Sue's Sisterhood of Sex

Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh

 

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By the time Sue discovered just how cheaply she had sold herself, it was

almost too late. She had turned 30 and had nothing more to show for her

efforts than a nasty reputation of a massage parlor queen and a mistress

at the Vault. Even though Sue knew just how valueless the skin trade was

for women, she had to build myth around it, a kind of new suffrage in

which women somehow band together against the common male enemy, one of

the great fallacies of the feminist movement -- Sue knew better than to

believe.

 

Sue knew just how insidious the real "Redlight" world was. She was a

player, someone who knew that on that level, no brotherhood or

sisterhood could afford to survive. On that level of society, everybody

fended for his or herself, one shark against another, with few rules of

conduct to limit what a person might do, or how a person might betray

another. Down that deep, bodies lose value on the open market place,

when people -- especially women -- lose confidence in their ability to

sell high or grow desperate as age or ill-looks make them a less viable

commodity

 

Those slick enough to slither through the cracks can make a living off

selling others -- as Sue did in marketing her story to Ridgeway and

Screw. Yet even that can last only so long, with only the most clever

and most resourceful working their way through the elimination process

and the constant struggle of younger, more clever operators seeking to

sell you.

 

Sometimes the lower institutions on this continuum of sex convince women

to lower their asking price, promising them a kind of stardom in the

darkworld. Many pretty women believe themselves in more control when

wandering through the lower regions of this industry, believing the hype

go-go agencies and pimps sell them. Some women dip into the lower

regions temporarily, the way someone might dip into wholesale in order

to snatch up a quick buck. These women believe them can't get caught,

and will sell their services as go- go dancers, escorts and the like in

order to get easy cash for school or to over come some temporary

economic set back. Many never leave. Many women start out in honorable

professions, such as bar maids and cocktail waitresses, and get caught

in the system when bar owners tell them they have to put out for special

customers -- or become unemployed.

 

In 1985, I worked with a woman named Chrystal, not in a bar scene, but

in a Fotomat. She talked often about her recovery from life as a go-go

dancer and prostitution, how she had fallen into the ill graces of that

scene, and how she had climbed out of it again. She hadn't meant to

dance or to become a prostitute. Indeed, her job at the Paterson bar had

come at the urging of her first husband, and even then she was

reluctant, accepting the job only because she and her husband had gone

there often in the past, knew the owner and the respefrom life as a

go-go dancer and prostitution, how she had fallen into the ill graces of

that scene, and how she had climbed out of it again. She hadn't meant to

dance or to become a prostitute. Indeed, her job at the Paterson bar had

come at the urging of her first husband, and even then she was

reluctant, accepting the job only because she and her husband had gone

there often in the past, knew the owner and the respectable clientele.

She had wanted to get out and work again after feeling cooped up in the

house, but had other kinds of sales work in mind. But she took the job

as a bar maid within a week, the owner said she needed to be friendly to

certain people. This was a family bar, mind you, the kind which held

family dinners on weekends. The whole thing shocked her. She complained

to her husband. He didn't believe her. She wanted to quit. He wouldn't

let her. She was afraid to tell him why, because the bar owner was such

a good friend, and she feared her husband would think her a liar. Even

then, she resisted giving in to the demands of these so- called "special

clients." But as pressure mounted, she eventually gave in, accepting the

generous bonuses that

 

In reading "Redlight" for the second and third times, I grew more and

more appalled by the attitude Sue displayed. While she often talked

about hating "the life" and seeking away out of it, she continually

glorified it in the book, making its worst aspects seem little more than

an endurance test by women, something to get through until they could

find something better to do with their lives, as if it all wasn't simply

a slow deterioration. In 1870, 1880s, and 1890, few poor women avoided

prostitution totally. Some dipped in only temporary, taking a buck or

two from a wealthy tourists for a trip to a local hotel or to give head

in the back of a carriage. The 20th, with the growth of the feminist

movement and a stronger middle class after World War II, actually

improved poor women's condition, making that aspect of society seek knew

ways to feed the needy meat market.

 

In 1970, I played bit parts in three semi-porno flicks, and performed in

maybe twenty or thirty still photography shoots. While I served a

similar role as the stud in Ridgeway's book -- a pack mule around which

pretty women could lay their loads -- my roll differed in one very

important respect. This was the pre-pink era, in which movie producers

and magazine publishers had to walk a fine line to keep from being

labeled as smut. Porno in that era centered around the exotic, but only

the most truly hard core showed penetration, and the lines of

distinction often centered around whether or not the male's penis was

erect. As this was the entry level to the film industry, these shoots

required a different expertise from me. Instead of my having to maintain

an erection, as Ridgeway's male porno star needed to do, I was paid to

keep from having one -- at least for the time it took to shoot. This

restriction applied no matter what the women pretended to do or how much

they teased off camera. Often, the women deliberately sought to make the

men in these sets violate this rule (as a matter of personal pride, I

imagine).

 

I later learned that some quirk in California law at the time allowed

limp penises picture to be displayed in a much wider public venue than

pictures with the penis full erect, defining one as soft porn and the

other as hard -- though in a few years, all that went out the window to

some degree as hard porn became largely the act itself and everything

short of it considered soft.

 

Unlike many of those involved in the scene at the time, I found no

pleasure in exposing myself in public. Indeed, I actually came down with

various odd rashes as a result of these exposures, as well as serious

cases of sunburn on otherwise immune part of my anatomy. If anything, I

criticized the whole industry more vigorously than most, especially

during the time when I watched first hand what it did to my girlfriend

at the time -- as well as the dozens of other relatively innocencame

down with various odd rashes as a result of these exposures, as well as

serious cases of sunburn on otherwise im

 

While Sue -- years later -- took up her career in the skin trade with

the idea that she could skim the surface and not sink into the muck, my

girlfriend in 1970 plunged innocently into the profession, fully

believing she was making a career step into the legitimate movie

industry. She didn't catch on about the modeling ads along Hollywood

Blvd. until she was already in the door of the management office and

taking off her clothing. Even then, she believed management had some

legitimate reason for making her strip.

 

How could these places put pictures of women in bathing suits in their

glass display cases at sidewalk level if they had something more devious

in mindsomething more

 

Authorities, indeed, stayed mostly blind to the thriving sex trade in

Los Angeles, allowing offices to open in the most public places. The one

which lured my girlfriend was situated in the middle of the tourist

section along Hollywood Blvd.

 

But our serious arguments started when I discovered that modeling for

her meant pretending to suck some strange man's penis. I later learned

that we were a classic couple in this regard, in which the male insists

the female quit the profession immediately, and for some odd reason, the

female refusing. When no amount of screaming or broken furniture would

convince her, I decided to tag along -- something utterly forbidden by

the mandates of the agency, and after several armed men escorted me from

the photo sets, I applied as a male model and made sure I got hired for

the same shoots as she did.

 

At first, remarkably, these shoots seemed like fun. We both me and my

girlfriend as naive as we were, we did not see the deeper implications

of these scenes -- each film seeming more like a beach blanket party

without a blanket, bathing suit or a beach. No one seemed to take any of

it seriously, acting out the positions, with no attempt to be seductive.

 

 

Then, jobs got scarce.

 

The agency and its photographers told us our faces -- but most

particularly my girlfriend's face -- had become much too familiar on the

magazine circuit.

 

"Men like fresh faces and boobs," one agent told us. "Now if the young

lady want to so something a wee bit heavier, that would be a different

story."

 

I learned later this was an old dodge, we had tasted the bait, and it

was now time for the industry to try and set the hook. At the time, we

didn't understand this aspect, and after numerous arguments between my

girlfriend and I, she decided to give the heavier scene a try. I didn't

like it, and still tried to stop her, and when I couldn't stop her, I

tagged along -- knowing how likely it would be that I could get beat up.

They didn't. They left me outside the studio to pace back and forth in

their waiting room. My imagination drove me crazy -- all those phony

scenes with our beach blanket parties came back to haunt me, only now I

envisioned them all as real.

 

As with many of the slimy characters who operate such facilities, this

crew pretended to have some sense of culture, purchasing a piece of

African art for their lobby they clearly knew nothing about, the

full-sized statue of a grass-land warrior, complete with ornamental

wooden chest piece and an authentic iron-tipped spear. For fifteen

minutes, I paced, back and forth before that statue before I noticed the

small quarter inch hole someone had dug into the wall just beside it.

curiosity won out over my impatience and I worked myself behind the

statue and peered into it, and saw that it went completely through the

wall. On the other side, my girlfriend had her mouth around some strange

man's penis.

 

I fell back from the whole and knocked down the statue, the spear

rattling onto the tile. Then, I ran to the door to the other room,

pounded on the door, but got no response. So I grabbed up the spear and

started hacking. I doubt whether I could of accomplished anything with

such a small attack, but it drew the attention of someone inside, and a

moment later, two huge men appeared as the door opened, telling me to

put the spear down and leave or they would break my head.

 

"I'm not leaving without my girlfriend," I said, standing ready to get

one good shot at them before they overwhelmed me.

 

Perhaps my hullabaloo had made the male actor lose his erection, or

management didn't want to have clean up my blood from the floor --

because a moment later, they thrust my naked girlfriend out at me,

tossing her clothing after her.

 

Eventually my girlfriend did become a prostitute, though I was not

around to witness the unhappy event -- although I did know others over

the years. One woman who lived in the house next door to my rooming

house in Montclair asked me to be her pimp.

 

"You're the only man I can trust," she said, and grew angry when I

refused.

 

Obsessed with the Dark Side

 

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