One Stripper Explains Why Sex Workers Feel Conflicted about “Hustlers”

Two women standing in a club

Hustlers, the Blockbuster hit about scamming strippers, doesn’t portray sex workers as victims (hooray!). Instead, they’re self-interested criminals, and the film’s production cheated actual strippers out of thousands of dollars of income (hooray?). Stacey Clare, a veteran stripper and activist, asks: when it comes to strippers on screen, is representation enough?

Continue reading “One Stripper Explains Why Sex Workers Feel Conflicted about “Hustlers””

A Sugar Baby Flirts with Foie Gras & Ménage à Trois

The blow was originally written as part of my “Sugar Babies” column for VICE.

Claire is a 24-year-old fashion assistant from LA. While in college, she briefly dabbled in the sugar baby lifestyle, traveling to both Boston and Cincinnati to be pampered by sugar daddies, and to be fed fine French cuisine by a fashionable French couple attempting to lure her into an ambiguous ménage à trois. The reality of Claire’s situation wasn’t as fun or as glamorous as she had originally hoped, however, but it still makes for a good story.

So, how your adventures in sugar babying all start?
Claire: Well, I was 22 and at college in Ohio, studying psychology. I was home in California for summer break when I read something on Jezebel about sugar daddy websites. At the time I was working two part-time jobs, trying to save up money before I went back to school, but it just wasn’t cutting it, so I joined a website. At first I kept telling myself it was just “for research,” but eventually I realized that I was actually going to go through with it. But then I thought, Well, that will just make my research even better!

What happened?
Well, after talking to so many guys, I eventually got a message from a guy in Boston, and I liked him because he just seemed really normal,  and he was Googlable—he had founded a big company and was high profile-ish, so he seemed less likely to murder me. I knew I didn’t want to do sugar stuff in LA, because I know so many people there, but I never thought I was going to travel across the country to meet a sugar daddy. But he offered me $3,000 to come to Boston for a long weekend, plus flights, so it seemed worth it.

So what happened when you got there?
We went to dinner at an African restaurant in the South End called Teranga. I’d never had Senegalese food before—the menu has a lot of really delicious grilled fish and meat. But it didn’t take long for things to get weird. Basically, I had known previously that his ideal arrangement was to have a live-in girlfriend, but over dinner he confessed that he had a wife and two kids who he lived with in the suburbs, and I immediately loathed him for having lied to me. And then he told me what he actually wanted was for his sugar baby to live in his house and work as a nanny to his kids, and basically fuck him behind his wife’s back.

Whoa, that’s super-dark.
I know! I was like, “OK, that’s never going to happen,” but he was really pushing for it, saying stuff like, “We can make it work, you can finish school in Boston.” Not to mention that in real life he looked way older and less attractive than the photos I’d seen of him online—he was sobald that he literally had no eyebrows.

Yikes. So what happened at night?
Well, he had told his family that he was out of town—his life was clearly a giant web of lies—so we stayed in a hotel downtown called The Fairmont Copley Plaza. I insisted that we get separate rooms. I had said ahead of time that I wanted to take things slowly, and he said he respected the “good girl in me.” But I was still so nervous that I felt constantly on the verge of vomiting. But I knew I didn’t have enough money to get myself out of the situation—I literally had $30 to my name—so I had to stick it out.

So what happened the next day?
We had lunch at OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, which is in the The Fairmont Copley Plaza. It’s a really nice farm-to-table restaurant that would be really romantic if you were eating there with someone you actually liked. I got a turkey sandwich that was really good. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to get a salad, because I didn’t want to be one of “those girls,” but he got a full-on dinner steak, at lunchtime. It lo0ked really delicious but for some reason it made me think, Fuck this guy.

Afterward we went shopping at Barney’s. I wanted to shop, but I was worried that anything he bought me would be deducted from the $3,000, and felt uncomfortable asking about it. Also, he kept trying to hold my hand in public and I kept having to say “I don’t do that!” I ended up buying a pair of $500 Chloe sandals–they’re so cute, I still have them today actually—but I literally only chose them because they were the cheapest thing in the store. Then he bought me YSL perfume, and it was the most amazing smell, but I couldn’t bring myself to wear it until three months afterward because the smell just reminded me of him.

The smell of shame. God, this sounds like the trip from hell.
Well, the next day was slightly better. We went to the Christian Science center where they have a huge indoor globe, and you can stand inside the Earth. That was the best part of the trip. Afterward we went on a booze cruise around Boston Harbor—it’s called Mass Bay Lines—and that was really beautiful, and I got drunk on fancy cocktails.

Did you guys eat out that day?
Yeah, we went to Quincy Market, which is a very famous market in Boston. There’s a food section with lots of foodie stalls and they basically have any kind of food you could ever want. He handed me some cash while he left to take a work call, and I was kind of drunk so I literally stuffed my face with pizza, a burger, and fries. Then, when he came back he seemed in a really bad mood and was like, “I don’t how to do this, but we’re clearly not working,” and I obviously agreed. He was clearly annoyed that I had refused to do as little as touch him for two days. So we went back to the hotel and he changed my flight to leave that evening. In the hotel he was like, “I have this envelope for you, and I don’t feel comfortable handing it to you so I’m just going to put it in your suitcase.” It was $2,800—so I guess the $200 was deducted because I left early? I don’t know. But then weirdly, when I got back to LA, he wouldn’t stop calling and texting me, asking to meet up again. I ended up blocking his number.

OK, well that was clearly a bad experience. But you still decided to try the sugar baby thing again, right?
Yeah. Honestly, the money was really helpful, and I thought I could find a guy who I liked better, so a few months later, when I was back at college in Ohio, I got back on the site. I started messaging a guy who seemed really sweet, and pretty soon he mentioned that it was actually him and his wife who were looking for a sugar baby together. They were French, from Paris, and were living in Ohio temporarily. He never explicitly said anything about a threesome, but he said they felt that something was missing in their relationship, and that they were interested in the idea of an open relationship.

That sounds kind of hot, actually.
Yeah, I thought it sounded interesting, and that maybe I could write a paper on it one day, or at least that it would make an entertaining story for my friends. So I drove to Cincinnati to meet them, and they insisted that I have an entire spa day before meeting them for dinner. When we finally met I was surprised that I felt pretty comfortable around them. They were in their early 50s, and the wife was beautiful in a clean-cut way, and was an executive at Louis Vuitton. The guy was a writer and was less good looking, but an artistic type. They had never had kids, and he seemed depressed.

Where was the dinner?
We met at a Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, which is a really classic, New York-style steakhouse. The steak was amazing—they were clearly people who cared about food. But I was aware that I looked like their college-age daughter, and was internally trying to get over the fact that they were my parents’ age. I remember thinking that my roots were bad, and that I looked like a scrub, and that they probably didn’t want to be associated with me because they were quite chic.

So did things get sexy after dinner?
No, we went back to their house and they just put me to sleep in their guest room.  I could tell that the husband wanted the situation it to be more seuxal, but the woman’s motives were more ambiguous at first. It was almost as if they were treating me like a daughter—the daughter they never had.

Strange. So did you see them again?
Yeah, a couple weeks later I drove back to Cincinnati and met them at a French restaurant called Jean-Robert’s Table, which had just opened a few months before. It was very classy, and at that point I had dyed my hair, and dressed up, so I felt more appropriate. They ordered everything for me in French—it was very traditional French food like pâté, foie gras, and steak tartare. It was incredibly good. As the night went on, however, it became more clear that the wife wasn’t into it.

What do you think her motive was?
I think she just wanted someone to come in and fix their marriage… somehow. The husband clearly wanted a sex plaything, but from the way she treated me it seemed like she wanted a daughter, and somehow they were trying to combine those desires by meeting me. Unfortunately, I don’t think I fulfilled either of those roles well.

Did they pay you?
Yeah, they gave me $500 each time. Then, a few weeks later I got a message from the guy saying they were getting a divorce, and asked me if I wanted to meet him on his own, but I didn’t respond. After that I stopped the sugar baby thing. It was just too much for me.