Sex is sex, but money is money.
October 9, 2014 9:10 PM   Subscribe

 
I RTFA and I still can't imagine how a single person could do something to me in a single sitting worth $5000 without it involving general anesthesia or a complicated legal appeal.
posted by Angleton at 9:21 PM on October 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I RTFA and I still can't imagine how a single person could do something to me in a single sitting worth $5000 without it involving general anesthesia or a complicated legal appeal.

That was my first thought, but if I was earning Wall Street money maybe $5k for a good time would seem like a bargain.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:27 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I get the impression the equivalent article to this, written by an investment banker, would be titled Money is Money, but Sex is Sex.
posted by axiom at 9:29 PM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


You're god damned right I am going to be eating all the ice cream I want.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:29 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


She seems to have taken that idea of the transactional value of sex into her personal life, talking about how not to "spoil" someone she's in a relationship with various sex acts they aren't "deserving" of. Sounds awful.

In a relationship, sex is sex, money is money, and never the twain shall meet.
posted by flippant at 9:37 PM on October 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


It reminds me a little bit of a soldier coming home from war, but their head is still in military mode. I don't think she can disconnect.
posted by DriftingLotus at 9:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


You're god damned right I am going to be eating all the ice cream I want.

Not if I have anything to say about it.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [176 favorites]


I arrived in New York City from Chelyabinsk, a city right in the middle of Russia, when I was 19 years old, with $300 in my pocket. I turned 24 in March and have managed to save $200,000, by fucking for money.

MetaFilter helped two young women avoid exactly this fate.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:53 PM on October 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


The most disturbing part of the article, to me, is that the $200K she's got saved isn't going to last her tuition + living expenses in NYC for her whole undergrad.
posted by rue72 at 10:05 PM on October 9, 2014 [23 favorites]


I'm not being snarky, I can't get over how fucked up that is.
posted by rue72 at 10:05 PM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


She seems to have taken that idea of the transactional value of sex into her personal life, talking about how not to "spoil" someone she's in a relationship with various sex acts they aren't "deserving" of. Sounds awful.

Yeah, this was really jarring.
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:10 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, that sure was interesting. It looks a hell of a lot like dating out of your supposed league after a 20 year marriage can be, but with more money involved. Cold, and with all the effort one-sided.
posted by b33j at 10:13 PM on October 9, 2014


I'm not clear on how this is a "fate." Where are the negatives here? I am surrounded by immigrants doing the shittiest work for the shittiest pay with no safety net (no insurance, no workers comp). This seems like the American Dream to me. Work hard. Work smart. Save money.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 PM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


As the post a few days ago said, sex work should be considered just another kind of work. One dangerous thing about that, however, is that being paid for something can have a tendency to make that thing less enjoyable in your own time. I love travelling, but since I have started travelling for work airports and new places have lost a little of their earlier excitement, since I see them much more often.

I'm all for sex work being recognised and de-stigmatised, and for getting rid of all the coercion, trafficking, and abuse that goes along with it, but I hadn't really thought about this aspect of it - the degradation of sex in your personal life (if that is indeed the case for other sex workers).
posted by twirlypen at 10:16 PM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


In a relationship, sex is sex, money is money, and never the twain shall meet.

Yeah, everybody likes to think that.
posted by atoxyl at 10:16 PM on October 9, 2014


Good on her. Not weighed down by American morals she has brought her intellectual dreams closer to reality. She writes well, has a sense of humor and self-deprecation, and I hope she'll do well in whatever she chooses.
posted by salad at 10:22 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Guys like to fuck women with pretty faces and slim bodies, but they also like to fuck interesting girls.

This is definitely true.

Since I quit, no blow jobs, either. If you’re dating somebody and he didn’t live good before, and you start giving him blow jobs and doing different positions, you can spoil him. I don’t want to spoil someone that much.

What? This is just... weird.
posted by modernnomad at 10:25 PM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I am not sure that the degradation of sex in her personal life was because of being a sex worker, or if her success as a sex worker was because she thought of sex that way to begin with. I know a lot of women who AREN'T sex workers who think of sex that way, so I am not sure that there is a direct cause here.

Though I could see how a professional chef wouldn't want to get her family used to 3 course meals every day.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:25 PM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


If someone’s not paying you, you don’t have to do blow jobs, you don’t have to smile all the time, you can be yourself. But after a while you feel like something is missing. The something is money. You’re sitting in the same apartment, you’re the same you, but something is missing. Your wallet is empty.
It sounds like, starting sex work as a naive, fairly inexperienced 19-year-old, her sexuality was shaped transactionally. I think she's going to have a very tough time connecting sex to love and intimacy; it has been imprinted on her as a transaction.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:36 PM on October 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


She's 24 and writes like it. Here's hoping that she matures a bit as she gets older. She'll need a few real friends.
posted by CincyBlues at 10:39 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of confused about how people are interpreting "spoil" here. She clearly doesn't really enjoy giving blowjobs or changing into a bunch of theatrical positions during sex (which, for the latter, I don't know many women who do like that, usually it's porn-influenced). So it would be spoiling someone to go out of her way to pretend to like that, to do porny things and pretend they are pleasurable. They would get used to it and it would change the dynamic, they might get pouty when pretending isn't fun anymore. Has nothing to do with sex work really except that she would probably be better than average/more cynical about pretending. But it's an insight any woman who has dated men for awhile probably already knows-- it's no different than, say, spoiling a boyfriend by cooking him dinner every night even though you hate cooking, or going to sporting events just to act cute when you don't really care about sports, so as to seem feminine and keep a guy. Many things women are told they should do to keep guys interested, blow jobs very much included (I say this as someone who actually enjoys them but is very cognizant of the weird power dynamic that can develop when you're with someone who likes that "version"). No reason to pretend to enjoy something you don't just to be a "cool girl."
posted by stoneandstar at 10:40 PM on October 9, 2014 [69 favorites]


^^ exactly.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:44 PM on October 9, 2014


Also, c'mon, let's not get pissy because she told the truth. Women do have thoughts and feelings about sex. When they live in a world where their sex life is highly influenced by unrealistic, fantasy aspirations of sex engineered by a sexist society, it's not all rainbows.

As for her outlook being shaped into something "transactional"-- what is amazing about this article is how transactional any relationship mired in traditional gender roles is from the get go. In many walks of life women are expected to do all these things just to get by as a woman. This woman realizes at least that it's not fair to do all this and get nothing in return (besides the pleasure of continuing to pretend to be someone else in a man's presence). It can all be a bit empty sometimes from the perspective of a confident, independent woman who realizes the pressure to be something else. I'm sure men have their own version of this as well. (In fact I know, it's the subject of many books and movies and essays as well.)
posted by stoneandstar at 10:45 PM on October 9, 2014 [31 favorites]


I love that the next MeFi post after this one is entitled "boiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnng."
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:12 PM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm a bit scared at how much, as a gay man, I could relate to her tricks . I think I've experienced most of the same things, just without any envelope full of money at the end. Her actually dating life, though, is ... in her own terms ... definitely "weird." It seems she connects more with the money and the illusion than with anything else.

I did find it odd that she is portraying herself as a top-shelf sex worker and that she hasn't been offered trips to Dubai or Honolulu or anywhere else yet. I've known a few female and lots more male sex workers (nominally, they're "masseurs") who charge far less, but are frequently brought as guests on some exotic cruise or trip. I've always assumed that the high-end escorts are as much paid companions as anything else.
posted by kanewai at 11:29 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


That was more depressing than I anticipated.
posted by el io at 11:46 PM on October 9, 2014


She sounds kinda boring and shallow. But she's only 24 and lots of people are boring and shallow in their early 20s so maybe she'll grow out of it.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 AM on October 10, 2014


So it would be spoiling someone to go out of her way to pretend to like that, to do porny things and pretend they are pleasurable.

Perhaps, but blowjobs & oral sex are perfectly normal things to do and at this point in time perfectly normal things to expect from your partner.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:26 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anything but missionary, with the lights off, and perry cuomo crooning in the background is kinky and weird.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Perhaps, but blowjobs & oral sex are perfectly normal things to do and at this point in time perfectly normal things to expect from your partner.

I don't expect anything from my partner she doesn't want to do.
posted by Pendragon at 12:37 AM on October 10, 2014 [23 favorites]


Oddly, it is possible to believe both that it is wrong to expect anything from one's partner that he or she does not want to do and simultaneously that blowjobs and oral sex are perfectly normal and standard.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on October 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


There's "not wanting to do X because you don't like it", and "not wanting to do X because you're afraid your partner will be spoiled by it". The latter is weird, and what is actually being discussed in the article.

She talks at one point about not wanting to do anal, and that clearly comes across as "dislike/not interested". She doesn't frame her decision to avoid giving oral to boyfriends in anywhere near the same light. For that, the way she's phrasing it she's assuming that her future boyfriends will not have had oral or "different" positions in the past (not exotic, mind you, just "different") and that giving them these things will "spoil" them, whatever that means. I'm not sure what's going on there - she doesn't really explore it long enough to say - but I see I'm not the only one who was struck by it. It's really rather bizarrely constructed.
posted by Palindromedary at 1:03 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


perry cuomo crooning in the background

God! Enough of that political dynasty!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [18 favorites]


On a certain level, "capitalism" is just the natural human way of living: you have things, you trade them with other people for things you need more, people respect each other's boundaries and personal belongings, etc. But when this mechanism - trading stuff for stuff with other people, pure material transaction - starts to seep into certain kinds of relationships, it has a subtle but distinct corrosive effect, demeaning and devaluing the human soul and the things which are highest.

For example, when the relationship between a teacher and a student becomes purely transactional, all the vitality of that relationship is drained from it, because material reality is so relentlessly immediate, and because the mechanic of pure material transaction is so intuitive that we naturally begin to reduce everything to it without even thinking. The student, who presumably came to the teacher to be taught things she does not know, says: 'as a consumer, I value certain qualities in my education-commodity. I want X and Y and Z training, and I want that to translate directly into earning power in the marketplace.' The professor, who presumably became a professor because she knows things that students do not know, says: 'I will disregard my own beliefs about the essential human things that ought to be taught to students, and instead follow market demand and provide the students with the things they have demanded of the competitive free market. Otherwise, the student will take their business elsewhere.'

And thus all the life, all the vitality of a relationship that ought to be animated by the friendship of people engaged in learning and mutual human betterment is drained from education. This happens without our even thinking about it, because this is how we see all things now: as pure material transactions in a marketplace.

Sex is the same as education in this respect, a relation forged from within our own material bodies but extending beyond them in beautiful and creative and multifarious ways until we reach something transcendental, something ineffable. Pure materially transactional sex removes this higher good from sex until we forget that it's the thing we were aiming at in the first place. “It surprised me, but a lot of them — most of them — really need to feel a sort of connection... The guys who are jerking off want to feel like they know the girl.” The very fact that this is surprising is telling. ”I told lies for a living, but the biggest lies in the world are the lies people tell themselves.” The author's insights concerning human frailty are incisive, but she's professional to the point of being devoid of caring for these people; they don't mind paying her, so she doesn't taking the money and telling them the right kind of lies for a while. It's curious that she mentions perhaps wanting to be a psychologist.

The saddest part of this article to me was this:

”Dating is weird. My clients were older than the guys I’m dating now, and these guys don’t have that much money. Clients, if they like you, they spoil you very well. Boyfriends don’t really care. They have their dinners with work, their ball games they watch with their guy friends...

”If someone’s not paying you, you don’t have to do blow jobs, you don’t have to smile all the time, you can be yourself. But after a while you feel like something is missing. The something is money. You’re sitting in the same apartment, you’re the same you, but something is missing. Your wallet is empty. Sex is sex, but money is money.”


When sex becomes purely materially transaction, the rest of human companionship can begin to, too. Why spend time with people if they aren't paying you?

Is there a sadder question a person could ask? If there is, I don't want to know.
posted by koeselitz at 1:22 AM on October 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


Justinian: "Anything but missionary, with the lights off, and perry cuomo parry gripp crooning in the background is kinky and weird."

ftfy
posted by koeselitz at 1:33 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Perhaps it was the immaturity and selfishness she exuded, but I kept thinking that this was pure fiction.
posted by HuronBob at 3:10 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The most interesting thing about that article was the fact that it purports to have had a fact checker.

I can't help but wonder what facts were actually checked?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:17 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm getting Belle du Jour deja vu here. I love the Russian style frank assertions (as I call them to myself) even if some seem extrapolated from assumption rather than direct experience. None of this really distracts from this fascinating window into a world of men who pay $1K/hour for being validated in their first 0.1% world problems, right? And all the other good bits such as the observation with the couples, who make it a celebration with a big spread of food, vs the single guys with a glass of water and an envelope. Fantastic article, thank you!
posted by yoHighness at 3:25 AM on October 10, 2014


It sounds like, starting sex work as a naive, fairly inexperienced 19-year-old, her sexuality was shaped transactionally. I think she's going to have a very tough time connecting sex to love and intimacy; it has been imprinted on her as a transaction.

In a neoliberal economic model, there's no need to separate sexual intimacy from the idea of the market. Rather than cut the two apart, one can keep the useful abstractions of the market by, say, allocating one's boyfriend a nontransferrable allowance for, say, $1000 worth of sexual services a week.
</🍔>
posted by acb at 4:07 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


This seems like a perfectly reasonable career, if you can handle the damage it might do to your personal relationships. Just like coal mining is a fine choice if you don't mind a little black lung.
posted by nerdler at 4:43 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think that a lot of critique of sex work hinges on a belief in a stereotypical and unlikely kind of "romance". No one would be saying that this girl is damaged or too transactional or whatever if she'd let some clown persuade her into getting married and having a baby at twenty while he was cheating on her, gone into debt for her wedding and then gotten dumped/abandoned by the clown who doesn't make enough money consistently enough to pay child support. That woman would have made her life far, far more difficult than this girl has, but the worst folks would say was that she was naive because she'd been in "love" since it is appropriate to have gotten married and had a baby. People act as though it's just this giant enormous tragedy if a woman is okay (I'm not saying "perfectly happy" because who is perfectly happy - I'm just talking about being reasonably okay with most aspects of life) without being in a relationship. And people act as though a woman who has a transactional attitude toward sex is somehow damaged - I mean, hello, we live in a world where sex is de facto transactional for many, many people, and women get cheated because it is not considered nice to acknowledge this fact.

I bet this girl will do just fine in the long run.
posted by Frowner at 5:06 AM on October 10, 2014 [43 favorites]


Anyone else read this in a flat, affectless, slightly suicidal tone? Perhaps I got that from having seen The Girlfriend Experience, which is so eerily close to this piece that I can't decide if it's just lifting the idea from the movie, or if the movie was unusually accurate about the psychology of a woman in this position.
posted by tempythethird at 5:25 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I didn’t come from Russia to the United States so that I could live in fucking Illinois!

Ouch!
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:26 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Though I could see how a professional chef wouldn't want to get her family used to 3 course meals every day

Actually, one of the joys of being a chef is being able to more or less effortlessly make awesome food for your loved ones whenever you want to. That said, you don't want to quite as often. I have no problem at all getting boyfriends and family members used to great food.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:46 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


When sex becomes purely materially transaction, the rest of human companionship can begin to, too. Why spend time with people if they aren't paying you?

And THIS is why the underlying problem with sex work isn't sex, but work. Sex work makes people who have to work for a living uncomfortable because it so effectively exposes what the terms of wage labor really are.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:55 AM on October 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I bet this girl will do just fine in the long run.

Actually, the person(s?) making the earlier comment about how $200,000 won't even last five years for a New York film student is what worried me the most. I'm saying that as a person who graduated from NYU Film eleven years ago, worked roughly fourteen months out of the following eleven years in the actual film/TV industry with the remaining time being a need to find rent money elsewhere, and while has found gainful employment elsewhere, is still paying off his student loans.

I think her piece tries very hard to blur the line between not missing "the life" and more truthfully missing having a lot of money. I wish her all the luck in the world, but she was very emphatic about wanting to live in New York, wanting to have a high-income lifestyle, and not really having any other perception of America beyond that because that's the only type of life in America she's experienced.

I wish her all the success in the world but if she thinks she's getting that back with a film degree.... good luck, sister.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:58 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


The chef analogy is quite an interesting one I think. Of the chefs I have know, from drinking buddies to close friends, they have all eaten like crap outside of the job. Sure, occasionally they'll turn it on if they're feeling fancy and want to impress, but most of the time it's takeaways and pot noodles.
posted by fatfrank at 5:58 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh hell yes, at home by myself, I eat toast, tuna sandwiches, etc. I'm only interested in cooking for other people.

I've always been vaguely curious as to how often sex workers masturbate.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:05 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I bet this girl woman will do just fine in the long run.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


I didn’t come from Russia to the United States so that I could live in fucking Illinois!

Ouch!


Seriously! Fucking, Illinois's yearly Greasedown Jamboree is pretty cool and manages to sustain a bunch of businesses and restaurants through out the year. Though, I could see her point if she'd only been to Goddamn, Illinois because that place is a dump.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:35 AM on October 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


My partner is a sex worker too, and my experience of dating her isn't like this. She's got a clear divide between transactional sex and love sex. People's experiences are always going to be very diverse, but it was still an interesting read.
posted by imperium at 6:36 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm easily wooed by little web gimmicks, but I thought the photography in this article was both amazing and, with the wee animations, wonderfully mesmerizing. Surprised there hasn't been a single bit of discussion about that.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


We can disagree with a lot of things in the article, but can we all agree the guy making "Look at me! Funny!" comments about economics needs to knock it off?
posted by yerfatma at 6:58 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I’ve learned a lot about what men and women want and need.

I'd say when most of your clientele is investment bankers you've probably just learned a lot about what sociopaths want and need.
posted by any major dude at 7:04 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


On a certain level, "capitalism" is just the natural human way of living: you have things, you trade them with other people for things you need more, people respect each other's boundaries and personal belongings, etc.

I don't think that is either capitalism or the natural human way of living.
posted by layceepee at 7:13 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I bet this girl will do just fine in the long run.

If she exists, which she almost certainly does not.
posted by The Bellman at 7:16 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


mcstayinskool, I was about to say something similar about the photos! I found them mesmerizing too, but in a very disturbing way that I can't really put my finger on. I feel like there's an obvious reference to porn gif loops there, which is interesting -- maybe it's the voyeuristic & objectifying quality (we never see her face, understandibly) of the photos juxtaposed with her candid first-person account that's getting me? I dunno; I wish I could could figure out what's so unsettling. I'd really love to hear others' reactions!
posted by Westringia F. at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I have no problem at all getting boyfriends and family members used to........"

I got to the "....and family members..." part of this sentence and was a bit apprehensive as to how the sentence would end...

I was relieved....
posted by HuronBob at 7:41 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Woo woo woooo guy cracked me up.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2014


can you help me conquer gravity? no? no $5000 for you.
posted by bruce at 8:06 AM on October 10, 2014


The photos/gifs did make me feel like I was reading something fictional - I think you have it right on with "voyeuristic & objectifying", Westringia F. It did bother me that she's relating her story with this flat, direct affect yet the photos are just so obvious and cliché to me, as if societally we cannot perceive a young woman who is a sex worker in any other way but "mysteriously attractive", etc. I felt they cheapened the impact of the piece.

As someone who feels more & more that gender roles are very much performance - that specifically as a woman, as I look back & examine my life I realize how much of my behaviour was definitely (consciously or subconsciously) influenced by how I felt I had to perform in my assigned-female role, and it still is even as I recognize it happening - I'm not taken aback by a lot of what she's saying here.

I do think hetero sex work very much highlights & parallels the unpaid roles women are unconsciously expected to perform simply by being women: Listen. Be understanding. Be sweet. Be somewhat of a challenge to make him think he's getting something special. But don't be challenging with your opinions or needs. Groom yourself in a particular way (that suits the societal standard he is used to). Perform sex a certain way (that suits the societal & porn standards he is used to). Be convenient without being easy. Follow the scripts that fulfill the image they want. Give them something to connect to, to relate to, whether you are pretending or not - because they want to feel you want just what they want, but spontaneously, of your own accord, so they don't have to feel anything negative about wanting it or think any more deeply about it. Don't have messy emotions that make them uncomfortable.

A woman's worth really is so much based in how she pleases other people, in this society: her looks, her manners, her friendliness, her emotional control, her willingness to placate, her willingness to clean up after other people without protest. If you don't believe me, just think about how women are treated when they don't toe those societal lines - women who are unfeminine, women who are considered unattractive, women who assert themselves, women who refuse to smooth things over to make everyone else feel better.

I simply don't have a problem with her honesty that if she's going to do all this work to please a man, he should be ponying up something in return for it. It's cynical but I don't find it inaccurate - she is calling it as she sees it. We are societally so uncomfortable & disconcerted with the realization that hetero relationships are actually very often transactional - they historically were, and a few decades of simply saying "oh, it's not like that anymore!" doesn't change the reality, it just makes it taboo to talk about because it makes people upset. Men don't want to think they're taking advantage of women, and women don't want to think they're being taken advantage of - people want to think they are individuals making their own considered choices, that they're happy with the positions they're taught to perform. The expectations are there but people are defensive over the clear honest examination of it all because it makes them feel bad about themselves.

You can be a woman who likes men & loves men and still see through to where your position is in society and how men are taught to treat you and how you are taught to think of yourself. (I do think this is easier to perceive as you get older; I didn't see it this way in my teens & 20s, but I also thought it was so important to be appealing then too, because as a woman you are implicitly taught you should be appealing - appealing as defined by what you're told men want. And I also thought I was equal - it took experience to realize if other people didn't truly see me as equal, then actually, I wasn't.)
posted by flex at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2014 [43 favorites]


I bet this girl will do just fine in the long run.

Possibly so, but I could pretty definitely say that about her banker clients as well, but we regard that as a moral flaw of the system. you might be able to get pretty far with screwed up ideas about sex and money (eg, Eliot Spitzer), but it's not considered a healthy way to live.

At the same time, when the alternative is poverty, you can see how people might be able to give up being able to form healthy relationships in exchange for being self-sufficient.
posted by deanc at 8:49 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Her perspective is the first I've read that sounds logical. I'm purposely not using the word feeling because from my previous knowledge of sex work, migrants, gender, and even about cities the structures she describes is more than plausible. I cannot remember the exact wording of the Russian saying she brought up, (I'm on my phone now and the page won't load; I read this earlier on a computer) about "if I'm hungry and you're full then you won't understand me," and that phrase epitomizes this piece for me. The incredible way in which we all make life difficult for each other, force each other to twist and contort ourselves to find a way to survive into the utmost comforts we can afford. The market of escorts, of which she found she had distinct advantage due to her phenotypes, where she continuously calculated to leverage as much value for herself as she could. Good. I'm on the verge of being broke, but now I know I could never do this kind of work, to not break character for hours at a time with physical vulnerability on top of it all. Not even the author could keep from breaking character at times, and good because at times she needed to do so in order to protect herself. Though when I read the part where she yelled at the man who said his s/o is fine without flowers, I cringed.

Seeing her thin build, write that she eats but once a day, that she would like to go into psychology or film someday, that clearly she favors the big city habitat, I want to ask her: what do you hunger for, in your heart of hearts?-- that pulled you out of this line of work, believing that prolonging it will cannibalize your future if not already parts of your personality, altered from the personality that had resisted multiple introductions to this line of work. I feel the writer searching, reaching beyond the glittering skyline. And in the photographs. That money and getting it in large sums became a bad habit in itself, described in her fellow workers. Perhaps she is seeing a thing, raw and undignified, but in the end cannot deny its existence. A thing. Many things. A trillion things.

The writing and photography is bare, describing that barbed and frankly terrifying landscape. Calculating women (actually, workers, who need not be women) based on their race, origin, capacities. That humanity can be described this way and have other humans recognize its large swaths of truth is weird. I think of the soldier, the many parts of their entering the profession being coersion and circumstances beyond their control. To end up traumatized or dying in war. I recognize the paternalistic core of this view. Its ugly. At the same time, I refuse to be coerced, to get randomly kicked into being an adult I don't want to be. I'm still figuring out this same aforementioned question for myself. Just some thoughts.
posted by one teak forest at 8:55 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I meant to add that its also one of the few that I've read so I'm limited in my knowledge, yes.
posted by one teak forest at 8:57 AM on October 10, 2014


Possibly so, but I could pretty definitely say that about her banker clients as well, but we regard that as a moral flaw of the system. you might be able to get pretty far with screwed up ideas about sex and money (eg, Eliot Spitzer), but it's not considered a healthy way to live.

I was thinking this morning about how screwed up my own ideas about sex and money are...or really, sex and value. And I didn't get hundreds of thousands of dollars out of it!

I grew up knowing that I was ugly and fat and that this made me worthless - I was told this in so many words on a number of occasions and it was reinforced by virtually everyone in my life. Nothing I did really mattered, because I was ugly, and what's more, people had the right to resent me for being fat and ugly, since I was taking up space that might be used for a "real" person [ie, an attractive person]. I grew up with a deep-rooted belief that in any group of people I was actively unwanted, and anyone who had to sit next to me or talk to me or notice me in any way would be disappointed and angry that life had put them in contact with me. I grew up believing that the best thing I could do was to make sure that no one noticed me - that I could do what I wanted only if I could live, as James Tiptree has it, in the chinks of the world machine.

People often wonder why someone from my background with my education and general personality type works as a secretary. Now, I actually like my secretarial gig - I like the people I work with, it's a union job, and I love where I live. But I really ended up here because I felt that someone as useless and worthless as me should just take any job they could get - wasn't I lucky to be employed at all?

My point being, I got used very early to the idea that the vast majority of my relationships were transactional - had to be transactional. There can't be any gloss of romance when you're told early and often that you're unfuckable and a waste of space. And while I'm sure that making your money off of transactional sex is damaging in certain ways, the way I grew up was also damaging. If the choice is "damage but no money" or "damage and lots of money", it's mere silliness to try to muster romance and truth and beauty and so on to try to persuade women that they should take the short end of the stick.

If you've read Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake, you may recall that there's a point where Oryx is talking to Jimmy about her exploited childhood. She says something like "you think it's sad because I had food and relative security but no love, but there are lots of children who have neither love nor security; I could have been so much unluckier". And she says something like, "If you can't have love, it's still something to have security".
posted by Frowner at 9:02 AM on October 10, 2014 [34 favorites]


Perhaps, but blowjobs & oral sex are perfectly normal things to do and at this point in time perfectly normal things to expect from your partner

Does it really bother men this much to contemplate the fact that if it doesn't turn you on, cramming someone's dick down your throat and pretending to like it is not "normal"?

"Normal" and "expected" means not a fucking thing when it comes to someone's private sex life. I think everybody already knows that. The inability to read even a shade if humanity into her comments (and instead call her boring, annoying, and shallow, because she is honest about the obnoxious bullshit that men want from women, paying or not) is sexist and gross.

I'm just going to say that every woman (and apparently man according to above comments) who dates men already knows all of this, as written in the article. She's barely more shallow/used up/bitter than a lot of women who already go through this routine, not for money but for any guy who fails to attributes humanity to her. This doesn't mean just rich guys or banker sociopaths, it even includes nice guys who are just super naive about the world of women (which it's perfectly easy to get away with) and think that being feminine, sweet, yielding dolls comes naturally. Oh, and thinking blow jobs are "normal," this is natural to women too, of course. God forbid you lose enthusiasm for them.

And please spare us your witticisms about Thai bar girls! Jesus Christ, what is this thread. (Actually, I know what it is-- a bunch of people who date men saying "yep, she learned the secrets of the world alright," and a bunch of men saying "what a shallow bitch who doesn't take it for granted that she should blow men that she loves! If only she hadn't been so damaged by... herself!" i.e., men. I think a million well-reasoned posts by people talking about how this mirrors their experiences will not be listened to by others who don't date men or who are lucky and just want to say "oh, she fucked up her whole life and she'll always be broken, too bad she was a poor slut!")
posted by stoneandstar at 9:02 AM on October 10, 2014 [33 favorites]


I enjoyed reading this piece, if for one thing just to realize exactly how much distance separates the 1% from the rest of us. $8K is a good month's wage, while $8K a day is inconceivable, I imagine, to all but maybe 1% of the users of this site.

I too wonder a bit about the sex life of sex workers. I assume they desire orgasms as most of the rest of us do, perhaps it's just a bit of the routine, like exercising or showering or whatever.

I must admit this all seemed very practical, but suspect this particular brand of sex work is also available only to the sex-worker equivalent to the 1%...you would need a rare combination of raw good looks, smarts, business sense, etc. to be able to operate indefinitely at this level.

Also interesting is her cultural expectations vis a vis what benefits being a beautiful woman should bring to you even in a romantic relationship.
posted by maxwelton at 9:04 AM on October 10, 2014


Re: stoneandstar's comment above, as a man I admire the writer and thought the story was refreshingly frank. My only "worry" from reading it was that the world of sex work she was describing--voluntary, well-recompensed, and relatively safe--is (perhaps? I have no knowledge) only available to a very small minority of sex workers, and that articles like this might serve to allow the dismissal of dangers/working conditions of other, less fortunate, sex workers.

The article in no way threatened me, as far as whether any particular thing I enjoyed or thought of "natural" turned out to not be everyone's idea of a good time.
posted by maxwelton at 9:12 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


and instead call her boring, annoying, and shallow, because she is honest about the obnoxious bullshit that men want from women, paying or not) is sexist and gross

Or maybe because it's boring and shallow.
posted by Justinian at 9:13 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or maybe because it's boring and shallow.

"Boring and shallow" are really subjective. Boring I can skip, because there are things which bore me which others find exciting, but can you explain what "deep" would be in this context? I'm curious, because the thing I took away as a descriptive phrase was "practical and honest".
posted by maxwelton at 9:18 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Does it really bother men this much to contemplate the fact that if it doesn't turn you on, cramming someone's dick down your throat and pretending to like it is not "normal"?

No, but how about this: When you're in a relationship, isn't it normal to want to please your partner, regardless of what gender you are or what gender your partner is? Isn't this sort of a definitional aspect of a relationship; being with him/her makes me happy, and I want to make him/her happy?

So OK, there are things people will be uncomfortable with and won't want to do and everyone needs to respect those boundaries. But when the argument is - as hers appears to be - that, I'll do virtually anything with the guy paying me, but you - no I won't do that, because you don't "deserve" it - then the whole definition of what an actual partner "deserves" is: Less.

The partner, to her, "deserves" less than the paying customer.
posted by kgasmart at 9:29 AM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


but can you explain what "deep" would be in this context?

Maybe "superficial" is a better word than shallow? I mean that there was nothing in her piece that seemed particularly thoughtful or insightful. No real introspection. It didn't bring anything to the table that we haven't seen before except maybe the bit about "spoiling" your SO. Which may be one reason people keep bringing it up, because everything else in the piece kind of fades into a background haze. But like I said that's about what I'd expect from someone who is 24 years old with a limited life experience; and her life experience is absolutely limited. It's different from what most of us experience by that age but it's still narrow in scope.

But even if you disagree with all of what I just wrote it's certainly not sexist and gross to think she's kind of boring.

I dunno, I bet a piece written by some of the Wall Street master-of-the-universe types who made up a lot of her clientele would also be shallow and boring but with a lot less justification. Sometimes people just aren't very big on introspection.
posted by Justinian at 9:32 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Thai bar girls comment deleted; flagging works, folks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I RTFA and I still can't imagine how a single person could do something to me in a single sitting worth $5000 without it involving general anesthesia or a complicated legal appeal.

Hey, general anesthesia is twenty bucks. Same as in town.
posted by jonp72 at 9:37 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Normal" and "expected" means not a fucking thing when it comes to someone's private sex life. I think everybody already knows that. The inability to read even a shade if humanity into her comments (and instead call her boring, annoying, and shallow, because she is honest about the obnoxious bullshit that men want from women, paying or not) is sexist and gross.

Apparently I'm the only one who thought it sounded like she might be gay but hasn't quite put that together yet?

Maybe "superficial" is a better word than shallow? I mean that there was nothing in her piece that seemed particularly thoughtful or insightful. No real introspection. It didn't bring anything to the table that we haven't seen before except maybe the bit about "spoiling" your SO.

Really? I guess I don't read widely enough. I thought it was refreshing to read an essay by a lady whose approach to romance was, "No, really, what have you done for me lately? Because I showed up from Bumfuck, Russia to be here today, so if I fuck you, pay me."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


Perry COMO. Unless our governor has a musical relation he's not telling us about.
posted by jonmc at 9:53 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The writer seemed like a romantic above all, to me. She quit a lucrative job that it seemed she didn't dislike so that she could marry (her hypothetical boyfriend) and have (his hypothetical) kids, and she's studying for a film and psychology double major. To me, that sounds much more like youthful optimism than steely-eyed practicality.

What I found charming is that she seems to have really liked the fantasy-building aspects of being an escort -- she complains about not having enough excuses to get all dressed up anymore now that she's quit, her favorite dates as an escort were when the couples would lay out wine and cheese and make their threesome a ultra-romantic occasion, she's irritated by how guys don't seem like they try so hard to impress their girlfriends, to the point that when some man in the McDonald's told her that his girlfriend didn't need flowers she cussed him out. Her clients *did* fly her out to some interesting places, she says earlier in the article, but when she decided to talk about her travels to seem more interesting to new clients she made up stories about places she'd never been anyway. I'm not surprised that her dates now seem dull and ungentlemanly, because it sounds like she really, genuinely likes and appreciates glamor.

This article, and the persona the writer takes on in it (because someone who loves fantasy-building like that is likely to have put on a persona to weave a specific kind of spell, isn't she?) reminds me of Becky Sharp in Bonfire of the Vanities.
posted by rue72 at 10:19 AM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Apparently I'm the only one who thought it sounded like she might be gay but hasn't quite put that together yet?

Maybe she's just dating 24 year old guys.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


So OK, there are things people will be uncomfortable with and won't want to do and everyone needs to respect those boundaries. But when the argument is - as hers appears to be - that, I'll do virtually anything with the guy paying me, but you - no I won't do that, because you don't "deserve" it - then the whole definition of what an actual partner "deserves" is: Less.

I think-- no snark intended-- that your formulation actually bothers me more than hers, because I can see where she is coming from. To me, where she is coming from is a world saturated with pornified expectations of women. She doesn't want to do porny things in bed with her boyfriend because as most people who date people who watch a lot of porn know, that becomes the new "normal" and pretty soon you're very unfulfilled and unhappy and bored with your (sort of coerced) sex life. It's like saying, I'm a hotel cleaning person. If you pay me, I'll make your bed and fluff your pillows. Now I'm your girlfriend-- you're not paying me, I'm not going to come to your apartment and make your bed and fluff your pillows, you can do that yourself. Seems perfectly natural to me. Of course the non-paying customer "deserves" less.

And of course sometimes women want to do something nice for their partner, so they'll give a blow job, even if they don't like to do it. But honestly, it can be really physically uncomfortable-- imagine giving one yourself, if you're a straight male? And being entirely unaroused by it, just gagging, with a sore jaw and neck, waiting for it to be over? And maybe the guy pulling your hair, or doing something otherwise uncomfortable and undesirable because that's what really makes it "good" for him? And pretending you don't hate it? And in fact enjoy it... ?

As I said before, I actually enjoy it, but sometimes I'm not in the mood, and it's not like having sex when I'm not in the mood, it feels like a whole different level of "service." Especially when you're conscious that you're doing it because you don't feel "cool" enough, and your boyfriend is maybe disappointed in you lately, because you're not as pornographic as usual in your sexual theatrics, and maybe you're not holding up your end of the bargain...
posted by stoneandstar at 10:23 AM on October 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


To me, where she is coming from is a world saturated with pornified expectations of women.

Didn't she, in fact, buttress these expectations herself as a sex worker?

Of course the non-paying customer "deserves" less.

You lost me there. This is an awfully ego-centric view of what it means to be in a relationship, isn't it?

The person with whom she might be in a relationship deserves less physical affection. Does he/she also "deserve" less attention period? Less understanding, less conversation, less of a "connection" than she established with paying customers?

Who signs on for this? "You're my boyfriend/girlfriend, but meh, you ain't worth it." And this person wants to have children? What will they "deserve," if anything?
posted by kgasmart at 10:38 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


That wasn't a connection, any more than the barrista is "connecting" with you when they chit chat at the register. She doesn't want to fake it with her boyfriend the way she was faking it with her clients. That seems completely reasonable to me.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:42 AM on October 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


You lost me there. This is an awfully ego-centric view of what it means to be in a relationship, isn't it?

Did you even read my comment? If not, read small_ruminant's. That is the point. Do you want a genuine sexual relationship with your girlfriend, or one where she fakes it as well as she does with her clients? That's your choice.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really don't think oral sex counts as 'porny.' If you don't like doing it, you don't like doing it and that's fine. It's the whole 'deserve' thing that's a problem. Perhaps she misworded it and meant what you read into her statement. Or maybe she was being honest about what she meant.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Snarl Furillo: “Apparently I'm the only one who thought it sounded like she might be gay but hasn't quite put that together yet?”

Maybe. I will say that some of my friends who are lesbians describe things the same way. And it makes sense. If dating people is always like this for you, someday you might realize you've only tried dating men and start thinking.

Also, the only time she mentions having fun during sex is when she describes having sex with a women when doing a threesome.

stoneandstar: “It's like saying, I'm a hotel cleaning person. If you pay me, I'll make your bed and fluff your pillows. Now I'm your girlfriend-- you're not paying me, I'm not going to come to your apartment and make your bed and fluff your pillows, you can do that yourself. Seems perfectly natural to me. Of course the non-paying customer ‘deserves’ less.”

I agree, and frankly I am totally with you on the whole issue of blowjobs. If people don't want to give them, they shouldn't. They can indeed be tough, and men often are annoyingly obtuse as to the difficulties; I notice most men don't seem to realize that bruising and soreness is, like, a thing. Or they don't care – which is probably worse. And moreover if you do something as your job, well, you shouldn't be expected to come home and do it, or to do it whenever just because your partner feels like it. Maybe you might do it every once in a while – or maybe not. Do it all the time? Why, if you don't like doing it?

However: this whole thing about blowjobs is really missing the issue, I think. I think it sticks out to people, so we're talking about it. But this is how she talks about relationships in general:

“If someone’s not paying you, you don’t have to do blow jobs, you don’t have to smile all the time, you can be yourself. But after a while you feel like something is missing. The something is money. You’re sitting in the same apartment, you’re the same you, but something is missing. Your wallet is empty. Sex is sex, but money is money.”

It's not really about what sex acts she does or doesn't do. She is free to choose what she wants to do with any person she dates. But the thing is that she seems to be saying here that she doesn't get value out of spending time with the people she dates at all – or at least that whatever value she does get is not worth mentioning and leaves her wishing she was getting money for doing it. Dating just sounds like generally a bad idea, the way she describes it.

As Snarl Furillo said, that might be because she's apparently just dating men, and would be happier dating women; I am not sure. It's hard not to feel, as you and others have said, that a lot of this empty feeling is down to the emptiness and entitlement that the overwhelming majority of men seem to repay women with in relationships.

But – I just wanted to explain this – I said above that I found this bit "sad." I wanted to be clear, because I don't want to be misread. You and Frowner have talked about people saying she is "broken" or "damaged." I don't think that she is broken or damaged at all. I just think that, if you're dating people, and dating those people makes you wish you were getting paid, because then at least you'd be getting some value from it – well, that's overwhelmingly sad. I don't doubt that plenty of women feel that way. That, too, is sad. It's absolutely not their fault. The sad thing is a world full of men so oblivious to peoples' suffering.

And the fact that that makes me sad is kind of sad, too, really. Because it's just a token of the privilege I have: I've never had to live with that reality every day.

It makes me wonder why people date or marry each other at all. Which, I realize now, is what a lot of straight women live their whole lives wondering.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


Now let's have the story of the $50 a toss call girl. Might make for an interesting comparison.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:12 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


My aunt's axiom that I have lived by: "It takes an awfully good man to beat no man at all."
posted by small_ruminant at 11:12 AM on October 10, 2014 [44 favorites]


But – I just wanted to explain this – I said above that I found this bit "sad." I wanted to be clear, because I don't want to be misread. You and Frowner have talked about people saying she is "broken" or "damaged." I don't think that at all. I just think that, if you're dating people, and dating those people makes you wish you were getting paid, because then at least you'd be getting some value from it – well, that's overwhelmingly sad. I don't doubt that plenty of women feel that way. That, too, is sad. It's absolutely not their fault. The sad thing is a world full of men so oblivious to peoples' suffering.

...

It makes me wonder why people date or marry each other at all. Which, I realize now, is what a lot of straight women live their whole lives wondering.


I agree with you 100%. I am not at this place in my own life, but I've been in relationships where I think, "why am I working so hard? I'm getting nothing out of this," and it's sad and transactional, but it's the result of delusions about femininity and who women are. And now that women have economic opportunities, if you're making enough money to support yourself, you take care of yourself, you're sexually satisfied, you take your car to the shop and build furniture yourself, mow your own lawn, you think... who am I losing this weight for? Wearing this expensive makeup every day for? Acting demure and not too assertive for? You realize it's all an empty status symbol. And if you just wanted human companionship, that would be enough reason to find a partner to love-- but then comes the complaining about how you've gained weight or don't like this or that sex act or wear sweatpants around the house, and you're working so hard on an emotional level for no reason, no payoff.

And if you're a woman who wants a family and children, and you date a guy and do all these things to seem like "wife material," and then you find out later he doesn't want to have children until he's 45, it all seems like a colossal waste of time. And a lot of men will say the woman was cynical to be "trying so hard" to "get a man," but I've been on both sides of that situation, and if you don't "try hard" and "act like a woman" and play your part, guys will look at you funny-- even nice guys with good families and relationships with their sisters and mother.

I remember Ryan Gosling, in an interview or a movie, talking about how men are more romantic, because women meet a guy and they want to move so fast and make it serious, whereas a guy meets a woman and takes a long time to make sure she's "the one," and then he commits. But ever since I read/heard that all I can think is that the "waiting to see if she's the one" is just a long audition process where the woman grooms and makes sure not to be weird or unfeminine and has to be giving and selfless sexually and otherwise, and by the time the guy thinks, "OK, she's not threatening, she doesn't want anything from me, I love her," the woman is already bitter and thinks "why wasn't I good enough for so long, why did I have to try so hard? Why did I have to pretend I'm nothing but someone's wish fulfillment?"

Anyway, that's why I didn't find this FPP boring or shallow. Thanks for your thoughtful and interesting comment, koeselitz. And small_ruminant, you are so much more concise than me!
posted by stoneandstar at 11:14 AM on October 10, 2014 [26 favorites]


I don't think that she is broken or damaged at all. I just think that, if you're dating people, and dating those people makes you wish you were getting paid, because then at least you'd be getting some value from it – well, that's overwhelmingly sad. I don't doubt that plenty of women feel that way. That, too, is sad. It's absolutely not their fault. The sad thing is a world full of men so oblivious to peoples' suffering.

Wait, what?

She chose to go into sex work, she broke away from it because she wants to get married and have kids some day, she finds absolute emptiness in the people she dates apparently because they aren't lavishing the kind of money and attention on her she believes proper - and it's mens' fault?

No. The line "Sex is sex and money is money" has it exactly wrong: To her, it is clear, sex is money; sex should be money. She is disappointed now that it isn't, for intimacy has no meaning to her without money.

There is a lie at the heart of her lonliness.
posted by kgasmart at 11:19 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


To be clear, I didn't say the FPP was boring and shallow, I said she sounded boring and shallow which isn't necessarily the same thing.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


She chose to go into sex work, she broke away from it because she wants to get married and have kids some day, she finds absolute emptiness in the people she dates apparently because they aren't lavishing the kind of money and attention on her she believes proper - and it's mens' fault?

No. The line "Sex is sex and money is money" has it exactly wrong: To her, it is clear, sex is money; sex should be money. She is disappointed now that it isn't, for intimacy has no meaning to her without money.


Now you're just making shit up.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:35 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


If I was earning Wall Street money maybe $5k for a good time would seem like a bargain.

The i-bankers I've known rated experiences mostly by how much they cost. Paying $5K for an escort is an achievement to them, it shows how powerful they are.
posted by Blue Meanie at 11:48 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


There is a lie at the heart of her lonliness.

If that's even true, which I don't grant, it seems like you're being more judgemental of this particular "lie," versus the lie that is "marriage, a kid, a house with a white picket fence will make you happy" or "go to college, get a good job, become successful and you will be happy." There are so many lies that get exposed in our 20s or 30s or even later.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:48 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


small_ruminant: “If that's even true, which I don't grant, it seems like you're being more judgemental of this particular ‘lie,’ versus the lie that is ‘marriage, a kid, a house with a white picket fence will make you happy’ or ‘go to college, get a good job, become successful and you will be happy.’ There are so many lies that get exposed in our 20s or 30s or even later.”

The fact that these seem to be the two options – traditional patriarchy or libertarian capitalism – is probably the heart of the problem here. They are not.

And libertarian capitalism is enough of a lie on its own. I understand that it's the reality of life today for women, and I do not blame her for this. But relationships can and should have value beyond monetary reward.

kgasmart: “The line ‘Sex is sex and money is money’ has it exactly wrong: To her, it is clear, sex is money; sex should be money. She is disappointed now that it isn't, for intimacy has no meaning to her without money.”

The line "sex is sex and money is money" doesn't exactly say that. As far as I can parse it, it says "sex is sex" – that is, "sex is [a pleasant enough activity, presumably]," but "money is [a consistent and constant value that can be relied upon]." Money is more reliable than sex, in other words; and maybe that makes it a higher value. And it's worth noting that, in context, she's not really just talking about sex; she's talking about all the things she gets out of a relationship – which don't add up to money, as she implies.

If the relationships and the sex people have are so terrible that they're hardly worth it unless they're getting paid, is that their fault? I'm not so sure.
posted by koeselitz at 12:24 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of this piece better than the piece itself. It's because I don't like her. I don't like how she surmises that the American girls must be stupid because they offer sex for only 400 Dollars. She's got this persona of this supersuccessful, straightalking businesswoman, blunt in a stereotypically Russian way. She seems unpleasant and arrogant to me.

That said, the actual content was super interesting and a lot of what she says about the dynamics of sex work makes sense.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:25 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really don't think oral sex counts as 'porny.' If you don't like doing it, you don't like doing it and that's fine. It's the whole 'deserve' thing that's a problem.

I notice most men don't seem to realize that bruising and soreness is, like, a thing.


Just because I think there's so much interesting stuff in this thread and I'd like to derail this derail if I can, one thing I think would be helpful is to know whether we're talking about any oral sex or oral sex to the point of ejaculation (and now I feel like a sex education teacher trying to be as dry and uncomfortable as possible)? Because it feels to me (as a man) that's some of the divide in the thread. I'm 100% ok with "I'm not interested in taking time out of my day to bring you to orgasm in my mouth" but a bit weired out by "I love you but am completely uninterested in putting my face anywhere near your just-washed crotch".

blunt in a stereotypically Russian way. She seems unpleasant and arrogant to me.

It feels a bit more like stero-typically 24 than Russian to me as it's self-centered: "here's what I've done with my life and now I'm going to extrapolate a set of rules for everyone else based on my incredibly vast experience".
posted by yerfatma at 1:30 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I can't help but wonder what facts were actually checked

Former factchecker, here. Straight answer: probably, was "Dartmouth" spelled correctly and do men attend it? Is "Louboutins "spelled right, are they shoes, is $600 an expected price, and do they come in both beige and black? Is "Chelyabinsk, a city right in the middle of Russia"? Et cetera.

Fiction gets fact checked just like nonfiction -- so does poetry, so do cartoons -- so assigning a factchecker shouldn't be taken to indicate anything about the factualness of the piece.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


I like the idea of this piece better than the piece itself. It's because I don't like her. I don't like how she surmises that the American girls must be stupid because they offer sex for only 400 Dollars.

Many years ago, I had a job that involved interviewing a lot of Liverpool streetwalkers. Mostly heroin addicted, these women were pretty much the bottom of the food chain when it came to sex work.

One of the things I'd hear from them a lot was how they were 'more moral' than the average girls who went out to the clubs on a Saturday night, picked up men and had sex with them for free.

I could never quite grasp the logic of their viewpoint, but it seemed to be based on a funny worldview in the which women who gave it away for free were pleasure-obsessed 'sluts', while they were simply hard working girls, doing what they needed to do to feed their children (or their addictions.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Former factchecker, here.

Off topic: apologies. Over the last 30 years, I've done a fair bit of writing, for newspapers and magazines in the UK, where *nothing* gets fact checked as far as I can tell. And I've done more than a few interviews -- for publications in the UK and abroad.

At some point in the late 80's, I was interviewed by a guy who was writing a story for Readers Digest. I'd forgotten all about the interview, until about 12 months later, when I got a call from one of the Readers Digest fact checkers. They wanted me to provide them with published sources that would allow them to substantiate every claim or assertion that I'd made in my interview.

I have to say, I was impressed. Here, we pretty well expect journalists to make up their quotes -- I've certainly had them do it to me on several occasions -- but that's the only contact I've ever had with a fact checker from that day to this.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:17 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


If someone’s not paying you, you don’t have to do blow jobs, you don’t have to smile all the time, you can be yourself. But after a while you feel like something is missing. The something is money. You’re sitting in the same apartment, you’re the same you, but something is missing. Your wallet is empty. Sex is sex, but money is money.

I have a hunch that the "something missing" is that the men she dates are treating her as if she were the ultra-feminine, no-maintenance, emotional-cheerleading fantasy she played as a sex-worker, rather than an actual person. I will further venture that, unlike the narrator, many women probably don't realize that perhaps the line between "sex object" and "significant other" for some unknown percentage of men is actually so thin.

Perhaps she thought she would be treated like a human being by men after giving up the job and was sorely disappointed to find she was not.
posted by sevenofspades at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


Apparently I'm the only one who thought it sounded like she might be gay but hasn't quite put that together yet?

I actually got the impression that she might be more asexual. Or rather, that sex doesn't have any deeper emotional meaning to her, that it's just a physical act that one does.
posted by kanewai at 2:34 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


the men she dates are treating her as if she were the ultra-feminine, no-maintenance, emotional-cheerleading fantasy she played as a sex-worker, rather than an actual person.

Yes, I agree. She thought that if she stopped working as an escort, she'd get to give up that role, but it turns out that she still has to play that role with men. So really, all she gave up was the money.
posted by rue72 at 2:37 PM on October 10, 2014 [22 favorites]


Re: oral sex, the issue encompasses the fact that societally blowjobs absolutely have a connotation of "servicing". Now you may say "not my relationship!" or "not how I feel about it!" whether male or female and that's fine if you're fine with it, I'm describing the overall picture - broad strokes - how it is for a lot of the mainstream.

In general, in lots of contexts, that is the implication. "Cocksucker" is usually an insult. Saying something "sucks" derives from "sucking cock". "That jerk can suck it!" means suck cock. Gay men receive(d) derision in part because they're perceived as being "like a woman" in allowing themselves to be penetrated. Because in lots of contexts, the penetrator has more power in a hetero sexual situation (oral, vaginal, anal). Yes, again you can tell me all about how the one with the penis in mouth is really in control, and sure I think that can be happening in individual situations but I would say for a majority of depictions in society it is simply NOT shown in that manner. It is certainly not how I would describe how the majority of porn depicts it - the majority of porn definitely depicts this as servicing, what *he* wants - kneeling, pushing her head down, deepthroating, gagging on it - porn has gotten increasingly more aggressive about this overall. It is certainly not how I would describe how it is talked about & joked about in society at large - it's a brag, a little nasty, something extra you got her to give up, she's easy because she's doing that.

A blowjob is something performed to please a man. It does not in most cases give direct physical pleasure to the performer. It is physically taxing. It is penetration, and penetration in an intimate way - I would posit for many people more intimate than kissing or PIV sex because you're getting your face and throat right up on, you know, someone's genitals that they pee out of. Yet at the same time it's treated as less intimate because it can't get you pregnant & it doesn't involve a woman taking her pants off.

It's often spoken of as if it's equivalent to cunnilingus. I would say no, first because if you look at how cunnilingus is depicted societally it is not shown in the same "servicing"/power context - again, look at porn. And cunnilingus can be physically taxing but it doesn't involve penetration like that. I would also say it is absolutely a thing that performing oral sex on a woman in a hetero interaction is, significantly often enough, more about the man than it is about the woman. It's a quid pro quo ("I go down on her so she goes down on me") or an ego-salve ("look, I can make her come" - she talks about this in the FPP piece - a woman's orgasm is all too often not about her pleasure but about *his* abilities to cause that pleasure).

I think oral sex is considered standard in hetero sexual interactions now, for sure. I still think blowjobs have those connotations and women know that. I think maybe we tell ourselves it's about the power we have, or how exciting it is to please a man (and thus affirm how desirable we are - and that is quite powerful in a society that tells us much of our power is our desirability) but what does that matter when the man treats it as a conquest or something extra *he* got out of us? (Again - about him... not us, not our choices, not our desires.)

I think, sure, there is a difference between blowjob to ejaculation (the length of time spent, the physical effort, the use as a receptacle for come, the taste, the common signal that his ejaculation is the end of sexual activity a lot of the time) vs. a bit of time spent paying oral attention to a partner's genitals for feelgoods & tongue on skin, but I don't think it's so much a difference as makes the divide you're seeing. The divide is more basic.

I think women know when performing oral on a hetero man that they are doing something that is often depicted as degrading by the mainstream. I think women know these hetero men, by virtue of being hetero, will never be in a similar position to themselves - kneeling over a man's cock. Choosing to be in that position is putting themselves in a position of vulnerability that a hetero man, himself, would not do. To reconcile that is often awkward. It is pretty much expected if you're a good time young sexy woman you are going to perform this - and if not, why? What's wrong with you? Are you prude?

Many men *do* feel they deserve it, we're sexually liberated and down to please each other - not realizing in their privilege that "pleasing each other" is still so often focused on "what pleases him".

Now how do you reconcile all that with what you see in the world, how you hear guys talk about blowjobs, what you see in porn? How do you trust the man you're performing it on is not using you - that he doesn't see you like that? Or maybe all the conditioning for "pleasing your man makes you a worthwhile woman" is under your skin and you weigh out the risk as worthwhile. Or maybe you don't want to think about the world outside your bedroom because in a vacuum, if it didn't have the societal connotations and contexts that it does, it probably wouldn't be something so fraught - just skin to skin, humans enjoying each other. I don't know. I'm just saying, it *is* complicated once you start really thinking about it, well beyond the simple visceral "ew, genitals in mouth" disgust some people have over the act.
posted by flex at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2014 [53 favorites]


I want to hear more about the first implied lie here, that the American dream is still alive and well. Is that still some given in Russia? I've met so many Russian women, especially those who emigrated alone, that came here thinking that they'll get one job, which will be good, and not betoo many hours, and pay enough to live and save, and give them experience to move up. They inevitably end up disappointed after realizing shit ain't that easy, doubly so for women, even in America. I had one new female immigrant renting a room in my house in Philadelphia for a while. She went on a trip to Miami where she went on some boat tour past famous peoples waterfront mansions. She was showing me pics from said tour and said "this is what I thought all of America was like." She was actually also from Chelyabinsk. Is that level of American fantasy still being sold over there?
posted by WeekendJen at 3:02 PM on October 10, 2014


Flex, thank you. I'm almost 40
And I only just now understood that it's not weird for me to find a blow job unpleasant.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:04 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's an interesting analysis, flex. It explains why cocksucker is still an insult, which (believe it or not) I never totally understood. I thought it was just a homophobia thing.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:52 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks flex, definitely interesting. Re:

performing oral sex on a woman in a hetero interaction is, significantly often enough, more about the man than it is about the woman.

One of the things that caught me off-guard about the piece was the percentage of her customers who . . . insisted (?) on going down on her as if to show how giving they are.

Mainly because now I feel like I have to up my game. Damnit.
posted by yerfatma at 4:09 PM on October 10, 2014


Re: oral sex, the issue encompasses the fact that societally blowjobs absolutely have a connotation of "servicing".

Flagged as fantastic.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:55 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


stoneandstar: Actually, I know what it is-- a bunch of people who date men saying "yep, she learned the secrets of the world alright," and a bunch of men saying "what a shallow bitch who doesn't take it for granted that she should blow men that she loves! If only she hadn't been so damaged by... herself!" i.e., men. I think a million well-reasoned posts by people talking about how this mirrors their experiences will not be listened to by others who don't date men or who are lucky and just want to say "oh, she fucked up her whole life and she'll always be broken, too bad she was a poor slut!"

This is an incredibly inflammatory and shitty reading of what some people have said here, that i don't think really adds anything worthwhile to the discussion other than getting a sick burn in and high fives. I'm really, really tired of seeing shit like this stay up because it's "speaking truth to power" or whatever. It's taking the discussion to a place and a level where the only real next step is a "fuck you".

You seem to be fairly adamant about the fact that anyone, and especially any man who is made uncomfortable by that sentence has no legitimate reason to be and "that's a you problem" or something along those lines.

I don't even really know what to say to that. I am absolutely familiar with the power dynamic flex discusses above with relation to hetero woman-on-man oral sex, but i think a lot of people on both sides are projecting pretty heavily on to what she said here.

This isn't some feminist critique of the power exchange of oral sex, it's an honestly kind of weird comment. People aren't responding to like, some thoughtful analysis like flex posted with what a shallow bitch who doesn't take it for granted that she should blow men that she loves!

And it also isn't some attack on women who don't enjoy, or choose not to partake in oral sex. It's that her reasoning for that is, to some people, strange.

It's absolutely possible to understand the societal mechanics of oral sex that flex mentions, and also think it's a weird comment without being disingenuous or loudly cognitively dissonant or whatever. I think you're ascribing a lot of shittiness to holding that opinion that you want to see there which i can at least say for myself, isn't. And that's like, textbook bad faith.

Is that really how we're doing this kind of discussion on this site now? because um, fuck that.
posted by emptythought at 5:11 PM on October 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


Is that really how we're doing this kind of discussion on this site now? because um, fuck that.

Flagged as fantastic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:21 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I sent this article to my friend and he calls it "American Psycho as Russian pro in the US." Also maybe as a film student this lady will come across The Girlfriend Experience as well as Young and Beautiful.
posted by yoHighness at 3:12 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Saying something "sucks" derives from "sucking cock".

Does anyone have a cite for this? Because quick Googling indicates that 'sucks' derives from 'sucking hind teat' i.e. when animals in a litter fight over the best teat, yet one of them gets the worst, which is located near the rear and produces less milk. Meaning they got the worst in of the deal.

As to cocksucker, it seems to have taken an odd turn from its original meaning. It dates back to the late 1800s and certainly referred negatively to what was thought of as the passive run in oral sex. But it also came to refer to people who treat others with contempt. Strange flip.

Finally, a defense of the word 'sucks', via Slate.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is an incredibly inflammatory and shitty reading of what some people have said here, that i don't think really adds anything worthwhile to the discussion other than getting a sick burn in and high fives.

I think the whole "you're posting to get high fives!" thing is inflammatory and played out and I am so tired of it, that I wish there were not even favorites on this site. I mean, was your comment not meant to just get a bunch of high fives from people who don't like that I was angry, or who don't like my commenting style? Why the "fuck" this and that? I think these stupid "you're a bad member who makes bad comments" style comments are ridiculous and shitty use of time on this site. At least be angry about something substantive instead of angry at someone's else's anger. There is possibly nothing worse on this site than amplifying anger for no reason, imo.

People aren't responding to like, some thoughtful analysis like flex posted with what a shallow bitch who doesn't take it for granted that she should blow men that she loves!

But they are responding to the FPP basically that way (or actually, reading the FPP in very bad faith, IMO), which is very annoying. It is just a reaction to the fact that people will read a piece on sex by a woman and instead of thinking, "she is a human being, if also 24 and somewhat blunt, and she has an interesting perspective on sex work, I have complicated feelings to discuss" they say "how dare she treat men like this, plus she's probably boring and shallow in real life, hope she grows up and can eventually give oral sex with compassion, and learns to give instead of take." As if that is not the most condescending thing in the universe. I guess I forgot that every time women speak about sex, women should be prepared for the inevitable mocking and jerk comments and then respond with 10+ well reasoned, calm, non-inflammatory paragraphs explicating their position and making sure not to be rude before the angry men can be placated. Disclaimer: Blow jobs are great! No one is trying to take them away!

Honestly I think the fact that people read the FPP and decided the most interesting thing was that she didn't want to spoil boyfriends with blow jobs is truly obnoxious and self-centered and shameful. Thing only thing I'm ashamed of is that I bothered to concentrate on that issue instead of writing a very interesting comment like koeselitz that expresses how I actually feel about the more significant issues at play (which will mostly be ignored because they're not fascinating and about dicks like the scintillating blow job comment). And if it had been a thoughtful and angry comment, I don't care.

You seem to be fairly adamant about the fact that anyone, and especially any man who is made uncomfortable by that sentence has no legitimate reason to be and "that's a you problem" or something along those lines.

They have every right to be uncomfortable (I would even expect it from many men, it is a bit of a shock article), but don't act like they were posting thoughtful advances into interesting discussion. They were posting loaded, sexist comments, not thinking about why they were uncomfortable or how they might dialog with the post.

Actually, the worst part about this thread was seeing men whose comments I usually respect, men who I usually think of as allies, jumping to a weird conclusion about how women should just be used to certain sex acts and using a loaded word like "spoil" is somehow the greatest injustice on this issue. Fuck that.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:39 PM on October 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, flex, your explanation is great, thank you for describing a lot of facets of the problem that I hadn't articulated to myself.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:43 PM on October 11, 2014


they say "how dare she treat men like this, plus she's probably boring and shallow in real life, hope she grows up and can eventually give oral sex with compassion, and learns to give instead of take."

The only one of these things which was actually said was the 'shallow and boring' thing, which is perfectly reasonable for any person to say they took away from another person's writing. None of the other things you are making up here were said by anyone.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:47 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm usually pretty critical of what I perceive as MeFi's tendency to romanticize and glamorize sex work under the guise of 'normalization', but this to me doesn't really even read as part of that discussion.*

To me, this reads as a cultural thing, not a sex work thing: This woman is Russian. These are attitudes that are pretty typical of Russian immigrants I've known, corrected for personality and whether or not they're basically decent people. Basically, if you're not getting paid, you're a fucking chump.

To be sure, I've met a lot of thoroughly decent Russian/FSU immigrants, but they could almost always explain this as the ethos under which they felt they had to live back in the FSU. Several I talked at length with about it felt a great relief not having to live that way anymore.

--
*Not that I'm discouraging that discussion. I have always felt some of the best discussions people have here are tangential to the post or the ostensible topic.
posted by lodurr at 4:48 AM on October 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


This article, fact or fiction, is heartwrenching. Sex work narratives certainly offer a different perspective on sex. Lines and boundaries serve many purposes. They can be reassed as time moves on. Sex can offer a new way to learn about someone else, learn about yourself, learn how you interact with someone, and learn how that someone interacts with you. Sex is personal. When I was younger, the song Digging in the Dirt spoke to me (and still does) with these lines:
Don't turn around
This is for real
Digging in the dirt
Stay with me, I need support
I'm digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
Open up the places I got hurt

The more I look, the more I find
As I close on in, I get so blind
I feel it in my head, I feel it in my toes
I feel it in my sex, that's the place it goes
posted by Emor at 10:36 AM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have a cite for this? Because quick Googling indicates that 'sucks' derives from....

Kind of doesn't matter if 'sucks' literally, etymologically derives from 'sucks cock' or has an etymological relation to 'cocksucker' -- I think most of us would agree that it has that connotation now.

But to flesh this out some more: Even if it's about power and 'servicing', it's not necessarily all about sex. Sex is just how it manifests, for her.
posted by lodurr at 1:22 PM on October 12, 2014


Stoneandstar, maybe consider that the reason you are having problems "seeing men whose comments" you "usually respect" commenting in this thread is because you are the one off base here.

Try listening to what the people responding to your remarks are telling you. You have adopted an angry, defensive, taking on all comers stance in this thread against a position that no one has actually taken.

You keep moving the goalposts and trying to make this about men feeling entitled to blowjobs on demand, or men being angry that a woman does not react with delight to giving them. Neither one of those arguments is valid. Those arguments have not been made.

My own take is that Svetlana equates material transactions with sex. That makes sense for a professional sex worker; she trades services for money. She enjoys being 'spoiled' with material goods, as well, and was very manipulative when she was a sex worker about getting what she wanted, like saying she couldn't perform certain sex acts as well if she flew coach instead of first class, etc.

What struck me as, yes, shallow and sad, is that Svetlana has a very skewed view of what a personal relationship should be, which is also very transactional. Some people naturally wonder if her sex work influenced her thinking. To my mind, those attitudes may equally have been what led her to sex work in the first place.

It is not a question of merely being transactional that makes her perspective seem off to many of us, but the weird equivalences she makes continue on in her personal relationships. She still associates a man "spoiling" a woman with him giving her material gifts--we see this illustrated by her lashing out at the boyfriend who didn't buy flowers for his SO, and also when she is musing that what she misses most in her own relationships now is the money.

Svetlana also still associates a woman "spoiling" a man with providing specific sexual acts, namely varied sexual positions and blow jobs.

That might be disturbing enough--few women feel that their SO is, or should feel, entitled to a blow job every time he buys her a gift. I imagine few men would feel comfortable with a woman demanding a gift every time she gives him oral sex, either. Neither of those are in line with feminist thinking, IMHO. I am honestly surprised you would think that not only is this mindset not disturbing, it is somehow in line with what, according to you, "most women who date men" already know.

Additionally, what is worse is that Svetlana has set up these equivalences in her mind, material goods and oral sex mean spoiling, and roundly denounced men who do not spoil their girlfriends, while also being very clear that she has no intention of spoiling any potential boyfriends of hers, ever. She is very clear that she, specifically, deserves to be spoiled, but her own potential boyfriends do and will not deserve this-- though, weirdly, men who paid her for sex in the past did deserve to get spoiled. Because money.

So, to her, love means "A boyfriend who will spoil me (buy me things) and also not expect me to spoil (blow jobs) him."

Yes, that definitely comes across as shallow and sad to me. And it is is so stereotypical of what the very worst chauvinists think of women that I am disturbed there are women like this at all. Honestly, I half hope we will discover that Svetlana's story was just the creation of a very thorough troll.
posted by misha at 2:52 PM on October 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I found sex with hetero men to nearly always be transactional on some level. Thankfully I had the good luck of realizing I am bisexual and have now retired from compulsory, hyper-enthusiastic blowjobs. There is a wide swath of men who think this way about women, sex, and blowjobs specifically - every act is a transaction that can be negotiated, and every woman has a price. The less socially "worthy" she is, the more likely they are to get it at a bargain value. When you are a straight woman (and decidedly not the slim, young, hot, able-bodied white woman who can charge 5k for it), every other online dating message is "Hey bitch you gonna gag on my cock?" Most of the guys I dated wanted sex to reflect the porn they watched, and the porn they watched involved hair pulling, choking and crying during even the most routine blowjob. Submissive guys much more a relief because even though being a top means on some level being a boss/mommy (so much work!), at least you're not getting carpet burns on your knees. I'm by no means sex-negative but I have to admit it's hard to be hetero-sex-positive in a world where rich men in their sixties expect a 19 year old girl to let them fuck her in the ass, and the biggest qualm people have about this article that she's not a cheerleader for the BJ as a form of expression of pure love. I'm also not going to go after a 24 year old "retired" prostitute for reflecting the lessons she learned from much richer, more powerful men than the ones I ever blew.
posted by SassHat at 1:49 PM on October 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Most of the guys I dated wanted sex to reflect the porn they watched, and the porn they watched involved hair pulling, choking and crying during even the most routine blowjob. Submissive guys much more a relief because even though being a top means on some level being a boss/mommy (so much work!), at least you're not getting carpet burns on your knees. I'm by no means sex-negative but I have to admit it's hard to be hetero-sex-positive in a world where rich men in their sixties expect a 19 year old girl to let them fuck her in the ass, and the biggest qualm people have about this article that she's not a cheerleader for the BJ as a form of expression of pure love.

It seems to me that your account makes a great case for the clear and constant distinction between sex-positivity and porn-positivity.
posted by lodurr at 2:05 PM on October 14, 2014


It is so depressing to realize that, at age 27, I am too old for a 65 year old banker. Ugh.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:41 PM on October 19, 2014


I don't understand. Why is that a bad thing?
posted by lodurr at 7:55 AM on October 20, 2014


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