It was the Fall of 2017. I was on the F train going home after a long day at work. It was getting dark, and there weren’t many people in the subway car. After a few stops, the doors opened, and a blonde woman in her early 30’s walked in and sat down few seats away from me. She held this beautiful green handbag.
“Nice purse” I told her. “Thanks” she responded with a smile. We had a 40 minutes long conversation in which one of the questions I asked her was what she did for a living. “I am an escort” she told me. At that time, I had no idea what that was, and there was no WIFI on the train for me to search it up on google.
“what’s that?” I asked with a confused look on my face. “It’s when you get paid to spend time with someone at a social event.” she replied. I was surprised I never heard about people giving money to spend time with them. For a moment, I thought about quitting my retail job and becoming an escort myself. “That’s so cool! how much do you make, if you don’t mind me asking?” I know it was a personal question I don’t usually ask people, but this was the first time I learned such a job exists. “around $400-$700 per hour.” I was extremely shocked. After almost breaking every bone in my body and putting my mental health at risk, that was the amount I made in a one-week paycheck. I have made many friends and spent time with them, but the most I had gotten was a Starbucks coffee.
Before I could start asking her more questions, she cut me off by telling me that being an escort is somewhat like prostitution. At times escorts are paid to have sex with the person they are accompanying. She looked a little embarrassed and continued by saying, “I don’t tell people because they are likely to judge.” I understood what she was trying to say, and it was true. I asked her why she told me a “hijabi woman” wasn’t she afraid I might say something or judge her?
” Yeah. But you seem nice,” she responded. I thanked her and changed the topic before it could get more awkward. We started talking about college courses, and she informed me she had a degree in graphic design. I didn’t understand and had to question her why she worked as an escort after having a degree. She said it was a quick way to give her brother financial help, who was fighting cancer. Her brother was the only family she had. Her mother passed away when she was a teenager, and her father abandoned their family right after her brother was born. She did work as a graphic designer for a year or so. Unfortunately, most of her salary went into paying rent and bills. She made more money as an escort in NYC than two proper jobs and overtime.
She told me many of her childhood friends were Muslim. They would bring her Indian sweets during the month of Ramadan. Some of them she was still friends with and had them on Facebook. “you are a strong woman, and your brother is lucky to have a sister like you.” I assured her. After volunteering at a senior center with many cancer patients last summer, I wanted to help her. I wrote a list of organizations that give cancer individuals financial assistance and ways to get it. She was thankful and relieved that someone was willing to help and not pass judgment. Her stop came, and we said our goodbyes. That was the last time I saw her. When she left, I kept thinking about the struggles and offensive comments this woman must have been facing.
At times we are so quick to judge others we ignore to ask what’s the reason and how they are coping with that problem. Even though sex work is shunned and many reasons why that is. We are all human beings who require emotional support and respect. Someone’s life choices shouldn’t be the reason why they don’t deserve that. That day was the first time I had a conversation with a sex worker. Talking to her made me realize that society looks down on prostitution but not the people paying for it. What about the males who exploit and abuse these women? Shouldn’t they be held accountable?.
Sex work has been practiced since the beginning of time and is illegal in many countries. After society and religion came into existence, governing systems were designed. Whatever disturbs this system, such as prostitution, is criticized. The community believes that prostitutes sell their moral value for money and don’t hold dignity. After many decades, men have never been responsible for their sexual behavior, but women still are. In many cultures, a woman’s body is referred to as a temple and is supposed to guard it and prevent male sexual behavior.
Prostitution may be forced or a choice, but it is our responsibility as decent human beings to not judge and try to understand why and how they are in that profession. Try providing help and not ridicule them. If you feel someone is sex trafficked, don’t overlook it and reach out to authorities.