It’s impossible to have a discussion about iconic sex work films without mentioning Pretty Woman. The 1990 box office hit starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was considered very bold for its time. For a mainstream American movie to depict the life of a prostitute in such a humanizing way was a big fucking deal. 

Edward wooing Vivian with diamonds
(Photo Source: People))

A Movie Ahead of Its Time

While it wasn’t necessarily an accurate depiction (Let’s be real. There’s no way a Julia Roberts looking gal would be slumming it as a street walker unless she was a drug addict, which the writers went out of their way to convey she wasn’t), it certainly did a good job of giving the characters depth – at least by rom-com standards. 

Boiled down, there’s nothing all that exciting about the plot. It’s a classic Cinderella story. A girl is down on her luck, meets her prince charming, and lives happily ever after (or so we’re left to believe at the end of the film). Yet, it managed to steal the hearts of millions and reigns as one of the most beloved movies of the nineties. 

I decided to watch the film again for the first time in years, hoping that I’d gain some insight into the life of a prostitute. But as mentioned before, the whole thing is so far outside the realm of reality that it seemed in bad taste to draw conclusions about what it’s like to be a blue collar sex worker from something so fantasy-based. 

A Love Story for the Ages

Kit and Vivian in their full 90s glory
(Photo Source: The Corporate Sister)

I was, however, inspired by the love story. And no I don’t mean the one between Vivian Ward (Roberts) and Edward Lewis (Gere). That one is far too obvious to be interesting. I’m talking about the one between Vivian and her friend, Kit. If there’s one thing that’s realistic about Pretty Woman, it’s the bond between these two working girls who are struggling to survive. 

As Vivian explains to Edward, it was Kit who first got her into sex work. Vivian had moved to LA with a bum. When that relationship ended, she waited tables and worked as a valet but neither job paid enough to make end’s meet: “That’s when I met Kit . She was a hooker and made it sound so great so one day I did it. I cried the whole time. Then I got some regulars…you know it’s not like anybody plans this. It’s not your childhood dream.”

Every woman I’ve known in the sex work game, myself included, had a friend who got them into the life. An older sister of sorts, who showed them the ropes and provided emotional support. It was Kit who gave Vivian a place to stay when she had nowhere to go and an opportunity to be her own boss, doling out the “We say who. We say when. We say how much” mantra. 

Despite being in direct competition with one another, Vivian and Kit look out for each other. For them it’s not Vivian versus Kit, but Vivian and Kit versus the world. Even though Kit pisses the hell out of Vivian when she blows their rent money on partying, Vivian goes out of her way to make sure Kit gets some of the bounty Vivian scores from her time with Edward, not just at once but twice. The first time is so that Kit can pay off the rent. 

The second time is at the end of the movie, when Vivian decides to make the move to greener pastures. She asks Kit to come with but to no avail, so she gives her a fat wad of cash instead:

Kit: Woah, what is this? 

Vivian: It’s part of the Edward Lewis scholarship fund. We think you got a lot of potential Kit De Luca 

Kit: You do? You think I got potential? 

Vivian: Oh yea, and don’t let anybody tell you different, ok?

Kit: Ok.

Vivian: Take care of you.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the most moving scene in the whole movie. Vivian, with her newfound sense of empowerment, uplifts another woman. Edward was the one who helped her see her potential, and now Vivian is passing on that torch by helping Kit see hers. 

A lesser woman would have hoarded the cash for herself and left hastily upon realizing she’s “too good” to go back to her old life and friends. But there’s this unspoken understanding between Vivian and Kit that, despite their limited resources, this duo will always go out of their way to help each other no matter what. Based on my own sex work experience, this “We’re all in this together,” sentiment runs parallel to real life. 

The Sisterhood of Sex Work

Oscar Wilde was a famous writer who was discriminated against and imprisoned for being gay. Fittingly, he penned the famous line: “Everything in life is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.”
(Photo Source: Scottish Rite)

As much as people claim not to judge, they do – especially where sex work is concerned. Unless you yourself have been a sex worker, it’s exceedingly difficult to comprehend its nuance and complexity. There’s just so many paradoxes. It’s empowering yet exploitative; intimate yet transactional; playful yet laborious. It can be hard to open up about the downsides of sex work to non-sex workers because they are usually quick to lump you into the victim narrative. 

I got into sugaring after talking about it with a friend of a friend. She gave me some tips and shared some stories, but we lost touch shortly after. For a long time, I was on my own. My peers were normies and I had to use my discretion when deciding who was cool enough to open up to about it and who wasn’t. The whole thing was very isolating. 

It was like I had this big secret weighing on me. Even my therapist – the person literally being paid to remain neutral – would question my choices. I knew she was coming from a good place but she was so brainwashed by societal norms and moral constructs that she couldn’t condone such a lifestyle in good conscience, regardless of whether or not I perceived it as something positive in my life.

But then a funny thing happened when I was taking a break from sugaring. I was back in school and had reconnected with an old childhood friend. Somehow or another, she let slip her sugar babying past and all of sudden, I was overwhelmed with a sense of connectedness. “Wow, I’m not the only one carrying around this secret,” I remember thinking.  Since then, I’ve met a lot of women who engage in various forms of sex work, and whenever that “You too?!” moment occurs, the friendship is taken to a whole new level.

I imagine it’s comparable to the camaraderie soldiers have with one another. When two men in uniform meet they are instantly bonded by their shared experiences and traumas. Similarly, sex workers implicitly understand one another in a way outsiders never can. Being a sex worker changes how you see the world. It makes you see the truth – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most people go about their lives blissfully ignorant to the twisted human brain and its true desires. Sex workers, on the other hand, see and experience it all. They know and live by the Oscar Wilde quote:

Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.

Culture
Escorting
Films
Sex Work
Jules

Jules

Author

Based in Brooklyn, Jules has dedicated her twenties towards harnessing her pussy power, exploring the muse, whore, and wild woman archetypes along the way. When not blogging, you can find her sweating the toxins out in a hot yoga class or sipping a matcha latte at a pretentious coffee shop, whilst she scribbles away in her journal.


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