The myth of the safe and privileged “high class hooker”

I have a bone to pick both with the crowd that advocates for the normalization of prostitution – specifically the many casual supporters of a normalized sex trade, who like to trot out cases of women making four digit sums a night as proof that the sex industry is a safe, freely chosen and fantastic deal for women. But this bone I’m intending to pick extends to people in my own camp: Yes, I am talking to every single person (hello, past me!) who ever goes around arguing that prostitution is horrible for 99% of women, but that 1% at the top – well, those are just some greedy patriarchy collaborators throwing us all under the bus for some Gucci bags.

You’re both wrong.

“High class” prostitution with no pimp and lots of choice to pick among the “customers” is still dangerous and no woman in the sex trade can ever rightly be referred to as “as safe as an office clerk” and “as privileged as a successful CEO”. The only way to be safer in prostitution is to meet fewer men – which indeed women who are at the upper end of the industry are more likely to be able to do. But those few powerful men still pose considerable danger.

Here is why:

The men who pay four digit sums

Ever wondered why someone would pay 1000$, when he could have the same thing in the poor part of town for 10$? It’s because of his inflated ego which tends to go hand in hand with extreme sexual entitlement. He pays more because he thinks that he is fancy and worth it – not her. He pays four digits, because he deserves the best treatment all night long (or however long he pleases) and he wants anything he might feel like.

Many of these rich men pay to have a woman for a whole night or even accompanying him on business trips and vacations which mean she has to put on the act that everything he says and does is amazing/brilliant/sexy/incredible for hours and hours or days. Many women describe how harrowing this is and how much it makes you dissociate from yourself (not even getting into risky, disgusting or painful sexual demands that may well come your way and the remaining fear of STDs or injury).

“The more money that you charge, the more you are expected to do. The same rules that apply to everyone else don’t necessarily apply at the high end. Most people think it is because you are attractive and have a good physique, they think that the men are lining up to give you money. But the reality is a little different. You are often expected to do what other escorts won’t do. To push the boundaries of taste. To push the boundaries of protection. To push the boundaries of personal security.”

Gywneth Montenegro

To be clear the women at the very bottom of the hierarchy are treated as absolute dirt by men and thus also endure anything he might feel like – no matter how vile or dangerous – and they endure it more often than the women at the top. What I am trying to say is that all forms of prostitution are based in male sexual entitlement and that this doesn’t stop at a certain paygrade.

And finally there is the additional threat of violence on top of the undesired sexual contact – see for yourselves:

1991, UK: An unknown killer murders Sharon Hoare, 19, in her “luxury flat”. Hoare was making up to 500£ per buyer.

1996, US: Jack Nicholson promises 1000$ to Catharine Sheehan to be available to him for a night at his hotel. When she asks for payment, he shouts that he “could have anyone for sex” and refuses to pay. He proceeds to beat her senseless, until she has to be hospitalized and nearly loses her sight. The same year Nichelson injures another woman so badly, her breast implants rupture.

2007, UK: George Alan O’Dowd aka Boy George, 46, hires male escort Auden Carlsen, 28, for 400£ a night. They both take drugs, which send O’Dowd into a rage. He proceeds to hand-cuff, threaten and then beat up Carlsen, who barely manages to escape.

2011, Germany: Anonymous, 50, books woman for 460€ and is dissatisfied with her service, as she shows displeasure at him touching her and doesn’t comply with all of his requests. When she wants to leave, he starts strangling her, which she barely survives.

2014, Switzerland: Robert S., 49, ex-banker, meets up with Justina P., 25, at a luxury hotel, where he beats and strangles her to death. His motive before court: He was “in love” with Justina and she refused to see him without payment.

2014, UK: Robert Richard Fraser, 40, banker, bludgeons escort María Duque-Tunjano, 48, to death. He had previously attacked and threatened to kill another woman in prostitution.

2016, UK: Peter Morgan, 52, millionaire business man, started “seeing escorts” during a “midlife-crisis”. He strangles and murders, Georgina Symonds, 25, and dumps her body in his barn.

2017, Nigeria: Bala Chinda, 26, son of an ambassador, hires “high class escort” Jessica McGraa, 37. They argue over payment, which he uses as a justification to rape and murder her.

2018, Germany: Kay-Oliver P., 44, and Kay S., 50, book Anne R., 26, for 500€ and spent 9 hours raping and torturing her.

2018, UK: Zahid Naseem, 47, banker, was a “regular” of Christina Abbotts, 29, who would make 2,500$ per night, until he beat her around the head 13 times and then strangled her and left her to die.

2018, Germany: Jan Ulrich, former Tour De France champion, hires an escort, 31, Kongolese, to his hotel and proceeds to strangle and beat her, attempting to rape her. He is let go with a mere fine.

2018, South Korea: Lee Seung-hyun aka “Seungri”, 28, KPop superstar, is charged both with pimping, sex-buying, drugging, filming and raping women. He would pay women in prostitution up to 4,800$ for a single night.

2020, US: Manish Gupta, 49, plastic surgeon, drugs and rapes “high-end escort” and several other women. He is caught because he filmed his crimes and the evidence fell into an employee’s hands.

Donald Trump is someone who pays for the more expensive side of prostitution and has a documented history of violence against women and girls.

This list is obviously extremely incomplete and only covers cases that came to light, due to women ending up dead or being able to go to the police, where they were believed and taken seriously. It also doesn’t include all those died of illness, suicide or overdose as a more indirect consequences of male violence. We don’t know how many women really suffered or died at the hands of powerful sex buyers – the list is likely too long to count and some of the most prominent names will never come to light.

But we’re not done here. I really want to make the point that a woman may well look like she is doing well in the sex trade, but if you’re quick to celebrate or judge – you likely don’t know the half of her story. So here is a more in-depth look at one relevant story about the most famous woman in German prostitution of the last 70 years:

The woman who made 7x the national average income

It’s the 1950s. Rosemarie Nitribitt is in her early twenties. She is beautiful, curvaceous, funny – knows how to charm her way through the entire German establishment living in or traveling through Frankfurt. She is at their parties mingling with the powerful and the intelligentsia, catching the eyes and receiving the love-letters of many a millionaire’s heir. She is widely adored. Darling of the men of the nation.

Rosemarie is feisty, clever and shrewd. She’s got money and she knows how to make more. She’s got a luxury apartment, an adorable dog, the latest fashion and she is driving a Mercedes 190 SL – the chicest car around. Cruising through Frankfurt she stops in front of hotels or wherever else rich men come and go and picks them up as she likes and chooses. When business is done she drops them off again. She is in control. There is no one taking her money – not for lack of trying – but she’s nobody’s puppet. In 1954 she is making 7 times the amount of the average German citizen.

You know, ya’ll would have called Rosemarie a “sex work success story” or a “privileged patriarchal monkey”, if she was alive today.

Textbook case “happy hooker” – celebrated by the sexual revolutionaries for her daring and powerful control of so many men – proof that if you just have the right amount of smarts and sex appeal, you can have it all. Abhorred by those who hate women in prostitution – including those who purport to be their allies, until they make too much money and look too happy in photos.

You know where this is going. I’m now going to tell you everything you don’t know about Rosemarie.

What you don’t know

At age 3 Rosemarie is separated from her mother, who is a woman in prostitution, as was her grandmother – both having had their first pregnancies as teenagers, both abandoned by the fathers and having to fend for themselves. Rosemarie’s mother is repeatedly put into prison and designated as unfit to take of her children.

At age 11 Rosemarie, now in the care of a foster-family, is raped by an 18-year-old man living in the same village. The rapists is never punished and the adults in her life declare speaking of the crime a taboo. The trauma of the rape makes Rosemarie behave in a hyper sexual manner which makes her extremely vulnerable to predatory men.

At age 14 Rosemarie is groomed by two adult women in prostitution, who seize the opportunity to make money and repeatedly pimp her out to French and American soldiers stationed in the area. At age 14 Rosemarie becomes pregnant and has an illegal abortion, which nearly kills her. She is repeatedly institutionalized, hospitalized and imprisoned for “strong tendency to sexual debauchery” and “indiscriminate involvement with men”. Repeatedly she escapes.

At age 18 Rosemarie is registered and jailed by police for engaging in prostitution in Frankfurt. Two years later she is declared a hopeless case and prematurely becomes a legal adult (in the Germany of the 1950s you became an adult at 21). The state absolves itself of all responsibility towards her.

Rosemarie Nitribitt at age 18. Police photo.

Now age 20 Rosemarie gets her own apartment in Frankfurt and tries to escape prostitution on her own. Her attempts at finding ordinary work fail. She tries to make the best of a horrible situation and works her way up the ladder. Within only a year she arrives at the situation described at the outset: The zenith of what prostitution has to offer.

What you don’t know is that Rosemarie is seeing 7-8 men a day – same as the many impoverished Romanian and Bulgarian women in German prostitution today, who are barely scraping by. Let’s be honest – the prospect of 7-8 different sex partners a day is off-putting including to those of us who love sex. That’s 7-8 unpredictable male strangers a day. Say what you want about picking them from your car, you don’t know what he is like till the door closes behind you.

What you don’t know is that men dehumanize Rosemarie by routinely taking pornographic photos of her during or after paying for it. Sharing them around like trophies. Like she is a collector’s item (a wide spread practice among sex buyers today, who make whole albums labelled “whores I’ve fucked”, “asses still asking for it” and the like). Rosemarie is a status symbol for rich men, but she is decidedly not an equal participant.

In late Octobre 1957 Rosemarie is murdered in her own apartment by unknown killer. She is only 24-years-old at the time.

Police almost instantly make public statements that they’re “not suspecting rich and established customers! These serious men didn’t have to kill the girl, who had gifted them so much joy. That would have been ungrateful.” Tax collector come to take their piece and confiscate nearly half of the money Rosemarie left to her mother.

In the following weeks and months police intentionally destroy evidence in order to not have to investigate the powerful men who were sex buyers seeing Rosemarie. They also separate her head from her body “to study the injuries” and keep it under lock and key, forcing her family and friends to bury her without it (something similar was done to Cindy Gladue, an indigenous woman in Canada, also murdered in prostitution). After repeated request it is returned 50 years later.

In 1968, ten years after her death, forgers make a cruel joke of Rosemarie’s murder and print fake stamps depicting it claiming to raise money to pay for the care of her grave. They call her murder an “occupational accident”. Later her life and death will be profited from by a variety of filmmakers, TV producers and one musical director.

I want to take a moment here and tell you a few more things about Rosemarie, because I don’t just want her remembered for having been in prostitution: Rosemarie was highly intelligent, despite having been labeled a failure from the start and repeatedly throughout her life. She learned French and English during her final years. She had a sister and a mother who loved her, as well as friends and her dog Joey. She was a real person.

Rosemarie Nitribitt and Joey in front of her Mercedes. 1957.

The takeaway

What I am asking you to take away from this is to think and research first before you self-assuredly assert that this or that individual woman or group of women in the sex trade is “fine and dandy”, “has made it”, is “safe” and “privileged” – so she either constitutes the beacon of a hopeful sexually liberated future or the handmaid meant to be overcome while you march towards the big patriarchal boss.

You don’t know her story.

You don’t know what she endured to get to where she is. You don’t know if she will be alive next week, next month, next year – it just takes one violent man, and she is more likely to meet such a man than most other people in society. In the assumption that being paid by powerful men would make her safer, because she can always threaten them with beeing outed as sex buyers and cheats, you have forgotten the fact that they run the state and can make her pay for it dearly – possibly with her life (and also that this option of hers would dissappear entirely if you succeed in fully destigmatizing the men who pay).

I am not saying this is every woman’s story (though there are many like Rosemarie’s – just not as famous), just that you never know what’s truly going on behind a woman beaming at you or licking her lips through a prostitution ad.

What you do know is why men pay for it: Cause it is easy instant sexual access to a body and to sex acts – just as he likes it – with little to no obligations towards the woman for which there is no tragic backstory justification to be made on his part (she doesn’t owe you one either, to be clear). So why not turn your critical eye and your judgement on him instead?

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