Playing prostitute

Divorcie Pam takes the leap into the life and learns that besting her johns is a hollow victory.

By Virginia Vitzthum

Published November 16, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Pam had just started working in a small division of a huge firm when she found out that Phil, the division vice president, spent most of his office hours downloading porn from the Internet. Pam teased and encouraged him, and Phil realized the new secretary was a godsend, not one to screech "sexual harassment" over every little dirty joke or picture. Soon the two were talking about "every sex thing imaginable," Pam says, but it became clear that while he haunted chat rooms and strip clubs, Phil remained physically faithful to his wife. Pam wasn't talking with her old boyfriend Dick anymore, and Phil became the new audience for her debauchery.

One morning in Phil's office, Pam recounted the previous night's pickup, then blurted, "I bet I could have sex for money." Delighted, Phil said, "I bet you could." Her silence surprised him, so he escalated: "I could arrange that for you." Pam recalls, "We went back and forth, figuring out if we were joking. And then he said, 'OK, but if I set you up, you have to tell me everything that happens.'"

Phil arranged a date with an accountant named Todd who'd worked at the office a few years earlier. But Phil didn't come out and tell him that Pam was for sale. Instead he dropped hints like, "Pam's a very sexual person. She'll go out to dinner and she'll probably do what you want." At this point, Pam had already broached paying for sex with some of the men she picked up in bars. "I'd see if they wanted a one-night stand, then I'd bring it up very cheekily, sort of sarcastic." None had taken her seriously thus far.

Todd picked her up from the office, and Pam was disappointed: "He was in his late 40s, an anal-retentive bookkeeper coming out to be with someone younger and sexy." They talked about their careers over dinner and Todd mentioned Phil's porn obsession. Pam said, "I know that you like it too, Todd, and I like that fine." She felt like she was stepping into a character, she says, "but unfortunately I feel like I'm playing a role on most dates."

They went back to his house and sat on the porch while Pam thought furiously about how to bring up the money. Todd finally said, "I think you're very good-looking and sexy, it'd be nice to have sex with you," and Pam asked, "Would you pay for it?"

Todd sputtered, "What did you say?" Pam pressed on, "I think it would be nice too, but usually when I have sex with people, they pay for it." Todd asked, "Really? So you have a lot of guys?" Pam began to embellish her fantasy. "Well, I don't do it religiously," she said, "but it's my family's extra money."

Todd asked, "Will you do what I want you to do?" Pam assented and they moved inside to his leather couch. They began kissing and Pam noticed a pristine white bed through an open door. She understood she would not be invited into the bed when Todd said, "I want you to suck my cock." Pam obliged "how I thought a prostitute would, ripping his pants off and giving him a great blow job -- and swallowing. He'd been fondling me, but he stopped touching me after I started the blow job."

After she finished, Todd said, "That's great, you give great blow jobs." They smoked a cigarette and Pam rose to leave. Todd handed her a $20 bill. Pam's disappointment showed on her face, and Todd stammered, "Is everything OK, is that right?" Though Pam had wanted $75, she couldn't bring herself to say so directly and instead said, "You know, that's not how it usually works for me." Todd, who was probably a money virgin, too, either didn't understand or pretended not to.

The next day, Pam told Phil about the evening, and he shouted with laughter. "Oh my God, you asked him for money? That's great, my CPA stuck his cock down your throat and you asked him for money!" Pam and Phil giggled all day at work. This is her favorite part of the story. "I certainly got a kick out of doing the taboo thing and telling Phil, and I liked knowing the secret about Todd," she laughs.

Of this, her first trick, she exults: "I won because I made him pay for sex, and he kept calling me; he wanted it more." But she didn't return his calls. Why? "I didn't like him because he was willing to pay for sex," she says, seemingly unaware of the inherent contradiction of her position.

Soon thereafter, Pam went out with Danny, whom she met at a party. "It was more like a date date, more connected," she says. Nevertheless, on their second date, sitting in his car, he brought up how good the sex had been on the first date and she asked, "Would you pay me? Would you pay for sex?" He paused, trying to decide if she was serious. Finally he said emphatically, "No! Are you crazy? I wouldn't want to do that, and you wouldn't want to do that."

So Danny passed Pam's Catch-22 of a "nice guy" test by refusing to be a john, but he didn't call back. Her next attempt was with Harry, a friend of her husband's who had flirted with her aggressively since she and Ted were first married. Pam had been separated 10 months when Harry asked her to dinner. After a few drinks, sex wafted into the conversation. They strolled through Georgetown after dinner and started to make out by the canal.

Pam knew he was wealthy, so when he asked if they could have sex in his SUV, she replied half-coy and half-business-like. "I feel funny about it. I'd be willing to, but would you be willing to pay?" Harry replied happily in the affirmative. They ripped each other's clothes off in the back seat. He wanted anal sex, Pam says, "but we were too drunk and we didn't have any lubrication."

She doesn't remember getting home and she dragged herself, hung over, into work the next morning. But then, she recounts triumphantly, her evening was redeemed. "I walked in my same raincoat from the night before, not remembering the end of the night. I sat down at my computer, stuck my hand in my pocket and there was $100. I was like: 'Yes. I won.'"

Pam refers to getting the money as "winning." When she "won," she says, she was beating not just the man she'd gotten off but "the whole male race, because men are shits. If a guy was more sensitive and more of a human being and not so caught up in his sexual stuff and degrading women, he wouldn't be here [paying for sex]."

After that, Harry kept calling, asking to do it again. Pam was about to call him back when she met Bill through mutual friends. Their overlapping social circles helped make Bill boyfriend, not john, material. In the meantime, Pam had begun to view her post-divorce sexcapades as something of a stage.

"I'd been floating in this fucked-up place. I'd been on the rampage for almost a year; I'd recently fucked somebody without a condom in a car in front of an AIDS clinic," she says. "I was drinking till I threw up, and I decided, OK, it would be nice to have a relationship now." It was also at this time that she realized that her children could be taken away if she got caught.

She didn't ask Bill for money, but she did tell him early that she'd been charging for sex. In not leaping on her financial overtures, he passed the nice-guy test with flying colors. He was a monogamous porn aficionado who had always been more sexually adventurous than his girlfriends. His reaction to Pam's dabbling in the life was an awed, "Really? That's wild." Pam finally felt desired, accepted and respected by the same man. After a month or so, she finally returned Harry's calls. "I can't do it with you again," she told him primly. "I'm dating someone and I don't think he'd like it very much."

Pam stayed with Bill for several years, during which time she quit drinking, stopped working for Phil, began graduate school and tried to prepare her kids for their adolescence. Reality had finally eclipsed the conflicting, conflicted fantasies of power and escape that followed the death of her own marriage and the wounding of her friends' marriage. Pam initially thought she'd be different from a streetwalker because "I was going to get pleasure out of it too, it was more like how people dress up in costumes and make scenarios. I was playing prostitute."

Even an actress, however, needs a clear motivation. Pam wanted to "win" and yet wanted those she vanquished "to kind of like me as a person, so much that they'd pay for the privilege of having me as a date." And any man who would do that wasn't worth a return phone call. Instead, what she got was $120.

Virginia Vitzthum

Virginia Vitzthum is a writer living in New York.

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