Tennessee: Prostitution a means to an end for college student

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 , 11:30 a.m. By J.J. Stambaugh

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

The 19-year-old Roane State Community College student shows up for an interview at Panera Bread on Cumberland Avenue looking like countless other college kids: red hair in braids, a small piercing in one nostril, a “PEACE” button on her coat.

Mary Jayne sips her coffee and explains that she’s a sophomore in the massage therapy program.

Unlike many of her peers, however, she’s already found a part-time career that earns her an hourly rate comparable to that charged by the highest-paid attorneys, accountants and physicians.

Mary Jayne is a professional escort — she provides her services at the rate of $350 an hour — and an occasional adult film actress. Mary Jayne is the name she goes by in films and as an escort, and she agrees to be interviewed only on the condition that she not have to reveal her real name.

Although sex with customers isn’t technically what Mary Jayne is paid for, it’s the norm. She usually meets with clients in hotel rooms — the precise location may vary — and engages in the type of activity that, if she’s unlucky, could earn her a trip to jail and a misdemeanor criminal record.

“I always had a strong feeling about prostitution, I thought it should be legalized, so it was natural to start doing it,” Mary Jayne says. “It’s not what most people think.”

To her, being a call girl is a dream job: high wages, little risk and a flexible schedule that provides her with a degree of freedom that few women achieve. Most of her family doesn’t know what she does, she says, and she’s told only a select group of friends about her profession.

While the thought of running afoul of the law is certainly a concern, she says she has yet to be caught and has faith in the screening process that she and three co-workers use.

“We’re very selective with our screening and everything like that. I feel safe at all times,” she says. “But there are always concerns with that. But to me, it’s a victimless crime, between two consenting adults. … I don’t see the point in a law that’s not protecting anyone.”

Mary Jayne also says that she’s far from being an atypical escort. “Your typical idea of a sex worker is that they’re desperate, or hooked on drugs, but that’s not it,” she says. “A lot of girls provide for their families, or are going to school … Many of them have middle-class backgrounds, they could get 9-to-5 jobs, but that’s not what they want.”

Mary Jayne says that she and her co-workers don’t have a pimp or organizational backing. They all work through an escort service that’s largely the brainchild of Marcus Washington, 31, of Knoxville.

Washington describes himself as a left-wing anarchist and advocate of legalizing prostitution and marijuana. He believes his outspoken political views helped land him in prison for selling glass marijuana pipes in 2000. Already a convicted pot dealer, he was running a pro-marijuana Web site at the time. His subsequent status as a felon meant he was unable to find a decent-paying job upon his release.

To hear Washington and Mary Jayne describe it, Sex-Pol Studios, which advertises primarily through its Web site, functions like a cooperative with no hierarchy.

It’s as much about advancing a countercultural agenda as it is in making money, they say.

Washington has also put together a number of XXX-rated movies with a satirical political twist, and he is proud that his local film troupe has garnered write-ups in national publications that focus on the adult entertainment industry.

They make a point of dismissing any suggestion that the women involved are in any serious danger or in any way exploited.

“If it’s done completely safely and responsibly, there’s nothing unhealthy,” Washington says. “This is radically feministic. It’s not oppressive or patriarchal.”

Original at Chattanooga Times Free Press

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