For those who know what to look for it is easy to spot a working girl
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s there was prostitution in downtown Honolulu, which was pretty much women, and men who identified as women, who were supporting their addictions through sex work. They might have been addicted to drugs or they might have been addicted to someone who was addicted to drugs. The money was a means to an end and did not actually profit anyone in terms of getting ahead in life. There was also street prostitution in Waikiki. Unlike downtown, this street sex work was not 24/7 but was confined to the wee hours. The women dressed like hookers, while downtown the women dressed like anyone and it was only the fact that they were standing on Kukui Street, the downtown Honolulu “ho stroll” that a person knew they were working. Waikiki women in those days wore 4 inch platform heels that looked like they were made of glass and had fish swimming in them. They never charged less than $200 and they all had pimps who watched them from the “mauka” (or mountain) side of the street while the women strolled the “makai” (ocean) side of Kuhio Avenue. Waikiki women were seldom addicted to drugs. I have been told by women and by pimps that the women gave all the money they earned to these men (who were always black for reasons I never discovered). Sometimes they had a quota or goal but that was not standard. What was standard was for the women to “break themselves” or give every dime to the pimp. Ideally, the pimp took care of everything else. He had housing for all the women, provided them with their needs, bought the one allowable drug–weed, and most importantly, he bailed them out of jail when, not if, they were arrested. There was one woman who was understood to be most important to him, maybe the mother of his children and she was known as the “bottom b***h” and she had something of a leadership or mentoring role for the other women in the “Stable” since she usually had been there the longest.
Reciprocity seems to have gotten lost
I believe that the pimp, sex worker relationship ideally was one of working together. Certainly the women needed someone to handle all of the things outside of work. In a way, now that I think of it, the pimp was similar to the housewife who received her husband’s paycheck and handled the household budget. I bet a lot of guys would not like that comparison simply because they never want to be compared to women, but the similarity is obvious to me. Housewives are similar to prostitutes in that they are often looked down upon as being dependent on men and subservient. These relationships were never meant to be about domination but about working together, but I suppose when there are humans involved interdependence does not naturally rise to the #1 most important element in relationships. Or maybe that is an American phenomenon, I cannot say.
Today the stereotype of the pimp is someone who does not partner with women who choose to work with the men, but as someone who trafficks in women who have no choice in what they are doing, takes all of their money and gives them nothing but what their sick natures demand–abuse and deprivation. I bought into the stereotype because as a young woman I knew no other way to conceptualize the relationship other than the script my society had provided me. I looked down upon women with pimps and thought I was so very independent because I choose to spend my money on drugs, never seeing the irony of my slavery to a substance that far exceeded the dependence I imagined hookers with pimps wanted. I always said I did not have the temperament to have a pimp and I was right. I was not one to endure abuse, nor did I know how to work cooperatively with someone.
When pimps saw me slowly walking Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki, and watched me trying to make eye contact with every man that slowly drove by, they knew I was trying to work the area without representation. I was often approached by these men and for some reason they were never abusive to me, although I had seen pimps chase down women and stalk them all night long because the rule on the street is that if a woman speaks to a man who is a pimp but is not her pimp, he has the right to harass her. Maybe this harassment happened, but not always, and certainly not to me. I thought it was because I put out a vibe that I could not be abused. It is only as I write this post that I consider that maybe the preconceived notion that these men were always violent was wrong. (And I think I am so enlightened! Ha! Let me issue this caveat–be careful of my “wisdom” because there is a lot I do not know!).
I joined society in the contempt for the pimp, not knowing until this moment that I had bought into the racist attitude that regards black men as disrespectful to women. I used to interview them as a joke. “What do you have to offer me?” or “What can you do for me that I cannot do for myself?” Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, many guys, especially the young ones, liked the notion of women giving them money for nothing and they never had anything to offer me other that the joy of having someone to answer to instead of being out there alone. Now that years have gone by and I understand the difficulty of being alone I understand that having someone care about you is worth something and it actually is understandable that someone would pay for that privilege. I am not looking for a pimp now but I would pay someone if I thought I could buy someone’s concern for me. I finally get the attraction of a pimp! And to think I started this post thinking I would tell you about the young man who offered to be my pimp and then rode off on his sputtering moped. Yes, that was funny considering the pimp is supposed to be a man of means. But as I wrote these words you are reading, I learned my own mind and found out what I really thought, how I really felt as a lonely person. I understand why I write this blog now and it is for you, my beloved reader, but it is also for me because I never knew I felt a yearning to have a partner even if that partner had been a pimp. But I was ever the loner and never allowed myself to reach out or to be reached. Maybe if I had been open I would have someone in my life now.
#how I really feel
#vulnerability in writing