ome weeks ago, the man in charge of this magazine told me that someone he hired to look over articles had left in a huff after discovering that it “glorified prostitution,” an assessment that came after she read a piece by yours truly, or, as I like to say, truly yours.
Tickles of fury made their way up said prostitute’s spine. I felt like writing a long article in complete agreement with the departed indignant editor, telling her she helped me see the light, and so of course now I had to tell the truth: I wasn’t a Scottish lass but really a Russian girl, sold into sex slavery by her parents. In fact, her own family trafficked me to the West in a truck filled with a bunch of ducks and other girls, given only potatoes to much on, and, once in London, they pimped me out (along with the ducks) to clients with a penchant for threesomes with mallards.
I decided against this. Too many mallards might call their friends and I’d be in a lot of trouble.
All my ruffled feathers considered, I thought I’d tell you another story: how I met my partner (yes, sex workers have partners, most not chosen by their masters).
It was in Glasgow in 2011. I was attending a kissing contest, part of the wedding of my friend Zoe (to a client she met in Prague). Georgie, my best friend, came up with the idea. We’d all get suitably happy and then, in twos, we’d match with a partner for a small date. The partner would be a stranger and we’d be asked to do our best serious kissing imitation, trying to create a moment that was more than mere pretense — or at least manage to be convincing actors. Applause was encouraged.
So I sat at my table with Fiona from Edinburgh (we did math together at uni before I went back home to Russia to be trafficked with ducks), and we laughed and cheered wildly as we watched the contestants try to make the best of faux-romance on a small stage. Fiona kept saying she could do better than anyone, but our host adamantly refused to draw her name out of the bug auburn urn he’d placed by his Guinness. Zoe moped and fidgeted as couples got their five-minutes of make-out fame.
By the way, isn’t it funny how Americans call kissing “making out”? It’s never been clear to me exactly what gets made. I thought the first person who asked me to make out — it was an American client of course — was asking me to go home with him.
After an hour it seemed to me the third couple in the second group had the honors wrapped up. He’d exhausted every possible kind of diligence on her mouth and looked a lot like a young Robert Carlisle. Then, out of the blue, Zoe was tugging at me. They’d frickin’ called my name.
Me? So far from my rural Russian home, enslaved, no mallard to keep me company? Me?
Up I went and there I was, in front of my partner, who nudged me so my head tilted back. She grazed my lips and dug in, hand on my back as we started.
Awkward at first, then beautiful. Who would think a partner would try to mix Hollywood back-bending with tango moves. I was smitten. I bit back lightly, wrapping myself around her mouth in the way we sex slaves are of course trained to do by our tyrannical parents.
We locked hands and kept at it as the roar came up behind us. Our minutes were up, but no one made us move. Something about us had everyone frozen and we simply couldn’t stop what we’d started — until, that is, we heard the hush around us, which is when we finally moved away from each other, and saw a hundred people staring at us before they broke into minutes of applause. Like two embarrassed actors, we bowed, still holding hands.
That’s when it began, the relationship between the ducky sex worker and the red-headed schoolteacher.
We struggled to let go, exchanged contact info, and I sat back down with Zoe. “Fuckin’ amazing,” she said, articulate as always.
A few minutes later, as things started breaking up, the announcer came over to me. He wanted to apologize. They’d gotten all the names and genders straightened out beforehand, so they didn’t know how our match-up happened. How, that is, I’d ended up kissing a woman, now my companion of a decade, for ten minutes.
They couldn’t give us the prize because, well…
I put him out of his misery. No worries, I told him. No worries at all. At least you learned about kissing the way it really should be done.
I decided not to tell him I was a Russian sex slave. That I saved for the honor of the editor who quit in a huff.
Maybe this’ll cheer her up, or maybe she can find another place for her righteous indignation. We Scots save most of it for England, whose annoying haughtiness we love to hate. Insisting on the evils of prostitution is boring, because in the end it’s not about who you kiss for money, but who you kiss because you never want to stop kissing them. Even slaves feel the pull.
— Katrina Kent is on leave.