Anastasia and Her Madam
Most attempts to find out about the lives of these young women are by people with something they want to prove, or by utterly incompetent researchers.
One group says they are all ‘Suffering Victims,’ forced into this work by pimps who threaten them and their families; the other group says they are all ‘Happy Hookers.’ Both groups have published books and magazine articles with compelling, if fabricated, data.
I do my own qualitative research in an effort to obtain data about what’s really happening to these women.
So, a couple of nights ago, I was listening to Anastasia and her madam.
Anastasia bothered me because she is only 20, and has been in this line of work for 3 years now. If Anastasia was bothered by her work, she didn’t show it. That might be because a) she has never known anything better, b) because her madam was there, or c) because her English is poor and my Russian is non-existent.
Anastasia’s only complaint was that prices have fallen by 50%. She said that, since they closed the Cyclone and Amnesia, the remaining nightclubs now have so many desperate young women that cutthroat competition is hurting business. Anastasia said that, when she started, she could easily get €200 for about 20 minutes work, but that is no longer possible. Of course, she’s also three years nearer her sell-by date, which also depresses prices.
She said that her customers who know about Princess Anastasia assume that is just her nom de guerre (or nom de amour?), but she assured me that Anastasia is her real name. She didn’t tell me much more than that.
I just kept thinking about how young she was.
Anastasia is obviously under a lot of stress, because she is gaining weight. She has already developed a quite Rubenesque figure, and the clothes that she was wearing were not just skin tight (which is normal in her line of work), but bits were poking out through all the spaces between the buttons. Like the Grinch’s heart, her blouse was two sizes too small, and she had outgrown all her bras. This, of course, might be yet another reason why her customers have reduced what they will pay by 50%.
I wonder what she might have said had her madam not been present.
Anastasia’s madam is more of a shop foreman (forewoman?) type, in that she still works on the production line and doesn’t just supervise. What the madam said bothered me more than Anastasia’s age. The madam said she often approaches men and tearfully tells them how much she hates this business and wishes she could get out of it. She said that some of them give her money without asking for sex, hoping to 'save' her. She thanks them profusely, promises them that she will never do this again, and then goes to another nightclub to turn more tricks. She says she found a man from Scotland who is giving her money every month so that she doesn’t have to do this. She said the Scot will not have sex with her, he is only determined to ‘save’ her.
And when he can’t be with her, she goes to nightclubs to earn more money.
Before my conversation with the madam, I was convinced that almost all of these young women hate their work and only do it because they are desperate, with families at home who would starve without their financial contributions. Now I’m not so certain. I still believe most of these women hate the work and are only here because they are desperate, but, since listening to the madam I’m less certain.