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.