Tuesday, April 19, 2022

STREETWISE (1984): "Dates" for Sex | Seattle's Teen Prostitutes

Here's is part of the Criterion Channel's synopsis for Streetwise (1984):

Seattle, 1983. Taking their camera to the streets of what was supposedly America’s most livable city, filmmaker Martin Bell, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and journalist Cheryl McCall set out to tell the stories of those society had left behind: homeless and runaway teenagers living on the city’s margins [...] “Streetwise” follows an unforgettable group of at-risk children—including iron-willed fourteen-year-old Tiny [Erin Blackwell] [...] who, driven from their broken homes, survive by hustling, panhandling, and dumpster diving. Granted remarkable access to their world, the filmmakers craft a devastatingly frank, nonjudgmental portrait of lost youth growing up far too soon in a world that has failed them.

It turns out that Tiny starting "hustling" when she was 13. The synopsis refers to Tiny's teen prostitution as "husting", and Tiny referred to her johns as "dates". Tiny said that her older dates are strange but she likes the money.

"I think it is very strange that older men like little girls [...] I mean, I like the money but I don't like them."
Tiny [Erin Blackwell]

How much did Tiny make as a teen prostitute, and how often did she work in downtown Seattle? Tiny made up to $400 - just about every day.

"I used to at least bring in $300, $400 and for a blowjob it would be 30 on up. And for a lay it would be like 40 on up."

"[...] I used to turn dates lots and lots of times just about every day I be pulling dates day and night."

And Tiny shared that the older prostitutes charged more "[...] than us little kids do." 

Tiny didn't know her "real" father. Consequently, she feared that she may have "dated" him: 

"My real dad I've never known [...] I could have dated him for all I know."

Kimberly Marsh

Tiny's (biological) mother reluctantly condoned Tiny's "hustling" and referred to it as a "phase". And so did Kimberly Marsh's (adopted) mother.  Consequently, Kimberly's mother was flabbergasted to learn that Kimberly wouldn't loan her any money.

"I know that you're a [teen] prostitute and everything and I know what you're doing and stuff. And I know that you got money [...] Fine! Thanks a lot! I'll remember this!"

Kimberly decided to become a sex worker after a friend informed Kimberly that (teen) prostitution was "great" because she was making a lot of "easy" money.

"Oh yeah, it's great man [...] I'm making so much money. And it's so easy. Money comes so easy and everything. It's great! You oughta do it!"

Consequently, Kimberly would call jonhs, repeatedly, from a payphone to see if they wanted a "date".

"Hi Dan. This is Kimberly again. Yeah. So, have you decided? Do you want a date tonight?"

In end, we have some (rhetorical) questions. Why were Bell, Mark and McCall "nonjudgmental". Why didn't they call the police on the underage prostitutes? (The age-of-consent in Seattle is 16.) And why were Tiny, Kimberly and the other teen prostitutes able to openly "hustle" in downtown Seattle? #theallureofnymphets

Lastly, the Streetwise documentary reminded us of the German teen prostitutes in We Children From Bahnhof Zoo - more so than the Roman teen prostitutes in the wealthy district of Parioli.

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