I smile and meet his eyes. It makes me kind of giddy that this is a test I pass easily: I’m not afraid, and I don’t let people abuse me.
He slipped through my normal new-client screening. It was a holiday, and I was out in the boonies with no Internet reception. So when his email, by some miracle of remote reception, came through asking for an appointment that night, I just called him. His family business checked out, so I didn’t bother accessing all the sites I normally would to check his criminal background and such.
The first thing I noticed when he opened the door was the electronic monitoring device on his ankle: that was why he was stuck behind while all his coworkers went home for the holiday. In Alaska, nonviolent offenders can get out of jail early and complete their sentences on ankle monitor if they’ve been good prisoners — basically, I concluded, he probably wasn’t a murderer. Plus, I’d already driven 45 miles, dry-shaved, and put on a full face of make up in the Tesoro bathroom.
“It’s 200, right?” he said, smooth and sweet as cherry pie, pulling two bills out of his wallet.
For a second, I flashed back to when he’d mentioned how he was up here working with all these men who would also be interested in seeing me. Damn, I thought, if this guy was a pimp he would have really good game. But that wouldn’t happen. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before in my almost 20 years of sex work. Maybe it had been so long since anything remotely bad had happened to me that I forgot bad things were real.
“No babe, it’s 300,” I smiled back at him and held my hand out.
“Oh, sorry. Here.” He handed me another bill.
“Thanks.” I shoved it in my bag.
We moved into the bedroom. He couldn’t stay hard, but he was really, really good at cunnilingus. After all these years of old men going down on me, after the long drive through the snow into town and the gross gas station bathroom, you’ll trust that it definitely took a lot to impress me. But he was just ever so slightly pushy about boundaries. After I had the best orgasm of at least that month, I decided to award him two orange flags: one for the boundary pushing, and one for being smooth enough to make me almost not care. I put those flags next to the payment and ankle monitor and thought: Well, that’s quite a few flags. What will happen next?
What happened next was that he jerked off on my tits and then lay down beside me.
“Do you know my girlfriend?” he asked, holding out a picture.
“She looks familiar,” I told him, “but I can’t quite place her.” I always give out the least possible information about other ladies.
They’d had a fight earlier, he explained, and she’d left. Now he was just sitting here on ankle monitor, unable to go after her or go anywhere for the holiday. “She should know better,” he said. “I’m on ankle monitor now, but it’s not forever. She should know you don’t fuck with me.”
It always fascinates me when men feel perfectly OK telling me they are violent and abusive. What are they even thinking? At the same time, I know it’s a test and though he’s acting casual, he’s waiting to see how I react to the idea of violence; of being afraid of a man I’ve just had sex with.
I smile and meet his eyes. It makes me kind of giddy that this is a test I pass easily: I’m not afraid, and I have zero tolerance for abuse.
He changes strategies. “You’re doing this right,” he tells me, “You know, a lot of girls just see anyone and don’t know how to manage their money, but I can tell you’re smart. You’re doing it right.”
Men who’ve never turned a trick or given a lap dance in their life have been trying to mansplain sex work to me for the last 20 years or so.
“Thanks, sweetie,” I say, moving to put my clothes on, “I’ve been working on it a while.”
“You have to be careful,” he explains. “The cops are going crazy. They got me when they went after my friend.” He names an awful pimp who was arrested for literally keeping women in cages. A man who I’ve heard was also probably a serial killer. “I told him, I said, ‘Man, you can’t be keeping women in cages like that. They’re going to turn on you.’”
They’re going to turn on you? That’s the reason not to keep women in cages?
“What name would I know you by?” I ask him.
He throws out a name. It sounds familiar, maybe. I don’t really hang out with people in those crowds.
Driving away, I consider how brazen it is for him to be sitting there, still technically serving a sentence and already trying to abuse women, and to earn a profit doing so. I want men like that to stay in jail. I want to live in a world where I can call the police and report men like that without risking getting arrested and losing the business and reputation I’ve spent years building myself. A prostitution conviction in Alaska carries with it the threat of property forfeiture: you can lose your home, your car, and everything you own.
I know the FBI agent who would have arrested him before. She’s known in our community for being instrumental in prosecuting a victim of violent sex trafficking for, essentially, conspiring — with a man who kidnapped, raped, and tortured her — to traffic herself and her coworkers. My roommate had had some awful run ins with her, too — so much that we joked almost daily about the surveillance she was probably doing on us.
On my way home, I picked my roommate up from the bar and asked if she knew the pimp. She knew him as the guy who had run over a drug customer with his car and killed him over $20, and then got off on a pled down manslaughter charge. He was an abusive “boyfriend” parasite who would beat on one or two women at a time while taking all their money. Great.
Over the next few days, he texted me several times trying to set up another appointment or connect me with other customers. I didn’t respond. Eventually he stopped.
A few months later I told a non-sex worker friend about it when she asked if I’d ever met a pimp. Her eyes got big and she asked, “How did you get out of it?”
“Get out of what?”
I stared at her in confusion. I hadn’t been “in” anything to get out of. Then I realized: People think that it is evil men who are so powerful that just meeting them is enough to imprison a woman and suck all the money out of her, rather than the everyday grind of the justice system’s war on sex workers that trap us in violent situations.