By Oliver Roberts, TimesLive.co.za
At what point does a woman decide to become a call-girl? Does she remember her first client? How many does she see in a day? And can she ever leave her work behind? Oliver Roberts meets four to find out.
THE first thing I notice when I pull into Wendy's driveway are the children's scooters scattered about the lawn. I buzz the gate and a few moments later Wendy appears at the front door, dressed in a short denim skirt and pink tank top. She's older and, for some reason, shorter than I imagined, but she's in good shape. Barefoot, tanned, short black hair.
"Wendy?" I ask as I get out the car.
"Hi," she says.
I put out my hand, which she disregards, and embraces me instead.
"Nice to meet you," she says.
From the outside, the house seems normal. I don't know what I was expecting, coming to the house of a call-girl; maybe something a little more decrepit, in a neighbourhood of mangy dogs and back gardens set with electricity pylons.
The entrance hall and lounge are sparse, the only furniture a wooden wall unit and a single bed, covered in a mottled sheet, that's been converted into a kind of couch.
I say hello to the blonde woman sitting on it. She's Wendy's friend, staying with her for a while. I sit on it too, now, the makeshift couch.
"This is where we do the strip shows," Wendy says, and she throws her arms about the expanse of the room. There's a fireplace in the near corner, and on the mantelpiece are pictures of Wendy's children, doing things like going down red slides and blowing out candles on birthday cakes.
It's after lunch. Wendy has just finished with a client. I don't ask to see the bedroom yet but I can see it from where I'm sitting - a three-quarter bed, and the windows all covered with red curtains so that air in there glows with something approaching nausea.
I spoke to Wendy on the phone a few days before. She was one of many escorts I phoned and one of only four who eventually agreed to meet me. I was intrigued by one of the lines in her advert. "Best of all, I SQUIRT!" it said. This, Wendy later told me, was her party trick - climaxing dramatically on command - and it played at least some part in the steady flow of men prepared to pay per hour to be alone in a room with her.
"He had Down's Syndrome. I'll never forget him," Wendy says of her first client. Now, hardcore rave trance music is coming from the stereo on the wall unit and Wendy's friend - blonde, husky, big-breasted - is dancing to it.
Wendy began this work aged 24, "introduced" to it by her then husband. She's 38 now and vows to stop soon because she doesn't want to be "a 40-year-old whore".
Wendy recounts a long history of abuse to me. Raped by her father and her mother's subsequent boyfriends. Horrible tales of her own violent lovers and husbands. "But about a year ago," she says, "I decided that no man was going to speak to me like dirt, no man will hit me anymore. I've had husbands and boyfriends tell me I was born to be a whore. When you get told that often enough, you believe it. But I know I'm f***ing not. I'm in this situation because of sexual abuse. But I also had that choice. I decided to do it."
She wants to finish matric, she tells me, become a child psychologist. Her phone rings again. Another man asking what he can get, and for how much.
Wendy shows me the black hardcover notebook where she keeps records of all her clients. Some days it's two men, others it's three. I see a couple of days with at least five. Her business hours are 9 to 5. After that, her children - five of them - return home. Yes, she says, two of them know what she does. Some of her regular clients - who know about the children, have seen the pictures on that mantelpiece - pay her with groceries instead of cash. ("I've got a guy, call him Fatti's and Moni's. He pays me with spaghetti.")
Most of Wendy's clients are married men. She says they come to her because it's not like having an affair, there's no danger of emotional attachment. Once, she met a client's wife for coffee. The woman wanted to know why her husband had paid for sex. What was she doing wrong?
Wendy sees herself as a kind of marriage counsellor. She says she often tells a client she doesn't want to see him back again, implores him to go back to his wife and treat her right. Some men, too, have paid her thousands of rands "just to cuddle".
"I'm very spiritual," she says. "I generally try to avoid the client actually penetrating me because when he leaves, it's like he's taken a piece of my soul."
After more than three hours, we walk outside and when we say goodbye she embraces me again, only this time she kisses me on the cheek and holds on a little longer.
The best time for Cuddly Nadia to fit me into her schedule comes on a Saturday morning when the Springboks are playing a match.
She asks me to meet her at the coffee shop of a hospital on the East Rand. Later, when I ask why here, she tells me she can't go to the local malls because she always bumps into clients walking around with their credulous wives.
Nadia, 38, once had a "normal office job" but willingly got into the sex trade 15 years ago. With some pride, she tells me she was the first working lady of colour on the East Rand. At the time, Beeld wouldn't take her ads. Now, the vast majority of her clients are white Afrikaners, getting off on the sweaty taboo of this large coloured lady with natural 40G breasts.
"Sometimes I can see they're disappointed when they arrive," Nadia says of clients not expecting a woman of such bulk. "But they stay anyway because I'm in a good price range. I'm known as a budget bunt."
I ask if there are any times when a man - driven by irrational lust - comes to see her and is riddled with obvious guilt and self-loathing after the act.
"Men don't have guilt buttons," she says, and she lets out a little laugh. "But maybe once a year I get someone who says they can't believe what they've just done or gets halfway through a session and says 'You know, I shouldn't have done this.'"
I imagine the scene. The skinny naked Afrikaner sitting on the edge of the bed, clutching his remorseful face in his hands, as 85kg Cuddly Nadia - all swinging breasts and dark mounds of flesh - consoles him.
"I stroke his ego. I tell him: 'Good for you, you're one of the few guys who has a conscience.' I say: 'I hope your wife appreciates you,' but in actual fact I don't give a damn about his wife."
Nadia had a "cruel" mother and was molested by a family friend when she was 12. Her mother, she says, never told her that she looked pretty.
"I have a feeling that's why I crave attention from men. Plus, I always tended to be quite promiscuous."
Nadia sometimes goes to church and was once the church organist. The oblivious minister keeps telling her to join the choir.
Wendy told me that what she'd learnt from this business is that "where there's meat, men will eat". Nadia has the same blunt regard for men's sexual posturing.
"It's not that my client wants to leave his wife, coming to me is just one of those things he does for relaxation. Some guys play horses, others play golf, others visit sex workers."
Nadia gets clients as early at 6am. There's a stream of Muslim men who come to her straight after morning prayers.
Her phone rings - it's half-time.
"Yes, when would you like to come? Look, give me a call after lunch. What time were you thinking? Yes, yes. All right. Huh? Uh-huh? I'm listening. My boob size ... that's my bust size. Ja. Okay. Give me a call after lunch; I'm just in the middle of something now."
She switches her phone off, looks at me and says: "He won't call back."
Tasha and the retired hitman
Imeet 26-year-old Tasha at a bar in Sandton. She orders a cocktail called "Faithful Bitch" and introduces me to her fiancé. They've been together a few months. He does a dull job now - something to do with computers - but retired, just recently, after years of working as a hired gun.
Tasha is an attractive blonde with a top tooth missing. Turned brittle and loose, she says, from the repetitive beatings of her previous boyfriend, who ended up as her pimp. She's been a call-girl since 19, got into it to pay the medical bills for a back operation.
Tasha's not her real name. Tasha is her alter-ego, the working girl. Her other identity - supposedly her true one - is the one in love with the ex-hitman. He knows this, accepts that it's not really his fiancée who's having sex with men for money. Not that he minds.
"Her working during the day is kind of becoming foreplay for when I get home," he says. "By the time she gets home ... yeah, well, you can do the math."
Tasha says she wants to get out of the game, lead a normal life. But 20 minutes later she tells me she enjoys what she does. What about when you get married? Will that make you stop?
"I don't think there should be a problem because it's two different people, two different personalities." Then she mentions that both she and her fiancé are seasoned swingers, and it makes perfect sense.
They live together now. Tasha, when I see her, has been 25 days clean from crack. It's a big thing. There's a separate room in the house where Tasha takes a client when her fiancé is working at home.
"Doing this makes you feel worthy of yourself," Tasha says, defying the thoughts of a woman like Wendy, who sees this work as demeaning. "When clients come back because you're good and they like you," adds Tasha, "you feel good about yourself. I had low self-esteem from being in an abusive relationship. Now, I have confidence again, I feel like my life is worth something." Her saying this makes me a little sad.
Tasha's favourite thing ("I looove it,") is seeing couples. Either a woman wanting to experience another woman, or a husband who wants to watch his wife with another woman. She once serviced a man, at the request of his wife, because he'd never been with any other woman.
"I'm a good businesswoman, good with marketing ideas," Tasha says. "Like, if I see I'm having a quiet week, I run a special - R400 for this week, for an hour, come as many times as you want."
But, she says again, she wants to get out of it someday. Maybe get into massage, but her back is still bad, she takes morphine for it.
"The equivalent pain," says the tender mercenary, reaching across the table, "would be if I was to break your arm right now."
And suddenly I am overly eager to believe him.
In a little flat in Sunninghill, I meet a striking girl who, like Tasha, uses names to switch working identities. Except this one has several.
Today, I am assured, I am speaking to Oceana, 26. But there's a character named Terrawhite - the name of a famous black porn star - who might end up in the room too. Together with Oceana and Terrawhite, this call-girl, who's been at it for just over a year, has 22 personas. She also has identical tattoos on the upper-part of each breast - skeletal representations of feline claws going in for the kill.
"This work is not something I was driven into because of a situation or something like that; I willingly went into it," she says. "You get chocoholics and whatever, and I am a sexaholic, maybe."
I am intrigued and confused by this. How is it possible to simply enjoy this work, like, as she puts it, a hobby, a game?
"It's not a big decision to make." She's twirling hair around her index finger. "It's like, you taste alcohol, you realise that you like it. What's the next step? You need to go to the bar and order it yourself, isn't it? It's like that. You have sex, then you realise 'Okay, it's not enough at home, so why not have it any time you want, and have a bonus from it?'"
I am unable to defy this logic, so I ask her about clients. Like Cuddly Nadia, the majority are middle-aged white men after some forbidden jungle fantasy.
"Lots of white oldish Afrikaans men. From Pretoria. The ones with big tummies and little shorts."
I laugh and ask if she understands why this is so, if she understands the incredible allure a black or coloured woman presents to these men.
"Ja," she smiles and nods. "And now they are having fun with it."
Still, Oceana - who has a seven-year-old daughter - insists she doesn't let just anyone into her flat, into her bed or onto the massage bed that lurks to my immediate right in the little lounge, awaiting its next happy ending.
"I'm very choosy, very picky. I don't take just any Tom, Dick and Harry. I'm a very good judge of telephone manners. The way the person speaks to me, the way they approach me, I can see if they are a true gentleman."
Oceana's mother - a pastor - knows what her daughter does for a living. Her father, though, does not. "I never stayed too much with my father," Oceana says, "so his opinion he can keep."
Her phone rings. There's a conversation, a negotiation. She puts the phone down, looks at me and smiles. She's Terrawhite now. It's time to go.
[This news article was sourced from TimesLive.co.za: http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2011/11/13/call-me-call-me-anytime]