Fantasy's Legal, Reality's Not

Fantasy's Legal, Reality's Not

A sex worker's take on prostitution and the sex industry.


"In this prostituting society, we ALL have to hustle, and I'd rather suck cock than kiss ass!"



— Margo St. James

Heterosexism is alive and well as it glares upon forms of sexuality which are not the romantic, monogamous, heterosexual idea. In spite of this "ideal," and legal and cultural sanctions against "deviancy," women throughout our country continue to offer sexual services for cash. Countless men flock to women who'll give them emotional validation through erotic release, and as a relief from themselves, in exchange for money. Two of the most empowering things to a majority of men in our society are sex and money. Sex is a commodity to the male psyche. For many, paying cash for erotic attention is part of the ritual in receiving such pleasure.

Why are men compelled, as well as encouraged, to go to sex workers? Many men don't know how to relate to women with their clothes on. They fear the ego smashing episodes of rejection. Males desire and want women to take responsibility for giving and receiving pleasure. They feel more free to explore sexual fantasies with willing, anonymous women. They don't want sex to be "too serious," and they don't have the time, energy or emotion for a relationship. One might consider prostitutes, in generations before and after the industrial revolution, as unproclaimed, undeclared feminists. They didn't leap into marriage or find reproduction their highest calling; they didn't become or want to be pure-and-holy; they didn't join convents. They remained emotionally independent of men. They still do.

To say that all sex workers/prostitutes have a feminist awareness is, of course, as flawed as stating that all women lawyers work in feminist terms. To say that all or most prostitutes were victims of incest, child abuse, or male brutality is also as much a mistake as saying that most female nurses choose their profession out of suffering the loss of their parents at an early age, and because of this trauma some of them developed a fetish for giving enemas. Some people formed careers in "prostitution" in the various ways which are legal. This includes audio-erotic tape recordings, skin-flicks or sex-movies, modeling for private, nude photography sessions, entertaining for stag parties, or dancing and undulating in the now popular male strip shows. They work in "peep shows"-nude in cubicles on the other side of the one-way mirror for the anonymous men speaking to them on the telephone. They pose their bodies to titillate the readers of Playgirl and Playboy type magazines. They talk "dirty" to the men and women who "Dial-a-Hunk."

Society shuts its eyes to the fact that more than likely, the man or woman who works as this kind of 'telephone solicitor' may occasionally make personal and sexual contact with persons who call. They may have sex with a caller out of mutual desire and curiosity, or simply for money. Another misconception myth is in men and women's delusion that female sex workers are constantly wanton and exuding erotic passion. But prostitutes do not "have to" have orgasms nor are they especially expected to. This is like demanding that a bartender get drunk with you! A sex worker's passion is infrequently requested. Many sex workers may put on an "act" and "fake it" in order that a "customer's" request be satisfied. Most often, however, a woman will pretend rapture- orgasm to get him excited and "off," and out the door, just as thousands of wives do all the time!

The strange paradox is that doing sex for money or gifts or trade is not in itself illegal. Wives and partners of men do it all the time! It's been going on forever! It is the soliciting and selling, the verbal mention and offerings of sex for money, which is illegal. Thanks to Puritanism and religious dogma barking for centuries, this is a (victimless) crime. Women who prostitute sex—sell it, rent it, use it to make money on their own behalf and without pimps or agents—do so for many reasons. Throughout the world women have worked outside male controlled, legally sanctioned, socially acceptable ways. To make and have money—ready cash—is the top-line reason for doing prostitution work. For some, being a sex worker is empowering; for another it is simply a means to an end—survival. To another it may be contempt for this economic system and certainly a quick, if not easy, way to make money. For many women it is their manifested disgust towards the kinds of employment and wages extended to women. Many women hang up a useless college degree and go into prostitution work.

Whatever the reasons—all valid—prostitution work is an opportunity for women to take a dominant role working on their terms, on their territory, under their conditions, and within their direction. They most assuredly relish the comfort of not having to contend with abusive employers or male bosses propositioning them for sex—for "free," of course. Sex workers across the spectrum do not so much exploit their bodies and gender as they exploit the double standard, sexual repression, hypocrisy, homophobia, men's sexual fears, and men's awe of female sexuality. "Whores" and "madonnas" don't really exist. "Wicked" women are created out of society and the human mind.

—by Clitora E. Cummings