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Booking Sex Workers
I really enjoy producing shows for our "As We Are" series because one of my favorite parts of this job is getting to talk to people who I might not otherwise have a chance to ask about their lives. However, these shows can be particularly difficult to book. For today's show about sex workers, I cast a wide net. I called treatment programs geared towards helping prostitutes find different work and asked counselors to give out my number. I called people I knew who had friends in the sex industry. I also called every phone number listed in the back of one alt-weekly The Portland Mercury under "adult services."
Many of my messages went unanswered, but I did end up talking with a few women who run their own escorting or "erotic rub down" services. One told me about her experiences in Utah, where clients have to sign a "nudity notice" 24 hours ahead of time. She said that, while clients often offered to pay more for sex, the agency she worked for didn't expect her to get physical with customers. It was only when she fell into a severe drug addiction that her own boundaries began to shift and she would do almost anything for cash and became, as she put it, a "full service provider." Her standard fee was around $200. The agency, she told me, took half. Eventually, she escaped her addiction and moved to Portland, where she started out at another agency, but ended up going into business for herself. I asked this woman (who never told me her real name) to join us on the show, but she had a cold and eventually decided she wasn't feeling well enough to come on.
I spoke to several other people in the sex industry. I was struck by the sadness and honesty of their stories. One stood out to me as particularly compelling. She said she became a prostitute when she was 12, following in the footsteps of an older cousin who always had nice clothes. Her first trick was an older man, maybe 70 she said, who became a regular and would buy her clothes and toys and ice cream. At first, she said, she thought she could be independent, working on her own without a pimp. But the pimps in the neighborhood wouldn't stand for that. They snagged her from the corner one day, she told me, and cut all her hair off before raping her repeatedly. After three or four days, they returned her to the corner and shortly after that, she found a pimp to protect her. Her whole story is too long to tell here, but needless to say, she would have made an excellent guest on our show. I was lucky to find her through the treatment program she was in, but sadly, when I called back to book her, I was told she had left without a trace.
And then there was the woman I found in the escort ads who told me she made decent money in the Portland area and could always make a little more by heading up to Seattle and making "dates" on Craigslist. She was basically satisfied with her chosen career, but mentioned that maybe she'd pursue real estate in the future. We booked her to be on the show — providing her with all the standard info like when to get here and where to park — and then she never showed up this morning. She didn't respond to calls, either.
Though my attempts to book an escort as a guest on the show didn't work out so well, escorts were well-represented by our callers and those who posted on our site.