From Turning Tricks to Shrinking Heads

A 22 year-old student, ‘Natalie Dylan,’ is auctioning off her virginity to pay for her graduate studies. She wants to become a Psychologist and apparently has bids for over $250,000 already. That will buy a lot of textbooks.
Let’s review the Roster of Eccentricities in the canon of shrinks we’ve come to know and love:
Dr. Pete: Social Phobia
Dr. Steve: Raging Dickhead and money-grubbing tool
Dr. Gail: OCD sufferer and control freak
Dr. John: Self-proclaimed Narcissist, MILF-lover
Dr. Allison: Liar about insurance issues, hater of helpful medicines, possible Scientologist
Will I be adding Prostitution to the list of my colleagues’…idiosyncracies?
This post is not a judgment against prostitution. I can appreciate this woman’s capitalistic take on using her body as she so chooses (I would have encouraged Dr. Pete to have done the same thing back in the day had I thought of it. Aside from being male with a fear of women it’s a no-brainer). However, being a world-renowned mental health professional – behind only Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Dr. Laura, Dr. Judy, Dr. Ruth and about ten thousand others – I feel an obligation to comment on some possible corollaries of her action.
Research suggests that there are multiple psychological difficulties correlated with prostitution: depression, sexual/physical abuse in both childhood and adulthood, anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. This has been confirmed to me by a (albeit small) number of prostitutes that I’ve seen in my practice, although it is unclear if the psychological issues are a cause of or an effect from prostitution. Most likely it’s both. For many of these women prostitution is their sole form of income and a regular activity, something in which Natalie is reportedly not interested. And because this sexual transaction is being carefully orchestrated it will likely be legal, with any physical violence or STD contraction improbable.


However, clients I’ve seen who’ve engaged in prostitution just once, without any overt consequences, were often regretful of the action. Is Natalie one of the smaller number women who will avoid those problems, be one of the few who report feeling “in charge, empowered?” Alternatively, will $250,000 allay any “icky, dirty feelings” or the “I’m damaged goods” perception that I’ve been told occurs? Perhaps, but not likely, based on what I’ve been told. The prostitutes I’ve spoken to said that selling yourself for money comes with heavy side effects. “Men don’t respect me,” one client told me, “or they get crazy jealous. Even if I’m not working anymore they use it as a weapon against me whenever we get into an argument. It’s like a permanent label that anyone can just throw at you: hooker. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a real relationship. At least not one without a huge skeleton in the closet.”
While Natalie isn’t looking to turn tricks regularly, she has already made herself into a public figure. What happens if she is recognized at her graduate school interview? I can’t fathom an admissions committee looking kindly on prostitution as part of her resume. And what about her clients? Will any of them recognize her years from now, in session? Clients have asked me on many different occasions about graduate school: how much did it cost? Do I/did I have a lot of debt? Did I get a scholarship? Will Natalie give an honest answer to her past? Conservative clients won’t like what she says. I’ve lost clients because I’m not married, because I don’t have children, because I refuse to wear a suit. Anyone who has dabbled in the World’s Oldest Profession needs to be well-prepared to deal with negative reactions from clients.
Natalie could quite possibly become my colleague and I’ll welcome her to the flock. And if she truly feels empowered as she describes, so be it. But I suspect that one day she will be sorry. Maybe it will be when she buys that first textbook. Or it may be years from now, when she’s sitting with a young client who is describing a sexual transaction and the thoughts and feelings that came with it. As one client put it to me:
“Sometimes it feels good, especially if I’m attracted to the guy. And I like buying nice clothes and bags and shoes with the money. But when I give the girl behind the counter the money I’ve earned, I remember the guy pulling out of me, ripping off the condom and throwing it on the floor. The images come back. He pulls on his pants, throws a shirt on over his shoulders and takes out his wallet. Five $20 bills come out and he throws them on the bed. Dirty, crinkled money. And then he leaves. It’s not like I want him to stay, but I want to want him to stay. I wish that I wanted him to lay with me afterwards the way other girls do with their boyfriends. That’s when it hits me that I traded sex for money. I’m a whore.”
I’m not going to judge Natalie if she follows through with this, but if she were my friend I’d advise her against it. I think she’ll ultimately regret it, as most women do.

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27 Responses to “From Turning Tricks to Shrinking Heads”

  1. Tracie says:

    It does seem to me like she’s making a pretty drastic choice. I understand her reasoning (college is expensive!) but the publicity is what makes me think something else is going on. If raising the money alone was the issue, and she was comfortable enough with her body to consider prostitution, why not become a stripper? It’s not uncommon, and even something that I myself did when trying to pay for undergrad. The impact on her psyche might be lower than direct prostitution. There are almost always negative impacts on the dancer but not as much as selling one’s virginity, I would wager.
    I do think she’s probably an intelligent girl, but really, she’s 22. Few 22 year olds recognize the impact of their actions at that age, and I fear she’s destroying her credibility as we speak. If I was a patient of hers I’d be more interested in hearing about her experience, and she’d always be Doc Hooker in the back of my head.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is Posttraumatic one word or two?
    Dr. Rob Note: One.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps sex workers who had no problems with their choice might not seek you out in the first place. And if they did, and did not deem it a bad experience, why should they mention something so heavily stigmatized?

  4. Batman says:

    There’s gotta be a first for everything if there is going to be any change.
    If every trouble-maker/revolutionary/whatever had stopped themselves because of the impact their actions on their reputation nothing would ever get acheived.
    This can be looked at as a freedom issue or a women’s rights issue or whatever. And yeah she is going to be called a whore for the rest of her life, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t morally correct.
    Look at the reputation Larry Flynt has, and he was done more for freedom of speech than any politician in the last 100 years.

  5. Dr. Rob says:

    I didn’t say she was morally incorrect (unless I had some typos I’m not seeing). This isn’t a piece about the morals of prostitution, it’s about my clinical experience with women who have worked in the sex industry and the psychological corralaries (sp) that often (although not always) accompany it, and how those psychological issues might impact this woman going forward.

  6. Batman says:

    Isn’t that kind of like taking a kid deciding he wants to try beer for the first time at 22 after a life of complete sobriety and comparing him to a hardcore alcoholic?
    I know this is more taboo, but maybe you’re worrying a little too much…or maybe that’s why you are a good shrink, because you love too much?

  7. Batman says:

    whoop, missed that…No, you didn’t call her immoral and I don’t believe you were hinting at it either.
    That was just a sentence capper that in hindsite sounded way too high-and-mighty

  8. Dr. Rob says:

    I don’t know anyone who has had a single beer and then labeled herself an alcoholic. I do know women who have sold sex for money one time and regretted it and carried around labels with them for a long time.

  9. Alice says:

    What bothers me most is that she’s a virgin. How can she even begin to guess how she’ll feel if she doesn’t even have any experience of “normal” sexual intercourse? Plus she might not be very good at it yet…

  10. Batman says:

    Oh well at least now when she sells herself in the future for dinner and a movie, or a few drinks at the bar, or hearing the words “I love you” she’ll be way ahead of the curve!
    Do you ever get clients who feel regret about selling sex for non-cash currencies?

  11. Anonymous says:

    She will regret what she is doing! She may not realize it now but its a lot bigger deal that she or anyone who has never done it will ever realize. I have been there and it wasnt something I started out to make money at. Someone gave me money for it once just cause I was about college age and he thought I could always use extra cash and he said I was good at what I did. First thoughts was that I was a slut and how could he do that to me. But then I thought that I needed money and it was a way to get it. So I started doing it more and had my “business” based on the internet and then would meet up somewhere later. Sex was never a big deal cause I was sexually abused so it wasnt something you did because you were in love, its only used to get what you need at the time. I was only 19 when it all started and I am only 25 now. But in those few short years I have learned the consequences of those actions. The truth is that you will never feel the same about yourself or other people ever again. The thoughts and feelings you have during those experiences will never leave you. When you do get married and start to have sex with your husband they will all come back and make you feel like a slut once again. I dont care if you sleep with someone for money one time or a hundred, it is something that you cant leave behind and it will haunt you for the rest of your life! I made lots of money doing this. For two years I did this and never had to work a real job. But I would give back every dollar I ever earned from having sex if I could get rid of the thoughts and memories that I have now because of it. But I made the choice and it is not an option to have them go away now, I will live with the consequences forever. She is making a big mistake and will never even realize it until it is to late to change it, just like I did.

  12. Batman is an idiot, and probably a woman looking to justify the fact that “Natalie Dylan” is looking to be a whore. How can a woman declare herself “empowered” and equal, and then turn right around and turn tricks to pay for college?
    She’s a whore. Perhaps a high priced one, but a whore nonetheless.
    For Batman to refer to Natalie Dylan as a “revolutionary” just baffles me. A woman having sex for money (because that’s what she’s doing) is HARDLY revolutionary or novel. Just because it’s her first time engaging in intercourse means nothing. She’s an attention whore, and once the price is right, she’ll be an actual one to boot.

  13. Anonymous says:

    To those who commented: who are you to judge whether this girl is a whore or whether what she does is right or wrong? Are any of you in here situation? Do any of you know what she is going through right now or what brought her to the point of thinking that this is her only solution? Why dont you try to understand someone before you judge them. I dont agree that what she is doing it necessarily right but at the same time I cant say she is wrong because I dont completely understand her situation. And what is wrong for one person may not be what another person believes is wrong. I guess the person who posted saying they have been there in a way atleasts understands because she has been there, but any of you who want to call her a whore or who think this is a good idea, why dont you try just understanding someone situation before you judge it in anyway at all. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.

  14. I’ve also worked with patients who were strippers, sex workers, and in related fields and I second what Dr. Rob has written about some of the possible issues surrounding such work. One of the ways in which we develop a sense of self is through the eyes of others and the feedback we receive from them about ourselves.
    Rationalizing is often part of the process, but for every, “I did it for the money”, “I enjoy sex, so I might as well get paid for it”, “I am in complete control”…..there are 10 “you are worthless”, “you are a whore”, and “you deserve this”. What is worse, those latter comments soon replace “you” with “I”, and then the battle is lost.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What Theraputic Ramblings said is absolutely right about that. I made every excuse for doing it. But every excuse you can come up with is followed by way more degrading truths about yourself. And in the beginning its not that bad, yeah I had the thoughts where I would tell myself “youre such a whore, or slut” or any other bad name I could think of. But it was when I changed my thoughts to “Im a slut”, “Im a whore” “Im a worthless bitch.”, that things really changed and I knew I would be known as those things by me whether anyone else ever thought the same thing. And what does it matter what other people think of you when you cant have one good thought about yourself?
    In this girl is going to not care at all what anyone says about her, what her clients say about her, what her husband says about her, none of that will matter. She will be stuck with the truth of what she believes about herself and it will screw her up for life.

  16. Go For It says:

    If “Natalie” has really thought about what she is doing, and has decided she wants to do it, I applaud her. Maybe her virginity doesn’t mean all that much to her, as it didn’t to me. My first time was when and where I decided (at an age not much younger than Natalie’s). It wasn’t some rushed 3 minutes in the backseat of my Dad’s Buick with a boy who told me he loved me just so he could knock one out. Fifteen years later, I still don’t regret that my “first” wasn’t anything special. Had I been able to make 1/4 million dollars off the deal, even better.
    And, before anyone hints or implies or wonders…I have never been abused, either physically or sexually. I do not come from a broken home and my father was present in my life, on a daily basis, until he died. Sometimes women just view sexuality differently than we’re “supposed” to.

  17. Anonymous says:

    You may be happy with the way you lost your virginity, but you cant say you would be happy if you made money doing it because you never did. People think it would be great to make that kind of money doing something they were already going to do but until you do it you will never understand. Im sure if I had never sold sex for money then I would be saying the same thing you were that I was going to do it anyway so why not make money at. Its not about the virginity part because it doesnt matter if you are a virgin when you prostitute yourself or not, you still get the same consequences. I wasnt a virgin, my first time was with an older man, his best friend and I got the shit beat out of me and I did that for free. And I feel better about loosing my virginity that way or even just having sex one of the many times I slept with guys I didnt even know but didnt earn money then I feel about selling my sex for money. I dont have the same thoughts and feelings that I have to live with about the other times like I do with knowing that I am a whore, slut, bitch, whatever you want to call it. If you had done it for money you would have the same consequences that all of us who did now have to live with.

  18. Nick says:

    To anonymous above: by definition, if she’s taking money for sex, she’s being a whore. Any moral implications you attach to that are going to depend on what sex means to you.
    I don’t understand why it’s so apparently so damaging, to be honest. As a female, she has physical capabilities upon which other people place a monetary value; she makes a choice whether or not to provide her services in exchange for money. Why is that more traumatic than sitting in an office 40+ hours a week for a salary? Or doing hard labor for hourly pay? Plenty of women have one night stands with guys they may never talk to again; why does the guy paying for it substantially alter the woman’s perception of the event? Any thoughts, Dr. Rob?

  19. jackmo says:

    every man pays for sex, some just don’t realise it.
    Screw the prostitution side of it, she is getting a massive chunk of cash and loads of attention – I bet she is probably well-pleased with herself.
    Sure she may feel remorse for it at sometime, but she’ll get over it. And we’ve all done things we feel remorse for, and just get over it.
    My question is, why the hell is someone willing to pay 250k to sleep with a virgin?!? I’ll give her a 10’er.

  20. Go For It says:

    Nick, I had the same thoughts. She provides a service and, in exchange, she collects a fee. Most people whore themselves out 40 hours (or more) a week and don’t make, in a year, 1/4 of what she will make in 20 minutes.
    I have no doubt there are women who prostitute themselves who have negative feelings after the fact. I will even concede that it’s probably the majority of women who do. But, I will still believe that there are fairly “normal” women who are prostitutes who don’t feel ruined because of their career choice.

  21. s says:

    Honestly, i wish I’d thought of that to pay for med school. A half hour of ANYTHING has to be better than years of working below minimum wage to pay for this…and really, is digging around in shit any better? And for a lot less money.

  22. ITG says:

    I have to ask the question: is there any research on the mental effects of prostitution performed by a member of a culture with no stigma against prostitution? It would seem to me that any psychological trauma would arise from a sociological viewpoint that prostitution is bad, or sex is dirty, or sex is only right when it’s with someone you love, etc, and not some sort of immutable fact.
    Given that, one could certainly argue, as Batman has done, that Natalie IS a revolutionary, trying to alter a cultural perception to create a society more tolerant of prostitution and the more overarching issue of the right of a woman (or indeed person at all) to do with her (or his) body as they will.
    As a layman, all this is speculation, and I don’t dismiss the possibility that I simply don’t grasp some dynamic of the situation. It seems reasonable to me, but hey, what do I know?

  23. Wayland says:

    To quote a man: Men Are Better Than Women. “Natalie Dylan” = Epic Fail for women. This crap just makes me sad. So many have lost sight of what is really important…

  24. Lilly says:

    I don’t think it’s the fact that she’s doing this that is really the issue at hand (she wouldn’t be the first to attempt or go through with something similar) but it’s her field of choice –
    Like it or not, there is some type of ethical standard that is expected out of our medical community.
    While we all *should* be fully aware in this day and age that we are all human and therefore susceptible to the same human fallacies, there is still some level of ethics and betrayal involved in this behavior.
    After all – it’s not just that she’s doing something “questionable” or “morally wrong” – accepting money for sex is against the LAW.
    Whether or not you believe it should be, or if you believe this is a moral dilemma or not, this is an illegal act being perpetrated (publicly) by someone going into a career field that takes matters of the law (and obeying them) very seriously.
    If she was already practicing and did something like, couldn’t she lose her medical license?

  25. PJ says:

    No, because she’s not doing anything illegal, (or immoral, for that matter, since no one is bidding who doesn’t want to). The entire transaction is being conducted at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada. Didn’t you read the article?

  26. Ji Lawhorn says:

    Ok so I am thinking about removing my site from Tumbler and get it to a WordPress website. I believe this is a wordpress site right? If it is, may I ask where you got the theme? Thanks a bunch!