(This poem is dedicated to the safety and well-being of the women who work at Hong Kong, Aiko's, Yoko's, and Lilac Saigon in San Francisco's Tenderloin.)

If there's one thing I know, it's that I definitely don't wanna go back to work in the Tenderloin.
I don't care how good the money is.
I don't care that the tourist customers pay over a hundred for a half and half.
I don't care if I could be making three hundred a night.
I won't work at night. Night girls fight. I'm a day girl.
I don't wanna go back and work at 467 O' Farrell Street where I was raped on August 7, 1979 by two punks with a knife and couldn't bring myself to call the police.
I don't wanna suppress my fear.
I don't wanna be a victim.
I don't wanna be raped again.
I don't wanna live the fast life.
I don't care how much you paid at Magnin's for your creme-colored high-heeled boots. They make you look like you' re gonna fall down.
I don't wanna spend my money on last year's shop-lifted silk blouses and slit skirts that the junkie booster brings around.

I don ' t wanna cook chicken in the sauna and rice in the electric pressure cooker and eat on the floor anymore, even though it was good and we came to know and love each other.
I don't wanna avoid discussing anything too personal.
I don't wanna lie abcout how much I make.
I don't wanna be ashamed of doing twenty dollar blow jobs.
I don't wanna refer to myself as a masseuse.
I don't wanna smoke dope and watch you return from the bathroom stumbling on junk.
I don't wanna pretend I don't see the bruises your boyfriend gives you .
I don't wanna be the one who never gets picked.
I don't wanna know what I'm worth.
I don't like it when cockroaches crawl on my customers.
I don't wanna fuck poor men with anti-social looks on their faces.

I don't care how much money you say you make.
I like you. I mean, I like some of you.
But I don't feel safe. Don't blame me for leaving.
I have to move up. I'm going to work in the financial district.

*Update: Reading this from a contemporary perspective, some of Scarlot's (my) complaints reinforce stereotypes, others present new information about actual dynamics between the women that transcend expectations. Howewver, there are some issues of class privilege that are problematic in this poem.The twist comes at the end when Scarlot (me) is not bashing prostitution, but describing the dangers and violations of her experience at this 'Tenderloin' massage parlor. The expectation of a confessional disavowal of prostitution is disrupted when Scarlot explains she will now work in the financial district. The poem invokves my ambivalence about the privilege that allows me to do that, but it is also celebratory, with a focus on the disruption of the victim narrative, obscuring and de-emphasizing the issue that, in the end I use my class privilege to survive when others don't have that option.


Autobiography of a Whore: Table of Contents

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