I wasn’t raised the way girls are brought up now and not a day goes by when I don’t try to come to terms with that. It was never planted in my head that I could be whatever I wanted to be. Instead, I was told, on a daily basis, that I was beautiful.
When I was molested at the age of six I somehow connected the dots between what was happening to me with the only compliment I ever received, maybe because my molester kept telling me how pretty I was.
As if being sexually abused as a child wasn’t bad enough, I had parents who objectified me. My mother would take me shopping and when we returned I had to twirl around and pretend I was walking on a runway. I was seven. Ten years later when I asked my father if he’d saved any money for my college education he laughed in my face.
“You’re a pretty girl,” he assured me. “You’ll find a man.”
I’d eventually find a lot of men on places like Craigslist and Backpage.com.
If you’ve ever driven down Aurora–Seattle’s most notorious strip of sleaze and sexploitation–you’ve seen a glimpse of my stolen childhood.
My parents owned a motel in Florida located on a strip called Dale Mabry, Aurora’s twisted twin. They rented rooms by the hour to hookers and their clients and the police were terrifically bored by our locale. Domestic violence, suicide attempts, desperadoes in drastic circumstances: it got to where we could hear a yawn on the other end of the phone when calling cops for help.
I need to write about my past because prostitutes are people too and not all women cross the line because they’re too lazy to work. For women like me who were sexually abused as children, there’s a magnet out there. And, given my issues with an abusive, alcoholic father, there was a cyclone of magnets reeling me to the dark side of sex. Add to that the fact my parents paid my K-12 Catholic school tuition with the proceeds of illicit activity, well. . . my fate was practically sealed.
I was propositioned the first time in junior high and it happened indirectly through my mother. My parents’ motel was near a military base and I remember a man in army fatigues asking the co-owner of The Morocco if I came with the room. I was standing in the breezeway near the check-in office buying myself a Coke. The army guy had just paid for his room and my mother was standing right next to me. Always one to appease a paying customer, she laughed and treated his misogyny like a joke.
I was in my early twenties the next time a man blatantly offered me money for sex. My father never wanted me to have a car; he was terrified I might ask him for gas money. In the middle of a summer day, while waiting for a bus, a stranger pulled up to the curb and offered me fifty bucks for a hand job. He was in earnest and greatly surprised when I said no. I never forgot his face because he looked a little bit like my dad.
Despite my crass upbringing, I felt only shock, horror and outrage. I was an art student living the bohemian life, yearning for some vague, greater good. I didn’t think I deserved to be treated so shabbily.
I moved to San Francisco hoping things would be different there, but everywhere I went, The Morocco Motel followed me. While working at a law firm, an immigration lawyer offered to supplement my salary if I gave him what he wanted. This time I wasn’t so shocked. It seemed like “entertaining” men was what I was bred for and I didn’t seem to be good at much of anything else anyway. In short, I had virtually no self-esteem and no faith in my abilities. I actually felt lucky that someone found me attractive enough to pay, thinking maybe I was getting what I deserved for being the daughter of motel owners. That situation ended badly (with me out of a job) and that’s when I started answering ads in alternative weeklies.
I chose the name “Monica” because there were several Monicas at the Rich Girl high school I attended back home and I thought maybe if I changed my name I could change my life.
The only way to survive in the world of commercial sex is to cultivate regular customers and that’s precisely what I did. Once I established a clientele I didn’t have to risk the ads again. I entertained men for money in lieu of dating because I was terrified dating could lead to commitment and–given the destructive paradigm my parents provided me–I saw the institution of marriage as a death trap.
I might have gone on this way forever if I didn’t start having nightmares, horrifying dreamscapes that beckoned me to change my reality.
“Tom” had been a steady customer for five years. He was never rude or unpleasant; to whatever extent a pro can enjoy being with a client, I enjoyed his company. But when I started having a recurring dream about him, I knew it was time to seek counseling.
Time after time I’d wake at 3AM from a dream of Tom calling me to say, “Hi, Monica! It’s Tom. I’m a friend of your dad’s. He said I should call you to make an appointment.”
Time after time I’d reply, “My name’s not Monica and my father never had a real friend in his life. Don’t call me again.”
I took that dream as a wakeup call and that’s how I escaped the sex industry. . . the first time, anyway.