The Story of a Sex Worker

July 29, 2004


(Note: I have been accused of being stereotypical because of my tale of abuse. This is a little insulting. Things usually become a stereotype because they’re common.)

My childhood was hard. It fucking sucked, really. In the beginning, my dad would beat me regardless of whether or not I did something wrong. Later on, after I'd hit puberty and hit it hard, I started getting in to trouble, partly I think so my father could have a reason to hit me. It felt even worse when I was minding my own business and he came into my room and beat me because he hit himself with a hammer. I think part of him really believed that I was at fault for him hitting himself. I had distracted him by existing. I should have been a boy, or I should have never been born, I'm not sure what went through his head. Maybe he just didn't like children. They never had another one. All I knew is that he was twisted and my childhood was vaguely like living with a low-level serial killer.

When I turned twelve I started fucking around. Again, I'd managed to alienate most of the girls who knew I was sleeping with the boys. They never called me a slut to my face, but with their hateful looks, they didn't have to. The boys liked me, and how, but that wasn't friendship, that was activity. So I started shoplifting. The act itself was a fine companion. I felt justified for being alone because it was a solitary art.

I started with toy stores. I didn't want any of the toys, it just seemed like a good target. I didn't even steal toys meant for girls. I stole boy's toys. Most of the time I threw the toys away once I got outside. A couple of times I gave a water pistol or an action figure to a neighborhood kid and then felt like Robin Hood. I told him to tell his parents he found it on the street.

For a time the crime was thrill enough. But soon I wanted the profit as well. Problem was, I couldn't think of anything I wanted. I didn't use make-up. I was pretty without it. And I didn't wear jewelry. I was basically a pretty tomboy. My father had made me tough. I sometimes stole food but that was so easy it was almost boring. I finally decided to steal a piece of stereo equipment from one of the big stereo stores. I didn't have a stereo in my room. I walked into the store and saw all the blinking lights and black cases and TV's all set to the same channel and I felt as if I'd made a good decision. I felt at home.

"Can I help you?" said a man with acne on his cheeks and a name tag that said, "Mark."

"I'm just looking," I said.

He looked disappointed, maybe even a little disgusted, and walked away.

An alarm went off behind me. A woman was trying to walk through the front door with the metal-detection panels. She was carrying a box with a telephone. She stopped midway and looked to her left. Some guy with a name tag told her to go through. I thought to myself, that woman could have been stealing that telephone and the workers didn't even care. They were lazy. The salesmen didn't want to work any more than they had to. And if somebody stole something, it was no money out of their pocket, just out of the million-dollar company. This was going to be easy.

I walked to the section with the portable boxes. I would have to hide it from my parents but I could listen to it at night with headphones and steal CD's from the local record store. I was looking forward to it. I walked through the section and ran my fingers along volume knobs and graphic equalizers. All the stereo boxes looked sleek and expensive. I grabbed one and found that it was chained to the wall. So were all the others. There was nothing I could steal.

I walked away and thought about it. There was so much activity in the store that nobody noticed me pick up a heavy cardboard box on the floor sitting next to a man who was paying for it. I walked towards the front of the store carrying the box in two arms. Nobody seemed to be following me. I took long, soft strides. I figured I'd just walk out the front door like the woman. Maybe they'd already cut out the alarm protection. They hadn't. As soon as I got to the alarm sensor, it went off. A hand was on my shoulder and a deep voice said, "Miss. Please step back into the store."

I backed inside and looked up. The voice belonged to a tall security guard. I slowly set down the box. As soon as I did, I started running. The guard caught me immediately by the back of the shirt, choking my Adam's apple. "OK," he said. "That'll be enough." I slackened. Everyone in the store was looking at me. The security guard took me to the guy who was buying the box, a small man in his forties.

"Apologize to the man," said the guard.


"I said apologize."

He had both hands on my neck, slippery from sweat but applying pressure.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I've never been so sorry about anything in my whole Goddamn life."

The security guard applied more pressure.

"Well, that's OK," said the man, more than a little confused.

The guard then took me to a back room. He sat me down in a metal chair next to a candy machine and a Coke machine and a round table covered with six ashtrays. It was the employee lounge.

"Why did you do this?" he asked me.

"Why? Fuck if you ask me."

"Don't talk that way."

"Sorry, Mr. Guard."

I was trying to sound tough in the face of the hairiest, most masculine man I'd ever seen. He looked like he had hair on the other side of his skin.

"So why'd you do it?" he said.

"I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know?"

"I wanted a stereo."

"You wanted a stereo."


He cleaned out his ear with his pinkie and then left it in.

"Look, I'll tell you something," he said. "I used to be a cop. I've seen a thousand petty criminals. You don't seem like a criminal to me. You're just having some fun. You're not ready for Juvy Hall. My guess is this is the first time you've tried to steal anything expensive. Am I right? Is this the first time you've tried to steal anything serious?"

I hesitated. "Yeah."

"OK, then. I'm not going to report you. I'm just going to call your parents.

"Thank you."


I gave him my home number and he dialed.

What I thought was a lucky break resulted in a broken arm. My father took my arm and put it in the bathroom door and slammed the door against it. "Maybe now you won't do any Goddamn stealing," he said.

"You broke it," I screamed, crying. My arm hurt so much it was almost numb. There was a bump in the middle of my forearm almost an inch high.

"Yeah? Good. You can't steal with a broken arm."

I probably would have been safer in Juvy Hall. My life would have been a whole lot easier if I had gotten thrown in six months, or even ten years, earlier.

I kept stealing long after my father broke my arm. It was never my intention to be taken away to Juvy Hall. I kept stealing because, like I said, my father would have kept hurting me anyway, and my mother would have kept not helping. So I continued, almost with the purpose of getting caught, to show my dad that his beatings were having no affect on me. It was my one form of retaliation. Every time I got caught it ate him up inside. He might still hurt me but he was also beat-up himself.

I didn't fuck all the guys in class to get back at my dad like I had with stealing. I slept with the boys so they would touch me in some way, something to make up for my parents rarely even giving me a handshake. I sometimes got a soft pat on the shoulder from my mom saying, "He doesn't mean it, honey"--the standard excuse that so many mothers gave their sons and daughters. But I knew he meant it. He meant it with all his lack of heart.

My father never beat me directly for screwing boys. But he hated me screwing around more than stealing. He always found some other reason to punish me, like the trash not being taken out, even if he hadn't asked. The sex killed him, I think, because he was jealous. One, because he didn't get laid as a kid and thought all the girls who wouldn't give his acne the time of day were whores. And two, because he wanted to be fucking me himself. Thank God he had some restraint and didn't fuck around on me like so many other girls I knew. I'd take fists over finger-fucking any day of the week.

My father had his share of trouble. He hated himself because he wanted me and I have a feeling that he wasn't getting too much from his beloved Joy. He also had a lot of stress at work. He worked sales in computers, too low down to ever ride the technology bandwagon. My mom was always quick to remind me how hard he worked. She rarely got involved apart from those flimsy soothing words late at night. My father only hit her a couple of times. He was probably afraid she'd leave. He probably hit me because he wanted me to leave. Although I bet if I left, he would have missed me. His abuse of me had become something of a hobby.

There was only one time my mom ever physically came to my defense. It was the night I tried to rob the stereo store. He'd already busted my arm. My mother was pleading with him that she had to take me to the hospital. He said, "She still needs to learn my lesson," and took me into the living room. Nobody knew what he was going to do to me. I was terrified and I turned to run into my room when he grabbed my broken arm. I shrieked in pain and my mom screamed, "Stop it!" She rarely raised her voice and hearing her scream sounded tragic. My father glanced at her and then raised his fist to hit me again. My mom picked up a porcelain clock off the mantelpiece and threw it at him. It missed and hit the wall by the front door, leaving a hole about the size of a baseball and a crack going two feet up the wall like a fault line.

We all looked at the wall and the crack, the clock laying in pieces on the floor, and we were silent. The sight of it, and the soft sound of my mom starting to whimper, seemed to calm my dad down. He went into the kitchen to fix himself a whiskey and my mom took me to the hospital.

The next day my dad filled up the hole in the wall with plaster and painted over it with a yellow paint that didn't match the original color, which had faded.

The cast on my arm went all the way to my shoulder. I wrote on my cast names of characters I had made up like Harold the robber and Cassidy the starlet. I told my classmates I fell off the roof. Some kids I told I was on so many drugs that I was trying to fly, just to see how they'd react. Some were disgusted. Others were wide-eyed and fearful.

This story is just one piece of my childhood.

July 26, 2004


A few days after that weekend my mother called. She always called early in the morning, around eight or nine. She had always been an early riser and some days growing up I could hear her aimlessly clanging around with plates at five in the morning. I never woke up myself before 11:00. She wasn't calling early to spite me, she just never had any idea that she was affecting other people.

I knew it was her before I picked up the phone.



"Yeah?" I exaggerated sleepiness.

"It's Joy. I mean, Mom."

"Hi Mom," I said. My mother's name was Joy which seemed evidence of God's cruel sense of humor. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, honey," she said with weakness in her voice. "But I can't lie. Everything's not completely right."

"What's wrong?"

"Zowie's sick."

"She is?"

Zowie was my grandmother. I called all my grandparents by their first name.

"What's wrong with her?"

"She's very sick. This could be her last week."


"Yeah. So I think you should come out to see her one last time."

"In Florida?"

"Yes, honey, in Florida."

"I have to work, mom. I don't know if I can just leave."

"Tell them there's a death in the family."

"This isn't a normal job. It doesn't work the same as other jobs."

"I know," she said flatly. She knew perfectly well what I did for a living. I told her soon after my first job. I didn't want to lie to her. I didn't care how it affected her because I was sure she didn't care how it affected me. She asked me what I was doing with myself and I told her. I didn't deliberate. Emotionless as she was, she didn't raise anger or cry. Since then we never talked about it. A lot of girls and guys had support from their families. "If this is what you really want, we're happy for you," said the moms and dads from some fantasy universe. The way my mom and dad supported me was by saying nothing. Though I'd rather they stay quiet than yell threats at me.

"I'll try to get off," I said. "But you know I haven't been working that long and it might not be so easy."

"Well, you try, honey. Zowie would like to see you. It's important."

I wanted to see Zowie too. She was the only person in my family who I really liked and who had always been good to me. She was a sad case though because lately her mind had been going. She couldn't remember names, her dentures fell to her plate at the dinner table, she had her back to the camera during family pictures. I wanted to visit her.

Bernard was understanding. "It's family, Shirl. I know the importance of family. We're a family right here in this office. You also need the family outside, even if they have been rough on you. I'll give you a week."

I thanked him and called my mom back.

"That's great, Shirley. Zowie will be happy. We'll all meet in Florida." She laughed through her nose. "You know what I was just thinking about? The most funny thing. That time you went to school with no clothes on."

"Why were you thinking about that?"

"Oh, I was just thinking about what you are like now and how you were a precocious child." She said "precocious" like it was the dirtiest of words. "Do you remember that?" she said.


"That sure was funny," she said, another fake laugh through her nose.

I remembered. It wasn't so funny to her at the time.

While I was growing up, my elementary school was three blocks from our house in New Jersey. I always walked to school. When I was eight, I went to school naked. I only wore my pair of size three sneakers with red stripes on the side. It was just like everyone's nightmare, showing up at school without any clothes. The difference was, I did it on purpose. And I enjoyed it. Even at that young age I was curious about sex. I masturbated continuously from the age of four. Sometimes I stood in front of the full-length mirror on my closet door and played with myself. I liked being naked. I figured if I could be naked in front of myself and my mom, why couldn't I be naked in front of everybody? In my little kid mind I thought they'd think I was pretty and accept me. In reality what happened was that everyone was paralyzed. I walked into the early morning playground crowded with kids on the jungle gym and teachers trying to direct them inside. When I walked up they just stared at me. The boys didn't point or tease, they just stared. After a while, which could have been seconds or hours, my teacher, Miss Havingston, walked out of the main building and immediately picked me up and brought me inside. "What's wrong, honey?" she said sweetly. "Why don't you have any clothes on?" I liked Miss Havingston. She was young and kind and, looking back, a pretty foxy woman. There were schoolyard rumors about her going on dates with other teachers. She called my parents in for a meeting and told them to give me more attention because this was a cry for help.

From that point on I was feared by the boys and girls of all grades. They treated me like a young psychotic, ready to snap and bite them at any minute. Who knows what their parents told them. "That Shirley is unstable. It doesn't surprise me. Those parents never seemed to have both feet on the ground either." For all of elementary school I didn't have many friends. I spent recess alone. Poor little naked girl.

July 20, 2004


I had the perfect porn face. I could play both innocent and adult. Some twenty-five-year-old women couldn't pass for eighteen and so they couldn't play the daughter, cheerleader, or virgin roles. If you put my hair in pigtails and the right clothes I could look sixteen. I had a small frame, small shoulders. But I could also put on a pair of glasses, put my hair into a bun and play the doctor or teacher, an educated, older person. That was my selling point and why I got more roles and enjoyed a quick popularity. I was fortunate.

By the time I had done five films I'd met many people. Some were talking about me getting the "Best New Actress" award. The community took me in and made me one of them.

I had made "Moby Cock," "Sexi Drivers," two movies in the "Jenny Highsmith Adventures" series, and a foot fetish film called "High Heels on a Dirt Road." A lot more fetish films were getting done nowadays because the industry had nearly exhausted the cum, sex, cum formula. S&M was becoming bigger too. I would never get involved in bondage. I'd let them take pictures of my feet, or a guy cumming on my feet, but I'd never let them hurt me. I didn't even want to fake it.

I was riding high on my new success. It was more than I had ever imagined and I had gotten it almost immediately. "Porn's like that," Bernard told me. "In that respect it's a lot friendlier than Hollywood."

One morning, I was walking down Sunset to get groceries when a couple stopped me.

"It's you," the guy said and turned to the girl. "It's her," he said.

Her face brightened up.

"We saw one of your videos," he said. "It was a Jenny Highsmith movie. We've seen a lot of her movies but when we saw you, you outshined even Jenny."

"Thanks. But I wouldn't say that."

"It's true. You were the real star of the movie."

His girlfriend put her hand on my arm and shuddered. "You're beautiful," she said. "After we saw that movie we had the best sex we've had in months."

"That's great," I said.

"Would you like to get together with us," he said timidly. "I'm Jim and this is my girlfriend Patricia."

The name sounded made up. She didn't look like a Patricia. She was 5-4, shorter than me, with a big chest, wide legs, and small brown eyes. "We've been thinking about it for a long time," she said. "We put an ad in the paper and answered some ads and we've looked through the swinger's magazines but we haven't found anybody we liked. When we saw you, we said, that's exactly the kind of person we want. We thought we might be able to find that kind of person. We never thought we'd actually meet you."

"What do you think?" he said.

"Well, Jim, I'll think it over but it seems like an all right idea."

They smiled joyously and we exchanged numbers.

"I can't believe we're meeting the real Shirley Shave," he said. "I just can't believe it."

I went over to their apartment on a Friday night and stayed till Monday morning. They treated me like a princess. They fed me good food, bathed me, and gave me long massages all weekend. In sex, I would barely have to touch Patricia for her to go into long, screaming orgasms. Patricia brushed my hair and painted my toenails and told me about herself. She used to be a bikini model but now was working as a receptionist for an unsuccessful producer. Jim worked in construction. They went to the beach whenever they could. "You have beautiful hair," she said and kissed the back of my neck. She dressed me up in her best clothes, high heels and a string of pearls and took pictures. They treated me with a kind of worship that I couldn't help find pleasing.

"This has been great," Jim told me Monday morning, his eyes shining. "We'll remember this always."

They held each other arm in arm as I walked down Sunset Boulevard.

I think that walk home might have been the peak of my happiness in the porn scene. Nothing else showed me so directly the good effect I could have on people. I felt something of a healer.

July 18, 2004

Get Off My Chest

There are a few things I have to get off my chest. Most people in this world thought there was nothing lower than porn, and certainly nothing lower than a porn actress. To people who were never behind the scenes, we probably did look like perverts, sex-crazed and brainless. But most times that was far from the truth. We were people with plans and ideas. I guess that's one reason I'm writing about it. To defend myself. To show that under any exterior, even one so glazed in sweat, there's a decency sometimes better than what is considered "normal." Call it a manifesto for the pre-judged.

Everyone in the world wanted a community. It was one of the most urgent of desires. Porn may have been an outlaw business but, almost overnight, I belonged. I was content for the first time in my life. That was an achievement most people in straight jobs could never boast. On some level I had made it. I was paid well. The movies were packaged and sold just like any movie and I felt some pride that I was going to be turning on some meek, lonely men. Watching a porn video might release some of their bitterness, make them less tense the next day when they went on to sell whatever it was they sold.

Certainly some people in the industry were mind-numbingly dumb, just like the blonde bimbo nympho stereotype. The brain of a child, the body of a woman. And of course some of the videos could be mindless. The work didn't reach any deeper than the body. But the humor was no more mindless than a sitcom. The acting no less forced than a soap opera. The situations no more degrading than most of TV. I didn't know why people thought porn was any more demoralizing than "Fear Factor" or "America's Funniest Home Videos." People eating insects, people falling on their ass, people actually hurting themselves and then having strangers laugh about it. I'd rather look like I was in sexual ecstasy, a beautiful experience, than look like a bumbling white-trash fool.

We worked hard as any job, even harder. It wasn't easy to fake it that long under hot lights and cameras. More than once I saw a girl give a glance to the camera, concerned if she was being filmed during one of the most convincing orgasms you've ever seen. I'm sure that when the girl had a real orgasm when she was with her boyfriend it was something entirely different. But in the studio room she could fake it like the best actress faking an accent. Certainly the movies were about flesh. But so were fashion magazines. So was everything, for that matter. We just didn't bullshit.

I may just be defending myself to myself, trying to make sense of it, to understand the strange events that have gone on in my life. What I do know is that day at Bernard's I made seven hundred dollars cash. I had more money in my pocket than I'd ever had in my entire life. I was also happier than I'd been in a long while.

July 13, 2004

Hard Up

Immediately after our scene was over, Ram walked over to Jay. He put a finger right in Jay's face. His cock was still hard and also pointed up at Jay.

"Jay, you have got to fucking schedule my anal scenes before my regular fucking scenes," he said, teeth-clenched. "How many Goddamn times do I have to tell you that?"

"All right, Ram," Jay said.

"I mean, I've told you that the anal scenes are harder for me to do."

"I'm sorry, Ram."

"Just get it fucking right next time," he yelled and stormed out of the room in real prima donna style.

Jay and I looked at each other and smiled.

"Actors," Jay said.

It must have been hard for the men to get it up on command every hour of the day, every day of the week. Maybe that was why the men were so bitter. There weren't that many male regulars because there weren't too many men who had that kind of control. Women ruled the industry because it was easy for them to fake it. Turnover for women was weekly, even daily. It was possible that in another couple of days I would never see Far Out again.

Angel Desert

I was working on a few scenes with a girl named Cindy, a stranger, and Johnny Boyle. I wasn't sure what movie it was for this time. We were filming at Bernard's house. He lived high in the Hollywood hills in a huge house that looked over the city lights with a built in bar and leopard-skin furniture and gold statues of naked women on the front walkway. Tacky, but slightly ironic.

I wanted to meet Cindy before we started filming. I always liked to get to know a person a little before shooting. Johnny Boyle was off with Bernard and Jay having drinks on the porch. Cindy was upstairs taking a bath in a bathtub big enough for three people. I knew this because I'd done a scene in it. I went up the gold-carpeted stairs to meet her.

I knocked softly and peeked inside.

"Who is it?" Cindy asked, sing-song.

"It's Shirley," I said and opened the door with a creak and walked in.

Cindy was lying in clear water. She was bleached blonde and deep tan and was looking seriously at the water.

She looked up at me. "Far out," she said.

"I just wanted to meet you."

"OK, I'm Cindy," she said and giggled.

"I thought I'd get to know something about you before we work together," I said.

"Far out," she replied.

I sat on the counter by the sink.

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"I'm from here. I mean, not here in these hills. This is the most beautiful house I've ever seen." She stopped and stared at the water.

"So where are you from?" I said.

"I'm from the valley."

"Oh yeah?"

"I hate saying that though. Most people hate the valley. They think the valley's a dirty word."

"I don't know about that. I know a lot of people from the valley."


"Yeah. Don't feel bad about it."

This made her happy. "Far out," she said.

She splashed lightly in the water for a few minutes rinsing herself off, whistling softly. She had a perfect, tan body, a vacant sweetness.

"So how'd you end up here?" I asked.

"Here in this bathtub, or here on this movie?"

"On the movie."

Her eyes opened wide with shock. Then she slackened and said, "I've always thought about doing movies. I've been stripping for three years at the Ventura Palace? I've been having a great time. But I thought movies would be so, so much better, you know?"


"But I didn't know where to look about doing movies. Finally, somebody approached me about it." She picked up a breast with one hand and looked at it. "There's something so glamorous about the movies, you know. It's like stripping, but like, it's on video so more people can see it."

"Sure," I said.

"It's more like real acting." She set down her breast. "I don't have my stage name yet though," she said. "I thought about calling myself Angel Desert. You know, how Los Angeles is called the City of Angels and it's also hot like a desert? But there are already so many Angels working that I don't know if I'm going to use that. I may go by Cindy with a s-i-n or something."

"How old are you?" I asked.


"I'm twenty-three," I said.

"Far out," she said. "There is one thing I'm worried about. I just hope this doesn't come between me and my boyfriend. He could deal with the stripping because I wasn't really touching anyone. But doing movies has been a dream I've had for a really long time, from before I knew him even, so I can't let that bother me. But, you know, I love him and he loves me so I think we can deal with it." She took a deep breath and went under water and came back up glistening.

"Your boyfriend doesn't mind you sleeping with other guys?"

"Well, he knows that I love him and when I fuck him we make love, and when I'm in a movie that's just sex. I don't get the same high as when I'm with Kirk."


"My boyfriend."

"I hope it works out for you."

"I do too. It's all pretty far out. But he knows it's something I really want to do, something I've always wanted to do, so he's standing by me. We're just going to have to comfort each other a whole lot more. He knows that if I'm having an orgasm in a movie that that's just acting."

"Well, I wish you luck."

"Thank you," Far Out said.

I really did wish her luck because it was something I thought I could never do myself. Since my first interview with Bernard, I hadn't had a boyfriend. I was too caught up in work. I had broken off with my last boyfriend, a very dull stereo salesman named Stan, who I only kept around for companionship, someone to keep around so I wouldn't have to eat meals alone. I broke up with him the night I was assaulted at the Sizzler. Most people in the industry had boyfriends or spouses also in the industry because they were the only people who really understood what it was like. You could tell an outsider that the sex wasn't real, it was just mechanical, and he would say he believed you, but part of him would always get jealous. "Don't you enjoy it at all?" he might ask. And you would have to answer, "Sure, it's still sex. But that doesn't mean anything. It's just a feeling. It's not love." Which was exactly what Far Out was saying to her boyfriend and exactly the kind of conversation I didn't want to be having.

I did the scenes with Johnny Boyle and Far Out, and then with Johnny and Far Out together. Far Out and I made out aggressively. Like any porn makeout scene, our tongues were stiff as swords. Softening the tongue, relaxing any of the muscles in the body, would have been too much of a surrender.

Later, Ram Baker showed up. He was 6-5 and blonde with a mustache and the muscled body of a sculpture and a Gods-gift-to-women ego. I ended up doing a double penetration scene with him and Johnny Boyle. He had just come from a scene with Far Out. That's the way it was. A day at the office.

July 06, 2004


I thought I should interject something here, to answer some of the criticism and comments and doubt I’ve been getting. So far I’ve been intent on getting my story down. If you don’t think a porn star can write or even think I want to show you something Nina Hartley said. She didn’t write this down. She said it in conversation. I don’t even know what a "Marcusian" is:

"I come out of the tradition of the New Left, a Marcusian. As a social scientist I see Hollywood as a focus of cultural decay. It defines our culture, and it spreads throughout the whole country. I see Hollywood as a cancer; it has destroyed our fucking society. Next to the suppression of sex, it's the most efficient reinforcer of modern human alienation. I'm a socialist. A Marxist can take great offense at unrestrained profits and unrestrained colonial violence and I feel that Hollywood blatantly glorifies these negative values. Hollywood could play an amazing role in making the American experiment work. But what happens is just the opposite."

She’s a genius. I admit there’s a lot of damaged people in porn, or people get damaged once they’re there, but you shouldn’t doubt us porn stars. Thanks for all the positive response I’ve received. It means a lot.


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