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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Selling yourself, part II -- mind vs. body

Are women unhappy if they feel their relationship is transactional? If so, then escorts should feel particularly bad, since that is at the heart of their business.

Is it true? Probably. But should it be?

I assert that many relationships are in fact transactional. It is evolution that made us that way. And in part 1 of this post I posited that we don't like to think it's transactional, so we cover it up with morality. Is this at the heart of the social stigma of prostitution?

Interestingly, I look to my own profession for comparison. I am a part time consultant. That and my past full time consulting in part supports my lavish lifestyle. But here's my dirty secret:

I rent out my brain for money.

For certain kinds of consultation, I was a high end provider. I worked for an agency for a short time. I was not able to choose my customers, but they provided the benefits of security, steady customer flow, and referrals. When I was independent, I could choose to whom I rented out my brain. I could choose if I liked hourly or longer term engagements. I could choose variety or steady customers. I could even choose to not charge in certain situations.

Sound familiar? I have defined prostitute as:

A woman who will perform some subset of what an ideal girlfriend will do in return for money, with "no strings attached."

And I will now define a consultant as:

A person who will perform some subset of what an ideal employee will do, in return for money, with "no strings attached."

I enjoy it. I like the stimulation of working with different people, and I really enjoyed helping them. It made me feel good and I have fun. The "financial purpose" was nice also, but frankly there were many other ways of making money available to me.

My case is not perfectly homologous to that of an escort. My belief is that there is an unusual difference in revenue potential between a high end escort and her other career choices. Perhaps she can make the taxable equivalent of $200,000 or more escorting (i.e. about $100k), but only $35,000 in a regular job. If so, the availability of large sums of money would create pressure to do a job that might be thankless or unpleasant. And there is the social stigma. My mother can speak proudly of what I do, and her peers will think it's an honest living. Not so if I were "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo."

I have spoken with several escorts around the world about how their experience is similar to that of a consultant. For example, thinking about what happens as one ages. Both body and mind do start to show age, and your value to the market may diminish. How to price. How to select customers. Deciding between short and long term contracts. What to do with dissatisfied customers. Whether it makes sense to bring on and train junior partners. The impact of your work on relationships.

Renting out your body is different than renting out your mind. But there are similarities you may find striking.

Of course in both cases, all fees are for time only with no representations or guarantees for services rendered!

Seriously, what's wrong with this supply and demand? At one point, people formed unions to combat management taking unfair advantages of workers. More recently, engineers in industries like aerospace have unionized to avoid being put to excessive work schedules, or coercive working conditions. Are these issues any different from the coercive and abusive treatment the media seems to focus upon for abused women in general?