When I was 46, I was living in a rather isolated spot up in Northern California. I wanted to meet men, and I did – through Craigslist ads that I placed and also through a Sacramento free newspaper’s personals ads. All was going well until one guy said, “You could make money doing this.” I didn’t want/need money (I am always content to live very frugally and simply), but I thought it would be an interesting experiment and an adventure in performance art and would also get me some much-needed nookie.
I had been inspired years earlier by Gloria Steinem’s foray into being a Playboy Bunny for a short time at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion. It was an experiment, and Steinem wrote about her experience. I thought it would be devilish fun to go into that “man’s world” of prostitution and then write about it to let people in (especially women). That arena is still kept very secret from most women.
I had never tried anything remotely like being a ho, and I had never known any hookers. I did once (in 1985) go to a COYOTE meeting in San Francisco. COYOTE was an acronym for Cut Out Your Old Tired Ethics, and it was a prostitutes’ rights group started by Margo St. James.
I advertised in a rather sneaky language, but it was apparently clear enough to some men what I was offering. They called me, and I gave them directions to my house. I had no idea what to do or what would happen, so I just winged it.
Most of the men drove an hour and 20 minutes from Sacramento (they liked going far away from home, I think) into the countryside around Nevada City. I was living in an old, sweet cottage out in the woods.
I wore what I thought was a sexy, very minimalistic outfit. It was hilarious! The first man came, and I acted like I knew exactly what I was doing. We “played around” a bit (I was a very experienced lover by this age), and then I asked him if he’d like a bath (all this was improvised as I went along). Some men wanted a bath and some didn’t. I offered to scrub their backs, too. I don’t recall that anyone went for that.
After their bath time (or no bath time), we walked through the old kitchen, and I had a big, empty coffee can on the counter. I told the men when they first arrived that they could put whatever they wanted into the can. Prostitution by donation; what a concept! Most put $20, some $40, one put in $100, and one put in nothing. (This was for anywhere from one to one-and-a-half-hours of play. What they donated became part of the experiment.) Remember: I was not conducting sessions in the art of love for the money.
I entertained men (how many, I can’t, for the life of me, remember) for a couple of months each summer for two summers. The cabin was heated by a wood stove in the living room, and the back bedroom was too cold for naked games at any other time of the year.
Hidden reasons of my own existed for crashing males’ secret world of prostitution.
First, I wanted to show my children and anyone who read my writing or heard my stories that prostitutes are not “below” anyone else, morally or spiritually. When your mother or someone you know ventures into this unseen society by choice, as an experiment, as an art form, most people will want to understand her (or his) motives and will hopefully reconsider their views about the people involved in the trade.
Second, what are the secrets men are so fiercely protecting and how do these secrets benefit them? Akin to this is the question of why prostitutes (and not their “johns” [who are most often married men with children]) are judged so harshly for this kind of work. What’s the social morality that’s being so offended? And how much of that is just plain prejudice against women? Or a religious condemnation of sex and the physical body itself?
Third, who are the men who hire prostitutes? Are they regular guys or weirdos? What do they want that they can’t get at home or from other women?
I rarely told men about my sexual history. Older men (over 50) still subscribe to the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, which says, “Once a whore, always a whore.” And you’re either one or the other: whore or Madonna.
The good girl/bad girl idea (alternately framed as girls you marry and girls you f*ck) is rooted in women’s assumed inferiority and submissiveness. It’s the old paradigm where women supposedly aren’t able to make radical, wise choices for themselves.
Men assumed that women were not ballsy or independent enough to try things they were not “allowed” to do. And that women would be obedient and do things they are told to do (I am referring to women who are forced into sexual slavery). For instance, prostitution — a hidden world that uses women,(and some men) for men’s private pleasures. Women, it was thought, wouldn’t experiment simply out of curiosity or as a gesture of bonding with other women. I knew I could do it if I really wanted to and if I had enough guts and smarts to risk it. Today women are doing what they want, and many men are feeling liberated by it.
Most people aren’t artists or free thinkers or social experimenters/critics. They don’t think (as I do): “I wonder what would happen if I tried that (whatever) out in public, out in society… as if my social life is theater, acted out on a stage.” Which is exactly what our lives are! We are free to act however we want on that stage. Mostly, we conform to tradition and to others’ behavior. We fear being shamed or laughed at in public. Or worse.
We have the keys to our own chains. We can free ourselves from others’ morality and be authentic people! In that spirit, I go on doing my own, unique thing and living my extraordinary life. And, often enough, I meet people who really get me and what I am doing. And that’s enough.
I live in a rural area. Nature is totally non-judgemental and objective. She does not care what I do. She doesn’t care what I think of her. No opinion. Ambivalent. Indifferent. I love it. And I am happy to say I have become almost as indifferent to criticism as Mother Nature.
Native American Annie Humphries writes in her song “Falling Down and Falling Apart: “Her medicine will never let her break.”
I have my medicine, my protections, now. I broke once, long ago, before I knew what I know now. Never again.