Issue 6, Fall 1997
The Commerce of Commercial SexI'm 32 years old. I've worked in the sex trade for eight years. When I started hustling, I was having a lot of anonymous sex anyway, so I thought, "Why not?" I needed the cash. I went out to the stroll (in Toronto) It wasn't long after I was answering ads looking to hire escorts. After a stint with a gay service, I got myself into a well-paying service in the Yellow Pages. They charged #300 for a basic 40-minute hour. Often clients would put the service on their credit cards and that cost them an extra 25 per cent. I usually would end up with about $150; after $50 for the driver, $80 to the service plus the extra percentage for the credit card. But if you got three calls a night, that was good money. This would have been around 1990.
After the escort stint, I worked independently out of NOW magazine. For a long time my ad read, "Hard working farmboy, Make me sweat." I got lots of calls. for those gigs I was paid $100 an hour for pretty much whatever you wanted. I eventually got a cell phone and my own Yellow Pages ads. For calls that came over the business line I charged $200. the ads cost about $600 a month. The most money I ever made in one night ($540) was during these days, when I worked the street and carried the cell phone. I could quickly get to any of the hotels downtown, and back to the track. This was around 1992-93.
But times have changed. The sex trade is one of the few jobs where the wages have not only not increased according to the increased costs of living, they have dropped significantly.
People have this idea that prostitutes make lots of money. It's not true. Sure there are the people who fill the stereotypes. When you're fresh, and young, and very attractive and you're smart and not afraid to "work it," you can still make a lot of cash. If you cultivate regular clientele and are money smart, you can still do well. But the lack of well-paying legitimate work has caused a flood of people to enter the underground economy. The advent of NOW magazine publishing adult models/escorts ads caused a direct drop in the rates that escort agencies in the Yellow Pages were charging.
I think boys here in Vancouver, now, still try to get $100 from the ads, but I know that, during slow periods, I have had to drop my rates from $80 to $60 to stop callers from hanging up. When I worked the street in Toronto, around Women's College Hospital, I used to easily get $100 but I think that is pretty rare here in Vancouver, now, on the street.
One of the things that amazed me about Boystown was just how really diverse the backgrounds of the boys. I remember a blind boy with his dog, a deaf boy from Italy who came here because the school for the deaf here is world renowned. There were Asian boys, black boys and native boys. There were other boys with college educations like me, a boy from Florida, boys from Halifax and Vancouver, working in Toronto for the summer. I remember guys as old as 35 and met boys as young as 14 (who were quick, smart little hustlers, I might add, and very safe -- BJs with condoms). During a time when "employment equity" was the PC buzzword, we were one of the few workplaces that really had it.
I would have to say that of all the jobs I've had, prostitution has brought me the most joy. When I was younger and partied a lot, it afforded me the habits and lifestyle I loved; nightclubs, after hours, drugs, even other hustlers. I really enjoyed being generous, and once joked that a whore who can't afford to leave a hefty tip, or buy a round, must be a whore who can't make any money, and we wouldn't want people to think that.
-- Andrew Sorfleet is a co-founder of the Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto (SWAT) and currently lives in Vancouver, acting as coordinator of the SWAV. He operates a web site to provide public education about sex work in Canada -- the Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS) at : http://www.walnet.org/csis/
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Created: September 18, 1997|
Last modified: April 12, 1998
Commercial Sex Information Service|
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710