HARMFUL MATTER by Bob Armstrong

Bertolt Brecht was crestfallen when an actress spurned him in favor of a German industrialist. At that moment, in his mind, she became a whore. And he could not understand why the industrialist would want to be with her, for he too knew she was "dripping with the discharge of every man around."

An intellectual in one of Dostoyevsky's stories falls in love with a prostitute, then torments himself: "Should I not begin to hate her, perhaps even tomorrow, just because I had kissed her feet today?"

In a novel by Barbey d'Aurevilly, a royalist murders his wife's lover, so she takes revenge against her husband by becoming a street hooker. She delights in slandering her husband's name in the "vilest mud," then dies of syphilis after the disease causes one of her eyes to pop out, "falling to her feet like a fat coin."

Another 19th century French novelist, Adolphe Belot, titillates the reader with a courtesan whose face is covered with a veil, revealing only a mouth with "red, thick lips, drawn apart one from the other, the upper one raised up like a cushion opened freely. . . the mouth that I had always desired."

'The gap is wide between fiction about hookers and their actual nightly interactions with johns.'

Charles Bernheimer, in Figures of Ill Repute, notes that Flaubert would choose the ugliest prostitute in a bordello, then screw her in front of his friends with his hat on his head and a cigar in his mouth.

The bright pink of excitement in the presence of the Daughters of Joy quickly turns dirty. This image of the hooker in literature as the wicked harlot is probably best understood as a reflection of the men's attitudes toward their subjects. Brecht and Flaubert make that pretty clear.

To create a straight-up sex story, one needs a syphilitic eyeball popping into the mud, or, for a more contemporary example, Tralala, Herbert Selby Jr.'s teenage tart in Last Exit to Brooklyn. Tralala figured it was worth it to put out. "Lay on your back. Or bend over a garbage can. Better than working." In the end, a dozen drunks drag her into a wrecking yard and gang bang her among the demolished cars. Tralala passes out. "They continued to fuck her as she lay unconscious on the seat in the lot and soon they tired of the dead piece and the daisychain broke up."

Flaming through Brooklyn proved her undoing. That book was written in 1957. Forty years later, many Tralalas are trading their bodies for vials of crack. I'm living in San Francisco now and I see the girls on the stroll in the Tenderloin and over on South Van Ness dodging cops and waving down cars filled with horn dogs.

I've talked with some of the hookers and they have some good stories, maybe worthy of literature if put together in the right way. But the gap is wide between fiction about hookers and their actual nightly interactions with johns. What gives off an air of excitement in movies and novels turns out to be very boring in real life.

The conveyer belt aspect of the poon machines' nightly rounds is strikingly similar to many of the videos churned out by Porn Valley. And yet men continue to spend big bucks on hookers and porn. Clearly, what is boring to me is hot action for the meatballs circling the block in the combat zones or sitting at home with a six pack and a jerking off to Anal Adventures of Anabel in the Zoo.

Actually, I think this is great. It's good for hookers, good for the porn industry and good for the people like me who produce the rag you are holding in your hands. Don't pay any attention to what I say, guys, get out there and spend money on sex.