By Greg Ellis
“The prostitute is despised by the hypocritical world because she has made a realistic assessment of her assets and does not have to rely on fraud to make a living. In an area of human relations where fraud is regular practice between the sexes, her honesty is regarded with a mocking wonder.”
Angela Carter, 1940-1992
Having undergone the usual exercise in childhood’s methods of indoctrination, pillars of fear and enigma menacing the young while securing fable, I found it hard to look at the world’s oldest profession (if we don’t count farming) as little more than a case study in visceral mischief. Somewhere along the boulevard of broken dreams, a place visited while passers by dared look at the faces of tragedy, I found myself speaking with a 19 year old girl named Tianna at 3 a.m. Tianna’s beauty was astonishing and the observations yielded were the impetus for the established myth to undergo a great unravelling.
Tianna wasn’t insane, did not seem addicted nor under the influence of drugs and for the time and the place demonstrated a sort of elegant composure. No need to make interjections and put on a sales pitch–this young woman could see I was merely curious, not looking seriously at making any sort of purchase, a level of discernment not afforded to those who so quickly paint them with the contemptuous brush of “harlot.”
Speaking with Tianna quickly made a mockery of everything ever fired blindly into the air about the profession of many young women across the globe. Looking back, I cannot really understand why I kept talking to her, curiosity rekindled from books and folklore disseminated regularly.
Indeed, the girls of the so called high track, that area of downtown real estate that commands an hourly rate of around $600.00, cash up front, no cheques, and strict rules, were captured in a mystery and market where they could possibly be some of the most consummate businesswomen in Canada. They live by the proverb that “time is money.” Women who pull in $2,000 a night, drive 2005 Cadillac Escalades, and make, at a minimum, $300,000 a year, tax free. If society affords compensation for past and ongoing suffering and bestows the greatest rewards for the most substantive risks, then nowhere but in the marketplace of sin and vice does this read out with such unrelenting truth. Surely, the deal was not this sweet? No one could have it this easy? Not exactly; the lucrative sale of flesh is a business whereby these exquisite females are held imprisoned by the parasitic grip of rapacious pimps.
So unforseen was my ignorance that I had little time to realize that the income rendered, in a marketplace whereby sex sells literally, was willingly handed to their money manager after a hard night’s work. My incredulity was not easily masked as Tianna explained in vigorous detail how things worked, what’s more baffling was that she had little to no objection to the current arrangement. “You see,” she explained “it’s our money, we spend it together.” It sounded like a perverse marriage of inequity, so abhorrent I could only delve deeper to hope that such an injustice could not be taking place of a woman who otherwise seemed coherent, able minded and free from the oppression of drugs. No need to swim in the pool of stale remarks, I dared not speak predictably about the victimization of hookers by the Johns who pay them, as the victimization was surely at the hands of the slave owners, who reaped the financial rewards of marketing lust.
We’re good with slogans about forward progressive thinking, and being subject to the mutability of our own conceptions by the winds of persuasion, but most of us would much rather sleep on the comfortable pillows of our own pre-conceived ignorance than really look at the world from a new, enlightened vantage point. The Machiavellian nature of pimps should be enough to rouse our suspicion: they operate on the dual pillars of fear and intimidation, blurring the idea of consent and being the predators of a business that will always, despite our most concerted efforts, never reside exclusively but in the annals of history.
If an industry exists, an industry that somehow has defied moral certainties and impassioned attacks by organized religion, governmental agencies, NGO’s and community outreach programs, does it not beg the question to stop looking at it through the cataract lense of reactionary nonsense? Some long expired sense of duty should compel law enforcement, and the likes of Canada’s notable crown prosecutors, to shift the crosshairs of condemnation away from the slaves and to their owners (prostitutes are convicted almost 300 times more than their pimps). Somehow, or somewhere, a school of thought should be advanced that lifts the veil of anonymity and places the radar of justice and a vengeance not on the Johns and prostitutes but the ones luxuriously living off the plunder.
I wouldn’t be so foolish to propose our moral consciences are ready for a red-light district or the legalization of prostitution, but like anything, you have to crawl before you can walk. Statistics can be shaped to conform to whatever season’s fashions, but somehow you can’t escape the evidence: prostitutes are 26 times more likely to be murdered or be victim to violent crime, and have a reduced life expectancy. Such degradation, surely if agreed to by one’s own consent (able minded, without coercion), should at a minimum be compensated by the fruits of one’s trade. If a job with undoubetbly astonishing consequence is partook, at least then it could be one with financial freedom and an early retirement at age 28.