Reviewed by Gary Meyer
Here's some etiquette you won't find in Emily Post:
A lot of the tips in Paying for It fall into the category of Always Good Advice for Life in General that somehow gets forgotten in the context of a paid-for sex encounter:
Don't wear scratchy wool pants if you expect a lap dancer to grind her shaved pussy into your groin.
Bring a date. "Going with a woman is a good way to make strippers happy and get them to pay attention to you," writes editor Greta Christina, a former peep-show dancer at the Lusty Lady and former buyer for a sex toy business.
Don't fall in love with your sex worker.
Don't squirt in the window.
Don't hang up without saying, at the least, "Thanks" and "Goodbye" to someone you've paid to get you off by phone.
Don't overdose on cologne to compensate for not having showered and expect anybody to pretend she's enjoying being intimate with you.
Don't overdose on alcohol or anything else beforehand -- do you want to be there or don't you?
Know the difference between a request and a command. Professionals aren't slaves.
Accept limits. Take "no" for an answer.
"Remember: Sex is supposed to be fun. We don't have to take this too seriously. It's OK to laugh, to talk like human beings and not just grunt machines or porn soundtracks," writes Mattilda, a male prostitute.
Their humanity seems exactly what sex workers object most to sacrificing in the context of a professional encounter -- but it's just what's so often taken from them, what they're obliged to sacrifice in order to get by. "I'm not a TV show...So show me that you're happy to see me...Give me a smile," writes Christina in her zingy insider's "Guide to the Peep Show." "I'm much sexier when I feel human rather than when I feel like a robot with boobs."
This depersonalization is not an intrinsic feature of the work they have chosen -- it's imposed by their clients, either unintentionally, or due to the carte blanche they assume money gives them. "You're entitled to a good session, but that doesn't entitle you to be an asshole," says Mistress Simone Worthington, a professional dominatrix.
The other persistent denial sex workers must endure is denial of their professional status, often through attempts to bargain down their rates -- they'd like their services to be considered luxury items, not Walmarted discounts. After all, they themselves are their product, so they tend to take pricing personally.
Sex workers are segregated from other one-on-one professions by how they're treated by their customers. It's amazing how many clients don't feel they owe their prostitute the common courtesy, respect, and honest communication they automatically accord their plumber. Who wouldn't bathe before a medical examination or a massage? "I take a lot of time to be presentable, clean, and nice to smell," writes Ginger, a professional stripper, "I think it's only fair to ask the same of my clients." Only in this vocational class is money a stigma, rather than the Holy Grail. "Even priests insist on getting paid," writes Veronica Monet, a sex educator with a wide-ranging sex work background. "I take great pride and derive immense satisfaction when I can bring a moment of clarity or a sexual healing to my clients."
Greta Christina has assembled 32 pieces from 26 writers, including a little good-customer peep-show fiction by her, a story in which the client has to scrawl his messages on a pad held up to the glass: "What part of your body do you like the best?" Her writers' sex work specialties include adult-store clerk, professional male dominant, erotica author (look out for them), ritualist, BDSM educator, famous porn star, professional female submissive, professional shemale, and phone fantasy operator. They have names like Cléo Dubois, Nina Hartley, Magdalene Meretrix, Carol Queen, and Sage Vivant.
They emphasize that they're talking about a subclass of their clients and a subset of their professional encounters when they compile their "Don't Do This" lists. They have other kinds of encounters, too, good kinds -- encounters that are rewarding in ways beyond financial. In "Samuel," Annie Sprinkle recounts her sweet seventeen-year-long professional relationship with her favorite client, "one of those tricks that makes you proud to be a whore."
Paying for It surprisingly richens into a provocative political manifesto from a labor class that's both highly in demand and universally scorned, even by its own clients. A put-yourself-in-somebody-else's-shoes book, it's also a guide to maximizing your purchasing power, should you, someday, decide to patronize somebody like one of the sterling contributors on hand. You won't only be affirming their humanity; you'll be making sure you have a hell of a good time.