If you’re in Edinburgh (and even if you’re not), you may be aware of Belinda Brooks-Gordon‘s talk on sex work as part of Edinburgh Sceptics: on the Fringe of Reason. While personally I like her works a lot (most probably because they make sense and don’t tell me I need to be saved), I felt little inclined to go to the event. Who would you expect to see there? That’s right, those who are curious about prostitution and prostitutes. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I’d like to avoid it in public.
I had a booking on the day, and I really don’t know how it happened but when I arrived to the client’s place, I suddenly thought: “Damn, Belinda’s in Edinburgh and I’m not even making an effort to see her! When is the next time I’ll have a chance?” Funny how I only started thinking about it the last minute. So there I am, asking my client to go to the talk with me.
Did he agree? Of course he didn’t, most probably for the reason I gave above. But he let me leave earlier and I was just in time for the talk and even had a spare minute to sexually harass a poor Edinburgh Sceptic who was giving out leaflets to the people queueing for the show (no drama, by the way, just a little chat which he himself initiated, but he looked slightly red in the face and a lady of fixed-rate virtue from Glasgow, who was queueing with me, said I got him flustered). There’s no way I could be a spy: I’ll blow my cover within the first 15 minutes. Just the day before the talk I pinched a bum on a performer in Royal Mile. As in really pinched. In public. It was a fine piece of arse and I wanted to show my appreciation of it in a way a man should understand.
Anyway, we got inside and I was so glad I came! It was one of the most informative and comprehensive talks about the political side of my profession, well-structured, well-presented and, of course, well received by the audience. At the end there was time for questions, and a woman in one of the front rows raised a hand. She started her question with “I’m a sex worker in…” and I have no clue what her question was about because I didn’t hear any of it, I was too stunned. It was the second time I saw a woman publicly announcing she was a prostitute; and each time they make me question myself: would I be able to do it? If I were, how would it feel? It’s all good telling myself and clients that I’m proud of my job, but would I say the same in a large room full of strangers? Well, I’d do it if I had to, but would I do it if I didn’t? And more importantly, would I still feel proud? I know the stigma is there, but just how much influence does it have over me? Magdalene survivors are still ashamed of their past and they did nothing wrong. So how would I feel if I were to come out of my closet in public?
Belinda agreed to meet Scot-PEP afterwards so the Glasgow lady and I stayed and joined the 2 men from Scot-PEP. So did the young woman who stunned me so. I told her about it and she just shrugged her shoulders.
I will never understand the British habit of pubbing. When civilised people in civilised countries want to discuss something in informal settings, they’ll meet at a bar, or a cafe, or a restaurant, sit down, get a drink and chat. When the Brits have something to talk about, they stand in a busy pub (right under the speaker blaring out Alice Cooper and Rammstein) and shout at each other with an occasional spitspray. They seem to enjoy it though: an hour with Belinda passed very quickly and it was time for Scot-PEP gentlemen to leave.
As soon as our male companions were gone, an interesting thing happened: men lined up behind Belinda’s back. Here’s how it looked: there’s Belinda the Blonde Bombshell who’s just given a talk on harlotry, there’s the self-proclaimed sex worker standing right next to her, and 2 more “gals” (me and the Glasgow lady). We’ve been standing there for over an hour and no-one seemed interested, and only now, like flies on honey, they surrounded Belinda asking her sex work questions that even the bartender could answer. All across their faces was stamped “I want a closer look at them hookers”. We left straight away. Want to have a closer look at a hooker? Call, come and pay her.
The lovely video below shows why it’s not always pleasant to have prostitution-curious people around you.