Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The 20/20 t.v. documentary "Working Girls Speak"

It was absolutely amazing. After my partner and I broke up while living in Melbourne, Australia in 3/94, he dropped me off at a hostel that was alot like a homeless shelter. I learned within a week or so that the tourist district of St. Kilda is the same street as the red light district! I ended up staying/living on Grey Street for 9 more weeks. When my passport expired I was forced to return to the states.

One day I noticed a bunch of cameramen on Grey Street. I asked them what they were doing. They said they were filming Melbourne's first documentary on prostitution! Advocates for the prostitutes (The Prostitutes Collective of Victoria) would walk around giving everyone (not just prostitutes) a bag with condoms, and a free magazine (called "Working Girl/Working Boy") which I still have to this day. The PCV had all sorts of ways to try to keep the prostitutes safe. (hmmm, and they probably have a website by now.)

I was surprised that the doc. made me so emotional. (It took 20/20 two years to finish this documentary!) It opened in Las Vegas. I learned that Nevada is the only state in America with legalized brothels. I didn't really even know exactly what a brothel was! One of the brothels featured is called the "Bunny Ranch" The prostitutes must have a full physical and a weekly test for s.t.d.'s before they are allowed to work there.

There is a receptionist who has cameras in all the rooms. She times the "couples" ( after all the men pay in advance for a specific amount of time.) The girls say they are flexible with their pricing. One thing that really surprised me and Diane Sawyer was that two of the most popular things that the men "order" (just like on a menu) are the G.F.E. and "conversation!"

Many men pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the gfe or conversation. The gfe is the girlfriend experience. So all the prostitutes are required to do in the "gfe" is cuddle all night, talk, watch a football game with the man , etcetera! Confirmation that there are alot of lonely people out there I reckon, and confirmation that talking is a powerful way to connect with other humans.

One employee (prost.) at the ranch is a millionaire, (from her proceeds) and is building a beautiful mansion which she let 20/20 and the viewer tour.

Lest prostituting sound glamorous, 20/20 found that all the girls who have street prostituted (prostituted illegally) have been victims of violence as a result. They are not happy.

It's always blown my mind and very much angered me that when I look through the newspapers, the best paying jobs for women in our society always involve some sort of"carnal sacrifice. " Nude modeling, erotic massage, being an actress in porn flicks, for example.

Diane asked one prostitute what's worse, marrying for money or prostituting?

Another fascinating thing that the documentary reveals is that prostitutes come from every walk of life. One was highly educated and articulate with a degree in the arts. Her full time job in the arts isn't allowing her to meet all her expenses so she is selling her body as a side job. In her case she picks 2 to 3 clients who she maintains a very long term relationship with. For example an unhappily married man who pays her 3 million a year for her services!

They interviewed one woman my age, whose situation is closer to my own then any white woman I've ever met. She is 45 and has been steadily homeless for 14 years. She lives in an "abando" (abandoned house where man prostitutes live) So 20/20 toured a few of these. It reminded me of Jonathan Kozol's book: "Rachel and her children, homeless families in America"

The documentary was phenomenal but I wished it had expanded more on the interviews with the prostitutes who specifically said that they are only doing this kind of work because it's all they know that pays a living wage.

I also saw a bit of myself in "Roxie" She has a bachelors in music so Diane asked her to sing. She chose a song that I just love to sing from Phantom of the Opera (Music of the Night) As soon as she got done that song she ran off "to work." The reason I see myself in her is because she has largely had to put the joyful things to the side in the name of survival. No one has seen Roxie after she appeared in the doc. 20/20 had a hard time finding many of the girls, (post documentary)

Did you see the special? Should prostitution be legalized? I was moved by the way it ended. Diane Sawyer read the famous biblical quote: (i paraphrase it here) "How can you judge the speck in your brother's eye when you have plank in your own?"

No comments: