MEN FROM BEHIND THE WINDSHIELD
Several years ago, there was an ad on commercial television depicting a road rage scenario. A flustered man in a car, running late to a dental appointment yelled at a smiling woman who pushed in front of him. “Don’t smile at me love!” he bellowed. In the next scene, he appeared mortified in the chair as the dentist – the same woman he’d yelled at, walked into the room.
Road rage is something pretty much everyone with a licence can relate to, yet most of us would never dream of actually hollering at a fellow human dithering in a grocery store queue in front of us or swearing at a chatty barista when we are desperate for the first coffee of the day…although I’m sure we all fantasize about it.
Something about that degree of separation of the windshield, or a keypad, or being in a horde of fellow footy team supporters gives us a strange ability to dehumanize others and attack them.
Even if that’s not who we are.
It’s been my experience that men in particular slip into this weird twilight zone more easily. Especially when it comes to women. I’ve seen male friends from the gym hang around the pit in possies, talking in code about the fuckability of women right next to them…then bare their souls regarding their relationship problems in heartfelt one-on-one conversations in the same hour.
I’ve experienced clients troll sex workers online then demonstrate nothing but tenderness and respect in actual bookings. I’ve seen acquaintances chase secret extramarital pussy whilst also being generous husbands and invested fathers.
It’s a tough phenomenon to understand, the dark side lying somewhere between general human pack mentality and something more sinister, between resentment, misogyny or chronic misunderstanding. What I often see of men as a sex worker makes it even harder to reconcile.
They so often come to me nervous, at times literally shaking. Heads low like frightened animals looking for reassurance. And I give it, both because it’s my job and because that moment of absolute vulnerability is when I find men most likeable and relatable. I see them from behind the windshield and it’s a breath of fresh air.
After the sex, occasionally even in place of it, secret thoughts often come tumbling out. Feelings of entrapment, despair, lack of confidence and loneliness. Desires long hidden, including male bisexuality and kinks that they fear rejection over. Or deep concerns and observations about the world that they feel have no place in the trivial and rushed conversations of the everyday.
The anxiety of shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility, the contempt for the organisations they work for, the worry of giving their children something to look up to. I see eyes brimming with tears, I see fear, I see the peace in brief gratification and perhaps the inability to express what they are feeling to anyone but me, a random whore.
I feel deep empathy for these people. In the moment it’s impossible not to. I soothe them with my hands and I give them my body to express themselves without judgement. I accept their gratitude easily. It gives me something too. A reminder that we’re all just human. It’s so obvious when all our armour is stripped away.
It’s these interactions that help me to understand that in the same way woman are prisoners of patriarchy and the anxious self-obsession that is our normalcy, so too are men crippled by the toxic masculinity and deep-self rejection they are brewed in on the way to adulthood.
Dare we imagine a world where we communicate with each person in our lives as freely as a man speaks to an escort after he fucks her? How is it that such a world could be a much better place?
Yet it is. From behind the windshield we so easily find common ground.
— Photography by Emma Salmon – The Blacklight Sydney —