Arts & Culture » Culture

Girls on film

How one man takes the city's prostitutes and gives them their 15 minutes of fame



He first had sex with a hooker when he was 18. He's been with hundreds of them since. And he's put a video of nearly every one of those hookups on his website.

"I just like bad girls," says the 36-year-old Detroiter who goes by the name John Juan, the persona behind "I've always liked bad girls. The temptation has just always drawn me in, and finally when I got up the courage to do it, I enjoyed it."

For a decade now, he's shot video not just of himself having sex with prostitutes, but also interviews with them talking openly, often enthusiastically, about their lives as street hookers in Detroit. They share vivid stories about their arrests, their addictions and their customers — the ones who've raped them, the ones they've robbed with knives or guns, the ones who show up with wives who want to watch, even the one man who pays for their services, takes them to a motel, ties them up and shouts Bible verses at them. 

Many of the women he films are weathered and aged by drugs and sickness and thousands and thousands of johns. Some of the site's subscribers, particularly those from Europe and Asia, ask him to find the most haggard prostitutes possible, and he gleefully complies. "Two nickels are better than a dime, and 10 pennies are even better," his website's motto once declared. 

He's chronicled hundreds of them — emaciated ones, obese ones, a few visibly pregnant ones. Some are toothless, some have open sores on their skin, some are covered in scars. Some admit reusing condoms, or having diseases; others shoot up heroin or smoke crack in front of him. The settings are seedy motels, vacant buildings, dirty apartments, weedy alleys, even the backseat of a stripped-out stolen car once.

The hookers he finds have sex with him for just a dollar or two, or for a ride somewhere. Once it was for some chicken wings, another time it was for some hair gel. One took two Newports as payment.

But his site, he says, is about more than sex.

"It's the stories more than anything else," he says. "The stories are a huge turn-on, just the stories they tell me from the streets, about different tricks or whatever. It's just amazing to hear them. You never know what you're going to get. Seriously."


He started a decade ago with a disposable camera, cheap server space and some very willing subjects.

Back then he was a college graduate working in the financing department for one of the domestic auto companies, and this was just a nighttime pursuit — half for personal pleasure, half as Web experiment. But his hits grew exponentially and he was able to start charging for access, and, despite being laid off a few years ago, he claims he makes more money now from the website — which costs about $20 for basic access — than he ever did at his day job. "I'm looking to be the ghetto Larry Flynt," he says.

He writes a short story for each video, sometimes in slang, sometimes using sarcasm or irony. "This post is brought to you from an undisclosed dopehouse," one story begins, like an old pulp novel.

Others are pure street talk. "I was rollin' through the projects the other day, like I alwayz do cause thatz where the foulest bitches be," a post starts off. 

Occasionally he offers tips to johns, like how to avoid infections. "When a woman hands you a condom, she probably has something. Although they could care less about you, they don't want to give it to you and have you coming back lookin' for they ass." 

Sometimes he takes them on dates just for the experience. "Thirty minutes later when she got to the mall, I said, 'Happy Valentines day, baby, go 'head and get anything in the mall that you want, as long as it's from the foodcourt.' So she grabbed her a shrimp fried rice meal from China King ($7.43, tax included)."

Almost none of the prostitutes objects to being filmed, he says. "They're pretty open because they see me all the time and they know what I do. You gotta think about this too — they're standing on the corner, everybody can see you, so being on the Internet doesn't even embarrass you or anything."  

People have told him that he's sick, that he's exploiting the desperate, that his days are numbered. "I used to get assholes that said that — you're taking advantage of the women and I hope you die, you should have AIDS, just all kinds of crazy stuff." His defense is that he's just filming what these women are doing anyway, and compares them to professional porn stars.

"They're no different than the girls in Hollywood," he says. "They're looking to make money. A lot of the girls in Hollywood do drugs, a lot of the girls on the streets do drugs. So what makes me any different than a producer in Hollywood? They're gonna do whatever they can to make money anyways. I'm not harming anyone."

Besides the moral misgivings, most just ask how he can have sex with such messed-up women. That only motivates him.

"Now that I've got the audience it's kind of like just trying to keep them satisfied and keep them going," he says. "I think the turn-on was having people look in and say, 'This guy must be crazy — the girls are just terrible. How can he do that with them?'"


There are two houses standing alone on this side street, surrounded by waist-high grass. Both are whorehouses.

John Juan is here for a photo session. A woman greets him at the door of the blue house on the corner. Her pimp watches from the porch of the white house next door. "He's like the house dad," she explains. "He's a sweetheart."

Two hookers are here today. There's Michelle, 41, the woman at the door. She smokes crack. And Sarah, who's 24. She likes heroin. Both offer the same, simple reason for their occupation. "Drugs," they say in tandem, then giggle. A little mirror with wisps of white powder on it sits on a table.

Several women live here rent-free, in a neighborhood that's become the city's most popular spot for street hookers. All they have to do is pay their landlord, the man on the neighbor's porch, $10 for every "date" they bring home, and they can stay there between johns. 

Their house is old and battered inside after years without house cleaning or basic repairs. It's sparsely furnished, with dingy old couches, a nicked-up dining room table, an old stove and fridge in the kitchen, yellowed curtains torn on their edges, and well-used mattresses in the bedrooms. "This is as ghetto as it gets," Michelle says.

She's blond, too thin and has scabbed sores covering her chest and stomach. She was a mom from Oakland County before her addiction sent her tumbling down to the John R hooker strip five years ago. She matter-of-factly talks about her 19-year-old son in college, and another who's a senior in high school. She doesn't see them much.

Sarah is 24, brunet, not at all skinny, and she's worked the streets for eight years. She's the one who invited John Juan here. Michelle never met him but didn't have any qualms about the photo session. "I don't care what it's for," she says. "No problem, honey." Neither ask him for money in return.

Their workplace is just feet from their front steps, along John R, where they stand and wait until someone stops, which doesn't take long because the road is swarming with single men cruising back and forth. 

Peak hours, the women say, are midnight to 4 a.m., when the drunks pass through; from 3-5 p.m., when everyone's on their way home from their jobs; and 5-7 a.m., when guys are heading into work. "That's the best time too," Michelle notes, "because they gotta be at work, so you can get quick blow jobs for $20 and you can turn them over really fast."

They've taken all their clothes off and stand before a dirty plaster wall, bending over, touching each other and themselves, pouting for the camera, giggling. John Juan shoots dozens of photos and a few videos; some on a camera, some on his phone. When he's done, after about 15 minutes, the two women come over for a look. "Aww, them are cute," Michelle says of the stark photos. Sarah smiles. Both thank him in sing-song voices. And John Juan packs up to go.

Outside, their landlord still watches suspiciously from the porch next door, and there's a tall, thin hooker in a black dress standing with him. As John Juan heads to the sidewalk, she follows him, and the two of them walk off together on a private adventure that, tomorrow, everyone can see for themselves.


Detroitblogger John is John Carlisle. He scours the Motor City for Metro Times. Send comments to

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