Working Girl: A Lucrative Career in Sex Work isn’t Always the Answer

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underbelly

Moral #8: A Lucrative Career in Sex Work isn’t Always the Answer

Pie is best shared with friends. Image by thebittenword.com at Flickr Commons

Pie is best shared with friends.
Image by thebittenword.com at Flickr Commons


My boss Caroline hadn’t grown up wanting to be an escort.

“Little girls dress up as princesses and dream of being ballerinas!” she said, laughing. “No little girl grows up dreaming of being a whore!”

I almost squirted milk through my nose. We were eating blueberry pie piled high with Reddi-Wip. (Caroline had an entire drawer in her fridge full of Reddi-Wip. I bought it by the box for her at the local corner store.) When I managed to swallow without ruining her suede microfiber couch, I said, “Are you okay with that word?”

I wasn’t really sure how to refer to my boss’s job. I ran around with my arms full of her shopping bags, cooked her meals, and cleaned her swanky loft apartment so often I got high on Vibrant Bloom scented Windex fumes. But what should I call her job? I didn’t want to insult her or anything.

But prostitutes, it turns out, aren’t so preoccupied with being politically correct. Who knew?

“What? ‘Whore’?” Caroline said, then flipped her wrist dismissively. “I don’t care! I mean, obviously I say ‘escort’ in my ads. And if somebody tries to insult me, I don’t like it. But me and my girls say it all the time. It’s funny between us, you know? Eases the stress.”


Moral #5: Don’t take yourself too seriously.


She had a team of girls working under her. She was kind of a madam. I called her “Madam” sometimes to make her laugh.

She’d wanted to work in broadcasting and be a radio personality. Not a disc jockey, but a talk show host. She’d wanted to interview guests–people who’d been through hell and had stories to tell; high profile local personalities; people who served the community.

“I went to school for journalism,” she told me. “Just like you.”

I was studying creative writing, not journalism, but I didn’t point this out. As career options went, creative writing seemed less likely to provide a solid income than either journalism or prostitution.

And I didn’t want to give Caroline yet another opportunity to insinuate that I would probably wind up a prostitute. She’d been doing that ever since she learned I wanted to be a writer. It was her version of being realistic.


Moral #6: “Realistic” means different things to different people.


“So how did you wind up a prostitute then?” I said, shoveling blueberry pie in my mouth and feeling badass for using the word “prostitute” in a conversation with an actual prostitute.

“I always liked sex,” she said. “I mean, a lot. I was really promiscuous, and my career in broadcasting wasn’t going anywhere. And when I felt like my life was going nowhere I’d just have sex. It took my mind off things and made me feel relaxed. And then one day I was having this breakdown and talking to my friend–he was this gay man I worked with–and he said ‘Honey, you’re just giving it away now. Why don’t you charge for it?’”

“So you did,” I said.


Moral #7: The friends you choose can make all the difference in your life.


She stopped eating her pie and looked up at me with a little worried frown. I’d only worked with her a few days, but already I knew that look meant one of two things. Either she felt insecure and was looking for validation from me, or she suspected me of being a two-faced liar who was stealing from her.

Lucky for me, this was one of the insecure times. “Do you think it’s wrong?” she asked. “The decision I made?”

“No,” I said.

“Really?” she said. “You sounded judgmental just now.” She had her Interrogation Face on. Short and sweet answers irritated Caroline’s Interrogation Face.

I pretended to think about it a little more, although I already knew my answer. “No,” I said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with selling sex. I think our society makes it wrong, because we’re so puritanical about sex. As though it’s supposed to be this sacred cathartic experience that only a man and wife can share and it brings them closer to God or something. And any other time it brings people closer to the devil or something. Whatever, organized religion sucks, but it affects our entire society–even atheists are affected and influenced by a culture that values religion. So we have this stigmatism against prostitution. I guess for some women, it is wrong, because it makes them feel terrible and disempowered. But for others, it’s okay, because it empowers them in a lot of ways.”

Caroline nodded, gazing at me with wide, almost worshipful eyes. She thought I was smart. I thought I was smart, too. But I was 20 years old–what the hell did I know?

I still believe a version of what I said back then, but now I know it’s much more complicated. I’m not sure a woman can be empowered by sex work in the world as it exists today. I guess I’d have to talk to more prostitutes to figure it out.

Caroline finished her pie and scraped the remnants of Reddi-Wip off her plate with her fork. “You could do this, you know,” she said. “You’re cute enough. If you know, the writing thing doesn’t pan out, you could make a fortune doing this. And you’re a virgin. We could get $5,000 for your first time. I’d take half, of course–that’s what I do with all my girls. I’d help find the right guy. We’d choose someone safe. We could make a fortune.”

I stared at the woman before me. It was insane that I was eating pie with a prostitute. It was insane that she had just seriously proposed to sell my virginity. It was insane that she’d said $5,000. That sounded cheap to me. Especially if she was going to take half. Shouldn’t I be worth at least five digits? Anyway, even if I did it, I imagined she’d find a way to keep some evidence of it. Then she’d be able to blackmail me.

It was insane that I was in a position with a person who might, potentially, try to blackmail me. People only got blackmailed in the movies.


Moral #8: A lucrative career in sex work is not always the answer.


“Nah,” I said. “I feel like once I start down that path, it’ll be hard to go back. And it’s not the career for me.”

“You’re right,” she said. “You’re too much a good girl. More pie?”


L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

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