Roman Arches in Philadelphia

Okay, so here I am at the WFF conference in Philly. The plenary session I’m keynoting is tomorrow morning at 8:30. Between now and then what are my options?

  • Street & Bar — dodgy, to say the least, and you can end up in jail
  • Cat houses — entertaining, often congenial, offer a large selection, reasonably priced, illegal outside of Nevada, rarely in the center of town
  • Legal escort services — convenient though pricey, with possible complications that I will elaborate on shortly
  • Internet entrepreneurship — adventuresome, no guarantees, can be confusing for old boys like myself

I am not going to say one can’t do well on the street & bar scene. There are deals to be had and you can always get lucky and score yourself a diamond in the ruff. But — and this is a big BUT, fellows — there is a hell of a lot of misery out there, particularly on the stroll, most often drug related, and you don’t want to be a contributor to that. What’s more, streets and bars are where the police run their stings. In Philly they say if you spot a hooker on Torresdale Avenue in short sleeves with her teeth intact, she’s probably a cop.

You can get it wrong indoors as well. I once met a whore in an Anchorage bar who aroused my interest and I bought her a few drinks and so on and so forth, and only as we were walking back to my hotel did I discover she wasn’t in the trade at all — just a lonely woman looking for some love and companionship. She was genuinely taken aback when I asked what she charged for her services, though perhaps somewhat flattered that I thought she had what it took to turn tricks. I feigned a sudden onslaught of tummy pain, jotted down my (bogus) telephone number on some scrap of paper and waved her goodbye from the backseat window of the first cab to come along.

Often the simplest solution is to call an Escort service and have someone sent to your hotel. There are seven highly recommended agencies in this city who can arrange that. But how embarrassing could that not turn out for me? As a keynoter and one of only 25 men amongst 422 women at this conference I am not exactly an anonymous figure, and the WFF position on prostitution is unequivocal = traffickingmale oppressionand enslavement. If word got out that our venerated relationships expert and keynote speaker, Dr Jonathan Russo, was bringing, not just one, but a steady supply of escort girls (read oppressed sex slaves) up to his conference hotel suite, how would that go down with the WFF ladies? Not well, I assure you.

Sex workers are slaves because no one would freely choose that line of work? Okay, hard to argue with that. But, I ask, who of us would do whatever we’re doing — professionally that is — if we didn’t have to, for one reason or another. Who would work at anything potentially unpleasant, tedious, or physically exhausting if we didn’t need the money? Would I, for example, voluntarily subject myself to wallowing in the craptub of hubris and deceit my clients bring into my office if I didn’t have a family to clothe and feed?

I’ve heard it said that some people like their work so much they would keep at it even if they didn’t get paid because what they’re doing is creative, satisfying and self-rewarding. (This is particularly true if they are in a position to order the poor slobs under them to do their noncreative, unsatisfying and unrewarding shitwork for them). But I can with assurance say that the majority of us (certainly the aforementioned shitworking slobs), once the paychecks stopped coming in, would tell our bosses to go fuck themselves straight off and spend the rest of our fat-assed lives bathing in the putrescent shimmer of 75 inch flatscreens gulping down PBRs and Doritos. Who knows, we might even take up smoking again.

Ah, but there’s a difference, they say. Think about the integrity of the body, the inviolate personal space, the social stigmatization of sexwork. You can’t compare sexwork to selling used Mazdas, filling in mortgage rates on Excel charts, or cleaning toilets. They have a point there.

How about the Internet? I check out Naughty Reviews and backpage.com on my laptop. The listings for Philadelphia are as numerous as they are uninspiring, but the following post does catch my eye.

For the man who wants have some serious fun, and a great time. 38e-24-36, white creamy complexion, Angelina Jolie lookalike, green eyes. I am model and performers in the Adult Entertainment Industry. Very much into what I do. I focus on the kinkier side!!! Very physically fit and slender, although busty. I have a slender waist and beautiful heart shaped porky behind!! Multiple hours, overnights, weekends and travel available. Into bsm, bondage, forced feminization, couples, spanking, golden showers, or just staying at home and having an enchanting time. / Didi

Sounds like a nice girl. And she knows how to get her message across in as few words as possible. More of us could do with that skill. Phrases like ‘beautiful heart shaped porky behind‘ tells us we might just have a poet in the making here. If forced feminization and golden showers are your cup of tea then you might want to give Didi a buzz, but yours truly is an old-fashioned vanilla-play John. I’ll have to pass on this one.

BTW, an important detail with the Internet thing is that if you piss a provider off they can put you on nationalblacklist.com with your name and contact information and then you are in trouble big time. National Blacklist postings just don’t disappear and they tend to pop up high on Google searches. Not only can blacklisting adventure your marriage and your job, but you could also find yourself shut off from the better half of the industry, as most serious upscale sex workers consult the National Blacklist before confirming a booking.

Get this: I’m on that list — twice! In the first instance due to a financial dispute where I was wholly in the right, trust me, and in the second, an attempt at blackmail from a very unpleasant pimp. No need to worry on my account though. In that world I use only false names, untraceable email addresses and cash cards which I regularly discard. Pisses me off to be on there never-the-less.

But, I’m wasting time. It’s already 2.30 and if I am to get in any action before dinner it’s time to get moving. I decide on a traditional old style cathouse which I’ve heard good things about and I call to see if they’re still in business: “Welcome to Philadelphia, Sir. Of course, the K-club is open 24/7. Please do come and pay us a visit. You wont be disappointed. We have the most beautiful ladies in the state and we accept all major credit cards.”

Credit cards? Is this woman serious? How many idiots have not made that mistake?

She: “Darling, there’s an item on your Amex statement here for something called the Mustang Ranch. What’s that?

He: “Huh? Oh that. We needed some recreation after those grueling negotiations with Allied Chemical, so we went horseback riding. Really fun.

She: “800 dollars? That must have been one hell of a mustang?

Of course I pay only in cash, even though Laura wouldn’t dream of snooping in my private papers. She’s not the suspicious type; true believers, people who have the gift of faith like Laura never are. Anyone who can swallow that the creation of the world was a seven-day project and enthusiastically listen to Reverend DeVos, the biggest hypocrite in Omaha (God’s messenger, my ass) wax on about family values week after week — such a person will not suspect their loving husband and devoted father of being a serial consumer of commercial sexual services.

It takes one to know one, you see. For example, if you’re one of those individuals who enjoys lurking under public staircases in the hope of some hot scenery you probably assume that most, if not all, of your brethren share your interest. But if you have never felt the urge to shoot beaver, on the contrary, are shocked to learn that such a base and vulgar activity even occurs, then you, upon hearing of some weirdo ‘caught in the act’ — “I saw that bastard looking up my wife’s dress” — would naturally assume that the perpetrator was a freak of nature, a weirdo who should be confined to a mental institution.

Down in the hotel lobby I run into Victoria Cobble the president of the WFF. She gives me a Roman arch hug. Roman arch hugs are SOP at WFF conferences. Fine with me. If you’re looking for grizzly bear hugs, half-nelsons, full body presses that incorporate leg entwinement and that sort of thing, you won’t find them here. Of course I’m not looking for that, but I will say that hugs communicate in a way handshakes never could. A handshake can be wimpy because the shaker never learned any better, or bone crushing if some dipshit is trying to prove how macho they are, like Laura’s friend who almost broke my hand at that Sunday brunch, but other than that there’s not much of a message there, while hugs can express a wide spectrum of emotions and status.

Handshaking originated with our primitive ancestors assuring each other they weren’t armed.

“Look no weapon!”

“Me neither.”

“Let me feel your hand just to make sure.”

Did you know that women didn’t start shaking hands until the onset of the industrial revolution? My daughter Linda learned in school that if only people could stop shaking hands with each other we could reduce the spread of contagious diseases in the world by 30 percent. They didn’t say anything about hugs. I assume that roman arch hugs are fairly hygienic. Properly executed there is no skin contact at all.

Victoria tells me how excited she is over my keynote. She’s also pleased to hear that I will be staying on for the duration of the conference. Keynote speakers rarely stick around at conferences after they’ve given their talks. It would lower their stature. Get down off that podium and you’re just one of the crowd.

She put down her Starbucks before giving me the roman arch hug. I take this as a sign of respect. Being separated from one’s Starbucks at today’s conferences is akin to an amputation — serious conference-goers are rarely seen without these five dollar status symbols permanently fixated at the end of their right-angled arms.  Some conferences have apparently foregone plastic identity badges in favor of delegates’ names scribbled on their latté cups. Judging from the improbable coffee stains on the backs of several conference-goers suits some people here are doing their roman arch hugs without first detaching their Starbucks.

Victoria. How should I describe Victoria? Well, frankly, she looks exactly like you would expect of a WFF personage. I don’t want to generalize and say most of the women at these conference look and dress alike, but I do have a hard time telling them apart. They’re primarily short, wear conservatively-colored business suits with heavily padded shoulders. They say what they have to say repeatedly and loudly, and tend to have New York accents.

What more can I say about them? Being daughters of the upper middle class few of them, as Laura puts it “have let themselves go”, a state of affairs which she, in her pro bono social work, is all too familiar with. Of course, letting one’s self go on kale-walnut salads, jammy zinfandels, and TED talks will not have the same effect as letting one’s self go on Judge Judy, hydrogenated grease snacks, and 32 ounce buckets of Dr Pepper.

I noncommit to Victoria’s invite for that evening’s WFF-VIP get-together and have the bellhop flag me a cab. I give the driver an address which is a few houses up the street from my real destination. Never can be too careful. “That’s not a valid address”, he says. “I take it it’s the K-club you are heading for and that would be number 23b”. Impertinent bastard. That indiscretion cost him his tip. To boot, he feels compelled to tell me jokes during the entire ride. Stuff like:

Taxi cab driver: Hey, you know what the missionary in Liberia answered when they asked him if he was concerned about Ebola?

Me: No, I don’t.

Taxi cab driver: He said, “No problem, I always use a condom.”

There is predictably no sign identifying the entrance to the K-club, which occupies the cellar of a rundown, gone-bust, sausage factory in the Cherry Hill suburbs. A malicious prankster has spraypainted ‘Jesus is cuming here’ over the corrugated steel door that opens up on a stairway leading down to the K-clubs reception. The interior is tacky, ruby red plush, and dark, but in better shape than the building it’s housed in. Experience tells me that the opposite might be true for the service providers who are about to parade before me.

The Madame looks disturbingly like my grandmother Wilma around the time lung cancer finnished her off at the age of 92. Uncannily, just like Wilma on her deathbed, this woman is enjoying a chain of heavily mentholated cigarettes over a glass of milk. Her smoking has mentholated the entire room with a deceptively antiseptic odor that makes you think the place is cleaner than it probably is. She looks me over, rings a buzzer, and seven ladies of the night saunter into the room for the lineup.

‘Lineup’ is a bit of a misnomer. The girls just don’t stand there in a row like suspects in a police station, but rather sit or slouch in varying poses they hope hilite their most stimulating features. Each of them has something to offer, qualities mostly related to the successful production of offspring, which is the last thing on any of our minds. As is typical in better class brothels, we are expected to converse, getting to know a little bit about each other before I make any decisions. As an icebreaker, a short redhead with a Polish accent asks me If I am a naughty boy, which immediately disqualifies her as a candidate for my business.

Lineups are practical and in a client’s best interest since you are provided an opportunity to check out what you are about to pay serious money for, but on the negative side there is always that unpleasantness that comes from turning someone down, rejecting a fellow human because they aren’t good enough for one reason or another.

Which of us has not in their youth stood huddled in a group of peers and heard their name not called out as two assholes alternately pick who is going to be on their team for some idiotic school sporting activity which at the time seems to be the most important event on the planet? (Almost everyone I have questioned on this claims they were always among the last chosen which would imply that the early selected have all died premature deaths. Serves ’em right. )

I am offered a drink and more chitchat.

Are you from out of town?

Yes, I’m here from Colorado. I’m visiting with my aunt.

Does she give you good handjobs?

This is typical. Every topic no matter how quotidian in its origins is eventually channeled into something to do with sex lest I lose focus on what I’m here for.

But I already know what I want. Her name is Sabina and she’s Cuban. She is wearing 4-inch heels and a limegreen cocktail dress. I have had a lot of positive experiences with women from that country even though I prefer them in their natural habitat. Sabina has only been in America a few months and hopefully hasn’t been completely corrupted by our dog-eat-dog materialistic society.

Excellent choice, says Madame, as Sabina takes my hand and leads me down a corridor of doors bearing flattering portraits just slightly resembling the girls I have just talked to. We enter Sabina’s room and sit on her bed. She keeps her hand in my lap while we negotiate.

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