“She’s a hooker,” said Porsche-guy, “she’s doing a project with one of our artists,”
“Ok,” I said. I get it, a kind of Nan Goldin style project.
I googled her. She had a website. She was refreshingly modern. She has no pimp, no madam, she just promotes herself via her webcam and fb page. Her image is rigorously controlled, by her. She makes pornos, does lingerie shoots, writes a naughty blog, and occasionally takes in a client at her discretion. She’s not an intellectual, but she’s canny, and knows what works. Trial and error. “I got into it because I was partying a lot, and if I liked a guy, I would fuck him, why not?” Annalika is the classic modern nihilist, she’s never had anything more profound, so she doesn’t miss it, and she never stands still long enough to notice the silence. She’s rigorous about condoms, STI checkups, and not fucking other women’s husbands (or at least not asking). So she kind of has her own morality. “Occasionally guys would buy me gifts”, she said, “this one guy said he would give me his Rolex if I let him watch me fuck another girl, why not, I said, and it just continued from there”.
The art project caused all sorts of fracas in the office, as you can imagine. Porsche-guy was letching like crazy, and making all sorts of comments about what he’s going to say to Annalika at the exhibition.
I assumed for a long time that Annalika was happy doing what she was doing. I didn’t want to judge her. I figured if she was happy and she wasn’t hurting other people, it wasn’t my place to criticise.
“Doesn’t she feel she’s degrading herself?” whispered Gina. Gina can be oddly prudish about some things. “I’m happy to take her at face value,” I said.
Gina interviewed Annalika at the opening night party. Everyone was very civil and polite, and no one used the word “hooker” or “prostitute.” She had enormous boobs, which I assume were fake. She looked a bit like a latter-day Dolly Parton, but not as innocuous. She was friendly, and said hello to everyone, doing the rounds and shaking hands. I felt awkward speaking to her, terrified I would make a faux pas.
We gathered in a circle on bentwood chairs painted in lurid colours, Gina and Annalika perched on a sofa in front of us. Gina desperate to hide her disdain, and Annalika sensing Gina’s dislike for her.
I wondered if Gina would just end up sounding accusatory and Annalika defensive. But actually they both handled the interview pretty well. We were surrounded by tasteful nude paintings of Annalika, so it was jarring to also hear her voice coming from the front of the room.
“How would you describe your work?” asked Gina,
“Well, I object to the word sex-worker, I call myself an erotic artist, I see my work as a branch of the entertainment industry” she replied, (why is everyone nowadays an artist, can anyone just use that badge??)
Gina nodded, “tell me a bit about how you got into this work,” she said,
“Well, I’ve always enjoyed sex, and my own sexuality, and I don’t see anything wrong in working in that area. Most women now have several partners across their lives, I don’t see myself as any different. You wouldn’t say no if your boyfriend bought you a gift, so I don’t see anything wrong in what I’m doing,” replied Annalika.
Gina shifted in her seat, there was a fraction of a second pause, Gina was unsure what to say next. Annalika leapt in. “I don’t feel degraded in what I’m doing. I’ve always worked with top photographers, who I hire myself, and I select my own partners. I’ve never been with a man I’ve not wanted to go with.”
“So do you feel that you are in control of the situation?” asked Gina,
“Yes,” said Annalika. “What I do is empowering. What is the alternative? A job in Walmart and a boyfriend who never buys you gifts. No thanks.”
“So what would you say, to people, such as Christians, who object to the type of work you do?” said Gina,
“They should stop judging other people,” said Annalika.
The guests left around one am, and we tidied away the empty champagne glasses and left over canapes.
“I don’t believe any of this,” said Gina, referring to Annalika and her creed.
“That’s because you don’t like sex Gina,” said a male colleague who shall remain nameless. The guys laughed. I didn’t punch them. I wish I had. Are all men this horrible or is it just the cross section we have in our office?
“God, it’s so refreshing to find a woman who actually enjoys sex,” said Porsche-guy.
I was torn. Part of me wanted to take Annalika’s spiel at face value, and part of me agreed with Gina’s theory that Annalika must be, on some level, deeply unhappy.