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From Turning Tricks to Shrinking Heads

Posted Oct 03 2008 11:31am

A 22 year-old student, 'Natalie Dylan,' is auctioning off her virginity to pay for her graduate studies. She wants to become a Psychologist and apparently has bids for over $250,000 already. That will buy a lot of textbooks.

Let's review the Roster of Eccentricities in the canon of shrinks we've come to know and love:

Dr. Pete: Social Phobia
Dr. Steve: Raging Dickhead and money-grubbing tool
Dr. Gail: OCD sufferer and control freak
Dr. John: Self-proclaimed Narcissist, MILF-lover
Dr. Allison: Liar about insurance issues, hater of helpful medicines, possible Scientologist

Will I be adding Prostitution to the list of my colleagues'...idiosyncracies?

This post is not a judgment against prostitution. I can appreciate this woman's capitalistic take on using her body as she so chooses (I would have encouraged Dr. Pete to have done the same thing back in the day had I thought of it. Aside from being male with a fear of women it's a no-brainer). However, being a world-renowned mental health professional - behind only Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Dr. Laura, Dr. Judy, Dr. Ruth and about ten thousand others - I feel an obligation to comment on some possible corollaries of her action.

Research suggests that there are multiple psychological difficulties correlated with prostitution: depression, sexual/physical abuse in both childhood and adulthood, anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. This has been confirmed to me by a (albeit small) number of prostitutes that I've seen in my practice, although it is unclear if the psychological issues are a cause of or an effect from prostitution. Most likely it's both. For many of these women prostitution is their sole form of income and a regular activity, something in which Natalie is reportedly not interested. And because this sexual transaction is being carefully orchestrated it will likely be legal, with any physical violence or STD contraction improbable.

However, clients I've seen who've engaged in prostitution just once, without any overt consequences, were often regretful of the action. Is Natalie one of the smaller number women who will avoid those problems, be one of the few who report feeling "in charge, empowered?" Alternatively, will $250,000 allay any "icky, dirty feelings" or the "I'm damaged goods" perception that I've been told occurs? Perhaps, but not likely, based on what I've been told. The prostitutes I've spoken to said that selling yourself for money comes with heavy side effects. "Men don't respect me," one client told me, "or they get crazy jealous. Even if I'm not working anymore they use it as a weapon against me whenever we get into an argument. It's like a permanent label that anyone can just throw at you: hooker. I don't know if I'll ever have a real relationship. At least not one without a huge skeleton in the closet."

While Natalie isn't looking to turn tricks regularly, she has already made herself into a public figure. What happens if she is recognized at her graduate school interview? I can't fathom an admissions committee looking kindly on prostitution as part of her resume. And what about her clients? Will any of them recognize her years from now, in session? Clients have asked me on many different occasions about graduate school: how much did it cost? Do I/did I have a lot of debt? Did I get a scholarship? Will Natalie give an honest answer to her past? Conservative clients won't like what she says. I've lost clients because I'm not married, because I don't have children, because I refuse to wear a suit. Anyone who has dabbled in the World's Oldest Profession needs to be well-prepared to deal with negative reactions from clients.

Natalie could quite possibly become my colleague and I'll welcome her to the flock. And if she truly feels empowered as she describes, so be it. But I suspect that one day she will be sorry. Maybe it will be when she buys that first textbook. Or it may be years from now, when she's sitting with a young client who is describing a sexual transaction and the thoughts and feelings that came with it. As one client put it to me:

"Sometimes it feels good, especially if I'm attracted to the guy. And I like buying nice clothes and bags and shoes with the money. But when I give the girl behind the counter the money I've earned, I remember the guy pulling out of me, ripping off the condom and throwing it on the floor. The images come back. He pulls on his pants, throws a shirt on over his shoulders and takes out his wallet. Five $20 bills come out and he throws them on the bed. Dirty, crinkled money. And then he leaves. It's not like I want him to stay, but I want to want him to stay. I wish that I wanted him to lay with me afterwards the way other girls do with their boyfriends. That's when it hits me that I traded sex for money. I'm a whore."

I'm not going to judge Natalie if she follows through with this, but if she were my friend I'd advise her against it. I think she'll ultimately regret it, as most women do.

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