Holy Hustling

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Image by Flickr user: dan taylor / Creative Commons

I think Baby Geoffrey did it. I mean, after Baby Geoffrey I knew for sure.

This is what happened.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m standing in a hotel hallway, knocking on this door. A voice says “come on in” and it’s not locked so I go in. A man is sitting on the bed, resting his back against the headboard. He looks about 40, and he’s a big man–six foot two maybe, 200 pounds. He’s wearing white cotton diapers and a cute little shirt with fire trucks all over it. The safety pins on the diapers have yellow plastic duck heads, and as I get closer I see that the shoes, which are white, are monogrammed with a fancy capital G. There is an economy-sized can of Johnson’s baby powder on the bedside table. The man smiles at me and says, “Baby Geoffwey glad to see Daddy.”

I want you to know I didn’t miss a beat. I just said, “And Daddy’s really glad to see Baby Geoffrey too.”

I didn’t giggle until I’d left that room, 40 minutes later and 60 bucks richer. I didn’t giggle because I knew Baby Geoffrey didn’t want to be laughed at. He’d called me because he’d wanted his diaper changed and his hiney oiled and he wanted Daddy to tell him about how we were going shopping and how strict Daddy would be if Geoffrey cried and the nice things Daddy would do if Geoffrey was a good boy. Geoffrey was a very good boy. So Daddy oiled more than Geoffrey’s hiney.

I didn’t laugh at Baby Geoffrey, and I think that’s when I knew I couldn’t pretend anymore that I was just dabbling in this for a few extra bucks. Fact is, I had become a prostitute. A whore. I had–I have–sex with men for money.

I am not 16 years old, fresh off the bus from Northern Ontario, jobless, working the streets, hating myself and my johns, seeking oblivion in drugs. I am not, on the other hand, a sculpted, well-hung, muscular hunk who spends half the day at the gym and the other half leafing through magazines, waiting for the phone to ring.

And, because I know you’re wondering: I’m not getting rich at this. And I have yet to do it with a Supreme Court judge.

This is what I am: 49 years old, with a plain face. I have a better body than most 49-year-olds. It’s quite hairy–a real turn-on for many men–though I shave my shoulders, back, and balls in the belief that the overall look is more pleasing. I have a great ass and a smallish cock. I know how to make men feel comfortable from the moment they arrive. I take pride in my work. I try to do a good job.

I’m also a frequently published journalist who has won two Canadian National Magazine Awards.

I feel part of an unrecognized social phenomenon: whores with attitude, men and women who choose this profession, who have perfected that most ingratiating of personality traits–shamelessness. It is a shamelessness untarnished by insolence, by the bravado of those who suspect they are in fact quite as trashy as everyone thinks they are.

Enough about me. A bit about you. You’re fascinated by whores. You see us along the streets at night, wide awake, authoritative, lithe. You imagine we know everything there is to know about dark and the city. You’ve been to the movies so you know our lives are a little empty, a little sad, a little loveless. We have hearts of gold sometimes–you know that, too.

Perhaps you don’t know that your marriages depend on us. Or that the proper business of any prostitute is to become a saint.

I sold my body for the first time at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on August 29, 1987. I did it for that most mundane of reasons–I was out of work and broke. The decision did not strike me as the first step in a spiral of degradation. It seemed not much different from selling my editorial skills. I had just never thought that anyone would pay good money to have sex with me. I thought hustlers had to be young, hung, and full of come–or at least one of the three. But the one real live whore I actually knew explained that, in the skin trade as anywhere else, there is such a thing as niche marketing. “Sell your muscles,” he told me. “Sell the fact that you’re hairy. Sell your age–not everybody’s attracted to young guys.”

I put an ad in Toronto’s NOW magazine. I put an ad in Xtra, the city’s gay and lesbian biweekly. “Massage Plus,” it read. “Trust your body to this muscular, hairy guy. Relaxation and sensual pleasure.” I’ve even flirted with humor: “Massage Plus,” my next ad read, “I work my fingers to your bone.” That works well, though not, I think, because men are amused by the sophomoric joke. Sex is not a laughing matter for most people, and this ad seems to attract novices, who find exactly the right degree of titillation in it. Anything more explicit would make them too vividly aware of what they’re getting into. A year from now they may be wandering the demimonde in a harness and tit clamps but, for the moment, the vocabulary of the schoolyard is exciting enough.

I became a whore.

The phone rings. Six times out of ten the caller will turn out to be a married man. If he is very nervous, or new to this, he will book a massage and tell me how he strained his back/neck/legs/whatever and exactly where it’s sore. I make sympathetic noises, and we settle on a time. The charge is $50 for an in-call, $60 if I have to go out.

If he’s not so new, he’ll ask for a description. I’m reasonably accurate, though I usually subtract 10 years from my age and add 10 pounds to my weight. If he’s going to hang up on me (and many do), this is when it happens. If he’s interested and the price is right, we book a time. (I will negotiate. I also have a $30 student/senior rate. Many have asked for–and paid–the student rate. No one has ever asked for the senior.) I don’t, except with regulars, book more than an hour or two in advance. The no-show rate increases dramatically for each hour of advance booking.

If he does arrive (three out of four do), he’ll arrive right on time. Like Jim, this afternoon. Jim is 26, good-looking, has a tattoo on one shoulder, comes from Brampton, Ontario. This was his first time with me, and only his second (he said) homosexual experience. He told me on the phone I’d have to tie him up and blindfold him to make him do anything, and that he wouldn’t kiss. For some people, bondage is an exciting, highly theatrical scene. For Jim, it’s a way of saying the whole thing wasn’t his fault.

He undressed as soon as he got into my room. In polite society, this is where the veil is usually drawn. Let’s lift the veil. This is what happened: I blindfolded him. Made him undress me. Tied his hands behind his back. Made him suck. I forced him to kiss me (in this case, “no” meant “maybe”). He finally came, by masturbating himself. He got dressed, thanked me, paid me, went home. We were together half an hour.

Which has all the banality, all the ordinary magic, of almost any sexual encounter anywhere. What is dazzling, almost humbling about that scene has nothing to do with my management of predictable combinations of body parts. What I find dazzling is the spectacle of human need: the extent, power, range of it. Need is a seething presence beneath the polite fictions of everyday lives. If it were a force field, the city would glow at night. You could hover above it and see the lines of light reaching out and crossing and missing and connecting, everyone pretending there is no light at all, everyone making their dinners, reading their books, watching their televisions. But I see it. I feel, on some nights, that I am tracking the current of human need, a current visible only to me and other whores, a current that will draw me to Baby Geoffrey, or to the 17-year-old high school student who hasn’t figured out another way of meeting people, or to the Italian grandfather who’s finally getting what he wants, or to the man who does nothing but tickle my feet and tape-record my laughter. There can be needs so sudden, so urgent, that I am called from shopping malls, bars, the lobbies of cinemas. There are needs so ordinary they can be satisfied simply by an orgasm in the presence of another warm, receptive body. And needs of quite byzantine complexity: I have given philosophy lectures in the nude; had sex with someone who could be excited only by touching the fillings in my teeth; been videotaped in a wrestling scene by a gentleman who brought along the wrestling outfits and my opponent. There are the occasional calls from women, the endless needs of married men, the straight men who want to be on the bottom once in their lives.

And there is always, always, the need for my shamelessness.

The best marriages ought to be shameless too–sunny and clear-eyed in the face of infidelities and sexual extravagance. Many are not. Men go to whores to save their marriages and, on the whole, I think that is a service we provide. Our shamelessness acknowledges, welcomes needs. And we have no needs of our own.

That is because the proper business of any prostitute is to become a saint. I don’t mean piety here. I’m not expecting a call from the Vatican. The thing that struck me about saints when I was growing up a devout Catholic boy was not so much that they did good things. Some, in fact, did very weird things. What impressed me was that they had their needs and desires so carefully tamed, so managed–though they usually chose a life of denial as a way of making this happen. I’ve found that a life of excess works equally well.

I noticed it the first time I saw hustlers at work in groups. The boys often worked the baths, and what struck me most, as they sat and smoked and talked and laughed together, was that they didn’t look. Everyone else was looking. But these boys floated above desire, empty of need, promising to be anything I or anyone else could want.

Something changes when you’ve had sex with hundreds of men. You discover, eventually, that there isn’t much difference between having sex with someone you find very attractive and someone you think is ugly. This is a revelation–particularly in a culture as image-obsessed as ours. When it starts to happen, it means you are witnessing the slow erosion of the power of need.

Need is always an engagement with the particular–a certain body type, the way hair falls across the forehead, the fullness of lips. When you discover that particulars are losing their power, you have taken the first steps toward a sainthood that only prostitutes can know. Freed from the demands of your own needs, you will do a much better job catering to the needs of others.

Prostitution has been the splendid discovery of my middle years. I don’t know how long it will continue–the pool of those men attracted to the 50-plus age group must be rather small. I will never, though, lose my vision of a city luminous with need, my pleasure in its endless variety, my sense of self transformed by needlessness. I will always be a prostitute at heart.

I owe Baby Geoffrey a lot.

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