Author, sex worker and German public intellectual Salomé Balthus in the first of her new columns on romance, sex and everything in between. (SLEEK Magazine)
When people say people like me sell love, they touch upon an interesting linguistic ‘blunder’. After all, love is not buyable, and the fact that it can’t be bought is perhaps the inner contradiction of prostitution. People certainly want to buy love, but what I sell is something completely different – namely, sex. Sex, eroticism and at worst, a disdainful sexual service. It’s an erotic service because I play a role and stage a – quite interactive – performance in front of a single spectator. In it, I play the role of the maîtresse, something rich and married men do not want to miss. For both of us, it feels less like a service and more like an affair, and my fee like an exceedingly generous gift (“Too kind, my dear!”). We don’t have to mention that the fee – and how much it amounts to – is never up for discussion. In my line of work, we don’t negotiate, we don’t call a spade a spade as we do in a brothel or on the street. It’s a question of style, and it’s style that costs! But it holds contradictions, danger. The danger of being so terribly misunderstood, of being so terribly mistaken, because it feels so real. And that’s the thing about love, because it’s so beautiful. Not too beautiful to be true, but too beautiful not to be true, especially for those who have never been able to experience it.
There are sad characters who have never been loved by any woman, not even their own mothers, and who are then overwhelmed by the effect of a tender touch. These men are, perhaps, someone who last experienced physical tenderness as a little boy or student, if ever. As adults, some are successful, but still don’t know what they are missing. Such a person is helplessly at the mercy of what an embrace, the caressing of naked skin can do. He has no chance to arm himself against the onslaught of feelings. There are sobs and trembling; tears flow. It leads to immediate dependence like the most insidious of all drugs: “It must be true, it must be real… It can’t be an act, that would be the height of cruelty.” These people do everything to warm themselves on the illusion of love that they ignore the payment process. They convince themselves that they are now my steady partner who just takes care of me because they have money! They ignore that I have other customers and that they are only one of many, and they pretend that this is all just a flirtatious trick of mine to make them jealous. They say – sometimes even before they’ve pulled their dick out of me – that I should stop being a whore, and that they only want me to be in the world for them. They tell themselves it’s just a phase of mine that has come to an end now that we’ve found each other, yet they still forgive me when I go on calling them names, laughing at them. They book me again; they stay my clients; they tell me to stop being a whore every time they have me again, and then they forgive me every time anew. They ignore the argument that if I stopped, I would also stop seeing them because they don’t want to be a customer, not like everyone else. They say they don’t want any service, that they they don’t make any demands on the quality of my sex service, and that they could even do without it completely.
They want to prove to me and to themselves that they really love me and that they don’t just love having sex with me. They explain my feelings to me and find explanations for everything. They are ready to forgive me everything, every rudeness, unkindness, every harsh word, even if I withdraw – impose the maximum penalty, the withdrawal of love. Despite this, very few stop seeing me as their mistress. No matter how unhappy I make them, I make them so happy with this unhappiness, because I bring love – one that hurts – into their lives. And in the end, isn’t the act of loving more blessed than being loved? Because the lover, after all, has the sublimity of his elation, while the beloved finds it merely annoying – is annoyed and irritated – feels oppressed and perhaps even disgusted? The world of the one who is loved without loving has only one more inconvenience, but the world of the lover is transformed into a holy temple of worship. Can we, the objects of love, expect no thanks for this? Every courtesan is a figure of light, fluttered by her swarm of moths. And powerlessly cruel as they are, the noble ladies not only have no guilty conscience, they don’t even remember the faces of all their blessed enthusiasts, whose names they have to look up in the calendars of their double-entry bookkeeping. Only I can’t do it, I’m tormented by my guilty conscience. I always want to apologise. I am pretentious: a luxury prostitute who allows herself the only luxury she is not allowed, that of not closing her heart, who is open-hearted in the wrong, the illicit way. Fatal. Sentimental! In the past, none of us could have allowed ourselves that. Nothing remains as it was.
As featured in SLEEK 72 – LOVE. Available in print and digital.