• Tue, Dec 3 - 11:15 am ET

Harlotry: My Horrible Encounter With An Unhappy, Alcoholic Hooker

Requiem For A Dream

Requiem For A Dream (2000)

Two weeks ago, I took another work trip, this time to St. Louis. It was a lot more profitable, but significantly less eventful. The most interesting thing that happened was that I encountered another provider while I was there.

“Sarah” was, it turned out, staying in the same hotel I was in. I was alerted to her presence by a client who suggested the two of us have a meal together. I suspect he was hoping the two of us would hit it off so well that we’d give him an unplanned, unpaid double out of gratitude, but that was not going to happen.

Meeting Sarah for the first time was awkward. It was like a blind date without the promise of romance: neither of us were completely certain what was expected of us, we didn’t even know if we had anything in common other than our shared profession, and as I sat down across from her at a table in the hotel restaurant, I was pretty sure this wasn’t going to end well.

Sarah was no remarkable beauty–but then, most of us aren’t. Sitting at a table she looked pleasant and buxom enough, though. She was very young, with stringy bleached hair and too much makeup, but somehow her lack of polish was almost charming. As I approached the table, she stood up and greeted me very loudly, causing the other patrons to turn around and look at us. This was a very rough start to the evening, but it was too late to back out now.

The first question she asked when I sat down at the table was, “Do you drink?”
That was it, no “what brings you here?” No “where are you from?” Just, “Do you drink?”

“Of course,” I replied, “but never when I’m working. The most I’ll do is have one or two cocktails if a client wants to have a drink with me. Why do you ask?”

“I just always have a bottle in my room, in case you need it. I can’t work sober.”

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  • K Landoni

    Whoa . It feels like there’s a middle page missing or something. This woman doesn’t seem happy, but it definitely sounds like she got written off as a “tragic drunken whore” after speaking two sentences. What she said doesn’t even sound so much like her openly admitting the alcoholism with which she was immediately labelled, but maybe that she was just trying in her own way to overcome how awkward that situation was and make you feel comfortable. It didn’t work, obviously, but jeez. She was trying. The language of otherness and fear of being identified with her here seems… mean.

  • thatkimgirl

    This piece makes you sound considerably more awful than Sarah.

  • Fabel

    Yeah, I’m also having a negative reaction to this piece. You met this girl once, for a limited amount of time, yes? & you’ve turned her into a caricature of an Unhappy Hooker—a projection of your fears that this must be the way most of society views you, & a wound in the idea that sex workers can be independent, happy. But it just reads, to me, as though you’re doing the same thing to her— looking down, assuming she’s a tragedy based off of a quick impression.

    Maybe if this were structured differently, it would work— the last bit about bad PR made sense—however, the focus & time spent on Sarah (although she was your example, I realize) sort of derailed the point, for me.

  • ruby

    So this girl was trying to open up to you about how miserable she was in her chosen profession and you “kept changing the subject” and got exasperated when she kept bringing it back to her misery? Maybe she was hoping for some words of advice from someone in the same profession or maybe she just needed to share with? It sounds like you were the person shutting out her voice because it didnt fit the image of the confident, independent sex worker you like to cultivate. Just as you said, lots of people in lots of professions are unhappy and dealing with substance abuse issues, I feel like you wouldnt have responded to her this way if she was writer colleague though. This article shows just how internalized the severely limiting prejudices around sex workers are and paints you in a very unflattering light.

  • Jen Pires

    Ughhh… this really rubbed me the wrong way. You fight so hard against being judged but you sure labeled and judged her pretty quick. Everybodys different and I know there are plenty of sober people in the sex industry too, but it doesn’t surprise me if someone would need alcohol ( or other substances) when working a job like that. Doesn’t necessarily make her an alcoholic or as you say “drunken whore”and if she is that’s fine too.

    • Kelly

      If you need alcohol to work in the sex industry, you desperately need to get out of the sex industry ASAP because it will destroy you.
      It’s not a job that everyone can do. There’s no shame in that. It’s simply not.

    • Jen Pires

      ya I agree you shouldn’t work in that industry if you need it . was just saying it doesn’t surprise me if someone did.

    • Kelly

      Yeah, sadly a lot of girls do.

    • Jen Pires

      very true

  • meteor_echo

    I used to like your articles a lot, but it seems like I really should stop reading them. This one made you sound incredibly privileged, sheltered and judgy.

  • Kelly

    I’m surprised you got so many negative reactions to this.

    Anybody who needs to drink two bottles a night to get through a shift of stripping is killing themselves by working in the sex industry. I’m a provider too. I’ve met a lot of girls like this. They are flat out destroying themselves mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s painful to watch.

    • DreaTheGreat

      I have to agree with that part, I think it reads weird to some people, but what you point out is just a fact. If you are drinking two bottles every night to do anything, I think you’d rather be dead. However, it does feel like there is a part missing. This is missing a whole lot of details before judgement.

  • Casey

    It seems you were too busy judging her that you forgot to show any compassion.

  • Disgusted1970

    Prostitutes are for loosers…

  • DreaTheGreat

    PLEASE. Pretty please, stop calling women/ladies…. girls. It is so infuriating, and part of the condescending language that makes people feel like you are judgemental and dismissive.

  • Faye

    It sounds like she actually offended and threatened you, simply by existing in too close a form to that which you fear you are yourself, or fear becoming… you have some serious denial issues that you need to work through. You are the one with the problem.