Kiss And Sell

A girl can't live on legislation alone, after all. Jessica Cutler tells how she made ends meet on her entry-level Hill salary.

June 02, 2005|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Jessica Cutler never intended to get paid for sex, or to get paid for writing about it. But she was living in Washington, earning $25,000 a year opening mail for a senator, and it just sort of happened.

"If you're a young woman in D.C., there are guys with money looking for this kind of relationship," Cutler says in an interview. "It comes right to you. You don't have to solicit it. They know you're a young girl and you work on the Hill, and they know you don't have money, so that's what they offer you."

Cutler doesn't work on the Hill anymore, but sex is still what she has to sell. The 27-year-old received a reported $300,000 advance for her just-published novel, The Washingtonienne, a barely fictionalized account of her brief yet scandalous time in the capital.

Cutler did more than just take envelopes of cash from her callers. She wrote about her experiences last year in a blog - also called Washingtonienne - that included the dirty details on the sexual practices of certain guys, what they were paying her, and how she handled the "revolving door of men" in her life.

She thought only a few friends would read it. But then the blog was mentioned on Wonkette.com, a Washington gossip site, and soon everyone on Capitol Hill was poring over her online diary, trying to decipher the identities of her suitors. (She identified the men by initials only and other, shall we say, distinguishing characteristics.)

It was easy enough on the gossip-driven Hill to figure out who Washingtonienne was - not to mention at least one of her paramours, who has since sued her - and soon Cutler was at the center of yet another Washington sex scandal.

She was fired from her job in the office of Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, for conduct that was "unprofessional and inappropriate." Calls from the media and New York literary agents soon poured in, and Cutler could not say no.

Her roman a clef, The Washingtonienne, was published yesterday (Hyperion, $23.95). It is a gossipy, swift account of her time in Washington. It involves a lot of sex and a lot of drugs, and it makes one wonder how bills ever become laws, what with all the hanky-panky going on.

The book explains how someone like Cutler, a 5-foot-2 brunette who was just average looks-wise in New York, could do so well in Washington: It's full of nerds. The girls in D.C., she writes, "had puffy-looking bodies, with silver Tiffany hearts dangling from their wrists. They clutched bottles of Miller Lite beer and sang along to `Stronger' by Britney Spears."

And the guys on the Hill were the "obnoxious poli-sci majors in college who ran for student government." In Washington, she writes, they dressed in cheap suits, wore their cell phones and BlackBerries clipped to their belts and, sometimes, put on bow ties. "But worst of all," she writes, "they made less than six figures, which was so not sexy."

In the book - and in real life - Cutler had a relationship with the chief of staff for a government agency, who would pay Cutler $400 cash for each rendezvous. There was also a wealthy Georgetown lawyer who paid Cutler's rent, and a guy referred to as "Threesome Dude." She was also sleeping with three other guys - six total.

Cutler never thought she was doing anything wrong, partly because she knew others who had similar setups, especially in New York.

"If you're friends with someone who says they have three guys - one paying the rent and another two who think they're paying the rent - I feel like a total sucker paying my own rent," she says. "After a while, you just think, `Why not?'"

Cutler, an admitted "self-absorbed exhibitionist," can be disarmingly direct and charming. Her book is the same - funny, trashy, addictive, but lacking any deeper meaning. She did it because it could be done, and she wrote about it because, "I was actually trying to keep an account of my actions," the book says.

The oldest of three girls, she grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., and attended Syracuse University, where she wrote for the school paper. She moved to Washington to get into public relations, but all the K Street public relations firms told her she needed experience on the Hill.

"And that's what I got," she says. "Just not the kind of experience I expected."

But Hill staffers say they know very few people, if any, who supplement their meager government salary as Cutler did. They don't deny there is plenty of social drinking and that at bars there are people looking to hook up, but they say the life Cutler depicts is not the one they lead.

"We're just humans, we're young people and crazy stuff does go on sometimes," said one young Hill staffer. (Those who spoke asked not to be named, not wanting to be associated with a sex scandal.) But this staffer added of Cutler's blog: "It doesn't even come close to representing everyday life."

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