“The door to Jess’s studio opens up into a small kitchenette and a view of the interior, dimly lit and shrouded in slightly transparent black curtains. The island in the kitchenette has a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon with some glasses next to it. Further into the studio two plush chairs separate the kitchenette from the back room, where the corner of a large soft bed peeks into view.”
“I like to sit here,” Jess says, pointing to the two chairs, “and have a drink and chat a bit.'”– “The shockingly normal life of one Twin City’s prostitute,” Minneapolis City Pages, Oct. 12, 2016
This story …
When I was a kid in Frankfurt, Germany I worked as a courier for a travel agency; most of the agency’s clients were brothels so I found myself in and out of Frankfurt’s Latina brothels for a while. I remember sitting in the one ran by my homie Daniel’s mom (the travel agency was run by Colombians, they knew my friend, that’s how I got the job …) and she was lying like Jabba on a big bed in the middle of this room. Along the walls were a bunch of chairs, Latin dudes and girls sat in the chairs drinking coffee and chatting with Mama and whomever came in. I sat there sometimes and waited for stuff to happen so I could move on with my route. The girls called me “mi amor” and it didn’t really dawn on me what was happening, even though I knew exactly what was happening. Everyone there was human first, sex industry player distant second.
Years later, in Asia, I was confronted with prostitution on a level the U.S. has no real concept of. I’m not saying there’s less sex work in the U.S., but in the early 2000s, it was incredibly open in China, Thailand, and elsewhere in East Asia. I wrote about sex work in China for the South China Morning Post and I remember one of the quotes from a girl was something like: I work for my money, this isn’t a meat market, this is an industry. I make good money, better than any worker. My husband and I have big plans …
Sex work is sex work and trafficking is rampant; abuse is rampant; sadness and tragedy and exploitation are rampant. Yet, in my formative years and later, I was introduced to sex workers as people, not just victims or outcasts or “fallen women.”
Those experiences made it easy for me to do this story for the City Pages. I met “Jess” through a lawyer friend and she was extremely open about her life. She was happy, with a committed partner, a business woman and a mother. She had no regrets. She just, in her words, loved to fuck and loved to make money.
I did my best to pull my views and opinions out of it, to report as evenly as possible. To show as many viewpoints as I could … if you read through this story and have any observations, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Click here to read the full story, “The shockingly normal life of one Twin Cities prostitute.”