How a ‘Sugar Baby’ Does Money

"I would say that I’ve had a sugar daddy pretty much straight for the past 5 years"

The Work of Sex Work

I am in the middle of reading Melissa Gira Grant's new book, out from Verso next Tuesday, called Playing the Whore. It is very smart, very illuminating, and in many ways, very challenging. I'm planning to interview her for the site in the next week or so, but in the meantime The Nation published a great excerpt today, complete with anecdotes about the workaday reality for jobs we tend to have a lot of preconceived notions about.

A Sex Worker Talks to a John

Antonia Crane interviews a John for The Rumpus.

Let’s Argue About Prostitution

Sex work produces some unexpected fringe benefits. For instance, according to this article in Hazlitt about a proposed bill restricting classified ads for escorts in Canada, it supports print media at a time when little else will, and as well as other industries.

sex work ads contribute crucially to the health of print media. And the less secretive publishers are about this relationship, the better they seem to do: the Grid is dead, but NOW—despite a defiantly untrendy design—is holding strong. … There is no question that online advertising has transformed the sex industry, but in fact, ads for sexual services are far from endangered, and appear in print publications as diverse as the Toronto Sun and the New York Review of Books (which runs them alongside personals ads). …

Sex work supports economies beyond publishing. It’s likely that businesses in the hotel, transportation, and tourism spheres will be hurt by the bill, too. “The sex industry is huge, especially when you consider that it’s not just sex workers, but everyone involved with them—clients, drivers, porn consumers, sex bloggers… the list goes on and on,” says Carolyn, an agency escort in downtown Toronto (her name has been changed on request, to protect her anonymity). “Our clubs bring in tourists, our lived experiences sell books and magazines, and sex workers buy food and clothes and cars and houses just like everyone else. But we don’t talk about that. We’d rather have this illusion that sex workers are different from non-sex workers, and that what we do isn’t real work.”

“It’s hard to admit that sex work isn’t just happening in certain zones or neighbourhoods, and that any normal person you see around could be a sex worker,” she continues. “I think if people were to realize that, it would be much harder to criminalize and dismiss us.”

The Bleak World of Truck Stop Prostitution

Mother Jones has a really great interview with filmmaker Alexander Perlman, who made a documentary about truck stop sex workers. The documentary is called Lot Lizards, the term most truck drivers use for the sex workers, who are mostly women. The experience of making this documentary had a significant effect on Perlman—he's now looking to get a master's in social work.

Job of the Day: Maker of Life-Size Sex Dolls

This Atlantic article about the sex doll industry is even-handed and fair minded and still made me feel kind of queasy. I mean, if it helps certain frustrated or socially awkward men feel like they have a much-needed sexual outlet, great! Right?

The realism and utility of sex dolls took a giant leap forward in the late 90s, when artist Matt McCullen started working on a lifelike silicone female mannequin and documenting its progress on his website. Before long, he began getting emails asking if it was … anatomically correct. At the time, it wasn’t. But the demand was there, and so McCullen provided the supply. Hence, the eerily lifelike RealDoll was born. After shock jock Howard Stern got hold of one and seemingly had sex with it on his radio show, McCullen’s company grew quickly, and he now sells anywhere from 200 to 300 high-end customizable sex dolls per year.

Most of McCullen’s dolls are female; he makes a small number of male ones, but there are fewer options for customizing them, and they account for just 10 percent of his sales. “As an artist, I was always drawn to the female form, so that’s what my subject matter was,” McCullen says. “The female form was my muse.” He insists that actual women have nothing to fear from his dolls. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Do I think the dolls will replace women or threaten to replace women? Absolutely not.”

I did some research (NSFW) and discovered that prices peaked last year at $1,000 per doll and have now come down to about half that for certain models. You can buy a stationary female companion who will never laugh at or leave you for as little as $350, or less if you’re not particular and don’t mind the absence of a head or limbs. On the other end of the spectrum, one that looks like Joan Holloway Harris costs $1,600. (No, I will not provide a link.) For that much, I imagine you could enjoy the company — and then the memories — of an actual buxom redhead, but maybe some people really prefer the fantasy/approximation of the experience to the experience itself.

For whatever reason, the dolls on the page I’m looking at look racially homogenous: white or Asian, though with cartoonishly exaggerated boobs and hips, such that if you tried to stand them up, they’d tip over. McCullen, I’m sure there’s a demand for other ethnicities! Get on that, okay? No pun intended.

The World’s Oldest Profession Not Easiest, Safest, or Most Lucrative, Turns Out

Just in case you woke up this morning sure that the brilliant and very original solution to your money woes is to become a sex worker—I mean, it’s worked out so well for our sample size of two—may I please direct you to “Behind Closed Doors: An Analysis of Indoor Sex Work in New York City,” a report put out by The Sex Workers Project. Read that. It’ll take about an hour. Pay special attention to the chapters on “Violence,” “Robbery from customers,” and “Police interactions,” but you know, of course bad things would never happen to you, so instead why don’t you actually just skip those and focus on “Finances.”  This is not a solution to any of your problems. (Duh?) Duh.