes of my arrival.
As we sat down to eat, the conversation was very casual, she was asking me about my life, what I do, etc. and then I started the questions.
Q: How did she get into prostitution?
I was a masseuse for awhile, but couldn’t pay my bills, so slowly I started offering ‘happy endings’ to guys and girls at the end, in very subtle ways as not to get in trouble. Rationalizing it in my head, I didn’t find it to be prostitution, but just something a little bit in the gray area. I happened to be a little too forward with a man who then reported me to my boss and I was immediately fired and blacklisted from all the local spas. But luckily, or not so luckily, I had my clients’ numbers and they visited me at home.
Q: How did it escalate into full-scale prostitution?
One man said he didn’t care for the massages anymore and would pay triple just for sex; it took half the time, so I offered the same to other clients and suddenly I was making 6x the amount as I was before (3x the money, in half the time).
It was fueled by money.
Q: What would you do if you weren’t in prostitution?
I always wanted to be a mail-woman. I have no idea why it’s so cool to me, but I lived in a townhouse growing up so they didn’t drive, but parked their car at the top of the street then walked door to door. When I was younger, I thought they traveled on some terrific voyage with these very important letters, fighting off bad people, and making it to our house just in time. For some odd reason, they were my superheroes. So that’s what I would be.
Q: When your son grows up & inevitably finds out, will you be upset?
Yes. It haunts me before bed every night. I take NyQuil every single night of my life; I am haunted by the demons of shame. I don’t care what the neighbors think or my mom, or sister, or enemies. I care what he thinks, and I shake with anxiety when it comes into my mind. It’s why drugs are so pervasive in prostitution.
Q: Do you take drugs regularly?
Only NyQuil to sleep. Without it, I cannot.
Q: What’s the most misunderstood stereotype about prostitutes?
That we’re brash women that are addicted to sex or don’t have any emotions. They think we’re like ‘men’ because we have so much sex, when in reality I don’t view this as sex. This is a business deal.
You have to understand having ‘sex’ with a prostitute or in any case where there is an obvious arrangement, like buying a younger woman expensive things, will never be the same thing as a true sexual experience where two people are with each other for the sake of being with each other. There’s no ulterior motive in their hearts.
I don’t enjoy this business deal ‘sex’ it’s like work; when I have real sex it is different, I separate the two completely.
Q: Who are the ‘type’ of guys that come to you? Sleazy?
Some, yes. The diversity hits the entire spectrum from local businessmen, local politicians, janitors, bus drivers, a lot of schoolteachers (7-8 of them) etc. The ‘type’ of person is insecure though; it’s never about what job they hold, but their personality.
People come to me because they have huge insecurities so they pay me and feel like they’re in control, or they’re in a safe place because I derive my income from them. When you’re paying someone, you feel a sense of security and power, whereas their wives or girlfriends could leave anytime. They know I won’t because they pay me well.
It’s sad to see, it’s sad because even though my psyche tries to block this out, it can’t, I’m very good at seeing the truth of society because I’m behind the curtain. I don’t live in a world where people keep up fake appearances. I’m in the darkness, the real-real life. It’s scary, sad, & dark, but it’s real.
Q: Without meaning to offend in anyway as I know I’m no better, no worse than you are, but coming from an honest place when/if I have a daughter, I wouldn’t want her to be a prostitute. What would be the advice you’d give to anyone out there?
Small steps lead to giant changes. You can take that positively or negatively, but I took a small little step when I would jerk-off a guy in a massage, or so I thought. I was a prostitute then, but we’re so good at rationalizing the not-so-great parts of ourselves that it’s so hard to see the truth. Our ego holds us back, whether that’s lying to a friend, stealing a piece of gum, it all starts small, but takes something away from us and it compounds over time into a completely different life.
Q: What are some hobbies of yours?
I love coloring books. They bring me solace in the dark times, and lighten my mornings. With my son or by myself, I’ll color for hours. It feels like 2 minutes goes by, but it’s been an hour or two. I love go-karts; those little indoor tracks you can go and race real go-karts are so fun to me. I’ve gotten at least 7 friends hooked on them too. I would also say I love music, I don’t play any particular instruments ‘officially’ but I love the xylophone, and tambourine. Such weird instruments I know, but there’s something entrancing about them, sometimes I’ll play them both at the same time, or my son will play with me.
Q: What’s something positive that prostitution has brought out in you or done for you?
Besides income, the biggest thing I would say it has done for me has developed empathy. When you’re scowled at by people who know what you do, family disowns you, clients yell obscenities and degrade you with every form of hate when they’re upset with you, you develop a huge sense of empathy for others who are in pain.
Whether they are sad about a person leaving them, depressed, anxious, homeless, whatever it may be, I know how they feel. I’ve felt it many times and in my life, and you can’t have empathy for someone until you’ve “walked a mile in their shoes.”
I’ve spent a night homeless and therefore when I see a homeless person, I empathize with them and connect on a deeper level whereas a man or woman who hasn’t just looks the other way and can think in their heads nasty things about the person because they’ve become the ‘other.’ Volunteering is great, but if you want empathy for any person or group of people in life, simply live with them for a week.
I wish I could tell you something shocking or outlandish happened, but I went into a prostitute’s home with an open-mind and had chicken noodle soup in her kitchen as we proceeded to talk for hours about all kinds of topics—family, philosophy, education—but the main purpose was to ask a few poignant questions on my bias towards a specific group of people.
It went as expected, in a sense, that I knew she would be just a normal person, with a little bit of an abnormal life. But I didn’t realize how much we would have in common, how we viewed the world and faced challenges in our life. She also opened my mind instead of just interviewing a person for the night, I felt like I spent time walking in her shoes. #PerspectiveProject