Karaoke Hostess

Honestly, I don’t know where to start. There is so much to say and write, so many thoughts I still need to sort.

Last year, for about four months, I worked as a domi, a karaoke hostess.

It was my job to entertain. To ensure everyone, especially my partner, enjoyed their night. I poured drinks. I sang. I danced. I talked. I joked. I stared lovingly into eyes as men lied and said they loved me.

I didn’t work at one club. I worked for a “company.” Whenever customers in a private room requested girls, the karaokes called the companies on their roster. Our car chased the call and dropped us in front of the club. We paraded into rooms to be waved away–benched, we called it–or asked to sit. It we sat, our customer had two hours with us. After two hours, he could extend for another hour. There was no time max–once I went for six hours–but most calls went for two or three.

It was a brutal awakening. I went from spending nights in my pajamas and glasses to wearing heels and tight club wear. From sleeping at midnight, to sleeping at 5 a.m. I inhaled buckets of secondhand smoke.

I spent hundreds on new outfits. I obsessed over my make up. I had to get more rooms, more customers. I had to make more money.  Every time I was benched, my self-esteem tanked. Was I not pretty enough? Not thin enough? Did I not seem fun enough?

And why did I care what a strange, middle-aged Korean man thought of me?

There was no usual customer. Plenty were perverts. They groped. They tried to stick their tongue in my mouth. They offered me money to go to a hotel. I remember laughing off propositions. Casually removing hands from my ass and placing them on my waist. I remember pretending to be sweet and demure when all I wanted was the knee some asshole in the balls. A mere $60/hour (I got $40 of it) gave this guy, any guy, permission to sexually harass me. Sure, he wouldn’t get any sexual favors, but he could try to stick his hand down my dress without any real consequence.

What happened to me? To the feisty girl who took shit from no one? To the girl with opinions and beliefs? Was she really so insecure, so desperate for cash she allowed guys to buy her affection?

I told myself it didn’t matter. Who cared if a weirdo grabbed my tits? I went home with money in my pocket and never thought about him again. It’s not like my boyfriend professed any interests in grabbing my tits, much less fucking me (a topic for another day). Might as well put my body to good use.

That’s what it’s for, isn’t it? To be looked at? Groped? Traded for money?

Not all the men were perverts. Some were respectful. Fun. Even sweet. Some guys stared at my so earnestly, I genuinely believed they liked me, or drank enough to believe it themselves. Some invited me to lunch, to parties, to work for them. On my best calls, I was entertainment. I poured drinks. I danced on tables while singing Rage Against the Machine. I talked big talk about sexy things. I was in my element. Talking like I was a sexual deity. A girl with knowledge and experience. A fun girl up for anything, anytime, anywhere.

I’d talked like this since I was 15.

The pretending grew second nature. Turn off my brain and slip into the role of the perfect date. Stop thinking and be a thing for his amusement. Giggle and move his hand if he tries to slip it in your bra. Take tiny sips if poured a drink. Shake your hips and make sweet eyes when you sing.

Even the nice guys tried to put their hands where they didn’t belong.

The effects of turning myself into a sexual object are still reeling in my brain. They have so much changed the way I think about gender, about my writing. Now I know, really know, I can trade my sexuality for money.

The Rest

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22 thoughts on “Karaoke Hostess

  1. Pingback: Best of 2013 | fionafire

  2. Pingback: Indecent Proposal: Part 2 | dating sucks

  3. Did you think less of the guys for hitting on you? I kind of get that feeling.

    Which leads to a Catch 22 for the guys: (1) hit on the girl, and lose her respect but at least cop a feel, or (2) don’t grope her, and she might think you are a nice guy afterward, but you will never have touched her beyond the initial handshake.

    For guys in this latter category who tipped well, did you see them as suckers? My guess is that there was some of that sentiment. I’d probably think the same, if I had been in your shoes.

    Which means that every guy was either a (1) pervert, (2) “boring asshole,” or (3) sucker. Or some combo of the three.

    Seeing men in this way makes for a cynical view of the world, but I guess maybe these guys also felt the same way about domii and may have pigeonholed domii into 3 categories: (1) gold diggers, (2) liars, or (3) victims.

    Depressing.

    • You asked a lot of questions over different posts, so I’ll try to answer most of them.

      I thought less of the guys who didn’t respect my bodily autonomy–the guys who would touch me without asking, touch me after I said no, or keep asking until I finally gave up on saying no. All of that stuff is the early stages of sexual assault. Thankfully, I was never put in a position where it went beyond a breast grope or a kiss.

      Really, it’s a lot like being a waiter. The good customers are friendly and respectful. Beyond that, good customers pay with cash and tip well (they could pay with cards, but the companies were known to not pay us all the card money).

      I certainly didn’t think a guy was a sucker if he didn’t try and grope me. What kind of fucked up logic is that? The customers are paying for entertainment, not for some kind of sexual experience. At $60/hr, all they should be able to buy is conversation, singing, and dancing.

      Most guys knew the whole flirting/affection thing was an act. If a guy actually thought I loved him/wanted him, then he would be a sucker.

      There isn’t a catch 22 for a decent guy. If his end game is touching a girl’s breasts, he shouldn’t be hiring a domi. He should hire an escort.

      Honestly, the attitude of entitlement you have- that a guy somehow deserves more than a firm handshake for his pay- is why I quit. I didn’t like selling my autonomy for the mear $40/hr I would make in the room. I didn’t like allowing sexual harassment and turning myself into an object for such a paltry fee.

      The money was okay. It was certainly “easier” than any other job I’ve ever had, but it was also less consistent. On any night, I might go home with nothing. When you averaged it out over the course of hours worked (in the room or waiting), it came out to around $20/hr– less than what you’d earn as a server at a decent restaurant (though easier work).

      Everyone was pretty hush hush about how much they earned, so I can’t comment on other girls’ earnings. I know one of our girls earned a lot more than I did, but I’m not sure how much more.

      • Thank you, fiona, for taking the time to answer. Maybe the questions seemed intrusive, but I didn’t mean to offend or pry. I am genuinely curious about this world and the real feelings of the women who didn’t grow up in that culture and yet chose to work in it, at least temporarily.

        I hope I don’t have a “sense of entitlement.” I just do think that if a man pays to a woman directly 200 to 300 in cash (which is probably what a generous tipper would give total for 3 hours?), isn’t it natural in our culture for him to expect that a little bit more happens than a smile and a few “cheers!” while drinking Scotch or Grey Goose? Maybe Korean culture or other Asian cultures are different, but I don’t know.

        Here in the States, I really don’t think that feeling is entitlement, but rather, objective realism. I believe most people, male or female, would have the same expectation upon learning about the domi scene for the first time.

        It’s also difficult for me to understand how a girl can continue to have respect for a guy who tosses maybe a thousand or two dollars her way over 3 or 4 nights of karaoke without him even asking for or seeking a kiss. At some point, I feel like she would see him more as a human cash register, while I also feel like if he threw that kind of money her way, he probably must be in love. Maybe these types of clients are not the norm, but when you found these guys, did you ever hear stories of them going out with the girls outside the domi scene? I don’t mean for sex, but like on real dates and dinners?

        Sorry for writing so much.

      • Eh, we can call it entitlement or something else. It’s the same idea, really– that if a man spends money on a woman, he should get access to her body in return. What would be a fair amount of money is different to everyone. Some guys expect access after spending $60 on dinner. Others expect access after spending $200 on a domi.

        Few guys tipper generously, and, typically, the more respectful guys were better tippers. Tips were usually $20-$40 regardless of hours. Occasionally, guys would try to negotiate upfront– a certain amount for access to a certain part of the body. That’s honest, at least, and it leaves everyone aware of the expectation.

        There was only two groups of guys who didn’t ask for kisses/gropes. I saw each a few times, and genuinely enjoyed my time with them. Pretty much every other customer, tried to kiss/touch the girls. Guys who were respectful the first time were less respectful on their second booking.

        I still don’t really get your idea of why girls wouldn’t respect a guy who doesn’t ask for a kiss. Girls are different and respect different things. Generally, I don’t respect guys who go to domi. It’s kind of like emotional prostitution. Seems pathetic. But I have a lot more respect for a guy who pays his bill, tips well, and doesn’t ask for a kiss–because he actually understands the arrangement of money for entertainment–than a guy who does all of the above and asks for a kiss. Cause, really, you can’t give a hard no in that situation.

        To be honest, the situation left me jaded towards men for a while.

        Not to be heteronormative, but guys have been supporting women they love for hundreds of years. I think most women appreciate it, rather than seeing the guy as a cash register. But, hey, people are complicated. It’s hard to say.

        One of the girls did have a weird fucked up thing with one of her customers. He was living with her and paying her rent, as far as I know, but she was still being rather whore-ish at work. Rumor has it she gave a guy a hand job for $200, and that she was continuing on that path or whoring herself out.

      • I have to admit. Based upon all your descriptions, I really want to check this scene out myself now, just to see what it’s really like! Not for the weird 200 dollar hand job, lol, but to see if I could detect any acting or non-genuine interaction with the domi while she is there chatting with me. I feel like I’m not very good at detecting women’s real feelings and intentions, anyway, so I’d probably be terrible at figuring anything out. This is like a Lost in Translation segment transported directly into Koreatown!

        Any recommendations on a particular karaoke place? One that is clean, upscale, modern, and in a relatively safe area with decent parking or valet. I like tambourines, too. Oh, and definitely one with at least some English-language lineup of songs.

        As for the respect thing, maybe that is a personal issue, but generally, when I am dating someone or just taking a girl out, the more I pay on dinner, drinks, entertainment, etc., the more I feel she takes me for granted. And doesn’t really appreciate it. The less effort I put in, and certainly the less I pay for everything, the more she seems to care or be interested. It’s weird.

        I figure the same dynamic may be at play in a domi situation.

      • I’m not going to argue with your experience, but I’m guessing there is more going on there. Most people I know split the check nowadays, and, while everyone likes to feel wanted, no one likes to feel smothered.

        You can tell which karaokes are nice just by driving around. The nice ones look nicer.

        If you want to check out the whole host/hostess thing, watch the documentary The Great Happiness space. It’s about a host club in Osaka, but it has a lot of insight to the ladies who come to the club and the boys who work there.

      • I saw that documentary on a cable premium channel before! I think it had some odd secondary title like “the love thief of Japan fox go” or some other idiomatic expression. I remember when one of the girls was asked why the lead domi guy was so popular, and she said well, he was so good looking.

        And then they showed him again, bleached shaggy hair, awful teeth, assymetrical bone structure and all. I guess Japan has a much different standard of beauty than here.

        I always pay for everything when I’m out with a girl, and it’s not just a friend-friend outing. Maybe it’s a generational thing, as I’m in my 30s and have been fairly established in my professional life for some time now. But the women I have seen don’t seem to appreciate the nice restaurants and places. Sometimes, I get the distinct feeling they are running up the bill on me, ordering the most expensive menu items. Sometimes, I think the girl is simply clueless and naive and has a princess complex. Other times, I sense that she feels she can just use me knowingly, as she doesn’t have respect for a guy who tries to be nice to her and spend money on her. Either way, I’m rather disappointed and tired of it. So I’m willing to give this domi thing a whirl. Better than loneliness.

        Btw, I can’t always tell where the karaoke places are from driving around. Most of the signs are in Korean.

  4. I would wager that for $120 one can fvck a whore pretty much anywhere in the US. Actually, anywhere in the world. I find it ironic and funny that you would call your clients pathetic. So what does that make you for working for them and asking them for money and tip? Just sayin’

    • I know you’re just being rude because of your internalized misogyny, but I don’t see your point. Not respecting my clients doesn’t make me anything. Lots of people, in lots of fields, don’t respect their clients, customers, or bosses.

      Get real.

      I wish there was a better way to say this, but prostitutes are usually seen as “high class” or “low class.” They don’t make this distinction in Hollywood films, so I can understand why you can’t wrap your brain around it. Anyone can fuck a “low class” prostitute (sometimes called a street walker) for $120. “High class” ladies and gentlemen usually start at $200/hr in smaller cities and $300/hr in bigger cities.

      But so what? A hostess is not a prostitute. If a guy wanted a prostitute, he’d go hire a prostitute. The two services are different and the prices have nothing to do with each other.

  5. Fiona – I feel for you. I’m one of the guys that frequents the KTV bars in Ktown. It’s a shame we didn’t meet up, cause I would be one of the guys that doesn’t fall into the perv category. However, I do fall into the ultra idiot category cause I’ve seen the same girl for the last 3 month every week. Have her on a $6k a month salary to just sit with me 5-6 hours every week. All because I actually fell into this stupid trap of believing what she’s saying despite knowing everything in ktown is a bunch of bs. The saying, older men are retarded around young girls, no kidding.

    Until today, caught her with her boyfriend ( which doesn’t exist supposedly) at the gym that I paid the membership for, haha, the awkward moment and the laughs on myself. Well, like stocks, at least I can cut the losses early. While you worked there, was there any “normal” or “close to normal ” girls there or are everyone pretty much brainwashed into thinking every guy is either a sucker or a pervert.

    • The sucker/pervert mentality develops over time. The more guys push your boundaries, the more you think they’re all perverts. I do think a lot of the girls had actual affection for their regulars. But there is a certain sucker mentality when guys really believe the Domi client relationship is love. It’s hard to respect someone who is easily manipulated.

      There were guys who actually got it– they understood the entertainment I provided and I really did enjoy hanging out with them. With those guys, romantic feelings were never part of the equation. I didn’t pretend and they didn’t expect it. They weren’t suckers or perverts.

      You aren’t necessarily stupid. It’s easy to lose track of your feelings. The whole environment is designed to be intoxicating and it’s very addictive to be with someone who can convince you that filling all your needs is exactly what they want.

      Truth be told, I had a lot of fun a lot of the time. But it was more from putting on a performance than it was from any kind of intimacy.

      • You guys should be aware that the domi scene in Koreatown is changing. Too many domi agencies fighting over the same clientele and karaoke places. Too much competition. It’s all over saturated now and leading to some girls doing more than the norm for the same cash…

        Hence, this:

        http://koogle.tv/media/news/koreatown-karaokes-under-investigation-by-fbi-for-illegal-hostesses/

        I personally am getting tired of my wallet getting brutalized from too many regular domi girls in my weekly rotation. Tired of it, tired of waking up late for work and hung over, and tired of juggling the girls so that they don’t get mad or competitive about fighting over a regular. Tired of hearing about fights between guys at karaoke, between guys and girls at karaoke, and between girls at karaoke. Tired of that stupid junior high school drama from really immature 21 – 25 year old girls and little punk 20-something year old and early 30ish guys.

        I’ve gotten laid and gotten head every so often, but it’s not worth it. Some of these girls are really hot, but they are really crazy, too. They all have baggage. Very few are educated to a respected university graduate level. Some are, but they are rare.

        Took some months and thousands upon thousands of dollars, but I’m done with it. I’ll try to stay in touch with some of the girls who are already connected on Facebook, but even then, I don’t want to put in the effort anymore.

        I’ve had my fill, I guess.

    • I feel your pain.

      These domis are experts at extracting money and then waiting with their hands out for more money, all with a massive sense of entitlement. It’s not just the job. I think it is a generational thing. Millennials are spoiled and don’t want to put in real studying or work for anything substantial, and these girls are no different.

      You just can’t expect too much from this scene. It’s for partying and (every so often) casual sex, but that’s it.

      You will not find your future wife in the scene. If you do, make sure you get an airtight prenup signed.

      • Ya, live and learn. After 1 1/2 year of the Karaoke scene, this is the 1st one that really got me hooked. Use to juggle 4-5 regulars, she was actually better when I did that. Now that she’s the only one, it all turns sour. Guess those message boards are right, never give in to just 1, make them jealous.

        Though it would be a shame to have this all shut down by FBI. It’s still an interesting place with all sorts of odd drama, good diversion to daily life. Going to these Karaoke bars is like a drug addiction in itself. The drinks, girls gets you high, then the next day, tired as hell and it takes 2 days to recover. Both emotionally and physically.

        Sometimes, just want to have a normal relationship with the girl outside of the Karaoke bars, guess that’s just too much dreaming.

      • Well, I think if you want a normal relationship, you should pursue it via a normal channel. Date online, ask friends to set you up on blind dates, go to a normal bar scene.

        Girls are working at karaoke bars to make money. Money is their primary goal (which is fine, we all have to put food on the table). They are going to see customers as a source of money. Any relationship will be skewed based on that.

        No offense, but I am guessing that part of the appeal of the karaoke bars is that you can date women you are both young and attractive. You may need to adjust your standards if you are looking for a “real” relationship.

        And, yeah, the whole thing is just begging to be taken down by the IRS or the INS. I don’t know anything about the current scene, but I’m guessing it’s still small enough to fly under the radar.

      • As the news reports indicate, 40+ domi agencies with about 30 – 40 girls apiece is 1200 – 1600 girls.

        Not every girl works every night, but if each girl just makes 100 dollars a week (and they all make more), that is $120,000 – $160,000 per week overall in unreported business income.

        That’s not small, and it’s not flying under the radar.

  6. This was very well written. I worked as a bikini bartender for awhile and I understand exactly what you mean. I made plenty of money but I started to become very jaded about men when I realized that men old enough to be my grandfather wanted to get into my pants. It made it harder to be around my grandparents friends and it made me wonder what they were really thinking about me under the surface even though some of them had known me since childhood (a couple of them remarked about how beautiful I’d become in a winkish sort of way). I started feeling empty and angry and jaded. My self esteem never particularly suffered from it but it was a pretty harsh wake up sort of realization when I realized how ready people were to view me as a body instead of a human being.

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