Call girls: they’re talented writers! First there was Dr. Brooke Magnanti, whose identity only became known after her blog, Diary of a London Call Girl, became wildly famous and spawned a book and TV series. Now there’s an anonymous East Coast-based woman going by the nom de plume “Charlotte Shane.”
“Charlotte Shane” pens a blog called Nightmare Brunette about her experiences in sex work. In a stellar piece on Salon.com, “Charlotte” explains she tries her hardest not to glamorize prostitution like Hollywood. “I never intend to glamorize my profession, and I don’t list expensive gifts I receive or lavish items I buy for myself,” she wrote. “I avoid rhapsodizing about exotic vacations or name-dropping hotels. I never disclose my rates and I don’t claim every encounter ends in mind-blowing orgasms — or any orgasm at all. That type of sensationalistic hype is really only good for selling books or selling face time on TV shows, neither of which I’m interested in.” She tries to be honest about what working as an escort really is: a job. Yet she thinks she knows what’s caused dozens of girls between the ages of 18 and 25 to write her emails expressing an interest in prostitution, apparently willfully ignoring the grittier realities that lie behind the “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” gloss: sexual insecurity and a desire to literally put a price on one’s beauty and sexual savvy as confirmation. Young women’s interest in escorting — however fleeting it may be — is indicative, “Charlotte” writes, of:
“… a society that still insists sexual desirability is a woman’s duty and wealth is the most important hallmark of success. … I think they they are recognizing the ways their culture tells them to achieve. Girls aren’t bombarded with messages telling them that their mental power is urgently needed to address issues like global warming or infectious diseases, or that their athleticism could be parlayed into a life as a professional athlete or coach. Instead we’re told over and over again that we earn a place at the table — any table — by being polished and well-dressed,with glossy hair and a slim figure. … [Women who write me] are living in a world where a woman’s worth is constantly equated with her sex appeal. Is it any wonder that many women might find it compelling to take that equation to its logical conclusion?”
It’s a spot-on analysis, in my opinion — though entirely subjective, of course. But feeling sexually valued is a basic human need for most of us and many would argue it’s taken on a monstrous sense of import in our culture. Working as an escort, especially a high-class escort, is one way to feel sexually valued, or it can at least seem that way. And in a culture that hypes the attainment of the perfect cut-and-color, a size 0 waist, and a closetful of designer label handbags, escorting can certainly seem more rewarding — and easier, and more fun — than climbing your way up the corporate ladder. I personally don’t want to cast judgment on that idea; in a sexist and patriarchal culture, I don’t want to blame other women for what they may be attracted to. But it’s worth thinking about and I encourage you to read the whole piece.
Yeah, watching the glamorous Belle on “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” even makes me want to become an escort sometimes. As someone with an eye on feminist conversations around sex work, I am aware — most likely moreso than 18-year-old girls who email “Charlotte” — of the physical, sexual, criminal and financial risks of sex work. But who wouldn’t want a walk-in closet full of lingerie? A chance to doll oneself up in va-va-voom hair and makeup every time you visit a client? A pay rate of $500 an hour (or more)? The unbeatable stories to tell your
It never occurred to me until “Charlotte” suggested it, however, that yes, some of the fantasy is being hugely sexually desirable. (I probably don’t have tell you that lingerie and va-va-voom hair are not part of the blogger uniform.) Escorting is always a fleeting fantasy for me, for a variety of very good reasons. But if we listen to our fantasies we can learn what they are trying to tell us about our real lives. [Salon.com]