Have you ever been with…?

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She rolled her head slightly, like she was lining me up in her crosshairs. “You are shitting me”, she began hotly. “I know what you’re saying, but it’s not even the same. Man, I’d like to see you walk in a prostitute’s shoes. Only then would you know how lonely and scary it can be. Tell me you know what it’s like to work knowing your life is at risk: that you could be killed, jumped at any time because you carry cash; jumped in your own home if that’s where you do business; that no one will protect you unless you pay them; that no one would even care what happens to you cuz they think you’re nothing. Tell me you know what it’s like to give up your body everyday, to men who barely think of you as human, knowing that you’re giving away that part of yourself, every night.”

I gazed upwards, studiously contemplating sky and stars, life on Venus and Mars, alien yet pure of love and hate. “Well, I don’t know about the getting killed part. But the rest I can compare with, roughly.”

“Uh-huh?” she scoffed. “So you think you relate to prostitutes. How many have you been with?”

“Wait, I never said I’d been with a prostitute. I mean—”

She laughed back. “Yeah, I bet you haven’t.”

“I haven’t,” I replied adamantly. She relented.

“Alright. I’ll believe that, I guess, but it shows you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well I’ve listened to quite a few—had them as patients.”

“Uh-huh.” She sat quietly for another few moments, letting her amusement subside. Then her voice turned somber, almost reverent.

“You ever cheat on your wife?”

“No,” I said flatly. She nodded inertly. “You believe me?” I followed up.

“I guess.” I uttered a noise which she took as a rebuke. “What do you want, a medal?”

I paused upon feeling aggrieved. “Sort of,” I replied.

“What?” she asked laughing.

“I should get a medal, actually. Any man who manages to avoid temptation should get a medal.”

“Any man? How about women?”

“Okay, women too, but it’s not the same for them.”

It got better. Soon I was expounding upon all the disadvantages men feel in the realm of sex.

–a passage from Venus Looks Down On A Prairie Vole

So a character poses a question, “have you ever been with a prostitute?” In doing so, the female antagonist is half-shaming the everymale of my story, and half-challenging his social critic credentials. Because he claims to know something. Daniel Pierce, my jaded psychologist, alcoholic widower, has a few thoughts on the subject of prostitution: like the chestnut leftist argument that all occupations in the western world entail prostitution. Therefore he doesn’t wring his hands on behalf of women, especially not women like Lira, who hardly seem like victims. Objectified? As in treated as, or thought of as an object? Sure, he concedes. But so is everyone to one degree or another, he retorts. Has she been subjectified, as in abused, or discarded. Not really, she admits, though she’s had close calls, and felt a constant risk. But she’s also profited considerably from her illicit business, spared herself the financial uphill that many of her same-age peers, male and female, face in today’s world. Above all, like any natural survivor or leader, this alpha prostitute has been nobody’s waif, but rather a cool, even dominant figure in the quasi intimate transactions of her past. In those dark, clammy pairings who has been more vulnerable, more ashamed, more consistently?

Her? Daniel Pierce writes a different script

** rendering by Philip Lawson

 

 

 

 

 

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