Thursday, December 12, 2019

Interview with "Cop to Call Girl" --- Norma Jean Almodovar


By Peter Berton

If Merriam-Webster’s dictionary ever decided to use a person’s photograph to illustrate the word ‘integrity’, then Norma Jean Almodovar’s face should be the one chosen. 

The same would be true for words such as ‘courageous’, ‘gutsy’, and ‘irrepressible’.

Back in the 1990s, Almodovar rocked the straight world with her unrepentant autobiography, ‘Cop to Call Girl’. The long yet fascinating story of her journey from law enforcement to lady of the night and sex worker advocate is as compelling as it is incredible – and it unfolds below.

Peter Berton: Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Norma Jean Almodovar: Who am I? I am a bi-sexual atheist whore. I identify as a “whore” even though I haven’t practised my chosen profession in years. I am also a wife -- and married to a man with whom I fell deeply in love while I was still on the LAPD -- and we will be celebrating our 44th anniversary in 2020. We celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary in 2019; having been forced to marry so that he could visit me in prison.

Peter Berton: You are known for your book, 'Cop to Call Girl', which tells about your amazing career path. How did you go from writing tickets for the Los Angeles Police Department to sex work?

Norma Jean Almodovar: Working in law enforcement, even as a traffic officer, exposed me to the worst elements in human beings. I saw a side of people that most 'civilians' never get to see- and that includes a side of police officers that people can't believe exists.

When I learned just how corrupt and evil that all too many police officers, judges, district attorneys and politicians were, I really got depressed. Cops were once my heroes, and it took a big dose of reality before I would accept that they were made of clay just like everyone else.

(While off work recovering from a car accident) I decided I could no longer tolerate the corruption within the LAPD and the moral hypocrisy that I encountered when the cops arrested prostitutes but maintained a relationship with them as long as they cooperated with the cops and gave them information.

Women who did not cooperate went to jail.

Peter Berton: So you had to leave the LAPD?

Norma Jean Almodovar: So I had to leave.

After ten long, hard, miserable years, I decided that I could never go back. My heart was broken by what I knew and the only way to heal my soul was to get away and to do something that was nurturing, loving and the opposite of what I had been doing.

Peter Berton: So how did you end up becoming a sex worker?

Norma Jean Almodovar: At the time ... I had the same attitude and misinformation about prostitution that most people have; because I did not know any women who did not work off the street who were call girls.

That changed when I met a call girl who stopped me one night while I was driving my patrol car on Hollywood Blvd and she asked me if I would follow her home. She was being tailed by some guys and she was afraid.

I agreed to follow her in my police car. When we arrived at her home up in the Hollywood Hills, she told me what she did and I was quite shocked. She was nothing like I imagined a high class call girl to be; and she certainly didn't seem to be forced into doing what she was doing. And she seemed to be far more 'together' and she wasn't stressed out the way I was.

After I made the decision to go into sex work, I contacted the call girl I encountered that night when I was driving down Hollywood Blvd. When I told her that I was never going back to work for the LAPD and that I wanted to try doing the work she did, she was not surprised. She called the madam for whom she worked and made the introduction.

Peter Berton: How did you feel about making such a radical career move?

Norma Jean Almodovar: I was nervous and scared that I would be rejected because of my recent employment with the LAPD, or that I would not measure up to what was expected of a call girl. Maybe I wasn’t young enough; I was just about to turn 32 and maybe that was too old to start in the business. Maybe I wasn’t pretty or sexy enough… I had no idea what a call girl should look like.

Peter Berton: So what was your first encounter like?

Norma Jean Almodovar: My first encounter, my hands were cold as ice and I had to run them under hot water until they were warm enough to touch another human being in his privates.

The client was a man who liked to “break in” new working girls, and he understood that I was quite nervous. He calmed me down and complimented me on my choice of lingerie; it wasn’t my lingerie because at the time I didn’t have anything suitable. The madam loaned it to me, so that I could begin working right then, the same day I met with her.

Having successfully provided my first client with pleasure, I decided that I might be cut out for this work after all. And as it turned out, I really was.
 
Peter Berton: Did sex work agree with you?

Norma Jean Almodovar: Whenever I was interviewed for a talk show or spoke at colleges/ universities, I was always asked how I liked doing sex work compared to working for the LAPD. I always say that it was the best job I ever had, and it truly was. I enjoyed meeting the men and women who were my clients; including the celebrities whose names I will never disclose.

There was only one negative encounter that had been arranged by a madam who was not very ethical and for whom I never worked again after that encounter. I worked for a number of different madams -- including a male madam- - because each had different clients and I wasn’t the typical call girl that was tall, blonde and large breasted and in her 20s. So I needed a variety of madams to supply me with enough clients to earn a living.

Peter Berton: You ended up in prison as a set-up to suppress an expose you were writing about the LAPD; which eventually became ‘Cop to Call Girl’.

Norma Jean Almodovar: To make a long story short, I ended up charged with one count of pandering, which is a felony in California with a mandatory three to six year prison term on the first offense with no prior convictions. I tried to help a former friend of mine from the LAPD fulfill her fantasy. The only thing that transpired was a conversation in which money and sex were mentioned.

The conversation was sufficient for the police to come charging into my home and arrest me, confiscating the unfinished manuscript I was writing about my career change, entitled ‘Cop to Call Girl’.

I was convicted of that one count because the attorney I hired decided not to bother to defend me. I did not take the witness stand, which I had fully intended to do. My attorney waived the opening statement and upon cross examination of the “victim” -- a 50 year old, 6’2” woman named Penny who admitted she set me up because she wanted to stop me from writing an expose on Los Angeles Police -- the defence rested.

Peter Berton: Yet initially you didn’t go to prison.

Norma Jean Almodovar: The judge decided to go around the mandatory law and sent me to prison for a 50-day psychiatric evaluation to see if I was a danger to society.

I was held in solitary confinement during that time due to my police background. When I was taken out of my cell for the interviews, which took three and a half hours, I was handcuffed to two guards and my legs were chained. I was clearly a dangerous inmate.

The study showed I wasn’t a danger to anyone, so the judge gave me three years probation.

Peter Berton: So why did you end up going to jail?

Norma Jean Almodovar: Unfortunately, I was a bad girl and didn’t shut up.

I went on talk shows, did interviews with the media and generally upset the prosecution AND the LAPD. So after a year of my probation, the DA’s office decided to appeal my sentence on the grounds that my “crime” was worse than rape or robbery because I was commercially exploiting my law enforcement past to draw on scandalous escapades that undermine respect for the law.

At the time the appeal of my sentence was announced, I decided I hadn’t been loud enough, so I ran for Lt. Governor of California on the Libertarian ticket.

I received over 100,000 votes but it was not enough to win. Had I won, I could have pardoned myself when the governor was out of state.

Instead, I was re-sentenced to three years in prison after having already served 50 days in solitary, two years and 7 months on violation-free probation. I served 18 months in prison and another 18 months on parole.

While I was at work furlough -- a part of my prison sentence -- I was sexually molested by one of the corrections officers. I reported the incident when I left the facility, but was told that it was my word against his.

Apparently it is much more criminal to say words to fulfill someone’s sexual fantasy than it is to actually sexually molest someone in your custody. The hypocrisy of the system and society has always angered me.

I guess you could say that was the low point of my career.

Peter Berton: Did you consider switching sex work careers, to something more ‘legal’?

Norma Jean Almodovar: Some people ask why didn't I become a sex therapist or sex surrogate instead of a prostitute, and I say, "What's the difference?"

I think sex workers ARE therapists and certainly we are sex surrogates. It is just a title and no difference in the work -- but why shouldn't I be honest and say what I am really doing?

I do not have any problems with being called a prostitute; that is a societal title and most people do not have a clue where the name comes from or what it meant originally.

"Whore" once meant "Beloved one". "Prostitute" once meant "stand-by friend".

Why are these bad things?

Peter Berton: And so you decided to become an advocate for sex worker rights.

Norma Jean Almodovar: When I became a sex worker, I had to consider that the work was illegal and that I should join the fight to decriminalize sex work. One of my clients introduced me to Margo St. James; founder of COYOTE, the premier sex worker rights organization. She invited me to attend a prostitutes’ convention in San Francisco… and I went. I was much impressed with the work she had been doing and decided to join the fight and I have been an activist ever since. 

I returned to Los Angeles and founded the LA chapter of COYOTE.

Years later, I was the co-founder of ISWFACE (International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education) which was the first US sex worker nonprofit organization. COYOTE, which is considered political and cannot be a nonprofit, had been run out of my pocket and my pocket was empty by that time since I could no longer engage in sex work.

While I am still the “Executive Director” of COYOTE LA, it is mostly an organization in name only because it has name recognition and students can find me by searching for that name. The research and educational work I do is under the ISWFACE banner, because it pays for the website, printing and mailing of all the material that I mail to activists, allies and legislators.

The website is www.policeprostitutionandpolitics.com and contains all my years of work and research. ISWFACE also maintains its library in my home, where the entire first floor is the office and library. We have volunteers and students (sex workers and non sex workers) who assist me in collecting the material that fills the notebooks that are available for use by the media and others who wish to learn about the sex worker rights movement and the laws which allow for so much police abuse and corruption as it relates to sex workers.

Peter Berton: Let’s go back to your book 'Cop to Call Girl', which grabbed lots of media attention in the 1990s. Did this attention help your sex work career, or hinder it?

Norma Jean Almodovar: I am so glad that I had acquired many long term clients before my book was published, as it did become a hindering block for finding new ones. Having long, flaming red hair, I was easily recognized after being on hundreds and hundreds of talk shows. This made it difficult for me to visit my clients in their homes or at hotels as I had done before becoming ‘notorious’.

While I was able to maintain a working relationship with some of my clients, for the most part, I had to stop seeing them because I put them at risk of being harassed by the LAPD, who could threaten them with arrest or exposure which would cause them to lose their jobs.

The older clients who were retired and who didn’t give a darn about what other people thought of them -- or worry about the cops -- they remained my loyal clients for many years. Without them, we would have become homeless after prison.

Peter Berton: You art retired now, and taking care of your elderly, disabled husband. What did you learn during your career as a sex worker?

Norma Jean Almodovar: I learned so many things as a sex worker through the years that I was able to practice the profession and interact with fellow sex workers; male, female and trans workers.

I believe prostitutes are the least hypocritical beings as is humanly possible, for which I think they are deeply resented. We tend to strip all silly pretenses and games down to their basic components and call a spade a spade. This is one of the many things I learned about sex workers and myself.

Most people have an image of themselves which they project to others that they want to uphold at all costs, even if the image is not accurate or true. To uphold this image, they must always profess to a certain standard or 'morality' in public, and they must condemn anyone who goes outside the societal norm and behaves in a manner which is not approved by 'society.'

Through the years I spent working both on the LAPD and as a whore, I have found that the greater the contrast between the real person and the image the person wishes to protect, the louder they protest and condemn others who don't give a twit about what society thinks; like sex workers, for example. Thus you have hypocrisy.

Sex workers, on the other hand, are not trying to protect any image. They know who they are and why they are what they are and there really is no point in discussing it. There certainly isn't any reason to claim to be other than what they are, and there is no one else they need to denounce to continue the blame chain.

For me, when I discovered that I no longer had to pretend to conform to societal's image of a 'good girl,' it was such a relief and feeling of empowerment. I found that I was totally suited to be a prostitute because I enjoyed bringing pleasure to other people -- and getting paid good money for doing so.

I also found that I was very good at what I did. It felt so right doing the work, as if I were born to it.

If murder is the worst thing one can do to their fellow human, then providing them with an orgasm has to be one of the best things one can do to them!

Peter Berton: What else did you learn?

Norma Jean Almodovar: One thing I learned in my years working as a call girl is that wives often withhold physical contact from their husbands because they are afraid it might lead to sexual intimacy which the wife may not want at that moment. Men without partners (for whatever reason) do not have access to physical contact with anyone, much less with someone whose physical interaction may lead to sexual release.

What these men want and long for is basic human contact. It is what children want and what they usually get until they grow to the age when such non-sexual but very physical touching becomes awkward for the parents, relatives and other adults to continue to give. At that stage in life, they do without it for years until they either find a loving partner or hire a professional to provide it.

I've found that most men aren't able to verbalize what they want when they just want to be touched or held. Sometimes they don't even know that it is all they want until someone does hold and comfort them.

I am not surprised that wives often get confused by the mixed signals coming from their spouses. Perhaps I never would have discovered this phenomenon if I hadn't been a working girl myself.

When men are paying for your time and they know there is a time limit on the session, real priorities have a way of surfacing very quickly. Whether that is simply being held and feeling close to another human being, or having someone to talk to (and with) while they hold you and listen, or all of the above AND a sexual release depends upon the man and the particular session. 
 
Peter Berton: What is the best piece of advice you can offer to a new sex worker?

Norma Jean Almodovar: If you are going to work as a sex worker, legally or illegally, become an activist and fight for the rights of all your colleagues. Don’t think that because you may work in an area which is currently legal that you are safe.

Challenging societal hang ups about sex work has been an ongoing issue for decades and indeed centuries. What has been accomplished in one decade may be wiped out by some radical feminist or religious conservative group with the money and political influence to once again prohibit all types of sex work.

Learn as much as you can about the sex worker rights activists who have come before you. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Research the legal decisions which have been made and find out how you can challenge those decisions if those decisions did not change laws that regulate sex work.

This is a human rights issue because prostitutes'/sex worker rights are the rights of all human beings. Our lives and our work impact so many people and when we are arrested and jailed, our families suffer. We have siblings, spouses and parents and children whose lives are diminished when we are taken away from them, not to mention the disenfranchisement we experience while being taught a lesson by society that we are victims of a patriarchal system and need to be protected for our own good.

I've never understood how going to jail is supposed to make anyone feel less like a victim or increase one's self-esteem!

Peter Berton: One last question: if you had it to do over, would you become a sex worker again?’

Norma Jean Almodovar: Sex work was the best job I ever had. I loved providing pleasure to others, and I loved the clients I had. Many became friends in addition to being clients, and some even came to dinner with me and my husband.

One of my long time clients drove my husband to visit me in prison when our car broke down. I don’t believe in jealousy and neither does Victor, so extending a work relationship to a friendship and having them cross over into other parts of my life was an easy decision.

I would absolutely choose sex work again, if I had it to do over. However, I would refrain from trying to re-establish a relationship with anyone from the LAPD for any reason. I know that as long as someone works for law enforcement in any capacity, they are not to be trusted.

"Whore Poem":

"Who Will Weep For Us":


About the Author
Winner of the NakedTruth.ca award for Favourite Adult Journalist, Peter Berton has written for Adult Video News, Klixxx, XBIZ, Xtra, and YNOT.com. He likes to interview sex workers to tap into their vast knowledge about human nature, business marketing, work/life balance and succeeding as entrepreneurs.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Sex Workers Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Their Advertising Platforms


By Annie Temple

When our clients are considered to be breaking the law by using our services, and the laws around advertising are vague and open to interpretation - we are at the mercy of online advertising platforms.

We know we have to use them, and sometimes we love them.

When we're getting lots of inquiries from potential clients, we know our advertising money is well-spent.

When work is slow, we not only struggle to afford advertising but we are bitterly disappointed when we spend money that seems to get us nowhere. (In some cases, it's the only money we have.)

So, while advertising is a necessary evil, our relationships with adult classifieds providers can be truly demoralizing.

Take Leolist, for example.

In a very short time, Leolist has:
  • switched owners six times and is now based in Hungary; 
  • raised their prices; 
  • decreased the upgrade benefits (for instance we used to get seven  hours of a highlighted ad and suddenly we now only get 4 hours for the same price)
  • and their payment processor has been a nightmare!

I know sex workers who can literally not advertise on Leolist because they don't use bitcoin. (Only a select few providers are given the option to use credit cards.)

And honestly, as much as I love hiding money from the government, bitcoin is a laborious process and the currency fluctuates so much that losing money is the norm.

Other frustrating issues with most of the current advertising platforms available:
  • Two-way communication is limited and usually unhelpful.
  • Sex workers' concerns and questions are considered insignificant.
  • There is a danger every day that the advertising platforms we're using could be taken down by governments that don't care about our livelihood or safety.
  • Without advertising platforms we must find clients other, less safe ways, such as through social media, in bars, on the street, and in adult forums that are not designed for sex workers (usually fetish or sugar sites).
  • Prices are ridiculous.
  • We are taken advantage of because they know we have limited options to advertise our services and our profession is stigmatized and criminalized, so we have no recourse either.

A few weeks ago, we posted an article declaring that the new Nakedlist Adult Classifieds website was days away from launching.

Unfortunately, we ran into some glitches and our launch was set back.

We are still working on those issues and feel that we are very close to getting our new site live.

The Nakedlist will offer: 
  • affordable advertising; 
  • respectful two-way communication; 
  • credit card transactions; 
  • crisis credits for struggling sex workers; 
  • and we believe we've found a legal loophole so that our services are legal and therefore not vulnerable to outside enforcement agencies.

We are in communication with our local police force about what we're doing and they support our efforts so far.

We are committed to providing a safe, adult business resource for sex workers.

Please bear with us until we've got the system rock solid!


You're Invited...


DEAR SEX WORKERS AND ALLIES:

In an ironic twist of fate, a Vancouver sex worker is facing her rapist in court on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Every year on December 17th, sex workers and allies gather to honour sex workers who have suffered and lost their lives due to violence. 

This year, our gathering will send a distinct message to rapists and other predators.

People are often scared to report sexual assault because even with evidence, it is difficult to prove rape.

Often, we are made to feel as though it is us who are on trial. Not the men who forced themselves on us.

Sex workers face even more discrimination than the average person. Some people believe that sex workers cannot be raped because of the nature of our work.

This attitude suggests that our boundaries and bodies do not matter. To much of society, and certainly to the men who rape us, we are disposable human beings. 

Predators believe they can be violent towards us because “the police won’t care,” “the judge and jury won’t believe” us, and we “asked for it by doing this work.”

Carmen surprised the man who raped by going to the police and seeing her case through. 

Please join us on December 17th, 2019 in front a Lower Mainland Courthouse where we will carry signs and show our support for Carmen, sending a clear message to predators…

We’re not going to take it anymore.

We are not your easy prey.

Sex workers are reporting crimes against us without fear. 

Police are listening to us because they’ve seen the damage that is done when they don’t take sex workers seriously. 

Courts are listening to us because they have no choice.

We demand to have our voices heard and our rights upheld. 

Sex workers provide an important service to people we treat with care and respect. 

We are not here to take abuse. We are not here to be willing victims for society’s worst predators.

We deserve respect.

We deserve consideration.

We deserve justice.

If you’d like to join us on December 17th, contact annie@nakedtruth.ca for details on where and when we will be gathering.
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PS. Coming soon... We will feature Peter Berton's incredible interview with "Cop to Call Girl" author Norma Jean Almodovar!

You won't want to miss it.

Thank you for your patience! Sending good money vibes for your December. XOXO

Love Annie