Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Flesh Trade (Prostitution)

Rumor has it that Wall Street traders now believe in God.

Today we talk about the flesh trade practices of the rich and famous.

Well, perhaps $80,000 less rich over an unspecified period of time. Soon-to-be-former Governor Spitzer paid $4,300 for his pre-valentine's day date and there was a "credit" left over for future sessions. It's hard to imagine what came up.

We now know that the hourly rate for high-end prostitution beats most day jobs. The Emperors' top (and questionable) fee of $31,000 per day was more than even Britain's wealthiest man was willing to pop for: the "dull and demanding" Duke of Westminster topped out at the $1,000/hour services. Supposedly, the Emperors Club set its fees according to the “individual education, sophistication and and ambiance created by each of our models.” But maybe that's not what famous men want when they visit prostitutes.

Prostitution is defined as sexual activity in exchange for remuneration. On screen it's simulated but the transaction still takes place: it's sex for money. Off-screen at the Emperors Club VIP it's the real thing.

Just how many degrees of separation are there between the high priced hookers at the Emperors Club and the Hollywood actresses who use their sexuality to achieve a similarly exalted paycheck?

There are, of course, the stars who consent to play hookers on screen. So many, in fact, that prostitute roles (and all the euphemistic variations) are cliche. And then there are the hookers who service the stars out on the street (hello Hugh, hello Divine). And there are even the hookers turned screenwriters who win Oscars for their work (you didn't think she was born with the name Diablo Cody, did you?).

But the real money is in pandering to the movie-going John. It's the fans that buy the simulated sex on the screen. Showing bare breast in a Hollywood movie is de rigueur for actresses high and low. Why? Because it sells.

At it's most crass is Lindsay Lohan ripping off Marilyn Monroe with photographer Bert Stern's help. (Both the breasts and sun damaged skin are real.)

There are websites devoted to cataloguing every instance of "breasts, bush, buns" on film. Maintained by a crack cadre of skinterns, these movie reviewers are the unsung trainspotters of titillation. One celebrity nude database allows you to search on any actress's (or actor's) name and find out which pieces of flesh appeared in which film. For instance, Nicole Kidman has done her typical role, frosty and naked, in 15 mainstream films to date. Go ahead, try to find a prominent actress who hasn't flashed on-screen.

There are some striking gender differences. Despite films to the contrary (in The Wedding Date Debra Messing rents escort Dermot Mulroney for $6,000 plus first-class trans-Atlantic airfare), very few women are interested in paying thousands of dollars for hired sex. We pay in other ways.

Maybe that's why very, very few Hollywood films feature male genitalia on screen. Or even a naked rear end. In Somethings Gotta Give (2003) we get three opportunities for a leisurely study of Jack Nicholson's prosthetic buttocks, but it was was Diane Keaton who gave a full frontal. (Faithful readers, not one image could I find online.)

In Eastern Promises (2007), Viggo Mortensen sports nothing but his tattoos in probably the most violent four-minute screen fight to date. But it is one of the very rare instances in mainstream film where a major male character is shown fully nude.

Boyish actor Emile Hirsch floats naked Into the Wild (2007) as Chris McCandless. Briefly. In the distance.

None of the above film portrayals of male genital gee-whiz involve any sexual simulation stimulation. The closest we get may be Brokeback Mountain (2005). And you still had to use your imagination to visualize the naughty bits.

An explicit male nude scene is invariably hailed as evidence of an actor's "serious commitment to the role." When an actress takes her clothes off, everyone knows that line is a joke.

Women disrobe on-screen with a thousand-fold greater frequency because they're selling. They're selling to the movie industry to get the role and ultimately to the movie-going John. Men just don't have to put out to make it in Hollywood.

1 comment:

the new world said...

thank you so much for this post! as a former escort ($300 an hour, "girlfriend experience," independent, no agency) it really bothers me when people get so holier-than-thou about prostitution.

every job involves a similar trade -- when i work at a coffeeshop, i'm offering fake friendliness in exchange for a tip. working on a political campaign, i used my attractiveness and friendliness to sway voters. as an escort, i offered my body and the impression that i was enjoying myself. any job takes a part of you or forces you to commercialize some aspect of your personality or your skills. otherwise it wouldn't be work! just because prostitution involves sex, and americans are so hung-up about anything sexual, people regard it as so horrible.

i'm also a recovering heroin addict, and people react much more strongly when i tell them about my escorting than when i tell them i'm a junkie. i am a very very open person and i tell a lot of people about my addiction, but i wait until i know the person a bit more to tell them i sell my body. this makes no sense -- heroin has done infinitely more damage to my life than escorting; it's more dangerous; it's more unpleasant; it's harder to stop doing; it's more soul-killing; and heroin causes me to LOSE tons of money (the same money i make escorting).

i enjoyed escorting at first, and would have continued, except i gradually started to dislike it. but i know many girls who are happy and successful as escorts, who are not drug addicts, and have healthy sex lives in addition to their job. to each his (her) own. when i heard about the amount of money those girls were making off spitzer, i thought "you go, girl!" seriously, more power to them. and more power to spitzer, if that's what he wants. if he weren't married i would see no problem with it.

escorting is simply an exchange of money for a needed skill, just like any trade. men i've met run the gamut from shy to overweight, or they're trapped in unhappy marriages with women who are terminally ill, sexually frigid, or they're "staying together for the kids." for whatever reason they aren't getting their needs met. sex is natural and a legetimate human need; why should people have to go without it for reasons beyond their control, if there is a way for them to enjoy sex without harming anyone? one could argue that married men should not cheat, but in that case the problem is not prostitution. but the outcry with politicians seems to be much higher when the "other woman" was an escort, as if that makes the cheating worse.

some of my clients were perfectly good looking and confident and were unmarried, but preferred the directness of seeing an escort instead of going through the motions of trying to talk to a woman, taking her out to dinner, etc, when he just wanted to have sex. seeing an escort removes all the relationship-y aspects of sex that many men are just not interested in. so many guys are saying and doing things they don't necessarily feel in order to get sex, and many of my clients were relieved to be able to just have sex without jumping through all those hoops or pretending to be in love when they weren't.

anyway, sorry for venting. i just really appreciate it when people can see past the media hype and cultural baggage associated with prostitution. as long as it's two consenting adults who are being safe, it is no worse than any other job.