Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Life

Sex has always been a major theme of my writing, though I've generally hived it off to other spaces, such as here and here. Yet I'm not comfortable with erotic writing. Much of it is boring to read, and as a purely theoretical libertine, I've not had much experience to write about. I'd be a bit worried, imagining anyone ever read my stuff, about ending up in the bad sex writing columns. The real point is, though, that I'm interested in real sex, from a scientific/anthropological/psychological perspective, rather than fantasy, though I fantasise often enough. From this perspective, In My Skin, Kate Holden's honest and very informative memoir of her experience as a prostitute in Melbourne, is a real find. 
Holden's story is one of slipping into heroin addiction with alarming ease, and then gradually moving into the seedy world of sex in parked cars to pay for her habit, before moving up into safer and generally healthier brothel environments. I haven't finished the book, but presumably she has traded on her writing skills to finally kick the heroin habit and to generally 'go legit'. I don't know that I'm looking forward to the last part of the book, which inevitably will be about the pain of withdrawal from a drug she uses, at the point I'm at in the book, twice a day, sending more than a small fortune, by my standards, through her veins. And a very hard-earned fortune too.
Needless to say, the drugs side of this story interests me much less than the prostitution side, yet they're tightly related, and though I can't quite identify with being in that space myself, I've certainly known and lived with drug addicts [and struggled to tolerate them], and Holden's account is very matter-of-fact on the guilt, the desperation, the euphoria and the tedium of that lifestyle. Maybe it's all been said before, but in fact every situation is different, and Holden always come across as honest and likeable, and somehow a survivor. Her account is tight, completely unromantic and without self-pity, and very absorbing. 
In the past I've tried to write about being a prostitute, the ultimate in cheek really for a male who's had little experience of sex of any kind, let alone as a woman paid to have her body invaded by strangers young and old, drunk and sober, beautiful and ugly, fat and skinny, smart and stupid, kind and brutal, bold and timid, smelly and sweet. La putain, c'était moi, and I imagined myself a very attractive woman, witty and realistic, out to make a solid living to set herself up, and finding herself in various awkward, amusing and scary positions. I hadn't really thought it through more than that, but I've always been strong on charcter and weak on plot. What always weighed heavily on me with this project was that this was essentially a male fantasy, of the woman who gets into prostitution by choice rather than necessity. At the same time I didn't want my character to get into the life as the stereotypical junky - stereotypical because so sadly common. I could have made such a character sympathetic, but I didn't think I could make her interesting enough to myself to keep me at it. I wanted her, of course, to be a version of myself, a dilettante who was at a loss as to how to make a living. So she decides to trade on her looks, going in with eyes wide open, knowing there's going to be many awful moments and awful people, and resolved to be professional on all occasions and to savour the occasional sweet-faced boy or seasoned lady's man. 
I abandoned the project after a few attempts, though not without contemplating a job in the industry. I discussed with someone I knew the possibility of working as a driver for her - taking girls to assignations. I didn't have a very reliable car at the time, so I didn't pursue it...
Anyway, Holden's book will feed into my Confessions of a theoretical libertine somehow, I'm sure. I'd love to meet her... What stories she could tell, what laughs we could have...



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