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Trading Sex for Survival: What It's Like to be a Street Prostitute

What happens when men want to pay you money to cuddle, and the thought of it makes you sick?

Editor's note: This is Part II of a series in which the author chronicles her life as a street prostitute. Read Part I here.

When you say the word “hooker,” the image that comes to most people’s minds is a white girl like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or the highly paid call girl in the Eliot Spitzer scandal, the former New York governor. She may have made a few wrong moves in her life but she’s likeable with a heart of gold and will straighten out if given a second chance. We don’t necessarily forgive her for accepting extra money for her “favors” but we understand it.

The story is very different for survival prostitutes who work the streets and get in cars because of drug habits. Their lives are less Pretty Woman than Monster, the story of Aileen Wuornos, for whom hooking was a kill-or-be-killed situation and who was herself put to death in 2002 in a Florida state prison.

Survival prostitutes are the most easily and frequently killed of all women. They lack the glamor of call girls and the “victimhood” of trafficked women since their pimp is their drug habit itself. They have been abandoned by their families, their communities and the other people on the street. Even law enforcement and social services slighted them until recently.

The author spent time as a survival prostitute driven by her drug habit until she found recovery in a 12-step program. This is the second excerpt from a diary she kept while getting in cars.

I wasn't even working, I was going to the store. A car stops and the guy offers me three times the going rate through the window, not even waiting for me to get in. I worry that he is a nut but go to a motel with him. He is not a nut but he looks really sick and also acts morose. In addition to sex he wants to cuddle which, even though he has technically paid for my time, irritates the hell out of me. I am speeding my ass off and the last thing I want to do is play statue with some needy stranger when I can't even smoke. This is agony.

This guy reminds me of Al, a construction worker I see a lot. He's in his 20s and always trying to be my last date for the night so he can sleep with me. He doesn't understand the reason you boot a guy is not because you have the next one or need to meet a quota, but because you can't stand the sight of them once you're done.

In his defense, he is nicer than any boyfriend I ever had. If I would have known guys like this before, I might not even be here. Where was he before my heart turned into a gizzard? But I also realize there is something self-hating about a guy who falls in love with the town pump.

It's like my printer. I go by his print shop several times a week and we do it on the darkroom floor. And he always cautions me to use the client bathroom, not the employee bathroom, because one of his female employees is loose and might have an STD. Where does he think I have been all day, at the library?

One guy I did end up spending the whole night with. His name was Kurt, he was German, an artist and easily in his 70s. No dick problems there. Again, it didn't matter how much he paid, I couldn't stand being in the clammy sheets with him for all that time. And he kept waking me up for more, though sleeping on speed I wasn't sleeping anyway. We couldn't exchange a word because he spoke no English. In the morning I felt so dirty from all the manhandling, I bought a fifth of whiskey, some hydrogen peroxide to gargle and a laxative. No, I would rather get in and out of cars all day.

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