What “Concussion” gets wrong about lesbian sex workers

 
 

Concussion has been in select theaters and video on demand since the beginning of October, and if you’ve had the chance to see it, you might think that the story accurately reflects how a lesbian call girl lives her life. Abby, bored with her life as a mom and housewife, decides to become a woman-for-hire during her free time in the afternoons. While the film is lesbian-penned, directed and produced, there are some implausible plot points that only real queer female sex workers would be able to identify.

It’s hard to say how much research of real women in the sex work industry went into the film. Star Robin Weigert said she didn’t do any research into sex work, telling IndieWire, “The character doesn’t. It’s not like she’s in a line of work. She’s someone leading a fairly conventional life who takes one step out of the box and then another step out of the box. You know? I thought, ‘Let it be experiential.’ Let me have her experiences.”

Director Stacie Passon said she was inspired to write Concussion because “I used to have a lot of health and beauty clients. I guess I have a certain aesthetic some others might not have working in that world.” In a different interview, she told Out ”she’s heard that bisexual sex workers are more common.”

Abby originally gets into the work through a friend who introduces her to an anonymous young woman who then finds the clients and sets things up for Abby and other workers.

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“I got into the work that way and then in turn brought other friends into the work later,” says Rhiannon Argo, a queer novelist and former sex worker. “It’s very alluring to see a friend making that much cash, but you probably have no idea how to start, and how to do so in a safe manner, or how to get clients for that matter. A friend can show you the ropes and watch out for you. That was something I actually really loved about the job, working with friends. It’s more fun and safe and you can giggle and joke about clients, and have your own secret world. And also see each other naked a lot.”

Lesbian sex worker Andi said she found work a similar way. “I fell into erotic massage through an ad in the paper: ‘Money-minded girls needed.’ But then I got a friend a job at the massage parlor, and she got another friend a job, and then there were a lot of lesbians working there.”

Once Abby has clients lined up in Concussion, she insists on meeting them for coffee first. This is something that both Rhiannon and Andi say would never happen in real life.

“Your biggest problem with that is how much of your time it will waste,” Rhiannon said. “A lot of men can’t afford a sex worker but will do anything to talk with one. It’s a hassle even trying to keep booking conversations short with them and figuring out who is serious and who has no intention of booking and just wants a chance to talk to a woman.”

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“[It's] totally implausible,” Andi said. “First of all, your clients contact you after seeing a picture of you on the internet. some girls show their faces in their ad pics, but most blur them with Photoshop, or just feature photos from the neck down, or hair or a fan or something obscuring their face. so part of the thrill for the client, I think, is that they want to enjoy that initial buzz of getting to really see you for the first time. But the bigger thing is that it’s just time inefficient. There are so many time wasters, who call and ask weird questions, or call just to talk to you and make an appointment and then don’t show. They get off on it.”

A more typical way of verifying a client is asking for a “reference.”

“Usually a girl they’ve seen before,” Andi said. ” And then you call her to ask whether the guy is safe. As in, will he threaten you? Will he rape you/demand services other than the ones you offer? Hit you? Try and leave without paying? Rob you? Is he a cop? Those are the concerns, not whether he is good-looking or charming.”

As for the clientele, it’s always largely men. There are rarely any lesbian clients calling for women on their own.

“There are tons of lesbian hookers, but very very few real lesbian clients,” Andi said. “If you see a woman, 99.9% of the time her male partner is present, and likely involved.”

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“I have never met any hookers that strictly see lesbian clients, and I live in San Francisco and know a lot of sex workers so that is saying a lot,” Rhiannon said. “I have heard two stories of sex workers who once had female clients, both back when the economy was better, and both girls were young and the female client was an older, financially secure woman.”

In Concussion the clients are all fairly attractive and range from 18 to just past middle age.

“The clients were mostly young, femme and hot,” Rhiannon said of the film. “There was one older woman, still hot, and one full-figured college student but I noticed they didn’t show any sexual interaction with her, or nudity, just chatting. They only showed sex with the girls that looked like models.”

Rhiannon said a more likely scenario would be “Abby being an older financially secure woman and having young, hot college students pay for sex with her. The scenario in the film is so far-fetched it’s absurd and laughable.”

Although Abby wasn’t in it for the money, that is exactly why most women are doing it at all. A hooker who only requests female clients, Rhiannon said, “will hear crickets instead of your phone ringing. You may get a client every once and a while (perhaps once a year) but a bunch, like Abby was getting is completely unrealistic.”

The rate Abby charges-$800-was also something Rhiannon could not believe.

“In the real world we are in an economic recession, and living in a patriarchal society where young women don’t have tons of disposable income lying around, if anyone has this it’s men,” she said. “A woman is also less likely to justify paying that much for sex when she can easily get that for free. Why would the young, beautiful clients Abby had pay $800 dollars for lesbian sex when they could get that for free with say, something as simple as an OKCupid membership?”

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A more typical rate, Rhiannon said, is around $300.

“If you are a luxury, low-volume, high-end escort, then $500,” Rhiannon said. “Abby was charging $800 from the get go, totally inexperienced, without reviews, without building up an image for herself, and at an age that she would be considered too old for the sex work industry. Yeah, right.”

According to both Rhiannon and Andi, Concussion didn’t get much right when it came to the sex working scenarios.

“It annoys me that she didn’t need the money, really, and was doing it more to spice up her life,” Andi said. “Every hooker and dancer and massage girl I’ve ever known has been motivated by economic necessity. There’s a lot of risk involved, and if shit hits the fan, it’s not like you can call the cops.”

The only thing Rhiannon found realistic was the sex worker that Abby had her first experience with, one she called to have sex with before she got involved herself.

“[She] wasn’t intimate with her, wanted the money straight off, and just got the job done,” Rhiannon said. “That seemed realistic.”

While the movie is enjoyable, it’s hard to know that it’s attempting to give a glimpse inside a world not often seen and getting a lot of it wrong.

“The movie perpetuates the stereotype that being a lesbian sex worker is a lot like starring in a soft-core lesbian porn movie,” Rhiannon said. “It does sounds like a super fun fantasy to think that being a lesbian sex worker means having highly intimate and hot sexual experiences, and connections, with plenty of gorgeous wealthy woman, and get paid exorbitant amounts of money for it, and that your capacity for dishing out all of that intimacy to strangers will never exhaust or deplete you!

“But unlike Abby, who has the luxury of doing sex work from her privileged position in wealthy-suburban-mom-mid-life crisis-land, if you are selling sex for money, you are actually doing it for the money,” she continued. “Just like any other job, and jobs require work, and work often requires doing things you would rather not be doing. Work is taxing, and sex work has it own bag of ways it is taxing both mentally and physically, and on your own intimate and personal relationships, and your own self-image when it comes to the way society judges and discriminates against your occupation.”

Concussion is out now (read our review here). Rhiannon Argo’s new novel, Girls I’ve Run Away With, can be purchased on her website.

 
 

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