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Sex was just a job (Part 1)

Published:Monday | September 10, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Former prostitute bares her soul

Latoya Grindley, Staff Reporter

Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, and both men and women have opted for this line of work as a means of economic survival, despite the negative social sanctions on it and the various risks that comes with this line of work.

Princess, a sex worker for many years spoke candidly with Flair recently about her life and choice of career.

She never visualised her life as a sex worker. In fact, like many, she viewed it as a nasty and demeaning profession.

But faced with the hardships and very few options for survival, the mother of two - at the time - was forced to cast aside moral values and reservations and sell her body.

"I had two daughters and I really tried to get a job. The last time I tried, I got so close to getting it, but the gentleman told me that I was to return after I took out a streak I had in my hair. When I went back, he told me he gave away the position."

Now sent back to the drawing board, life's demands kept growing and were simply too much for her to handle in her unemployed state.

One visit to an exotic dance club changed her world.

"I followed a friend to Gemini Nightclub, which was on Constant Spring back in those times. When I was there I was approached to work as a dancer, but I said no."

But after leaving the club that night, Princess said she evaluated the pros and cons of that offer and changed her decision.

"It is not pretty when you have two children and you can't provide for them. It is not what I wanted to do because I used to criticise those girls, but when your kids are hungry, you cant see anything else."

Accepting the job, Princess became an exotic dancer, but her job as a dancer was just not as financially rewarding as she initially thought. And soon enough, she started to offer sex in exchange for money.

"I remember my first time. It was at a bachelor party. A group of us went to dance, and while I was there the gentleman who organised on the party said the groom wanted to get with me. I said 'no'."

Surprised by Princess' decision to not have sex, the other dancers coaxed her. The amount of money she would pass up was the main subject.

"Eventually, I decided to do it and I will tell you that I made so much money that night."

So at age 21, Princess was a full-fledged dancer who had now added sex work to her services. Never one to work from the streets, she said she was always based at clubs.

"I don't think I had those skills to work on the street. Inside the club, men would mostly approach you or if I was supposed to go over to them, it would be easier because it is an entertainment setting. On the street it is much different."

Now, at the point where she could not care less about what anyone would think about her profession, Princess said she never kept it a secret. "I never hid it at all, I just didn't care what people thought. Even when I would be doing business transactions and they asked my profession I would tell them, which surprised many people," she said chuckling.

She continued, "When I started, I didn't go into it for me alone. And for those who don't like it, they were not there when I was down on my face, so I really don't think about them."

Expressing no form of regret, Princess said her story is no different from many exotic dancers and sex workers.

Desperation, she noted, is one of the main reasons why many enter the field. "Before persons criticise they should try to understand why persons decide to do it. Not every sex worker wants to be one and remain as one. We all had our own ideas of what we wanted to do."

Though not necessarily the safest job, she claimed to have been lucky to escape physical harm and diseases such as AIDS.

"When I started, you had older women in it who would be like mentors. They would ensure that when I was leaving with someone they would find out where I was going. They would also tell me to leave my money before I left with anybody because some men will rob you or take back the money after they pay you."

As for exposure to sexually transmitted infections and diseases, Princess admits that there were times when she had unprotected sex.

"You would have men who would pay you more not to use a condom. Those times you wouldn't really hear about AIDS because it was not so prominent."

But that soon changed after a visit to a Jamaica Aids Support lyme. "A girl invited me to the lyme and they started talking about these infections and diseases and I became so interested. I started to go to the meetings regularly and would collect the free condoms and lubricants for myself and the other girls."

Offering sex services for around 14 years, Princess has had many sexual encounters. But to her, sex with her clients was just a job, nothing more, nothing less.

"There was no emotional attachment with my clients. It was just work. Sometimes I would be looking all over the place, thinking about what my children would be having for breakfast. But you have to make the clients think you are enjoying it."

A mother of five girls, Princess retired from her profession three years ago. But she stresses the importance of being open with her children.

"I was very open with them. In the nights when I would get ready to go out they would ask me where I was going. And I would tell them."

Telling them, she said, was enough to let them know how much she had to do for her family's survival.

"They have to learn what I had to do in order to provide. They have to learn where it began and have enough ambition to aim higher and not do what I had to."

Coming next week in part 2, Princess finds love, gives birth to a baby boy and is enjoying retirement. Find out her views on the negative perceptions associated with sex workers and her fight to help decriminalise the profession.latoya.grindley@gleanerjm.com