Really Dangerous Liaisons

Op-Ed Contributor

Published: March 12, 2008
By TRACY QUAN
AS a former sex worker, I’m puzzled by what is reported to be Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s preference for the riskiest form of indoor prostitution I have ever experienced. Escort agencies are constantly being investigated, infiltrated and spied on.

I worked for two escort agencies when I first started in the sex trade, and both were closed down — not by Mr. Spitzer, but under circumstances that he would recognize. I was terrified when the police raided the apartment that served as a booking office for the second agency. Those of us who were not arrested endured petty racist comments from the officers for about two hours.

I chose to work for an escort service because I was young, starting out in a precarious industry, alone in the city and, like those hapless customers who are arrested in street sweeps, without connections. Working for an escort service was a way to earn my living and keep a roof over my head. But when the chance to work for a madam with a steady supply of reliable clients arose, I was relieved.

That someone like the governor would shop for sex through an Internet escort service is mind-boggling.

Escort services are risky. When they are closed by the authorities, people’s lives are turned upside down. Many of us don’t recover. As one call girl told me when I was looking for a safer way to work, “If you get busted, I don’t want to know you.” Nobody wants to work with you if you’ve been in visible trouble, nor is just after a raid the best time in your life to start looking for a more conventional job. A conviction will sink your chances of getting hired.

I’ve never been in favor of arresting and shaming men who pay for sex. Most customers who get in trouble aren’t high-profile politicians like Eliot Spitzer. Their “crime” is that they’re poor or getting started in life.

Well-connected men, however, have typically sought out sex workers who have been recommended by their friends and who don’t have Web sites. Escort agencies are supposed to be out of the question for old-school rakes who want to protect their marriages and careers.

In my experience, a sense of personal connection in these customers’ sex lives makes them feel safer. Not all sex clients are junkies for risk or adventure-seekers. Many are cautious and can’t enjoy sex unless they’re in a calm, secure environment.

After the Spitzer news broke, Alan Dershowitz explained away Mr. Spitzer’s ill-advised choice by making silly generalizations about men who pay for sex — that they don’t use their brains. But I encountered plenty of men who used their brains just fine.

From all accounts, Eliot Spitzer doesn’t seem to be one of them.

Tracy Quan is the author of the novels “Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl” and “Diary of a Married Call Girl.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/opinion/12quan.html?_r=2&th&emc=th&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

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