The West Ender|
Thursday, July 31, 1997
Photo by Doug Shanks.
Pleasure and Pain
It's an up-and-down life for the city's sex-trade workers, four of whom talk about doing it for fun and money.
He's worked on oil rigs. fought forest fires, delivered pizzas and cooked meals for railway workers. But no job has been quite as much fun or challenging for Chase as his current one.
These days he's jumping out of cakes as birthday presents, and growling at people on popular North Shore streets while dressed in full leather.
"The client paid 300 bucks and found that absolutely titillating," says Chase.
It's all in a day's work for a West End-based male escort. "I've made a lot of people happy doing this," he says.
"I like what I do and I enjoy sex, so where's the problem?"
And it's not all about sex, either.
Chase is one of hundreds of people who work in Vancouver's sex trade industry, which in recent years is said to have crept indoors slightly, off the streets.
In interviews with four "rentables" -- two men, two women -- the West Ender has learned the pleasure, pain and business demands of this part of the city's sex trade industry.
Some do it for entertainment, most others for the money and for "a way out."
Others are in it for the pain (of others like Lady Cynthia, whose suite In a Vancouver apartment building is neighbored by another with a room redesigned as a dungeon -- all the leather, whips and chains of a heavy metal band's reunion tour.
"It's fantasy stuff, because the concept of what I do is that a mistress is unattainable," says Cynthia. "There's no sexual contact here."
Her barked orders, flowing blonde hair and ample cleavage tucked into a leather bustier is enough for clients to shell out $250 to $350 an hour, depending on the amount and type of degradation. Most others in the business make much less for their services.
But after less than two years in the domination business, Lady Cynthia says it's time to move on to another job, as outreach worker to get prostitutes off the streets of Vancouver. "I'd like to just have my little room where it's just for my enjoyment, and take the business out of it," she says. "Being in total control is attractive, not having to be somebody's toy and kiss someone's ass to make a couple hundred bucks. The shoe's on the other foot. It's worked out well for me, I'm just bored with it now."
The trade isn't just about fun, fantasy and taking money from sex crazed clients, though.
A high priced male escort, Rob wants to make his job "I like the term whore, or sex-care worker" less of a priority in his life. "If the phone rings now, I'll answer it if I can," he says over coffee at a Davie Street eatery.
For almost three years Rob has advertised for men, women and couples looking for a good time. The majority are married men looking for some sort of release, both emotional and physical.
Once, he had to hide on a balcony, clothes half on, when a client's wife came home early from shopping.
He doesn't like to be known as a hustler.
"I think these people get value for their money, so that's not hustling. On a typical date, I'll listen to someone but if he wants to go out for dinner and a movie, it's much tougher work. I have to charge more for that."
It's a good day at "the office" for Rob when he gets his job over with early in the morning, allowing him to have the rest of the day to himself. At most, he'll take two clients a day but usually stops at one.
"I just don't get too greedy about it, because you can get burned out."
If someone asks, Rob will tell what he does for a living, though photography is his "real" business. He's also been in a dozen high grade porno flicks filmed in Los Angeles.
"I honestly see this as a real job," says Rob. "I have no moral dilemmas with it. I'm selling time -- it's like selling tupperware. Sometimes you go into work, you don't get along with your boss, sometimes you call in sick. I never depend on this to pay the rent, If I stopped, I could live a similar lifestyle close, but not quite."
The phone is the most important tool in Michelle's business as a licensed social escort. A lot of people think the escort lines are a free phonesex service, she says. "I have to be tough in this position, and I don't take a lot of crap," she says. "It's really not enough to be beautiful doing this. Most of the business is done over the phone. You're selling something you believe in -- yourself."
Off and on for 10 years, Michelle has been an escort who sees three clients a day -- 9 a.m to 5 p.m. days, five days a week -- in a West End suite away from home, where her two children have no knowledge of the way she makes a living.
She's eager to get across the message that her line of work shouldn't be looked down upon the way it is by society.
"It's not as if we have no morals," says Michelle, a working name. "I don't even offer what most people think we offer. I can't speak for everyone (in the business), but that's the way I operate. A lot of the men I see are seeking companionship -- it's a massage, someone to talk to, something they can't tell their friends or even wives or girlfriends. It's not for me to judge people, which is why I find it unfortunate that we get judged so terribly. I don't drink or do drugs, I lead a normal life... I go to work during the day just like anybody else."
Michelle has a "five-year plan" -- enough time to look for another line of work.
"there's always things I'm doing other than this, in an attempt to get out of it," she says. "we're regular people, educated in some cases. I have children to support. To get a job in this city that's actually going to pay enough, it'd be ridiculous to find, and I've looked. I'm looking for subsidized daycare, too, and there's not a lot of that here. I'd probably have more of a chance to do something other than this if more (companies) offered it."
Back at the dungeon, Lady Cynthia has a young guy for a slave who takes care of the whips and chains and cleans her suite. It's a good life, she says, but she's bored and that's why she's hoping to get a job as outreach worker with Vancouver-based PACE, Prostitution Alternatives, Counselling and Education.
She's repulsed by her earlier life as a prostitute and agency escort. Prostitution takes a piece of your soul, says Cynthia.
"It took years of counselling to get through the demons that come with it. You lose all your self-esteem, feel that you don't fit in anywhere, and you wind up getting in too much drugs and alcohol. I got all the way up into it, and turned myself around. I wound up living in Kelowna, *this* close to marrying a multi-millionaire who I couldn't stand. He lived here (in Vancouver) and I lived in this great big mansion with two dogs, boat dock and tennis courts. I got really into coke because I was so unhappy, and thought about driving into oncoming traffic. I ended up just walking away from it all, including the $5,000 a month allowance. I walked into a recovery house, spent two years there and ended up getting into nursing."
When she had to care for her dying mother, Cynthia set up the dungeon to make extra money.
"the phone rang off the hook," she says. It still amazes me today, the people who want to serve you, the mistress. It's amazing how many people are into the scene. I just need some brain food now. It's been great to lie around and have slaves do everything, but it's boring now. I need to get on with life, keep going. My bills are paid."
Chase is writing a book about his life, which early on included reading the infamous sex-romp novel, The Happy Hooker.
"I had three copies taken away from me and the fourth I finally finished," says Chase. "'Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true' goes the saying. If my book does get published, it'll be very interesting."
Sex isn't always the end product for clients who hire Chase, who says about 60 per cent of the men simply want to talk or do something active outside of bed.
"Sometimes I feel like a shrink," he laughs. "I heard a slogan, something like, 'If we told all that we knew or heard, we'd sink a hundred marriages, destroy thousands of businesses and put everybody at war with each other.'"
One of his former clients was a Vancouver Canuck hockey player "who's been traded so much I've lost track."
Another was a big, powerful logger -- one who like to be rendered powerless. "I used to blindfold him, tie him up, put him in the closet and go do the laundry for two or three hours. It was the one time where he had no control over anything and a way for him to unwind. There ARE ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE OUT THERE..."
He's been hired by a few husband-wife couples, but never again.
"Women are more jealous than men and they fly off the handle," says Chase, who won't do couples. "Women can't handle the concept of recreational sex. Men are pigs. They are two different species as far as I'm concerned."
What Chase hates the most is that people think of him as cheap trash.
"I don't go out to the bars and pick up somebody," he smirks. "You get these guys who go to the baths and do ten guys a night. They're broke when they come home and feel like crap, they don't have a good relationship with anybody. I have two or three calls, pay my bills -- what makes me cheaper than them?"
He likes being known as the guy who makes people happy.
"Vancouver has the worst reputation for meeting people, because there is so much attitude here," says Chase. "I'm the guy they can call when they get tired of all that. There's no better pleasure than having a smiling face walk out that door."
|letter from SWAV...|
Created: August 8, 1997|
Last modified: September 2, 1997
Commercial Sex Information Service|
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Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710