California Literary Review

Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex

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October 14th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

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Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys
Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex
by David Henry Sterry (Editor) and R. J. Martin Jr. (Editor)
Soft Skull Press, 288 pp.
CLR Rating: ★★★★★

The Wit and Wisdom of Sinnamon Love

At 36 years, to her, “Bob” was ancient, a john who could never be anything more. He was also a lost soul. His marriage had dissolved, he’d lost his job—as a vice cop—and was as unmoored and lonely as Wordsworth’s cloud.

The golden daffodil he chanced across was a 17-year-old masseuse, Juliana Piccillo, “Samantha.” Bob decided to “save” Samantha, a lithe and lively, self-willed teen who had only recently escaped a dismal home life by way of the total body massage emporium. He increasingly gave her unsought gifts – most frequently hundred dollar bills. He then badgered her to go to college, with him as sugar daddy. “His fatherly concern co-existed with his hard-on,” she writes. As his visits became more frequent, she became more resistant. Rescue had become, as it often may, a synonym for control.

In this particularly well written autobiographical essay by Juliana Piccollo, the denouements for both parties, particularly for Juliana/Samantha, are surprising. With the sixty some-odd stories in the volume, it’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that Juliana, under her own steam, eventually garned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. She is now a storyteller and a writer for The Tucson Weekly and other newspapers. She also wrote and directed the movie, “I was a Teenage Prostitute,” which has been shown at numerous national film festivals. Juliana recently purchased her first condo.

One might think from the jive talk title that HOS, HOOKERS, CALL GIRLS, AND RENT BOYS would be titillating if not downright pornographic. If this writer were forced to pick a one word characterization for this book, it would be candor, closely followed by tragedy, triumph, and humor.

The book is organized into six sections: Life, Love, Money, Sex, The SAGE stories, and those of the National Summit of Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth. Each section is a patchwork of the autobiographical musings by lap dancers, a notable variety of strippers/sex workers, street-walkers and “commercial sex technicians” of varied genders, sexual orientations and life styles.

One of the anonymous entries that sets one‘s teeth on edge: “ ….At age two years she was adopted and at that point, renamed. By that time she had already had both hands broken. At the age of ten years, she had been kicked out of her adoptive parents’ home. She started on drugs and became a prostitute. She was raped ninety-seven times by age sixteen, shot four times and stabbed numerous others. She has now been engaged for four years and is trying to get her life straight. She plans to start a business soon. She has three daughters, aged seven, four,and two years old.”

By way of contrast, Dr. Annie Sprinkle is one of the several prostitutes who directed part of their earnings and effort to their own education. Sprinkle, now a Ph.D. states, “I was the epitome of the happy hooker who loved my work—up until I simply got bored with it.” Several of the contributing writers have graduate degrees. Some never finished high school.

It was Sprinkle who made the following comment, “…when (Green River killer Gary Ridgeway, who brutalized and slaughtered perhaps as many as 90 prostitutes) was finally apprehended, he said he killed whores because he knew no one would miss them.”

Some of the stories were solicited from members of “Speak out Against Global Exploitation,” SAGE, a group with a fiercely antiprostitution stance. Cala Crandall of SAGE, in telling her story, offered the following poigniant remark regarding her partner: “Our eight years that we were together off and on, there was one sober day.”

The characters which contributed their stories via SAGE include a now grown, once downtrodden and violated nine-year-old child, rented out by her coked up father. He admonished her, “Don’t worry, you’re helping daddy pay the rent.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Xaviara Hollander, who got her start as a prostitute, then became a New York madam, wrote the 1972 volume, “The Happy Hooker.” That book has sold over 16 million copies and is still in print. She’s penned a number of other sex positive volumes. Now 66, she sagely observes that, “It’s much harder to be a writer than to be a hooker.”

And then there’s Mochaluv, who “looks like Venus Williams.” She phrased her attitude toward the life as follows; “The next time I hear some rich white bitch tell me how great being a ho is, I’m gonna smack ’em upside they righteous head….” From here her monologue becomes increasingly profane as she expresses her disdain for having to hit the streets daily.

Drugs play a part in too many but by no means all sex workers lives. Justin decribes himself as a, “crazed amphetamine addict” and goes on to lend credence to his assertion.

And those names: JenniferBlowdryer, Sinnamon Love. Sebastian Horsely, a male prostitute, of course. Horsely advocates the trade as follows; “The difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex money always costs less.”

Co-editor David Henry Sterry is a former sex worker and author of Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent. As a seventeen-year-old, Sterry, was sent on an outcall to an 82-year-old birthday girl. Her friend had arranged for David’s services to be provided as a birthday gift. She was waiting in an “ultra fancy…swish swank hotel.” After completing the assignation and departing, David, a chocolate covered strawberry and several hundred dollar bills in hand, exclaimed happily, “America, what a country!” suggesting that patriotism is alive and well in the ranks of this nation’s prostitutes.

Sterry characterized Hartley, his pimp, as a part of his “family of Chicken peers, the only family I know at this point that accepts me for what I am, my paycheck, my refuge, my people.” It is also Sterry who said in the introduction to this volume, “It’s my contention that we’re all freaks. I just chose to fly my freak flag high.”

There are a number of reasons one might choose to read this book. Intellectual curiosity will suffice for many. It is amateur sociology at its best. Also, what people actually do is more interesting than what they are supposed to do, or, typically what they say they do. Thus we all know about former N.Y. governor Eliot Spitzer (he who made it politically by busting hos) and his pricey hookers, or the now lugubriously repentant S.C. Governor Mark Sanford who hiked the Appalachian trail right to the heart of downtown Rio de Janeiro, or the not-so-surprising-when-you-look-closely-at-him matter of Rev. Ted Haggard, with his catamite and methamphetamine.

It was Ernest Hemingway who said of writing, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” The patchwork of stories that make up Hos, Hookers, Rent Boys and Call Girls rings out the truth of those who penned them. The language is variously bitter, earthy, celebratory, and quite often, funny. The book is engaging, compelling and says a great deal about not only the community of sex workers, but in recounting how they are treated, it also says much about the community at large.

  • Randall Morgan

    Excellent review. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

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