Home Pop Culture The coming of age of the modern day call girl.

The coming of age of the modern day call girl.

Holly Golightly
Holly Golightly

Call girl for hire…

Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is one of the most famed characters in movie history. She is replicated, idolized, and consistently referenced. Women dress up as her for Halloween and Hepburn’s classic tiara wearing, face in hands photo hangs in almost every girl’s dorm across the country. Holly Golighty has become an icon and inspiration to millions, although out of those millions, a majority may very well have no idea what Holly does for a living. It is actually a shock to realize how romanticized the story of a “prostitute” has become. Yes, Holly Golightly is what you would refer to as a call girl, or as Truman Capote, who penned the novella in which the movie was based, called her character an “American Geisha.”

Sam Wasson, author of “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ and the Dawn of the Modern Woman,” acknowledges that many lack knowledge on Golightly’s actual “profession”:

“The No. 1 thing [people don’t know] is that Holly Golightly was a call girl,” Wasson told ABCNews.com  “It shows you how strong the Audrey persona is — that here, 50 years later, we still don’t want to believe that’s what her character was. I always tell people if they don’t get that, don’t be ashamed. The movie has coded it. Truman Capote was a little coy about it in the book, and later in life he said, ‘She wasn’t just a call girl, she had a few call girl proclivities.’ But she parties with men for a living. Obviously there’s more to it than simply the party. That’s
her livelihood.”

Part of the film’s massive success can be attributed to the fact that most viewers are unaware that Golightly takes money from men in exchange for her “services.” According to Wasson, over-sexualized goddess Marylin Monroe was Capote’s first choice for the role, however, “Marilyn didn’t take the part is because Paula Strasberg, her advisor and acting coach, said Marilyn should not be playing a lady of the evening.” Wasson then says, “That’s interesting in light of how we think of Holly, we don’t think of her as that risqué.”

So, in choosing the innocent, doe-eyed Audrey Hepburn, the film skirts away from the actual reality that Holly is a prostitute. We never see her in bed with men, and although she regularly receives $50 for the “powder room”, one never does find out exactly what performances said  “powder room” requires.

Holly gracefully and unassumingly floats under the radar, and her film story becomes a classic, inspiring women to worship and relate to her for almost 50 years.

Her naivety, innocence and charm, as well as lack of sexualized imaging (we never do see Holly uncovered or bearing more skin than one would at church), allows the world to love and support a prostitute.

So what is it that leaves a bad taste in our mouths when it comes to the modern day call girl, or websites that facilitate this lifestyle? We certainly do not view these ladies as new-age versions of Miss Golightly, in fact, one would argue that these women lack class, sophistication, and
even dignity. Why is it OK to idolize one call girl, while we ostracize others?

To get a closer look into the mind of today’s call girl writer Clarisse Thorn interviewed a 25 year-old“extremely privileged”, “non-desperate”, upper-middle class raised college graduate Olivia in “Sex in Exchange for Gifts and Cash? What It’s Like to Sleep With Wealthy Older Men for
Financial Support.” Olivia, who solicits herself as a “Sugar Baby” on seekingarrangement.com, enjoys having sex for cash, and feels that she is on the same earning potential as her clients, however at a disadvantage due to a bad economy and lack of money at the moment.

Olivia even goes as far as to equate herself with her clients. She righteously aligns herself with her millionaire clients and believes that her earning power will one day be the same. She is quoted saying, “I am more valuable to them [the men] because I have other work that I am seriously invested in, and am having sex with them anyway. Again, these men are interested in a woman who they see as more “equal” to them—in this case, defined by earnings potential—and they seem gratified by the idea that they could help me enter their income bracket someday. This is, of course, still kind of patronizing; like I said, they keep using words like “mentor.” It’s also presumptuous. But I think a lot of them being patronizing and presumptuous can probably be attributed to age and wealth, and only some of it to gender.”

And when asked about her insight on gender roles Olivia responds, “Hmm ….It’s made me feel more powerful. I definitely feel like I am the one with the power in this situation. When I show up, I don’t feel like: Here is this rich, powerful person who is about to bestow wealth upon me. I feel like: Here is this person who is a bit sad and lonely, and maybe I can make their day better.”

Now the common thread uniting both Golightly and Olivia most likely lies in their naivety. Holly exudes a naïve and helpless demeanor, yet she never is self righteous or overly descriptive about her “work.” She floats about from man to man, searching to snag the richest score, yet does so quietly. Olivia on the other hand is basically shouting from the rooftops, professing her intelligence and defining her self-worth.

One might say however that Olivia’s naivety lies in her inability to see that she is not really in control of her situation. She may shout about her power and dominance, yet she contradicts herself and the author, by providing insight to how her husband feels about her having sex for money.

Thorne first prefaces the reader by providing the following about Olivia:

“What you are about to read is a portrait of what the sex industry looks like for a person who is very privileged: she comes from a white upper-middle-class background, she is not desperate, she is being paid a lot of money, she does not have a drug addiction.”

Then, when asked about her husband’s thoughts on her profession Olivia says: “Part of the deal here is that I’m doing this because I’m broke. My husband really wants to be able to support me financially, but he can’t right now, so I’m supporting both of us doing this.”

It should also be noted that Olivia and her husband share an open relationship, so having sex for money may not be that far off, however, he sees her clients as a threat, where one would question, if non-paying customers are not a threat, then why are paying customers? Is this a question of being able to provide? And therefore, does the money factor completely hold the power? Because if this were just about sharing Olivia’s body, given the nature of their relationship, her husband probably wouldn’t mind, right? There then is a power shift. Olivia may not be as in control as she claims to be.

One might also ask, is being “broke” and being “desperate” the same thing? In the interview Olivia clearly offers that she would not be performing for clients if she were not in need.

She ends the interview by stating; “I am kind of attracted to my clients, and I kind of get off on making them happy, and I happen to think that the age difference is kind of hot. I like having sex with them; it’s not unpleasant. I like hearing about these guys’ life stories. I think it’s interesting. But these guys would never be a threat to my husband. I would never be sleeping with any of them except for the money. And I love my husband.”

And like Holly, Olivia goes on from man to man, adventure to adventure, but unlike Olivia, Holly isn’t married, nor enabling herself because of the power she feels in relation to the men she courts nor the added attention and sense of dominance over her male suitors (including her husband), but then again the modern day call girl has evolved and where as she once saw herself as the quiet subordinate kept thing that happily floated about, she is now the cunning and calculating femme fatale looking for the better deal, husband or no husband…convinced she is the one who is calling the shots.

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