I will never forget the first time I visited Paris. All the history of the city pressed down upon me and as I turned at each corner a new discovery lay before me. In one street my husband told me that Napoleon must have ridden his horse there. I stepped out into the street (not a busy one) to stand where he may have passed trying to imagine what it must have looked like during this time. The buildings are pretty much the same. I just had to imagine the streets filled with horses instead of cars and we were dressed in clothes much more beautiful (we were rich in my imagination). The streets were filled with the sounds of people and horses.
The streets of Paris are charming and full of secrets winding all around a magnificent city.
We had walked all of Paris in one day much to the dismay of my poor toes. On the second night in Paris my husband took me down a famous street, rue St. Denis. It is a street for hookers. We ended up near there while walking and he wanted to shock the little American. He thought it would be fun to see my reaction to this street full of women offering their bodies up for sale. I saw a man, a John, walk up to a tall black woman with bright red lips and whisper into her ear. She walked away slowly and a few moments later he followed. I could not believe it! This mid-western girl from Ohio actually witnessed a business transaction between a man and woman for sex! My husband wanted a reaction. I did not disappoint him. However, I am not sure it is exactly what he had in mind. I was deeply shocked but I was also very saddened.
I was disturbed by seeing this peddling of flesh in the real. On screen it is sometimes portrayed as a little romantic and in some movies even comical. It was neither romantic or comical. It was tragic and I was deeply troubled as a woman to have witnessed it right in front of my eyes.
As I walked past one of the woman with more make-up on than clothes, she pulled out her compact and turned her back to me. She pretended that she was touching up her nose but in fact I could see her watching me through the mirror of the compact. It was strange to have a hooker spying on me through her compact mirror. I am sure she was as curious as to why I was there and who I was as I was as to why she was there and who she was.
I felt like I was intruding her and stepping into a world I did not belong. I don’t think she was embarrassed. I did not want to hurt her with my curiosity or disgust. I wanted to return to my world where I don’t have to see the darkness of the world. My world where everything is “right”. I pressed into the side of my husband happy that I have never and will hopefully never have to stand in a street in the cold of night with only the light of the street lamps to keep away the darkness.
I knew that prostitution was legal in France. However, when you see it standing right before you in a short tight skirt and bleach blond hair it takes on a whole other meaning. I had thought that I had seen prostitutes in America but was never really sure. Even last week while in Strasbourg my husband pointed out that there was a prostitute standing on the other side of the street and I told him I did not think she was.
At first glance she looked like any other woman just waiting for her husband or a friend to come pick her up. At the second glance, I saw the dark circles under her eyes and the way she turned away when I looked toward her. As she turned away it was clear she was there for one reason only and did not want to see me looking at her. I felt bad. I think I made her nervous looking at her while pulling out baby after baby from the car. She moved from her place and began walking slowly down the street with no real purpose of direction. She was just moving away from the family that was taking over her spot. I am sure the presence of a large family with children three and under just in front of her is not good for business.
I did feel bad for her. But, honestly I was curious too. Curious as to why a woman would do this kind of work for a living. I know that drugs are one of the biggest reasons. I just feel terrible that a person must sell their body for money.
Since living in France, I have seen many a prostitute standing on the side of many a street in the broad daylight or in the darkness of night. I have seen them young and dressed in tacky clothes and bright make-up with big hair like out of the movies and I have seen them much older dressed not unlike my grandmother. I may have seen over fifty of these woman in the past two years while just driving or walking around Strasbourg. I never get used to it. I don’t think I ever will.
I agree that prostitution should be legal. I agree because prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world. It is not going away anytime soon, if ever. It is just that I do not like or agree that the prostitutes be allowed to stand on the streets. I think they should stay in a house where they are tested regularly for STD’s and can have social aid offered to them and counseling as well as physical protection. I know this is not possible due to the privacy of their names and the necessity to protect them from discrimination due to their chosen line of work. I wish there was some way to get them off the streets and keep them safe. There must be.
My husband told me that the prostitutes in France pay taxes. At first I laughed and now I say why not? I think the money should not be used for taxes but invested into programs to help these women. Maybe it is and I am not aware of it. I looked online. However, I did not find much information on this.
I wish there was something else that these women could do. I wish I could wave a magic wand and these women would not be dependent on the drugs or men that push them into this life. I wish I could wave away any and all reasons that a woman would choose to do such a thing as this to live. Life should be more than standing on a street waiting for some guy to pay you for the use of your body.
I hate seeing these women because I hate to see such sadness and tragedy that is not on a movie screen. Instead of Pretty Woman, I saw a tired woman in her fifties standing not six feet away from my family holding her coat tightly about her to fight away the cold.
I don’t know her life. She may be a mother or grandmother. She is certainly a woman and person with the right to live in this world with love and respect.
She did not look happy. I wish I could make her happy.