Monday, December 30, 2019

Faw's ULTRALUMINOUS: A Teen Bartering Sex


Some of the books that we review are focused on nympholepsy (e.g., Emily Prager's Roger Fishbite) while others are peppered with nympholepsy (e.g., Lauren Myracle's ttyl). Katherine Faw's Ultraluminous is of the latter sort but very much worth a post.

Here's part of Alexandra Schwartz's description of Faw's Ultraluminous that was posted on The New Yorker:

[...] the novel’s narrator is chiefly motivated by heroin. She’s a high-end prostitute who has just returned to New York after ten years in Dubai, and quickly establishes a roster of clients: “art guy,” who lives in a luxury condo in Williamsburg and takes her gallery-hopping; “calf’s brain guy,” who takes her to exotic dinners at trendy restaurants; “junk-bond guy,” now retired to the apartment he shares with his unsuspecting wife on the Upper West Side; and “the guy who buys me things,” who takes her shopping at Prada and Hermès. [...] “Ultraluminous” is a sort of “American Psycho” from the prostitute’s point of view, a damning, often hilarious account of toxic masculinity and Wall Street money culture.

And here are the relevant excerpts:

K, the narrator, shared that she began prostituting as a teen:

I was terrified of the first man who paid me. I was eighteen. It was my first time overseas. He took me to a restaurant that I would learn to make fun of but only later. I was convinced they could tell, the driver, the waiters, the hotel staff, him. I wanted to appear professional [...] 

But K exchanged sex in a bartering transaction before she was 14:

The first man I ever had sex with was British. He didn't pay me but it was an exchange. He was the manager of a club I wanted to get into [...] It was on Bleecker and Thompson. I lied and told him I was fourteen [...] 

But K first learned of her (sexual) power when she was 12:

I was twelve. It was the first warm day after four brutal months and I walked down Avenue B, all arms and legs, and suddenly I had this power. Since then it hasn't stopped.

This is how K was enticed into prostitution:

I was dumb like any eighteen-year-old. This girl told me her friend's sister did it. She said she went over there for one year and made enough money that she wouldn't have to work for five. 
"You have to do all the pervert shit, not just fuck them. You have to do whatever they want. Like old men, like with harems."
"I get it," I said.
"They buy you stuff, too, whatever you want," she said.
We were doing coke in the bathroom at a club in Chelsea where we were both bottle girls. 

Interestingly, when K was 10 or 11, a man inappropriately assumed she was a prostitute:

I was on the subway without my mother and in the crush before the doors opened a man stuck his hand up my skirt and grabbed my crotch and asked how much I cost. I was wearing one of my outlandish outfits but in an instant all my confidence disappeared. I knew it was my fault. I had rolled the waist on the skirt, twice. I remember his hoarse, bossy whisper in my ear. I remember it being a new sound. I was ten or eleven. 

Schwartz started her New Yorker piece by sharing that she devoured - no “inhaled” Ultraluminous.







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