What is it like to be bought for sex? What is it like to live the life of an escort? For three years, former college lecturer Jeanette Angell lived that life. In her memoir “Callgirl”, she tells her story of what it was like to live the life of an escort: a lifestyle scorned by some, secretly admired by others, and a little of both by even more.

As the author notes, the big fascination with a book like this probably hinges on, why did you do it? Add to it that the author was an anthropologist with a doctorate and a respected college instructor, and the question really gets interesting. Angell writes this book to visit this part of her life and perhaps to help answer the question.

If you are looking for a victim tricked by men, Angell is not the stereotype you are looking for. Then again, the author is not a streetwalker, and goes out of her way to make the distinction: to paraphrase, those people scared the hell out of her. Though a drug user, she does not consider herself an addict. She was not forced into the work by an abusive lover, or tricked by a salesman promising other kinds of work. The absence of these factors, in addition to her high education and professional status, seem to eliminate her from the usual profile of those who enter the profession.

However, she makes the argument that a man did force her into the profession. A live-in boyfriend deserted her, maxed out her credit cards, and cleaned out her bank accounts, leaving her penniless with nothing to fall back upon. As a low-end instructor with no tenure and only a couple of classes to teach, Angell felt desperation setting in. It was in this state of mind that she decided that working as an escort was the only way she could save herself from life on the streets. “Good girl” college professor by day, “bad girl” callgirl by night, the woman of intellect and the “woman of sin” co-existed for three years.

Angell recounts her experiences with johns, her “madam”, other escorts, and her own morality with a strong emotional memory. She mixes her narrative with feminist commentary about her life, and is able to explain the moral dilemmas she faced as an escort and her double life. The anthropologist comes out in her writing and in the voice of her “character”: it is like she was on some cultural expedition then and now to the other side of life. But just enough emotion belies her voice to make it credible and accessible to a reader: she manages to be detached enough to be aware, emotional enough to recreate the whole experience.

My guess that as a polemic, it will not change anyone’s mind for or against the legalization or the morality of the practice: it didn’t for me. I am not sure if the author was really even aiming for this; her voice conveys a take-it–or-leave-it tone, which is why I feel people will walk away from the book with their own attitudes intact. It is only in the epilogue that she conveys any real polemic regarding the industry as a whole; this is, after all, a memoir. But it does humanize a profession that is in all intended to turn a human into a fantasy, showing the real emotions behind the glamor, pomp and circumstance that goes along with the other side of life. As a memoir it is very interesting; she blends professor and callgirl well in this book, and both voices get a chance to speak in a strange symbiosis.

“Callgirl” is a descriptive book without being pure exhibitionism, and the experiences of the author prevented it from being dry treatise. What is it like to be bought for sex? Why would anyone do it? From an individual perspective, Jeannette Angell answers both these questions very well.