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Cottage Industry

June 10, 2009

I began selling sex when I was ten years old. It wasn’t just me–K. was my enthusiastic partner, and by the time someone put a stop to it, I think A. and S. had joined us, too. We plied our trade at recess, a crowd of boys huddled beneath our tree fort at the back of school property. If a teacher passed by, they pretended to play marbles, probably fooling no one since they were standing on grass.

It’s not like you think–we were nice girls, smart ones. In the gifted programme, which is probably how the whole business began. We were overachievers in all ways, advanced beyond our years in science, math, reading and commerce. Above the blackboard hung a chart of Bloom’s Seven Levels of Thinking, progressing from knowledge through analysis to application and evaluation. It was natural that we would recognise a growing demand, needs not being met, then step in to creatively and effectively fill the void.

T ‘n A will take a lady far, if she works the game right. Naked ladies…we drew them in our notebooks then sold them for bags of penny candy. One hundred sour keys, gumballs or Swedish berries for a crude illustration of boobs and bikini bottoms. The candy came from the comic shop on Main Street, about five minutes walking distance from the playground. Leaving the grounds was forbidden, and teachers patrolled the little walkways at recess. Getting caught coming or going earned a week of detention, difficult to explain since most kids rode the bus, and detention meant calling your mom for a drive home. Once could be covered up as an accident, but five times in a row? No way she’d believe you were that careless.

And so, K. and I took the chance that a teacher would ask about our doodles, and the boys risked everything for paper sacks of sweets. Of course, it was Mrs. MacDonald who caught us hoarding art supplies–humourless and hawkeyed, few things made it past her, and even fewer made her smile. The drawings were terrible, really, depicting bulbous figures from neck to thigh. Headless, armless, nothing below the knees. Although definitely crass, there was nothing especially dirty about the pictures. Perhaps the most disturbing part was how at age ten we had already reduced our “women” to their vendable parts: boobs, bellybutton, bikini-clad crotch, curvy thighs, the end.

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