Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Value of Keeping Cool

This happened more than 15 years ago, back in California, so the kids involved have long since reached legal age and escaped into the world, and their families can't get at them anymore. Also, any police charges from then have long since passed their expiration date, so I'm safe in talking about it.

Anyway, never mind how I wound up harboring a bunch of runaway kids, or all the backbends I went through trying to get them legal protection and safe places to stay. Suffice it to say that I learned a lot about how few rights and protections children really have. I did it because, dammitol, there had to be at least one adult in town that these mistreated kids could trust.

One of them was marvelously pretty blonde girl -- let's call her Alice -- just turned 15, who'd been sexually abused by her stepfather and got an obscure revenge by being the girl who'd put out for all the boys in her school. I'd told her, simply as one girl to another, that using sex as a weapon was a bad idea, but she wasn't entirely convinced. She decided to test me, and came up with an ingenious method.

One night after dinner, when all the dishes had been washed and the other kids were out in the livingroom watching TV, Alice caught me alone in the kitchen and said: "I know I've got to find a way to make a living of my own. I've been thinking about becoming a prostitute. What do you think?"

My first thought was that I must not -- absolutely must not lose my cool and yell about crime or morality or any of that other crap that she'd had yelled at her by other adults for so long. So I stayed calm and went after the purely practical points.

"Not in this state you don't," I said. "In California it's illegal, so you'll be prey to the cops as well as bad johns, creeps and bully-boys. Even if you can avoid those, if you're working independently, other whores will very likely slash up your face to cut down on the competition."

She gave me a double-take at that, so I added: "There was an article in the paper just last week. I think we've still got a copy..."

"That's all right," she said. "So how do I get protection?"

"You absolutely don't want a pimp," I want on. "A pimp will take all your money, dole out food and clothes and housing, and give you nothing. In fact, he'll beat you up if he finds you're keeping any cash for yourself. He'll also try to get you hooked on bad drugs, for which he'll be your only supplier, so as to keep you solidly chained to him. He won't help you if you get caught by the cops, either."

"Why not?" Alice asked. "You'd think they'd want to protect their...moneymakers."

"They can always pick up new girls, very often runaways. They hang around the Greyhound stations, watching for girls who get off carrying suitcases and looking lost. Any one girl in their stables is disposable."

"Oh." Alice thought about that. "What about getting into a...a house, with a madam?"

"Yes, you'd be a lot better off there -- provided the madam can keep the cops paid off. Problem is, there are very few secure houses in the whole Bay Area, and they're rarely looking for new recruits. Also, they don't like to take underagers."

Alice thought for a long moment, and then murmured: "...Nevada?"

Of course I knew what she meant. "Yes, it's legal in Nevada -- in certain counties. If you could get into one of those legal houses, that would be the best way to do it. They give good pay, very good protection, excellent health insurance, and regular medical check-ups -- every week, if not oftener. The problem there is, again, they won't take you until you're legal age. I'm afraid there's just no safe way to go into that business if you're under 18. Honestly, Alice, you're better off working for MacDonald's."

She wrinkled her nose and muttered something about "less than minimum wage," but then added: "I'll go get an app from the one down the street." She got up and went out, looking thoughtful.

Yes, she eventually did get a job in a fast-food restaurant, made an arrangement to stay with an aunt, finished her schooling and went on to a better job and a better future. So did the other kids.

None of them ever took up prostitution for a living. Neither, as far as I know, did any of their friends.

--Leslie <;)))><


Ori Pomerantz said...

"This is a really bad idea" is a much stronger argument than "this is immoral".

Aya Katz said...

Not only do children have very few rights, but prostitutes have even fewer. Your advice to that girl was truthful and right, and it was to her benefit to follow it.

But what would you have advised her in a place where the rights of prostitutes, even underage ones, were secured to them, and where no one could harm them?

Godel Fishbreath said...

It is wonderful to have triumphs to look back on.
You Go Well, Leslie!

Anonymous said...

Right at the moment, I wouldn't advise anybody to become a prostitute---the legal hassles are just not worth it.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Aya. Since there's nowhere in the country -- or in this hemisphere, as far as I know -- where underage prostitutes have rights (including safety) secured. the question's pretty much moot. I'd still advise any adult who wants to take up that business to go to Nevada and get into a legal house. The problem there would be that there's a waiting list; you'd still have to get another job -- maybe at MacDonald's -- before you could get in. I note that the legal prostitutes of Nevada don't usually stay in the job very long; they build up a reserve of money, go to school for training, and get a better job elsewhere. I think that says it all.

--Leslie <;)))><

Paradoctor said...

Anger would have not only been emotional; worse, it would have been sentimental. Instead you spoke to her with cold calculating cynicism, which was what she needed just then.

windmills said...

One of the most "interesting"jobs Ive ever had was working as a driver/bodyguard for a female friend of mine who worked in that business. The fact that I worked for her rather than her working for me is an important distinction. She was over 21 (though not by much) and I had known her for many years, since long before she'd entered the industry, and I was one of the only guys she knew that she could trust not to... be a scumbag. She worked as a call girl via internet, and I would sit in the adjoining hotel room with the lock on the connecting door disabled so I could get in fast if an appointment went sour. A baby monitor under the bed ensured I would be aware of any problems, and the combination of a telescoping baton and a Gov't .45 insured I could deal with them. I rarely had to get physical at all, (the kind of guys who hurt women rarely want to fight other men, and we screened the obvious wierdos via phone, plus a lot of her business was "regulars").
Listening to that baby monitor for five or six hours a day taught me more than I ever wished to know about the vagueries and fetishes of "normalish"men, but what I found most interesting was that she (charging $400-$500 per. hr.) found it entirely worthwhile to pay out $50 per hour (plus some perquisites I never availed myself of)to me, for my services. One of the worst consequences of stepping outside the law to make your living is that you step out from under the (all too thin) umbrella of its protection. The security of being able to use a "trigger" word and have a heavily armed and pissed off redneck burst through the door and open a Costco-Sized can of DipshitBeatDown on on the kind of coward who will only take a swing at woman he knows can't call the cops becomes a necessary business expense.
The roughest part of it all was that she had to hire me in secret, via a digital "message in a bottle" because my first task was to "negotiate" with my predecessor, who was much more of a "she works for me" type. I had to explain "you're fired" to him in a way he could understand.
I came to understand, during my brief tenure in the industry, that minute-for-minute worked, prostitution is the most dangerous job in the world, beating out test-pilot, lab-rat, U.S. Army 1st LT, and E.O.D. specialist, and NYC Fireman, without any of them coming close.