12.06.09

Call Girls Out-Class Mistresses

Two more of Tiger Woods’ mistresses are talking to tabloids and Eliot Spitzer's girl Ashley Dupré is criticizing them for cashing in. Former call girl Tracy Quan on why prostitutes often act classier than mistresses once the cat's out of the bag.

Yesterday, Jamie Jungers became the fourth woman to be identified as an alleged member of what is starting to look like a Tiger Woods harem. But let's not confuse her with another of his self-proclaimed mistresses, Jaimee Grubbs.

It was Grubbs who last week found herself at the center of a media frenzy when she spoke out about being Woods' mistress, prompting an apology for "transgressions" from the golf star. Other women have been linked to Woods, as well—Rachel Uchitel, who abruptly canceled a press conference about the alleged affair, and Kalika Moquin, who apparently doesn't have time to discuss her private life with the public.

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But one woman who doesn't claim to have slept with the golf pro is call girl Ashley Dupré, who made headlines last year as the prostitute New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had been with as "Client #9." And yet she has some very compelling things to say about those who have. In Friday's New York Post, Ashley made clear that she's appalled at the way Woods' publicity-hungry concubines are selling their secrets to the tabloids. She lashed out at them for "taking money and gifts while seeing a high-powered celeb," then "blabbing all about it in exchange for money."

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If you expect a married man's mistress to have better manners or ethics than a prostitute, simply because her heart or libido are involved, think again. Those very elements—love and lust—do not always lead to classy, mature behavior. Having a businesslike agenda from the start seems cold, but it results in a warmer ending.

Ashley has attacked the legal side of gold-digging in the past, without naming names. But she nailed it this week when she lambasted Grubbs and company for playing around with a wealthy married man, and then trading up for even more money by peddling their stories to the tabloids. Is Ashley out of line here? She's judging other women for doing something that prostitutes have also been known to do.

But here's the difference: prostitutes rarely engage in the type of behavior that Tiger's mistresses are engaging in now. Those prostitutes who blackmail and expose their clients are generally shunned by their peers, and rightly so. Unless a client has behaved badly or violently, his privacy is usually respected. This is a line that separates professionals from amateurs.

Jaimee Grubbs saved Tiger's voicemail messages and made them available to the media. A call girl, by contrast, is careful to remove the text messages from her cellphone, and even warns her customer when she thinks he's being too careless with his phone—as men are wont to be.

Also, unlike Grubbs, a pro doesn't have to be asked to anonymize her voicemail greeting, as Tiger apparently asked Grubbs to do in case his wife called her. For a call girl, sensitive to the etiquette of these situations, precautionary measures are second nature.

But Tiger, for reasons we can only begin to analyze, isn't turned on by safety and ethics, and who can blame him? Hanging out with sex workers isn't risky enough, from an emotional perspective—and professionals are unlikely to idolize him.

A mistress is fundamentally riskier than a call girl because her idea of one-upmanship is getting the man in trouble with his wife or primary partner, to break up his main relationship. This wasn't as likely in the good old days, when mistresses and prostitutes had more in common—but Jamie and Jaimee are modern women. These are not your grandfather's mistresses. That's why, perhaps, they feel entitled to sell their stories to the tabloids.

A call girl's idea of one-upmanship—which is far more beneficial to the men she sees—is being more discreet than the next girl. If she does a better job of protecting her customer's marriage than anyone else, that's a point of professional pride.

Think about it: Everything we know about Ashley's encounter with Eliot Spitzer was revealed by others. The New York Times had to sic investigative reporters on the story to uncover it. However naive Ashley may have been when she got involved with escorting—and weren't we all!—discretion seems to be in her nature. If it's a trait she learned, she picked it up quickly, perhaps from the other escorts she met. This goes against the images we've seen of her—her Girls Gone Wild phase, her splashy party-girl pics in the Post—but appearances can be deceiving. Exposing your tattoos or midriff isn't the same thing as exposing a sex partner.

In escort circles, there are two brunette archetypes: the prim Audrey Hepburn type, and the voluptuous Ashley Dupré type. Because Ashley doesn't conform to everybody's image of the co-ed call girl, her old-world discretion comes as a surprise—especially when she airs her views in the New York Post. But those who know the inside story have noticed how muted and coded Ashley can be about specific aspects of her past.

Why, then, does she bother to lecture a blabbermouth like Jaimee Grubbs or any of Tiger's other mercenary mistresses? At one time, Jaimee and Ashley would have been seen as one, because any woman having sex outside marriage belonged to one category: adulteress. Now that prostitution is seen as a labor issue rather than a moral one, Ashley is emerging as a gritty modern ethicist. As for mistresses like Jaimee Grubbs and Jamie Jungers, well, without traditional morality to guide them, anything goes.

Tracy Quan's latest novel is Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl, set in Provence and praised in The Nation as a "deft account of occupational rigors and anxieties before the crash." Tracy's debut, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, and the sequel, Diary of a Married Call Girl, are international bestsellers. A regular columnist for The Guardian, she has written for many publications including Cosmopolitan, The Financial Times, and The New York Times.