Price of Flesh

From the edges of El Cajon and Chula Vista, a black Honda Accord is speeding down Interstate 8. Its dropped-down body and 17-inch rims have traveled far tonight, starting with an early 10 p.m. call in North Park, then to another date in Escondido by midnight. A call from home makes sure that the two girls inside are safe and that they have their money. A crying baby can be heard over the receiver. By 4 a.m., the girls have already visited four johns, or clients. There are two more waiting in Oceanside and Normal Heights.

Brian Moghadam
Guardian

Their night will end around 7 the next morning with a last stop at their escort agency. They have grossed over $1,000 tonight, but more than half will go to the agency. A receptionist at the office informs one of the girls that a party has been scheduled for the next night at 9 p.m., and that most of the people there will be officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

After nine hours of sleep, one hour for breakfast, one hour with the baby, 30 minutes to get dressed, 10 minutes to smoke a joint and five minutes to mix the Tanqueray and OJ, the girls are ready to start their business day.

Sasha and Nalia are escorts, also called “”adult entertainers”” or “”in-call masseuses.”” Living by their stage names, only a handful know them by their actual given names. They dance. They mingle. They massage. And with the right face and a gracious tip, they will loan their bodies for one or two hours, sometimes the whole night, to a client.

At the ages of 21 and 19, respectively, they have spent most, if not all, of their adult lives as escorts. Pride and shame are relative factors; survival becomes their mantra for life.

Yet neither girl ever exhibits any need for sympathy or compassion, especially from each other. Both hope to retire in three to four years, but an uneasiness rests inside them, wondering if they’ll ever get to exhale. Consequently, it becomes easy to victimize the two girls, and to view them as products of a broken home or society.

In reality, their lives are a cocktail of glamour and isolation. They live and cry like rock stars, locked behind their seductive masks. As a result, they can only find solace with those in the same industry, those who see the world in the same black-and-white, pimp-and-ho light.

The following is an excerpt from a series of interviews with Sasha and Nalia that began at a Denny’s on Miramar Road and ended at a photo shoot in Del Mar.

Both women have lived in San Diego their whole lives; in fact, they grew up in the same neighborhood. Aware of each other, but never close friends, their paths did not truly cross until each inadvertently became involved with the same man.

It was this same man that would impregnate both women. Sasha had the baby, Nalia aborted hers. And it would be the same man who would convince them to start escorting.

In the end, his persuasion was more practical than romantic. Sasha had just completed adult school, while Nalia was supporting a family of 10 by working at Subway. He wanted both of them; he offered money, security and independence. But this article is not about him, nor about their neo-urban love triangle. It is about two girls who made a choice and the price they have paid.

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR “”EMPLOYMENT?””

Sasha: “”Adult entertainer,”” because I love to come over to people’s houses and give them some company. And it’s cool that I get paid [laughs].

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?

Nalia: I knew someone that worked and she used to tell me stories about it and everything, but it wasn’t until I met [her] that I got into it.

HOW OLD WERE YOU?

Nalia: When she was working, I was 15. Yeah, and she was 19. But I knew her through somebody else. Like, it was my friend’s boyfriend’s girlfriend. She lived in the same house as my neighbor. She use to tell me stories — like some guy wanted to lick shit and stuff off her shoes [giggles]. It was really gross. She would tell me some freaky stories, and at first I was a little discouraged, but then I realized it was safe enough.

WHY DO YOU DO IT?

Sasha: At first I started for the money, but now, well, it’s still for the money, but it’s exciting, actually. You get to meet all kinds of people. And you get to meet the side they don’t share with people — their secret side. Like somebody might be cool up front, but you get them in a room alone and they like to get freaky. I like that.

HOW DO YOU MAKE TIME FOR LOVE?

Sasha: I can make time for it, but nobody would understand. And ever since I had my child, I really can’t have other relationships with other people.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE FATHER OF YOUR CHILD.

Sasha: Let’s not.

WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM?

Sasha: Well, he’s the father of my child. We’re not like boyfriend and girlfriend in the typical way, you know. On another level, we are … he understands and respects, I understand and respect. I get out of line sometimes, but with what I do — I turn into a bitch [laughs]!

Well, a female needs attention, you know, so when you don’t get that attention and you don’t get that attention for a minute, it’s kinda like, “”Either you love me or I’m gonna go somewhere else.””

DEFINE THE SYSTEM.

Nalia: The particular agency I’m at, they’re actually pimpin’ me instead of me trying to pimp other people. I mean, they’re making it really hard for me to make my money, because they charge a good $225 right off the bat. And out of that $225, I’ll get maybe 40 percent.

It wasn’t always like that, the reason being because I was at this other agency that I was doing real good at, but I got into trouble with my IDs and all kinds of other stuff. It’s just a real long story and I couldn’t work there a little bit.

When I got back and had everything situated, the lady who was giving me work before decided she didn’t want to give me work anymore, and then, on top of that, she’s going to tell people from other agencies that I steal calls, that I’m not a good worker, and then she’s gonna tell family members that I’m the reason that they don’t get calls [laughs].

Yes, and I never spoke to this lady that way. I don’t like her at all. She killed me real bad.

ARE THESE AGENCIES PRIVATELY OWNED?

Sasha: They’re usually privately owned, a lot of the times by women.

HOW MANY GIRLS USUALLY WORK AT AN AGENCY?

Nalia: It varies, really. You can get anywhere from 20 girls or more. But then you can get some with 15 or less. But they really don’t let the girls know about each other, because if there’s only 10 girls working at the agency and you’re never getting calls, then the girl will wonder why she’s not getting enough work.

Actually the people who run these businesses kind of get a little more personal than just having it just business. Like the people they hire, they don’t tell them to just keep it business and not let their personal feelings get in the way with what you’re doing.

A lot of receptionists won’t give you calls if you don’t tip them. And hey, I understand you’re making your money — whatever, whatever — but that’s your job.

I don’t always get tips when I go out. Sometimes I have to deal with the nastiest people, and I get nothing out of it. Sure, I get my $60 for showing up, but $60 doesn’t even pay my phone bill [laughs]. I got bills to pay for every day and a lifestyle to keep up.

HOW DOES A JOHN SOLICIT YOU FOR SEX, SASHA?

Sasha: I actually don’t do that ever unless I get personal enjoyment out of it, like if the guy is cute or if he has a big, nice dick [laughs]. So they’ll ask and I’ll say either yes or no. They usually ask if you’re “”full service.””

WHAT DO YOU USUALLY SAY?

Sasha: “”No.”” I can help, though [laughs]. I help everybody. I’m more into touching. I’m a flesh person.

HOW DOES A JOHN SOLICIT YOU FOR SEX, NALIA?

Nalia: A lot of johns think they’re going to have sex just because they paid their agency fees. Then they get pissed when you tell them you’re going to leave. Then they’ll usually offer you another 100 bucks. But shit, I might consider touching you for 100 bucks, but sex? No.

The young ones think like that especially. They think I’m young and cute, and they think it’s just going to happen like a fucking movie. I’ve had a lot them. They know that’s not what they’re paying for, and they actually think you’re going to sleep with them just because they’re cute and young.

They say shit like, “”Don’t you think I’m cute?”” or “”Did we not connect? Did we just not share something special there?”” I actually laughed in that guy’s face. He really thought there was something between us, like he wanted to save me.

ANY BAD EXPERIENCES?

Sasha: Not real bad, but uncomfortable. One time I was at this guy’s house, and he thought he was going to get more than a massage. But I told him when I showed up that for the price he was paying he was only getting a massage. And he said, “”Fine.””

Well, I was almost done, and he said, “”So we’re not going to have sex.”” And I said no. And he said, “”Well I’m not going to pay for the whole hour,”” and he just flipped. I mean he was a cool guy at first, but his whole attitude just flipped and he turned crazy. And I’m like, “”Well, that’s not what’s going to happen. We’re not going to have sex. If you want a little bit more, then I can help you with that. But if you’re not willing to give me what I’m asking, I’m not going to take your money, because I feel I’m worth a certain amount because I have been doing this for a while, and I am very good at what I do, and I’m not going to take any chump change.””

I charge $150, and that’s just for touch. But I do it well because I do the whole body, and I make it a relaxing situation. And I try to get it all together at first so I can do my thing, but he just got crazy, and I called the cops because my boss told me to call the cops and tell them that a guy solicited me for sex.

So I called, and I really didn’t want them to come over. I just wanted someone to talk to this guy so I could get out of there, but he wouldn’t let me leave. So I was talking on the phone with the lady, and I explained the situation, and she told me that I could leave. But I told her he wouldn’t let me. He was just standing by the door and kept pushing me while I tried to walk out. But he wouldn’t push me with his hands, just with his body. He made sure not to touch me with his hands.

So I said, “”Dude, you paid, I’m done with my service. I’ve been here for an hour. I’m out of here.”” And he got all mad, yelling, “”No, no, no.”” And he hung up my phone. I gave the lady my address, and he pushed my phone, and I hung it up, and then he dug his hands in his pockets for his money while I was screaming “”Hey, I need that money,”” and pushed me out the door and slammed the door in my face, and all I could really say was “”alrighty”” at the door.

But that’s about it with confrontations. I’ve had jerks, though. Oh my God. There’s all kinds of jerks.

I had this guy call me an asshole because I wouldn’t have sex with him. He said, “”No, ‘escort’ means ‘prostitute.’ That means you’re coming over to fuck me, so you’re an asshole.”” What did he say? False advertisement? The guy was this 6-foot-5, big-ass old man and getting pissed. And I just wanted him to leave me alone. I told him to take it up with the agency and I just walked out.

There’s a lot of guys like that. Because that’s what they expect: sex. It’s because a lot of them are businessmen coming in from out of town. So they just want a quick little [snaps fingers] whatever. Ties mean nothing, I guess. So I offer something a little more intimate.

ANY BAD EXPERIENCES?

Nalia: There were once these big-ass Italian guys … I really don’t know what they were, just fucking big European guys. They ran after me and this girl I had a call with and began chasing us in their underwear to our car. They wanted to get into our car and get their money back. They had paid the agency fees and thought they were going to get sex.

Me and the girl were fairly new and thought the men knew the fees were only for dancing and massaging. We thought they knew what they were getting. But when they asked for sex, and we told them that for the money they paid, we only danced, they demanded their money back, saying strange-ass shit to each other, while me and the other girl were looking for the right moment to run.

So they chased us, these four or five hairy-ass European fuckers in their tighty-whities, banging on our car door and screaming for their money back. I kept on screaming that we were going to call the cops while the other girl was fidgeting with the keys. I remember saying, “”Do not drop the keys,”” while she was panicking with tears in her eyes. I wasn’t crying myself, but I was definitely shaking.

HOW LONG DO YOU WANT TO KEEP DOING THIS?

Sasha: I don’t want to work here anymore [laughs]. I’ve been working here too long. This is not a career.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?

Sasha: Two years.

Nalia: Nine months.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “”IT’S NOT A CAREER?””

Sasha: It could be, but it’s not a lifelong career unless you take it to the next level.

SO WHEN DO YOU WANT IT TO END?

Sasha: I give another three years to be on top and stable so I don’t have to work anymore. And I can just take off and go to school and do what I want to do.

WILDEST EXPERIENCE?

Sasha: Threesome! Oh my lord, it gives me chills just thinking about it. I got paid $1,500. Two guys, three hours of pure pleasure for me. Oh my god, these guys pampered me like I was the only queen there. I was the only one. It was beautiful. They were both nice and stacked, and they both knew what to do with their stuff [laughs]. Well, one of the guys got into a car accident and he got a settlement of $7,000. It was so funny how it happened.

I was giving him a massage, and I was sitting next to him and curled up next to him, and he was lying on his stomach, and he tried to feel for me and he finally felt my leg and he said, “”Wow, you’re really small.”” And I said, “”Yeah, well, isn’t that a good thing?”” And he just laid back down, and he finally turned around and said, “”You know what, I know I’m a white boy and everything, but I can break you.”” And I said, “”Huh? Whatever, guy.””

And there was two other guys there, and I knew one of them. And he said, “”Yeah, me and Billy too.”” And I first said no. And he asked me how much it was going to cost. And I asked him how long he wanted me to stay, and he told me, “”The rest of the night,”” so I said, “”Well, it’s going to be a good $1,000.”” And he was like, “”Well, for us to really have fun, we’ll give you 15. Is that all right?”” And that’s when I agreed [laughs]. But he kept saying, “”Me and Billy too.””

And they had painkillers. Lots of painkillers. Vicodin. Seminoles. Those kept them going, though. He kept telling me that his girlfriend was out of town and that he was really horny, but shit, three hours. And the whole time I did this, I didn’t open my eyes once. I was lost. But it was strange. I didn’t really come. But I think the whole time I was — I don’t know, it was too much. I guess there was a point I was yelling and they stopped to ask me if I was OK. And I told them I was OK. Then they just started taking turns while the other would just stroke or kiss my face. It was cool.

WILDEST EXPERIENCE?

Nalia: I got attacked by some girl once [laughs]. She threw me on the bed at a hotel party I was working at and just attacked me. I guess the wildest thing was that I didn’t stop her.

There are a lot of parties like that. Ten people, maybe two or three dancers at a hotel room. Once, there was this college basketball team of 30 or 40 people, and the coach was the one that was paying for it. I got picked up and thrown over. But parties are just about dancing. Anything more is always one-on-one.

MISCONCEPTIONS?

Sasha: People think you’re stupid. They come at you thinking you’re doing what you’re doing because you don’t have brains to do anything else. I have brains. But I’m also a lazy person [laughs]. What I do is comfortable.

And you can’t be stupid doing this. You have to know how to read people. You’ve got to be quick on your toes. You can’t be a dummy, or you’ll be run over and ran through. But that’s what people think of me: dumb.

Nalia: How they think we need all this help. Like we need to be saved, saying things like, “”You’re too good for this.”” They’re usually clients, and if I’m too good for “”this,”” then I must be too good for them, since they are what I do.

And women. Men might be stupid to us, but women are cruel.

DESCRIBE THE COMMUNITY.

Sasha: I know some of the girls, but you usually just see the receptionist. So if it’s cash, you’re supposed to take your cut out and you give them their piece. The particular agency I’m at, they get 60-40. That’s what a lot of the agencies are doing now. They’re not doing half and half anymore. And the ones that are doing half and half is the place that lady burned me at.

And I’m barely starting to get back into it. I’ve been doing this for two years, but I stopped for a good four months. I took some vacation off because I did real good. We got out of our house. I was living at a three-bedroom house, paying a good $1,200 a month alone with one, two, three, four other people living with me — well, five, but that extra five is bringing in money as well. But I got this chick, her man, her pregnant ass, her kid, plus my kid with me. Homeboy helps too, but that girl was just lazy.

HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE?

Nalia: On a good day, $1,000. And it varies. It could be two calls or seven calls, if I get good calls, men who appreciate that I’m there for the company. They appreciate that I come over with a smile and am not a bitch about the money. I come to have fun. I’m not going to have sex with you, but I’m here to have fun. Because I always make that clear, I hate getting myself into situations I can’t get out of.

So in a good week I can make a good $3,000 or $5,000. I once made a grand each night for two consecutive nights with one client.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SEASONS?

Nalia: Income tax season isn’t great for the expected reasons. Holidays like Thanksgiving are slow because they’re with their families. But Christmas picks up just a little bit, because of all the lonely guys out here with nobody to call.

Last Christmas I got five calls Christmas day. All of them wanted sex but weren’t willing to pay what I wanted. So I just helped them and they were cool with that. They just wanted someone to hang out with on Christmas. I guess it does make you feel special, feel loved [laughs].

OTHER INTERESTS?

Sasha: Parties. I have an addiction. I’m 21 and I still call up party lines. I love it. It’s cool, the connection you can make over the phone.

WHAT HAVE CLIENTS OFFERED YOU?

Sasha: I had one client offer to take me around the world because he was a treasure hunter. The guy who played the guitar. He was older. Tall. Hippie. Balding. He wore boots, cowboy boots. Typical older man. He wanted me to be his girl, and in return, show me around the world. But I declined.

HAVE YOU EVER FALLEN FOR A JOHN?

Sasha: Actually, yes. He’s not even a client any more, he’s more of a friend. I’m not falling for him, but I’m developing feelings for him I shouldn’t be feeling. He never paid for sex. But he’s got a girl now. I once asked him if he wanted to be my boyfriend. [laughs]. But I’m not asking for a monogamous relationship because of the situation. And he asked me if I wanted to move in, but I had package — well, not package, he’s my pride and joy. That’s OK, I don’t want people to think I’m looking for a daddy. He already has one.

WHAT ARE CLIENTS LOOKING FOR?

Nalia: Sex [laughs]. It’s actually half and half. Half of them are just looking for a quick little come. But the other half is looking for someone to chill with, get to know: a girlfriend for the night.

IS IT HARD FOR YOU TO RELATE TO PEOPLE?

Sasha: Very. Actually, no. It’s not hard for me to relate to other people because I’m not as judgmental since I started doing this. How can you be? It’s hard for them to relate to me.

And I meet crazy people. I meet colonels in the Army and Navy that wanted to get banged in the butt with fucking triangle dildos and stuff. And half of the time, these men carry the toys themselves. I don’t carry any toys.

I had one guy that wanted me to tie him up, and I wanted to leave. He was being nasty and I couldn’t take it anymore. He was holding his feet like he was pregnant, screaming “”Yeah, fuck me in the ass.”” And he had this lace ribbon stuff, and I said, “”I’m not going to tie you up,”” and I was really getting mad at this guy. And he kept saying, “”Oh yeah, tie me up.”” So I tied him up at the bed real tight, and he kept putting up his legs. And I said, “”If you keep pulling up your legs I’m going to leave you here for the security guard to find you.”” And he said, “”Oh you know, my girlfriend did that to me once.”” And he kept on getting off! You meet some freaks.

I also had this guy that wanted me to call him a “”skank.”” He had this fishnet one-piece that was crotchless. It was brand new. He gave it to me, and he wanted me to wear it and walk around. He said, “”I want you to walk around, and I’m going to play with myself. And while I’m playing with myself, I want you to call me ‘skank’ and ‘bitch.'”” And he didn’t want me to touch him, and he gave me a good amount of money.

WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL LIFE?

Sasha: I don’t know. I think sooner or later I would have ended up doing this. Well, I do want to open up a club. Go back to school and get my business license. Three years is how much longer I want to do it. Oh, plus I want to learn how to DJ for the people [laughs]. Drum and bass. I want to do something different.

WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL LIFE?

Nalia: My own fashion line. I sketch out outfits almost every night. And hey, with what I do, fashion is a must. I know what men like and what women want.

And computers [laughs]. It’s funny, but I’m a computer nerd.

LIVE ANYWHERE?

Sasha: Netherlands. Amsterdam. Everything’s more open. Plus, I love my Mary Jane, you know — pot smoker.

Nalia: Probably still here in San Diego. I love looking at the downtown skyline at 6 in the morning. The way the beach looks, so still and calm, like you’re in a picture. I guess I’m just into nature and scenery. The pattern of the sky, purple and pink, driving through the trees on the 163 and seeing the light come off them. I’m not talking about life on the streets, just the earth and what it is. No one’s trying to take anything from you, it’s just giving beauty. You understand?

DO PEOPLE EVER CALL YOU BY YOUR REAL NAME?

Sasha: I do have people that call me by my real name. Actually, this lifestyle killed her. She was a sweet quiet little thing in the corner. Sometimes, she still peeks out. But it’s a lifestyle. I feel mature, and my body feels old. I think I’m getting carpal tunnel in my hands from jerking so many guys off.

ANYTHING YOU WON’T DO FOR MONEY?

Sasha: Blow jobs. Because I have to do them without rubbers. I like the taste of skin. And I can’t do it to everybody, because they have to first meet a certain size criteria. Second, they have to be rock hard — otherwise it feels like a big pile of flesh in your mouth. Bleh.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE EVERYTHING?

Nalia: I’m not doing anything I’m being forced to do. I do what I want to do. But, I don’t know. It’s really weird on the mind. It can either kill you or make you stronger. I take it day by day. I see one client tonight and forget about it tomorrow. Doesn’t everyone?