As I was wandering through the web, I read a random comment somewhere to the effect of: “Why does Superman even bother being Clark Kent? Why not be Superman all the time?” Even though I read a fair amount of Superman comics as a kid, that thought never occurred to me. But having a secret identity isn’t only for comic book superheroes. If you are acquainted with a sex worker or two, it’s extremely likely that you know someone who has a secret identity. And unlike Superman and Clark, you probably have a good idea why.
It’s no secret that there’s some stigma attached to providing sexual favors for money, whether it be a streetwalker or an ex-Playboy model who marries an eighty-something billionaire. Personally, I hold neither in contempt. I probably have more sympathy for the streetwalker, but I tend to root for underdogs more than over-dogs.
Since I can speak passable Spanish and I have a curious nature, one of the things I often ask working girls I am with is whether their family knows what they do for money or not. The answer is ‘no’ more often than ‘yes,’ but it’s not universal. “Magdalena.” the subject of one of my books, was upfront with her family other than a short time when she was just starting out. Several of the older girls from San Jose were open about their jobs with their families, including children. Chicas who grew up in really bad neighborhoods were generally more open about their work than those who came from slightly better circumstances.
Economics being what they are in poorer countries, it’s not uncommon to come across students, although I suspect there are more girls who say they are students than actually are… it just lends an aura of respectability and dignity that they might not otherwise feel.
For those who hide their real source of income, a cover story is necessary. One of my all time favorite chicas in San Jose told her family she was a travel agent. One of my current favorites told her family she worked in a clothing store. In both cases, the families didn’t find it necessary to look too closely into just where the jobs were.
Perhaps in some future world where people are more accepting, it won’t be necessary to hide being a sex worker. I think it’s becoming less of a stigma, but society isn’t there yet. Maybe some day.