I Don’t Pay Them To Come Over; I Pay Them To Go Away

Charlie Sheen? Don Simpson? Dashiell Hammet? Adela Rogers St. Johns? Clark Gable? Charles Fleming? Stephen J. Cannell? Susan Kelly? Germaine Greer? Ian Ayres? Joy Fielding? Jack Nicholson?

Dear Quote Investigator: Attractive, wealthy, and famous people sometimes obtain intimate services via the underground commercial market. This behavior is surprising because these individuals should be able to easily find willing partners. Here are three versions of an explanation:

  • I don’t pay them to come over; I pay them to go away.
  • I don’t pay them for carnal encounters. I pay them to leave.
  • You don’t pay a call girl to do what she does. You pay her to leave afterward.

This saying has been ascribed to the actor Charlie Sheen, the movie producer Don Simpson, and the mystery writer Dashiell Hammet, but I have not found any solid citations. Would you please explore the provenance of this statement?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1978 memoir “Love, Laughter and Tears: My Hollywood Story” by the journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns. A chapter of the work discussed the matinée idol Clark Gable who died in 1960. St. Johns claimed that she was surprised to learn that Gable employed high-priced prostitutes, and she asked him about his motivations. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

His attitude was fairly simple, as he explained it to me one day when he confessed that the lady I had seen leaving was, indeed, an expensive import from Madam Frances’ establishment.

“Why would you do a thing like that,” I said, “when all you have to do is whistle? Or grin?”

“That’s why,” he said. “I can pay her to go away. The others stay around, want a big romance, movie lovemaking. I do not want to be the world’s great lover and I don’t like being put on that spot.”

The viewpoint depicted above matched the statement under investigation, and the words matched the second half of the statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Don’t Pay Them To Come Over; I Pay Them To Go Away


  1. 1979 (Copyright 1978), Love, Laughter and Tears: My Hollywood Story by Adela Rogers St. Johns, Chapter 8: The Magnificent Gable, Quote Page 316 and 317, A Signet Book: New American Library, New York. (Verified with scans)

If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would Be a Sacrament

Florynce Kennedy? Gloria Steinem? Elderly Irish Taxicab Driver? Germaine Greer? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An incendiary quotation on the topic of abortion has an uncertain authorship. The following words have been attributed to both Florynce Kennedy and Gloria Steinem:

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Could you determine who said it first?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published evidence located by QI appeared in an issue of the periodical “Off Our Backs” dated June 24, 1971 in which a speech given by the prominent activist Florynce Kennedy at a rally held on May 15, 1971 in Washington D.C. was described: 1

Florynce Kennedy, author of Abortion Rap defined the situation with her usual clarity: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” She also read parts of the Metropolitan Abortion Alliance’s statement on the media and urged a national boycott of the media sponsors.

The leading feminist Gloria Steinem also used the expression in speeches delivered in 1971, but intriguingly Steinem pointed to another person as creator of this saying. In her 1983 memoir “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” Steinem indicated that the statement was spoken to her and Florynce Kennedy by the “elderly Irish woman driver” of a taxi in Boston. Details are given further below.

So, the quotation was popularized by Kennedy and Steinem, but the origin can be traced back to an anonymous taxicab driver. Top researcher Ralph Keyes noted this fact in his important reference “The Quote Verifier”. 2

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would Be a Sacrament


  1. 1971 June 24, Off Our Backs: A Women’s News Journal, Volume 1, Number 23, “bringing it home: if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” by Chris Hobbs, Quote Page 20, Column 1, Published by Off Our Backs, Inc. (JSTOR) link link
  2. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 62, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)