O Sister, Where Art Thou (for Ashley Dupree)

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O Sister, Where Art Thou (for Ashley Dupree)

Postby sam » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:19 am

I found this incredible essay over at the Prostitution Research website.

"It was Dupré’s outing that made me finally decide to quit no matter
what it would cost me, and it did cost me very dearly."

O Sister, Where Art Thou (for Ashley Dupree)
By Meryl Ruth Moore

Hooker. Whore. Prostitute. Those words have a way of making people
uncomfortable, especially women. One would think that reaction would
inform, for in it lays the truth of the matter: there are no words
more fearful for a woman to bear, because they know – everyone knows –
that prostitutes occupy the lowest rung on the socioeconomic ladder.
Were those words empowering, we would not flinch from them so, and yet
we do. I remember the day when those words were leveled at Ashley

I recall that day very well, for at the time I, too, was what is
called in the industry a “high class hooker” without any apparent
irony for the fact that prostitutes are part of the lowest possible
class in this intensely classist society. How much money you charge
to sell your flesh does not change that fact. Perhaps an expensive
prostitute occupies a slightly higher position on that ladder, but
that only means that she is experiencing a different kind of tragedy,
not that she is somehow beyond it. This is something that every
prostitute knows – even if she won’t say it to anyone, including
herself – because we all know what the punishment is for owning that
word. Sometimes it is easy to make yourself forget that when you’re
breezing through the lobbies of hotels that include truffles on the
room service menu on your way to a lavishly appointed suite. When we
do those things, we choose different words: escort, companion,
provider, or perhaps even courtesan. Anything to deflect the caustic

Of course you would want to forget that you are a young woman whose
ambitions seem so far away from obtainable, on your own in the world
with little to support you in this unforgiving society. Who wants to
have to stare that bleak reality in the face, especially when there
are so few solutions available to you? When you’re being handed sums
of cash – tax free! – by important wealthy men who have deigned to
choose you over all other women (at least that night), it is so
tempting to want to forget that you are trafficking your body to
people who don’t know who you are, nor do they want to know.

They don’t really want to hear your story of how you ran away from home,
or how you got pregnant by some jerk who won’t support your child, or
how you lost everything following an abusive relationship, and so you
don’t tell them. But hey, your last boyfriend didn’t want to hear all
that either, so how different could high-end prostitution be? Men
expect sex after dinner anyway, so why not skip all that nonsense and
get to the cold hard cash?

It’s a cynical decision, and it is understandable. Our society
constantly and in great detail explains to women that their main value
is in their sexual availability, their attractiveness and their
willingness to conceal their individuality beneath a patina of male
fantasy. Those who conform to those expectations will be rewarded –
or so we are promised – and that reward is often explicitly monetized.
It is no great shock to say so; one only has to look at any magazine
directed at or about women to understand the message that financial
remuneration comes to women who meet those standards. Ashely Dupré,
in becoming a high-end prostitute was only arriving at the logical
conclusion of those first principles, and it breaks my heart for I
truly know what it is like to walk those steps of logic in Manolo
Blahnik stilettos.

But, as Dupré discovered, those promised rewards for contorting ourselves
to meet those standards are not worth the price that such a Faustian
bargain will ultimately cost, for society hates a prostitute more than it
hates terrorists. At least society cares when we torture terrorists. There
is no great outcry from the ACLU when a prostitute is tortured. Instead,
society sighs and thinks that she had it coming. It doesn’t matter that she
was doing exactly what society informs young women that they should when
it isn’t confusing us with messages about being chaste and motherly.

I had a difficult time reading the news coverage about Dupré, because
I already knew what would happen to her. She would be hissed at by
the religious, ogled by the more “liberal” men, and everywhere would
be countless opinions on whether she was worth the money. She would
be attacked by Democrats for having the temerity to have been the
woman Spitzer chose, as though he wouldn’t have been a hypocrite had
she not existed. She would be leered at by Republicans, who would
develop political amnesia and forget about all of their own hypocrites
who did precisely the same thing. There would be the Libertarians who
would agitate for legalization of prostitution and crow about their
enlightened view of the capitalization of human flesh. There would
be the Progressives who would say very little about any of it, because
while they might support women’s rights, they wouldn’t want to
associate themselves politically with a prostitute. She would be
exploited by the media who craves nothing more than the money that
fallen women bring, and castigated by other women who would never
lower themselves to explicitly accepting money in exchange for sex.
In short, she would no longer be a person; she would become a thing.
A terrible thing that would be crushed as the wyrm of the news-cycle

Where are you, sister? I wonder this now that the public’s interest
has changed to other things. Do you dare raise your head to face the
world again, knowing that you are no longer Ashley Dupré – whoever
that was before all this happened – but instead, Spitzer’s prostitute?
I felt so bad for you, because I know that no matter what you try to
accomplish, for the rest of your life that will be your scarlet
letter. That lie we are told that prompts us into prostitution is so
life-destroying and vicious, and I don’t think that even well-meaning
people can ever find where, exactly, the tragedy really lays in that
catastrophe without coloring it with a bias that will somehow make it
your fault. In the end, prostitute is still a word that means that
you deserve everything that you got that hurts and nothing that might
have, however ephemerally, made your life easier or given you some

It was Dupré’s outing that made me finally decide to quit no matter
what it would cost me, and it did cost me very dearly. As I had to
readjust my lifestyle to that of just a regular woman who does not
earn money based upon her body, I went through some radical losses.
Just as before (and like so many other high-end prostitutes), I have
no formal education, no past “legitimate” job experience and no
health care, and I also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due
to the myriad things I experienced as a prostitute. It has been very
difficult to reclaim my humanity enough to even think about that
period of my life, much less find the coherence of mind to write about
it. It is like a gash in my sense of self that is still healing.
Nevertheless, quitting was the only choice I’d ever really made in the
interest of my humanity, and though my lifestyle has nothing of the
plastic glamour it once did, I know that I was one of the lucky ones.
I chose my exit, and thus I can set the word “prostitute” aside
quietly from my identity and attempt to sort through my life’s purpose
on my own terms. Dupré didn’t have that chance.

However, that’s something of a necessary self-delusion that I am
indulging for my own sanity, because the truth is that you’re never
really free of the hazard of losing your ability to define yourself
beyond prostitution, even if you do quit. I write under a pseudonym,
because I know that the consequences of having been a prostitute still
have the power to destroy my life. I could lose the child for whose
care I did it in the first place and lose any ability to pursue the
career I am currently working toward. I don’t even want to think
about what would happen to me if the names of my johns became public.
Writing these words is a risk, and I do it without the courage of
claiming them. That is how powerful the fear of the word prostitute
is; it has the power to haunt me even when I am not that thing
anymore. I wonder sometimes in my darker moments of introspection if
that means that no matter what I do I will always be a prostitute.
That is a difficult thought, and one of the reasons I still struggle
with my mental health.

Of course, I am a different woman from Dupré and my experiences as a
prostitute are my own. Yet, in my years in the sex-trade, I found
that my path was already well-tread by so many other women, and
despite the commercial image of singular beauty that I cultivated, I
was one of thousands who conceded themselves over to the bargain and
came out of it with stories to tell that might shock those who know
nothing of that world. I tell them in the hopes that they will help
those unfamiliar with the sex-trade to better appreciate that those
women who are in it are human beings with thoughts and reasons for
their path. I tell them so that those who defend the sex-trade as an
empowering choice may come to understand how egregious that rationale
truly is. I tell them so that women who have walked this path might
not feel so alone. Perhaps most of all, I tell them so that the
injuries I have sustained will have some positive meaning; so that, if
I do have to bear this word prostitute, it will be according to my
"Your orgasm can no longer dictate my oppression"

Trisha Baptie
chaotic good
Posts: 4391
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2004 12:54 am

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