My friend Lochlan invited me to a Facebook event to Dr Brooke “Belle de Jour” Magnanti’s talk on sex myths about adult entertainment causing violence. It was really good – well analysed, with irrefutable evidence to back up all her results and claims about previous studies not taking account of crucial factors such as population growth. (You should buy her book, ‘The Sex Myth’. It’s not a feminist book as she doesn’t identify as a feminist; it is a collection of essays which prove that sex trafficking into the UK is almost nonexistent, that women aren’t lees visual or less sexual than men, that teens aren’t more sexualised now than before and a lot of other myths. It’s all true by the way – the decade with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy was the 1950’s!)
I had always thlought that Brooke’s academic credentials are a powerful tool in her quest to spread the truth and get people to focus on the real issues instead of throwing away millions deporting illegal sex workers to stop sex trafficking and shutting down lap dancing clubs to stop rape. I do see her as a feminist; I think she is too generalising to lump all of feminism together; she could be identify as a liberal feminist; it was radical feminism that was/is sex-negative and criticised her for ‘betraying’ women by being a sex worker. But some sex workers are feminists. Actually, Brooke probably knows this but has chosen to drop the feminist label altogether. Anyway, at the Q and A section of the talk I realised that her academic reputation can also get in the way of her activism. I realised this when she ‘fudged’ the second question I asked, and although I usually despise this sort of thing – I once gave an EU Court of Justice Judge a hard time over fudging a question I’d asked which my lecturer then re-asked and he fudged it AGAIN – the lecturer couldn’t keep a straight face as I asked “where in the Treaty does it say that [and so on]” – I understood immediately why Brooke had to do it. She couldn’t risk getting quoted out of context or seeming too radical. If she did, this could make people not like her and not listen to the truth of her research. Then the feminist cause would be hurt by that, as she is a very valuable ‘asset’, if you will, to feminism in this country. And if I have to go without an answer to further the cause(s) that I
fight blog/rant for, then I’ll do it gladly (and much more, if need be.)
I’d tried to read her book Secret Diary of a Call-Girl in Tesco’s about a year ago, but I just felt too envious of her to carry on reading, especially when she mentioned she’d firts got into the business as a dominatrix when she was a student – my dream student job. I’d always wanted to be a prostitute. I imagined myself working from a flat independently instead of being a call girl. It was also my dream to sell my virginity. As I read her book, I felt that I wanted to meet her, and also very jealous of her. But I also looked up to her for writing it, for giving this to society and changing stereotypes of STD-ridden working-class streetwalkers, letting us acknowledge educated women who were sex workers. And women with boyfriends who are sex workers. Telling us that prostitutes have parents.
So, I think Lochlan was not far off when he said “Is she your hero?” because, from a political point of view, the answer always had been “yes” even at my most envious moments.
Of course, she was my inspiration for this blog. I told her so.
As I had been jealous of her and simultaneously approved of her writing and saw her as a sort of role model, I was a bit – well, Lochlan referred to it as “starstruck” but nobody could tell, of course, as I can control my emotions. And I was aware that I was ‘starstruck’ because of how I saw her, and not because of who Dr Magnanti really is (i.e. a normal person who was good enough at writing to write an award-winning blog and a bestseller).
Dr Brooke Magananti’s talk summarised:
The belief that lap dancing clubs lead to increase in rape is false – studies that claimed it was true failed to account for population growth – rape actually went down (though Dr Magnanti doesn’t think lap dancing makes rape go down)
Studies showing that lots of children watch porn were not well conducted, using very small samples that were not representative
These issues are very complex and influenced by multiple factors
Policy shouldn’t be influenced by bad studies and shaky data
Sex trafficking is almost nonexistent, but is hyped up by the media
Bad studies are great for shock headlines, which concern the public and NGOs and perpetuate the cycle
I’d kind of been hoping I’d get to talk to her afterwards to get tips on how to raise awareness of certain feminist issues. So, let’s cut to when me and Lochlan are talking to her:
I’d had six drinks – Sangria and WKD (Lochlan had seven) and I was regretting this as we stood in line to talk to her during the break. I wanted to get my sentences in order so I could get tips on feminist activism and ask her some other stuff about the double standard and whatnot. I also wanted to tell her about Roland, because she would understand me. I am not saying my experience is the same as hers – I’ve not even read her memoirs, how can I – but I’m pretty certain judging by her book that she enjoyed selling herself and got pleasure out of it, just like me. I don’t know anyone else who’s ever done it. Actually, I might (you never know who’s done what – I don’t have “I’m Rolanding” taped to my forehead) especially if you count SeekArrangement.com as sex work, but they’re keeping quiet about it.
Lochlan had brought a copy of the old book for her to sign and I picked up ‘The Sex Myth’ right there before the talk. We got her to sign our books. Since I couldn’t count on not being accidentally eavesdropped or photographed by the journalists present, or anyone else, I asked her to make it out to Kalika, which she asked me to write on her hand since she couldn’t spell it. (It always hurts a bit when I write on my hand; does nobody else feel that?). (I knew she wouldn’t out me, as a former sex worker and scientist she’d be the last person in the world to do such a thing, obviously. And what would be in it for her? ‘BELLE DE JOUR EXPOSES GIRL SELLING VIRGINITY FOR 8K’ actually would ruin her far more than me (it would compromise her both as Belle de Jour, as she sold out a fellow sex worker, and also as an academic professional. As Roland would say, I’ve got nothing to lose) and she wouldn’t need the money even if guaranteed anonymity. It wasn’t her I was worried about, it was everyone else milling around that I couldn’t possibly keep an eye on while talking to her. It was the journalists, mainly, that I was worried about. Not only for that moment, but in case I was outed (or outed myself anonymously) in the future. After all, this blog will continue to be updated for months. I will market it. I never promised Roland I wouldn’t anonymously sell my story (I’m not saying I will – I’d rather wait a few years and sell it under my legal name when I’m a known feminist author or blogger (well, if!!!). It would be fun! And of course I’d keep Roland’s identity secret.) But, anyway, it was for the future that I was planning.
I admitted I hadn’t been able to read her first book because I’d been envious of her especially the dominatrix part and she said, “And now that you’ve seen me, you don’t need to be envious!”
“Well, it’s because I’m kind of doing something similar,” I said. It was hard to speak as eloquently as usual with all the drink, and I couldn’t see four sentences ahead like I usually can. “I’m selling my virginity,” I added. I didn’t even lower my voice, because calling myself Kalika was precaution enough. I think seeing her made me not care, too; after all, I’m selling myself to one guy, she is proud that she was selling herself to lots of guys. However, as Lochlan and I discussed later, she’s in a good place because she’s got a PhD and a successful career so it’s hard to criticise her. But I’d better wait till I’ve got a career till I out myself, and even then a teacher who wrote about her call girl experiences in a few articles was fired because she was once a call girl. So Brooke was lucky; maybe she was too well known to b fired as it would be very bad press if they fired her. Or maybe they can’t use the excuse that she’s working with kiddies so could pervert their innocent minds. Or gets on with her boss.
We were only talking for a few minutes but I think she’s very down to earth and not like what you’d expect, she’s very ‘real’ and a good person – not all sugary niceness, because even the most evil people can put that on -I mean ‘good’ as in sincere and dedicated to the truth. I’m not going to quote her anymore because she didn’t consent to her words being put on a blog. I know this post would be more interesting and longer if I just stuck in a transcript of the conversation, but I don’t think it’s fair.
So I’ll just write that Brooke: Thinks 50 Shades of Grey is just porn with no inherent feminist or sexual freedom values; was pleased that she was an inspiration to me for this blog; pointed me in the direction of a sociologist who was present to answer a raising-awareness question I had; and I think I’ll leave it at that.
Lochlan went off twice; he told me later that he bumped into his friend, who is a sex worker and blogs about sex activism. I’d suspected she’d be there; luckily, I was talking to Brooke so didn’t see her, so she’s still anonymous to me, though I must’ve walked right past her when I went to talk to the sociologist.
A few people went over to ask her questions at the end, too. Lochlan and I went to Browns on George square and had 2 cocktails each; I had a cosmo and a strawberry chocolate cocktail, had a grey-coloured drink and I can’t remember the other one. After a short fret to Lochlan over whether texting Roland about this would annoy him/seem needy, I texted Roland that I’d met Belle de Jour and told her about me selling virginity; I thought that would interest him. It must have, because he texted back something along the lines of Wow!!’How did you meet her?’ so we were texting for a little bit and I was reading his texts to Lochlan who of course only knows him by ‘Roland’ so it was hilarious (to me) that Lochlan was calling him ‘Roland’ constantly. I’d rather have called him so I could hear the surprise in his voice as I told him, but it went to voicemail and I was too tipsy to bother leaving a message. Then we went to Lochlan’s, stopping at a bar with live music along the way. I had a chocolate Russian and a Vanilla Russian, he had a White Russian and a Chocolate Russian. Neither of us were drunk though; I need a LOT to get drunk.
We walked on, talking about sex myths, sex work and Brooke and he asked me about Rolanding and I was like, “Well, I can only speak for myself but even if you wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the money, you can still get physical pleasure from it, obviously, because we’re biologically programmed to be that way. So even though Roland is really old, it’s still really fun. Like I thought I hated blowjobs but I love doing it. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
“So you’re not just doing it for the money then? There’s something else?”
“Well, yeah, duh, the sex. I’m doing it for the sex as well, of course.”
“When are you actually going to have vaginal sex?”
“The time after next time, in a brothel. Well, a massage parlour.”
“Is that what you want?”
“I don’t give a shit. As long as I get my £1,000. Whatever makes him happy.”
“Why should I care? I’ll have to close my eyes though and pretend it’s someone who looks good. I’d prefer it if he wore a paper bag over his head, but obviously I wouldn’t be able to talk him into it.”
“Is he really that unattractive?”
“He’s okay, I guess,” I said, “He’s not fat and doesn’t have wrinkles. I think he would look good if he wasn’t old. I mean, he actually looks younger than his age. So I think when he was young, he was hot.”
“Are you afraid of getting old?”
“Well, Asians don’t age and neither do blacks, so…no.”
“Oh that’s good then.”
Then, in his flat, he got me a pillow and sheet on the sofa and I put the sleeping bag on top of it and went to sleep.
Today, Lochlan walked me to the subway. Knowing I was going shopping, he said “Are you going to spend some of Roland’s money?”
“Well, it’s mine now. I worked very hard for it.”
He left me at the subway, as he had to get to class. I pondered the missed opportunity of us making a pun on the word ‘blow’, like blowing money/blowing Roland. Then I remembered I’m scared of subways! But I was okay in the end, it is just waiting for the train that I don’t like, when its silent and then when you hear it coming. I’m okay with subways that have bigger platforms (in other countries) though. I got off in Buchanan Street and headed to H and M, bought denim shorts, black jeggings and a grey denim shirtdress (£54, didn’t even glance at the price tags) then a pair of wedge sandals out of River Island five minutes later. That was £100 gone in twenty minutes, a new record for me, but achieved only by Rolanding or I wouldn’t have splurged like that. I only bought a belt after that, though, so it wasn’t a massive shopping spree. I ended up wearing the wedges in Glasgow, putting my flats in the bag. I touched up my toenail varnish with the nail varnish I keep permanently in my bag for emergencies.