The case of the "Soccer Mom Madam," 44-year-old Anna Gristina (pictured) who allegedly ran a prostitution ring from her upper East Side apartment, has all the ingredients of a great scandal: sex, money, a suburban mom-gone-bad. But in an article for New York's Daily News, one of her purported employees claims that the alleged prostitution ring was nothing exciting, and that the madam's arrest "breaks my heart."
The woman, unnamed in the article, claims that she had the job for about a year, and that she'd graduated from "a major university" and wasn't dragged into the sex industry for lack of choice: She did it for the money and, heck, it sounded more interesting than a desk job.
According to the newspaper's interview with the purported prostitute: No, she wasn't swimming in cash. Clients paid $1,000 an hour, which she and Gristina split. But the work wasn't consistent. There were busy weeks, followed by a few weeks of nothing. She claims she worked with other escort services to supplement her income.
No, her clients weren't politicians and titans of industry, at least she doesn't think so. These were professional guys, she says, who clearly had some disposable income. But not superwealthy, high-powered executives. They could only afford an hour or two.
No, it wasn't glamorous. She says that she might dress up in a $1,700 cocktail dress for the occasional evening tryst. But it was a job. Her sessions with clients began with 15 minutes of small talk, and there was foreplay, and kissing. "Girlfriend-type stuff," she says. And that upper East Side "pleasure palace" was really a bare crash pad, with cheap furniture and nothing on the walls.
No, she wasn't exploited. She sought out Gristina with a quick Google search, and submitted an application through her website. She says that she never felt in danger, or was forced to do anything that she didn't want to do. Although threesomes were all part of a day's work.
"It breaks my heart that Anna is in prison," the woman is quoted as saying. "She was only introducing consenting adults to each other."
Prostitutes often find themselves stereotyped as victims or villains. They must either be forced into the industry out of coercion or desperation (as many millions are), or they somehow missed the memo that sex is sacred and not for sale.
Melissa Petro learned this the hard way. She sold sex through Craiglist for a few months to make money during grad school. When Craigslist shut down its erotic services section in 2010, Petro -- who was by then a teacher -- lamented in The Huffington Post that women had lost a relatively safe place to trade sex for money, free from the control of a pimp.
In the U.S., at least, prostitution is often a simple equation of supply and demand. Few women can make that kind of money outside of selling their bodies. And for reasons thousands of years old, men are willing to pay for it.
And some women might actually enjoy it. Gristina's employee says that she quit the business after her boss was arrested. But, she says for the second time, "it was the best job a girl in Manhattan could have."