Copyright: Mirha-Soleil Ross 2002. Mirha-Soleil Ross is an independent activist and artist living in Toronto (Canada).
The title of this monologue makes reference to an anti-clients campaign led in Toronto in the 1990s. During this campaign, the members of different resident groups were keeping record of the license plates of the cars of persons suspected of having solicited the services of street prostitutes. From these license plates, the groups could trace the names and addresses of the drivers of these cars and post a letter to their house to shame them, intimidate them, and with the hope that their spouse or lover would open the letter that would start by saying: Dear John. "John" is a generic term used to describe prostitutes’ clients, similar to "punter" in England.
The following names are heard in voice-over before Mirha-Soleil starts her monologue:
Alexandre, Camille, Abel, Sacha, Simon, Raoul, Jean-Pierre, François, Mathieu, Angelo, Kwan, Mohamed, Alain, Miguel, Gabriel, Rafael, Eduardo, Kori, Benoit, Thomas, Said, Gilles, Maurice, Albert, Réjean, Cédric, Carmine, Sylvain, Philippe, Carlos...
And of course I shouldn’t forget Johhhhnnn!
How easy it is to stereotype millions of men when they are all referred to as Johhhhhhn! Might as well call them Dick.
Sexist hypocrites cheating on their wives... Horny brutes willing to buy women’s bodies... Ugly boogey-men in trench coats objectifying women...
In my book: a bunch of mostly nice guys whose invisibility is perhaps the political missing link to the obtainment of prostitutes’ rights.
As prostitutes we too often focus on the few bad tricks: the abusive ones who sneak through our screening process, the jerks who set up appointments and never show up, the clumsy twits who squeeze our tits too hard, the ones with cheesy dicks and the foul drunks and the ones who purposely take more time than they paid for to come... Those make for vivid stories at dinner parties and at performance art events.
And feminism has had squat shit impact on these guys. All feminism ever did is make the sweetest of my clients feel guilty and make me have to spend extra time playing political therapist, having to reassure them that no, they are not hurting my sense of self... That if I feel exploited at a hundred and fifty bucks an hour, I need a serious reality check and that yes, they should continue seeing me cause otherwise I’ll be stuck with only stinky assholes to sleep with as clients.
I don’t know if it is because they stand in such extreme contrast to the way they are portrayed by feminists but there is something in my clients, in their tenderness and gestures towards me that I find deeply moving.
It’s in their voices when they finally get a hold of me on the phone... It’s in their smiles when they open the door and invite me in... It’s in the sparkles of light I see in their eyes when I say: "First I collect my money and then I tickle your nipples". It’s in the way they tense their bodies and hold their breath when I very gently put my lips on those neglected areolas and start sucking on them... It’s in their shivering skin when I slowly work my way up to kiss their tight necks... When I start rubbing my body against theirs, it’s in these few seconds when it feels like we’re suspended in time and they hold on and hold on and hold on as long as they can before finally allowing themselves to release decades of repressed desires... It’s in their nervously shaking moist hands trying to caress me with the intentions of the best lovers. Then it’s in their goose bumps and gluttony and giggling and growling and glowing and glory... It is also in less poetic moments when they say things like: “Those are beautiful tits!” while caressing my implants, which actually feel about as delicate as a pair of five pin bowling balls. For the most part, it is in their courage to see me, a transsexual woman, again and again, because yes, in this culture, it takes courage for a man to get so close, so intimate with an individual whom a large percentage of the population considers a freak.
My clients constantly remind me that with reclaiming prostitution as a fundamental and legitimate service come responsibilities. I recently met Claudio, a very attractive, fit, 38-year-old Italian man, one who had a lovely penis — the kind I like — with enough foreskin to wrap all of next year’s Holiday Season presents. Things were going quite well, we were both enjoying each other but he somehow seemed uncomfortable with his body. At one point he even interrupted our session to take a little break. He wanted to hold me in his arms and caress my hair, but while doing so, I noticed him examining his penis and looking quite perplexed. Just as I thought "Oh no, not another one who wants to know if I find it big enough!", he asked in the most innocent, childlike voice: "Am I circumcised? Because I really don’t know."
Whether I am working with a 600-pound disabled man who can’t reach his penis to masturbate or an intersex guy whose genitals are nothing like the ones you’re used to dealing with or simply the average Joe Blow who wants to start under the blankets cause he’s too shy, the men I meet force me to be sensitive to a certain reality: that I am not dealing with objects here but with complex and vulnerable individuals who can be stricken by as many body image problems, self-concept issues and fears of sexual inadequacy as anyone else.
Some of my clients are married men but it becomes clear when speaking with them that they love their wives, very much enjoy their companionship and, in most cases, want to spend the rest of their lives with them. It’s just that sexuality has become limiting, lifeless, or is absent from the relationship. And every so often I meet a man whose dedication to his wife I find particularly commendable.
Anthony is one of them. He started seeing me years after his wife fell ill due to multiple sclerosis. Every time we’d get together, he would update me on her deteriorating condition and on his struggle trying to keep his family above water; working two jobs in order to afford a private nurse so that his wife wouldn’t be locked up in a hospital room for the rest of her life. Last time I saw him he said she was completely incapacitated and no longer cognizant. He told me with tears in his eyes that he saw prostitutes because the idea of seriously dating any woman while his wife was still alive was emotionally unbearable. And THAT I thought brought true meaning to the word "commitment".
Ali is a man I have been seeing for years. He works for minimum wage at the coat check of a restaurant. He’s been fighting for over a decade with the Immigration system, spending thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to have his wife — of whom he speaks with so much love — join him here. When I found out how much he was earning an hour and about his costly ordeal with Immigration, I felt concerned, so I told him that maybe he should reconsider spending money to see me. "Don’t worry!" he insisted —rightfully offended — adding that it was all budgeted and that all his meagre tips were set aside just to see me. "If I didn’t spend a few minutes of joy with someone, anyone nice every couple of months", he concluded abruptly, "I’d probably kill myself!"
Michael is a man I saw only once. He called me for an appointment and mentioned that he was sexually inexperienced, that he had been with very few women in his life, never with a transsexual, and that he felt very intimidated. It was a busy day, I was high on Jolt-Cola, juggling prostitution with a million chores related to my "political" and "artistic" life, so I said in a sales pitch tone, "I’ll be right there to take good care of you". He was a tall, handsome 60-year-old who spoke and moved with the grace and grounded serenity of James Earl Jones. Our rendez-vous unfolded perfectly so before we parted he said "Thank you!" which they always do, so I replied very mechanically "You’re welcome!" But he took my hand, held it over his heart; he gave me the sweetest "bisou" on the left cheek and said: "I mean thank you!" I could tell there was more to this "thank you" than simple gratitude for activating his vas deferens so I asked why. He told me that he had been with his wife for 40 years, that she had died two years earlier, that he had never been with anyone other than her in all these years and that he thought he’d never again feel at ease being intimate with someone, until he heard my French accent on an escort service line.
These are times when I feel like revolting against this system that is ready to condemn and even jail us for caressing, kissing, and holding each other... These are times when I rid myself of all the fears and anxieties I have about the long-term ramifications of being a prostitute, a social pariah... These are times when I feel like it’s worth growing into an old, tired, bitter, dried-up whore... These are times when I feel like there was, indeed, a higher calling for me to sacrifice my personal reputation, comfort, safety, social status, and even my freedom for a greater good.
Excerpted from "Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thoughts from an Unrepentant Whore", produced by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre as part of its 2004-2005 season. Published in eXXXpressions: Forum XXX Proceedings, Stella, April 2006.