Is there really a difference between buying your date a ticket to a Chicas Pride party, knowing that you’ll get sex that night and paying a call girl to be your date for the evening? And why do we dole out cash for counsellors and meditation classes to tend to our psychic needs but scoff at hiring a professional to give us exactly what we want in bed? While many of us are intrigued by romantic visions of sexy hookers, most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of buying or selling sex.
There are both good and bad reasons for our squeamishness. Our culture has long portrayed the prostitute as an oversexed, unintelligent or fallen woman or, when it deigns to mention men at all, as pathetic boys from broken homes who have debased themselves through sex with queers. While the economic conditions faced by sex workers are often bleak, these images do not reflect the diverse reality of sex work-neither the complex economic conditions of the still mainly illegal sex industry, nor the wit, intelligence, and business acumen of many who work in it. And there’s a gender difference: men are raised to expect sex, women are raised to use it as a bargaining chip. Of course, plenty of gay men have learned to play their “sexy card,” but far fewer women-lesbians included-have screwed up the courage to go out and get the sex they want.
During the 1980s, the women’s movement split over the issue of sex and power. Some feminists believed that because men’s and women’s economic status is persistently unequal, no woman could truly consent to sex with a man. Heterosexual intercourse was tantamount to rape and prostitution was just an extreme case of women’s lack of power over their own bodies. But feminists within the sex trade had a different perspective: selling your body is not the last step on the road to hell nor inevitably misogynist; not all sex workers are exploited. Instead of passively awaiting their liberation by middle-class do-gooders, sex workers of the 1980s demanded to have their expertise respected and their work valued-including decriminalizing their jobs and establishing fair working conditions.
The shroud of criminality and power that many owners still exert over their more vulnerable workers means that much of the business is unsavory and workers have less choice over with whom and how they will have sex. Nevertheless, the politics and conditions of queer sex work have changed, at least in places like San Francisco, where you can pay for almost anything. Vancouver, which can hardly even support its gay, much less lesbian, clubs, is hardly a sexual utopia. Still, we wanted to find out if you, dear readers, would pay for sex.
When polled on the subject, lesbians we interviewed expressed a range of opinions from the stereotypical “Eeeew, of course not. I only want to have sex with the woman I love” to “I only go out with women who are younger and unemployed anyway so I already consider myself to be paying for it.”
Conversations with gay men, not surprisingly, emphasized the utility of the arrangement. A gay man e-mailed us to say that he’d have no problem paying for sex as long as the person providing the service found him attractive. A mid-50s gay man, a high-placed professional who is no longer looking for “Mr Right,” said he occasionally pays for sex because “I get what I want, and no one is calling me up for dates the next day.”
Similarly, a mid-30s lesbian who has not yet paid for sex said she would because, “You’d get what you wanted. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t hire that person again.”
One handsome dyke-about-town described the time she paid a beautiful woman she met in a bar. “It was like buying your favourite candy and knowing you could have it all. She was drop-dead gorgeous and I was soaking wet before she even touched me, just at the thought of what I’d purchased. It cost me US$500 and it was worth every penny.”
So there you have it. Some of us do, some of us don’t, some of us will and some of us won’t. But regardless of the piece of the fence you’re sitting on or around, we urge you to keep the following advice from one of the senior members of our community in mind: be sure that the screwing you’re getting is worth the screwing you’re getting! After all, What the Fuck!
Next month’s topic concerns girls and boys playing together. In honour of Team Vancouver and the Sydney Gay Games, we ask you: are co-ed sports fun for women? For men?