Bad Luck at Lucky's or
Caught Between the Rapists and Police

by Carol Leigh

In 1979 I was working at Lucky's massage parlor San Francisco's Tenderloin. I enjoyed working there. I loved the women who where from different countries and cultures- Latina, Vietnamese and Korean women. The parlor was in a rough neighborhood. I knew there was some danger, but as a woman, I always feel like I could be raped or mugged on any dark street at night. Life seems pretty risky in general, so I resign myself to taking risks.

I was happy working at this parlor, and my co-workers and the management assured me that arrests could be avoided and violence was very rare. Still, I never quite felt safe. There were no security guards in this parlor, and it always seems that there should have been. Although some of the women were skilled in self defense, I wasn't.. Somebody should hire a security guard, I thought.

Enough money was changing hands at this business. Women earned upwards of a hundred a day. The management kept $17 of the $20 massage fee, none of the tips, but there were certainly funds available for security. I asked the manager, perhaps the women could chip in, but everyone insisted that posting a guard was just not done in this city, as it would not be in keeping with the 'low profile' that prostitution businesses are forced to keep. As a prostitute, I had no recourse to challenge the management.

When I began working, women constantly told me how to screen customers when it was my turn to open the door. Trust your gut feeling, they told me, then went on to describe factors ranging from wardrobe, facial expression to race. As a novice, I was confused. The idea that women were advising me to weed out cops and rapists based on a subtle intuition was paralyzing in itself. Other women claimed to get by with this sixth sense, but that would not be enough for me. I resented the notion.

I had been working eight months when I opened the door for the wrong person. It was 10:30 am and I guess I was off my guard. In retrospect, I should have known better. He was clearly disqualified. He pushed his way in and another man followed. One put a knife to my throat and they raped me.

For around twenty minutes, I was afraid of being tortured or killed. I don't understand why people always assume that, when a prostitute talks about being raped, she's describing a situation in which she has sex and then she doesn't get paid. Short of physical torture, the threat of murder and torture is the most traumatic element of this type of rape.

After I was raped, I learned from some of the other women that these men had been doing the same thing to women at other parlors in town. No one passed the information around, I guess, from a feeling of hopelessness, from some idea that we should all ideally be able to protect ourselves by our intuition. The main reason why the information never got around is because we are discouraged from any kind of organizing or self-protection, fearful of infiltration and traitors, and inhibited about sharing information about dangerous clients and client poseurs.

I couldn't call the police after I was raped. The owners of the parlor where I worked begged me not to, as it might focus attention on our parlor, which could result in my co-workers getting busted, the parlor being closed down and my co-workers being forced out on the street. Getting busted for prostitution seems like rape to me, and almost always includes some kind of fraud and sexual coercion. I have the same fears other prostitutes have, fears fed by numerous newspaper accounts, that the police often are the murderers and rapists.

It's hard to protect yourself from the rapists while you're busy protecting yourself from the police.

After I was raped, I vowed to change the laws that make prostitute "sitting ducks." I know that many people in government, people everywhere are aware that these laws represent a great hypocrisy in our society, yet most people feel that it is just not worth it to change the laws. Prostitutes have previously been inhibited from telling their horror stories, for fear of organizing and fear of identitfying ourselves. As we begin compiling our testimonies, I hope that we can impress activists, politicans and concerned people with the serioussness of these crimes against us and we can enlist their support in ending all violations of our rights.

have visited this page since November 28, 1995.