Monday, October 31, 2011

Fifteen: Exchanges

A friend in London tells me that she'd dined late with an older admirer at someplace discreet and semi-private and, on the way to her admirer's car, some drunken lager lout staggering by pointed at them and called out, "So how much is he paying you, then?" They ignored him and walked on, but he kept calling after them, demanding to know how much she was being paid and adding the usual epithets. She wrote me about it this morning in a dark mood--- hungover a bit, but also depressed and unable to get the drunken chav's voice out of her head. I told her to remember that the fact was that, there the morning after, she was still fiercely bright and lovely and well-educated and someone who's done academia and the gallery world both, and the guy on the street was still a drunken yobbo.

My friend responded that she was depressed about her life. The man she'd been with had been older and moneyed, and she was angry both about being harangued on the street and about the fact that the insult was dual-pronged--- she'd been called a whore, and her admirer had been mocked as someone who could only attract her because he had cash. She was, she said, more angered by the insult to him and to the relationship  than by being called a whore.

I've never called a girl a "whore" as an insult. That's not something I've ever thought to use as an insult. I've never looked down on girls who are escorts or courtesans or who supplement a deficient income by accepting occasional clients. That never struck me as anything to look down on. But I do very much dislike yobbos (or anyone else) who'll use "whore" as an attack on a girl beacuse of her sex life, her attire, or her partner. There may be self-interest there, true. I'm always the older partner, and while I'm certainly not as moneyed as my friend's admirer, I'm nonetheless vulnerable to the assumptions behind the insult.

I've had friends who did the demi-rep or part-time escort or domme thing while doing university or postgraduate degrees. I've never had any moral objections to any girl who works as "professional companion". I liked the girls before ever they told me what they were doing, and all I've said is that I wanted to hear their stories and that I hoped the money was useful. I can't speak about girls who work the street or who work in brothels; I've never known any. It may be that I'm only supportive of the girls I've known because they shared educational and class and aesthetic backgrounds with me. Or it may be that to some degree I feed off their stories. I recognise that I'm vulnerable to criticisms like that.  All I can say is that the girls I've known who exchanged favours for money were (and are) friends, to be supported as friends.

Someone I knew once upon a time came to me and made a simple enough offer--- she needed money for rent and she was willing to either sell me one of her paintings or spend the night. I wrote her a check and pointed to the bedroom. The next morning at coffee she took the check out of the pocket of one of my shirts and looked at it and asked if we were still friends. Of course, I said. She started to laugh and told me that the one thing that bothered her was the thought that I'd chosen sex instead of the painting because I thought her art was bad. I had to re-assure her--- very honestly ---that I liked her paintings a lot, and that my choice was strictly based on my predatory tastes in much younger girls. We stayed friends, and over the next couple of years I did buy a painting or two. Did I pay for her favours again? A couple of times, yes. Did she ever buy me drinks or dinner? Yes, she did. I've always wondered how initially serious she'd been, and whether she'd only made the offer because she thought I'd never choose sex. Why did she go through with it? And why come by again? I suspect that a fair amount of that was being nineteen and proving to herself that she could do it, about striking a pose. I'd like to think that she found me to be a useful character in the stories she was telling herself. We neither of us ever asked if the sex would've happened if I hadn't written the check. I've always thought that the idea of taking the money was what made the sex work for her.  I never presumed--- I'll note that. I never assumed that the exchange meant that she and I were involved, or that I could count on sex outside of an exchange. We did hang out sometimes, and there was some drunken making out at bars, but we only had sex again the few times when I wrote a check. I don't know if she'd have been interested, or if that would've ruined the story she was creating, or if it would've ruined the friendship we had.

It's Halloween night, and a night for ghost stories. There are ghosts in my past who've been part-time escorts, or been in keeping, or turned the occasional trick to pay rent or pay for airline tickets--- in one case, to pay for a signed first edition. Well, I do want my friend in London to know that she has my support and belief. I have no idea whether her older admirer is paying her rent or offering up envelopes of cash or gifts that can be readily converted to cash. If he is, then...well, fine. I do want her to remember, though, that she has nothing to apologise for, and that whatever she has or hasn't done, she's still far superior to any drunken yobbo.

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