The first question I often get asked when someone finds out that I used to be a prostitute is “Why?” There is an assumption that there must have been some terrible underlying circumstance which forced me into hooking. Was I addicted to drugs? Was I burdened by debt? Was I forced into it by an abusive boyfriend? Was I unable to find other work?
No, no, no and no. When I entered prostitution, I already had a perfectly good and respectable job. I had no addiction issues. I had no debt, aside from student loans. I had a girlfriend at the time who most certainly didn’t force me into prostitution but was very supportive of my decision (and I’ll forever be thankful to her for that). I just decided that I wanted to be a prostitute. OK, that is a bald-faced lie. But the reasons that led me to that decision are long and complex and for another fairytale altogether. Certainly, there were no circumstances forcing me. But to me, it was like deciding to study or deciding to move to Auckland – a notion that I’d thought about for a while that had reached its time for fruition. I did meet some women* who were more or less forced into the industry by one or more of the above factors, but they were in the minority. I also met some women who, like me, were genuinely drawn to prostitution – also something of a minority. The majority of women I met in prostitution were there because “I need to earn money somehow, and this pays better/has more flexible hours/is more fun than waitressing/call centre work/being a shop assistant.” Some found it to be perfectly good and acceptable work, others tried it for a short while and decided that it wasn’t for them.
Having made my decision, I rang up and made an appointment at a massage parlour. It was a place that ran lovely welcoming ads for prospective workers, promising that it was a friendly place and women who wanted to work should come in for a “chat” with their female manager. I was shown in, put in one of the “bedrooms” (a tiny room with a vinyl bed and mirrors everywhere) and left there for about half an hour. Then a bloke came to get me and I was led into a tiny office where he and another big burly guy asked me a series of very blunt questions. The whole time I was wondering how I was going to extricate myself should they ask to “test my skills”. Thankfully, they didn’t (it would be illegal for them to do so, by the way).
I can’t even tell you how relieved I was to get out of there and never, ever go back.
But I was undeterred! The next parlour I went to, I did indeed speak to a friendly female manager who didn’t ask me a single question but got me to fill in a form at the front counter and told me to come back the next day to work a shift. Then she briefly showed me around the place. It was hilariously tack-tastic, the stereotypical cheap brothel – neon lights, vinyl sofas, full of women in blonde wigs wearing next to nothing who didn’t so much as look at me. I felt enormously out of place.
However, the third place I went to was just right. I was greeting by the female co-owner, who invited me into the lounge to talk to some of the girls. They were cool, friendly people (some of whom were to become good friends); the place was fairly classy for a brothel (I was starting to think myself something of an expert in brothel decor!) – all leather couches and plush carpet like an old-fashioned gentleman’s club; and the manager seemed lovely (and it would transpire that she genuinely was lovely – a former hooker herself who wanted to run the sort of place she would have wanted to work at). I filled in my form and reported for duty the very next evening.
So, to recap: not only did I choose to enter into the sex industry of my own volition, I also had in mind the sort of place I wanted to work and kept looking till I found it. No coercion here!
*Obviously, there are plenty of male prostitutes too. I just haven’t come across too many.