The fictional story of a hooker who preferred to go back to her pimp and drink champagne to being a bored housewife brings up the oft-neglected theme of the excitement and glamour of many sex-industry venues. In the traditional ‘debate’ about prostitution (which it is not – not a debate at all), one side talks about misery and the other about rights and jobs. This leaves out all the rest, which I like to think of as culture.
Like John Rechy in City of Night, Bruce Benderson sees the inspiring heat in places where criminal and ostracised subcultures intersect – and note the complaint about everything being characterised as sad and exploited:
Don’t believe the hype about the infamous Stonewall bar being an oppressive place where sad homosexuals had to hide from police oppression and where Mafia bosses exploited their desperation. Any illegal bar run by the Mafia always has the hottest, most inspiring atmosphere. And excitement, risk and underground activity are what makes the best writing. The Mafia may have created a lot of heartache in our cities, but we owe them a debt for having created such good illicit bars, which were at the basis of a lot of good American literature. As for me, I probably wouldn’t have written a decent sentence if I hadn’t discovered Times Square and the hot Puerto Rican hustlers who came down from the South Bronx to frequent its mostly Mafia-owned bars. – 3am Literature, Bruce Benderson
Thanks to Friends of Ours for this quotation in a discussion of news presenters’ naivete on the subject of the mafia and prostitution: Mafia Exploitation Of Kids: Really A New Low?
–Laura Agustín, The Naked Anthropologist