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Are Escort Services Poised to Go Mainstream?

05.13.2008 11:41 | DISPATCHES

Whores no more.

On the job, the key for many of us is adapting by adopting -- an alternate personality, that is. But some jobs arouse emotions and sensations that are too overwhelming for the conscious mind. In the process called splitting, we shunt those off to a kind of branch line of our consciousness.

Sex work is such a job. Its laborers often find the only way to survive is by putting as much distance as possible between their real and work selves. The lack of self-respect inherent in these evasion tactics is magnified by the need to hide the nature of their work from loved ones.

If only because of the contortions into which many are forced to twist their psyches, sex workers deserve as much respect as those tilling any field. Granting them the legal right to organize and providing them with protection under labor and employment laws would be a start.

Is that likely to happen anytime soon? It's tough to say. But, due to its prevalence on the Internet, porn has begun to gain acceptance with segments of society hitherto unacquainted with it. Such as teenage girls, some of whom not only dress, but undress, like porn stars, after which they seem to have no qualms about being videotaped.

Others, less bold, avoid condemning porn out of fear that boys will think a girl is a buzzkill. It's the reverse of the way girls were slimed as sluts in previous generations. But the effect is the same.

Second, we all know how the opportunity to make big money confers status on any enterprise. If gangster rap, spawned, in part, by the crack culture, can find a home on MTV, why can't porn break through?

In a May 15 Rolling Stone article, "The Sex Queen of L.A." (not available online), Vanessa Gregoriadis chronicles how a California madam named Michelle "Nici" Braun was sought out by Turkish billionaire Hakan Uzan.

"The money and word-of-mouth business that Nici received from Uzan enabled her to do what no madam had done before: create a new high end of the escort industry. . . . Prominent athletes, TV stars and Fortune 500 CEOs. . . flocked to Nici for access to her elite clientele. . . the pinnacle of L.A. beauty. . . models for Maxim and FHM, big-name porn stars and Playmates. . . a Survivor: China contestant and [a] WWE star."

The magazine models and Survivor contestant may have had no other immediate prospects. Along with the WWE star, though, the porn stars had careers, however short-term. But it seems a porn career isn't what it was.

"There is no real money to be made anymore," Gregoriadis writes. There are too many "girls willing to show the world their nakedness, no matter how hot they are. . . . willing to be ogled [on the Web] for next to nothing."

They've been replaced at the strip clubs they used to tour for extra money by women at least as attractive willing to work for less money. "For Playmates and porn stars," Georgiadis writes, "there's only one way left to supplement their income: meeting fans in private settings."

In fact, porn-industry journalist Luke Ford told Georgiadis, "Almost every porn star is an escort now."

It's not just in pornography where the stars are doing the mountain-comes-to-Mohammed act. In the music industry, file-sharing is not only eviscerating the sales of CDs, but cutting into those of MP3 files as well. Except for top acts, recorded music is now viewed as a promotional tool to draw fans to performances, where the real money is made.

Both fields are also paralleled by the lecture circuit, where people are making more money speaking than on whatever made them famous in the first place.

It's true that the Internet has depressed the music and sex industries. But at least it's yielded a nugget of irony. Musicians spending more time on the road than ever and porn stars making social calls runs counter to the Internet's reputation for facilitating isolation, whether it's in the form of cocooning or agoraphobia. Consumers and providers are face to face again.

Meanwhile, will escort services every be unconditionally accepted in the mainstream of American life? Give a madam her own reality show and we'll see what shakes out.


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