The international adventures of a singing, dancing zombie queen.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

I am NOT a prostitute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

       So, my neighborhood has a lot of prostitutes.  And I understand that I dress unconventionally.  But I also carry a neon green Nalgene bottle, and a large bag.  Now, perhaps I am being classist, here, but prostitutes in my neighborhood do NOT carry Nalgene bottles of any color, nor do they have bags.   But for some reason, their seems to be some confusion about the fact that I am NOT a prostitute.  Maybe I need a big sign on my bag.  Although that probably wouldn't work.   And, honestly, I am sick of being made to feel afraid in my own neighborhood, or in fact in any neighborhood.  At all hours of the day.  Sick of it.
  
  So here are my two most recent reasons to celebrate being a woman.  Whoo hoo.
 
      On Tuesday night, I was walking home from BART after dance class.  It was after 10pm, and dark, and I was wearing a big, baggy sweatshirt with my dance tights underneath and chunky shoes.  A large, trashy, white hooptie pulled up via a cross street, and honked at me multiple times in a sloppy shave-and-a-haircut sort of way.  I had already passed the intersection, so I ignored it, kept my face forward, and continued walking.  So Mr. Trashy Car turned the corner and pulled over about 20 feet in front of me.  He tooted his little horn song again, and leans over to his passenger side window.  I ignored him again and continued walking.  He said something that I didn't hear, and then drove off down the street.  
   Unfortunately for me, he happened to stop at the mini mart down the street.  I saw his car parked as I walked towards it, and there he was, crossing the street towards his car.  He felt that it would help his cause to tell me to come over, because according to him, he'd treat me right.  I ignored him, crossed the street to my left, and then began crossing the other street.  He had gotten in his car, and turned left so that he could drive right in front of me as I was crossing.  The purpose of this was apparently to give me a dirty look right in the eyes.  I guess he wanted to teach me a lesson about being a pretentious whore. 
 
     As if this weren't enough for the week, the next day I was walking home again, this time in the sunny, bright late afternoon.   I was waiting for the light to change at that very same intersection when I heard someone say hi to me.  Suspicious of this as I usually am for the above mentioned reasons, I turned my head slowly, and pretended to look at the fast food restaurant across the street.  There was a guy on a motorcycle waiting for the light to change.  The motorcycle was blue, and he had a matching suit and helmet.  I had giant black sunglasses on, so I stared forward with my face while trying to see if I knew him out of the corner of my eye.  Apparently he thought I was checking him out.  The light changed, and I crossed the intersection, convinced that he was a complete stranger.
    He also traversed the intersection, and pulled over in down the street on my side.  By the time I walked by, he was still trying to take his helmet off.  He said 'hello,' and 'how are you.'  I said nothing.  He asked what I was doing, and since he seemed more friendly than creepy, I -regretfully- responded.  I didn't look at him, I didn't turn my head, I didn't slow my pace.  But I did, like a complete moron, mumble, "walking home."  I hadn't meant to say "home," and so mentally hit myself upside the back of the head.  He asked me to come over, said he just wanted to talk to me.  I didn't respond to this, and continued down the street.  He drove off down the street and turned left. 
    For a moment, I felt kind of sorry for the guy; maybe he felt a little embarrassed about not having gotten his helmet off in time for me to be able to see his face properly.  This was some short lived sympathy. 
    As I got to the end of the next block, I saw his motorcycle parked on the corner.  My chest tensed up with anxiety.  He was again struggling with his helmet, so I ignored his additional pleas to come over and talk to him, and marched more quickly down the street.  I could hear his voice behind me as I walked.  I walked a little bit faster, trying to look unscared, busy, and expected somewhere.  Secretly I was freaked out.   How much does it take for a man to notice that you are ignoring him?
   When I turned down my street, I saw him from the corner of my eye.  He was still following me. My heart started pounding.  I moved quickly into the open corridor of my building, grabbing my keys from my bag, and letting myself into the stairwell as fast as I could.  I pulled the door closed and locked behind me as hard as I could, with both hands, cursing the mechanism that keeps it from smacking you in the behind.  I heard his voice in the corridor, begging me to talk to him.
     Safely behind the door, I whipped out my cellphone and called my housemate upstairs, to ask him to come out to the balcony.  I didn't want to be seen on my floor, and wanted a large man to be seen with me, at least; what else could I do; I didn't want to hang out in the stairwell until I thought he was gone...

    We told the police who happened to be outside about the fact that this stranger had followed me onto my property.  He followed me home, and came onto my property without any invitation.  With me starting to walk faster as he came nearer.  Honestly, I was terrified. 

    So, now, there is a proposition up for voting in the legalization of prostitution in my area.  And I can't say that I disagree with it.  I imagine that most conservative women who have a problem with this idea think that it would cause them more trouble as women in society.   But I think it would be helpful.

       If we had state-run brothels, we could lower the transmission of HIV.  The state could be responsible for enforcing testing in order for a woman's license to be valid, and provide free condoms.  Sex workers could be protected from abuse, and not have to deal with abusive pimps, like the one who offered me a "new weave" and then called me a bitch when I wouldn't tell him my name. 
       This also took place just a couple of blocks from my house.  And I did have a weave at the time.  But that doesn't mean that he or any other man have a right to know my name.  Nor do they have a right to get a smile out of me, or a hello in response to them, or a thank you for their unwanted comments on my body.  Nor a right to lie to me, telling me that I've dropped something just because they want me to turn around so they can see my walk again, as did the guy on the street today.
    If we had state-sanctioned prostitution, there would be a place where unwanted advances would be appropriate, and therefore they would perhaps be less likely to bother random women on the street.   Perhaps there would be more respect for women who do sex work.  She would be a woman with a specific job that she does at a specific jobsite.  She would be a woman with a profession instead of an object that is always available for use.  Not to mention the fact that men could take care of their sexual needs when they need to, without bothering women on the street about it ...

      I would be interested to know what the cultural views on women are in places like Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal.  Are my guesses correct about men treating women on the street more like humans and less like objects?  Are prostitutes treated with more respect than they are here?  Are HIV transmission and abuse less prevalent?  Does the government get enough revenue to help support education?  Do the police have more time to worry about violent crime?  Is there less rape and less stalking?  Somehow, I think the answer is yes. 
       But perhaps, what the more useful question to ask is how the locals treat sex-workers in Nevada.  Do the people who have had time to become used to having legal prostitution as a part of the structure of society have less negative attitudes surrounding sexuality?   Is the culture in small cities moving towards a more respectful opinion of women, and a more sex-positive society?  It's a lot to ask, I know.  It will be a long time before this country gets anywhere near as accepting of sex as Europe.  But perhaps this is a way to start; by making a big step towards removing the taboo about sex, instead of it being some hidden secret whose stifled angst women are supposed to bear the brunt of.  But I'll keep hoping.

  Oh, and by the way, I am NOT a prostitute.  Damn it.
 
   




2 comments:

CurlyGirl said...

i am not a prostitute either dammit! why oh why can't men pull their heads out of their asses? i ask you, WHY???

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with the state regulated prostitution concept. It was one of the first issues written into my manifesto for Anarchist Socialism and Common Goal Socialism. When something is made legal and afforded regulation, the elements of danger are removed.

The biggest factor I think in this country's frequency of sex related violence though is its roots in puritan repression. Wherever for example, nudity is matter of fact, instances of stalking, rape, and other similar behavior are far less frequent. People in the U.S. get pent up, pent up, and explode at other people in whatever way. For all that to stop, the repression and fear of this 'culture' needs to be relieved at a core level. Off the top of my head, that means a lot of art, news and laws need to....well, get the stick out of their ass.

Hoby

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Dance & Fitness Faculty member at San Francisco Peninsula Community Colleges, Director, Choreographer & Featured Dancer, Founder of the Living Dead Girlz, and Owner of the Steele Dance Company, which provides entertainment for festivals, corporate events, conventions and private events. Teaching private dance lessons and creating choreography since 1997, Steele graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Double Major in Dance and Comparative Literature and completed her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. She has toured all the major cities in Germany and performed at the Cannes Film Festival as the featured dancer in TRIP -- Remix Your Experience, a multimedia exhibition of film, live music and art. Steele has also performed as a featured dancer for RJ Reynolds (CAMEL) promotional events. Steele currently manages the go-go dancers of "Poor Impulse Control," who perform frequently in San Francisco's industrial, alternative, and rock venues.

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