I'm a longtime fan of writer Kirk Read. His memoir How I Learned to Snap is brilliant. He is this amazing performer, so of course I turned to his essay "It's a Shame About Ray" in the new Soft Skull Press anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex and was expecting something good. What I got was something that is genius. Trust me. The price of the book is worth it for this essay alone (even though there are some other amazing pieces in it too).
1. The title. He had me at “It’s a Shame About Ray” because I am a Lemonheads fan and loved that song.
2. He references a Burger King commercial to describe his escorting Internet personal add:
I used phrases like “non-judgmental” and “open to the fantasies that grip you.” Remember that Burger King commercial? The one with the jingle “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce; special orders don’t upset us…” It was kind of like that.
3. He is a word nerd.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, I’ll say that all I did was use complete sentences. We live in an age of fission. All around us, the language is being split into tiny, marketable pieces. Here-second chunks of information--visual media is edited in such a way that we’re all careening toward epilepsy. Meanwhile, the sentence is an old friend. The sentence is a familiar revolution. I trust the sentence.
4. He debunks stereotypes while invoking the military industrial complex:
You know that stereotype about how clients want to tell you all their problems, so much so that you don’t spend very much time having sex? The sex worker as talk therapist? It’s complete bullshit. It makes non sex workers feel less threatened by the concept of sex for pay. Like when the government invades a country and launches a media disinformation campaign so people think the troops are just there keeping the peace, when really they’re carrying out midnight raids and razing apartment buildings and shooting civilians point blank. I grew up in a military family. I know that’s what really happens because the men in my family are all emotionally unavailable.
5. He likes guys who aren’t traditionally attractive, and claims that:
For me it’s a deeper practice to arrive with very little to go on. The clients who don’t give you any hints at all--no phone voice, no age, nothing. Those are the guys I end up learning the most from. Especially if they’re not traditionally handsome. Maybe they’ve got some extra weight, maybe their skin has red patches, maybe they have a micropenis. If there’s some characteristic that renders them defective in the eyes of the culture, it makes me more excited to play with them. Like when a firefighter gets a call for a five-alarm blaze. It’s exciting. It’s a challenge.
6. He’s from the South and proud, and explains the politeness of accepting a drink, even in the context of a sex work client.
7. He honors his client, Ray, sharing Ray’s fetish with readers in a way that never vacates his trust, that takes someone who is very likely misunderstood by the general populationæat one point, even by Read--and shows his humanity in the guise of a very specific interest.
8. He’s damn funny. He works in his own fantasies, experiences, and sex worker maxims while also telling a story about a specific client.
9. He’s wistful that he didn’t have more intimate contact with his client, thus debunking another stereotype: that it’s always only about money. Clearly, it wasn’t, so when getting to leave after two hours after being paid for an overnight visit, he’s disappointed.
10. He simply owns this piece. I wish I could carry it around and thrust it upon everyone I meet to read, immediately. It’s that good. It’s funny but never in a way that makes fun of sex. It’s unapologetic in its tone, forthright that he is all these things: a sex worker, queer, Southern, smart. It’s fierce and wistful and horny and forthright. It references Fahrenheit 451 and puts forth a vision of a world where people used full sentences and didn’t beat around the bush when speaking up about their desires. At one point, he writes, “Erotic freedom by any means necessary.” Exactly.
I also happen to think he's drop-dead sexy, so I'm gonna share some photos I found at his site:
photo by Lynnly Labowitz
And if you want to see him naked, covered in money (to be on the safe side, probably NSFW), click here