It’s said that prostitution is the oldest profession. It’s illegal in 49 states, with only Nevada permitting the sale of sex. Even there, it’s heavily regulated and requires strict permitting and health screenings. In Albany, the trade is alive and well, from nicer hotel rooms to places most folks in town don’t want to go for all the money in the world.
Jessie (names have been changed to protect identities) is, as far as anyone can tell, a normal 25 year old woman. She likes to party it up, lives alone, and pays her bills on time. What most folks don’t know is what Jessie does to pay those bills.
Once upon a time, she used websites like Craigslist to advertise her “services” as an escort. “I used disclaimers, saying that the money was for my time only, everyone knew what was what,” she said. “Anyone who tries to pretend otherwise is really just lying to themselves. Most of these guys aren’t going to have a chance with someone like me because of their personality.”
However, Jessie describes her clients as decent guys. “I might not want to date them or sleep with them,” she says, “but they’re nice guys. They’re regular guys who want some excitement in their life.”
Jessie was turned onto the profession via a friend, who she has since lost touch with, while she was living in Atlanta. Upon moving to Albany, she had to get creative since Craigslist had killed it’s “erotic services” category. Instead, she turned to Backpage, a site similar to Craigslist owned by the Village Voice in New York.
“Backpage didn’t care about what folks in Washington were trying to do,” Jessie recounts.
Jessie’s experiences are far from typical in Albany. Most prostitutes in the Good Life City, and the nation as a whole, find existence a far different scenario.
One example is Aggie. She describes her journey into the world’s oldest profession as one of necessity. “When my mama died, I came home to find our trailer locks changed,” recounts the 28 year old woman. “I had to hit the streets.”
Often times, prostitutes are tied in with drug abuse. Aggie claims her drug use is a matter of trying to escape her existence. “If you had to [perform sexual acts] for money, you’d probably get high too.” Aggie claims she has never been arrested, but there are other dangers to her line of work.
On the day she was interviewed by The Albany Journal, Aggie was sporting a black eye and a busted lip. “I got beat up by this group of guys,” she says. “You don’t go to the cops though. I’m not going to draw attention from them if I don’t have to.”
Neither Jessie nor Aggie claim to have a pimp. They are fortunate in that regard. Many girls who the Journal tried to interview refused, citing concerns that their pimp would beat them up if they took time away from “turning tricks” to be interviewed. More than one showed signs of having already been victim to violence, much like Aggie.
In 2007, Showtime aired the documentary “Very Young Girls”, which showed the lives of girls who are the victims of sexual exploitation. These girls, ages 13 and 14, are lured into prostitution by older men who first befriend the girls. They feign attraction with the girls and perform sexual intercourse with them, all the time saying that they love these young girls. The girls, flattered by the attention the older men are lavishing on them, are eager to please. Eventually, the process of pushing these girls onto the street culminates in these men putting these girls on the street, forcing them to sell their bodies for money.
Calls to the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit, which also oversees investigation and arrests of prostitutes, to discover how prevalent the child sex trade is in Albany, had not been returned by press time. However, there is little doubt that the situation profiled in “Very Young Girls” is a problem here in Georgia as well. The Atlanta based campaign, A Future. Not a Past was formed in large part to combat the child sex trade in Georgia.
Their research indicates that 300 minor girls are exploited in the sex trade in Georgia each month. Their research also estimates that 7,200 men, either knowingly or unknowingly, purchase sex from these girls.
Both Jessie and Aggie deny entering into prostitution prior to reaching adulthood. “It was a choice to me,” Jessie said. Aggie agrees, but claims she knows some of the girls on the street are well underage.
“There’s this girl I know, she says she’s 19 when guys ask, but most don’t. She’s only 15, but no one can tell really.”
Jessie also acknowledges that she knows underage girls show up on Backpage where she peddles her trade. She explains, “If the girl says she’s 18 or 19, but won’t show her face, then she’s probably just a kid.”