Sex Workers as Healers

I had a very enjoyable session last week with a young man. He was very attractive in a baby-faced sort of way, and very kind, which I like. We made conversation as I walked into his penthouse apartment. It was actually his parent’s apartment, but they were away in China, visiting family.

He told me that he was really nervous about sex, ever since his last relationship. He had been with a woman for about a year who did not like sex. In fact, she had a serious aversion to all sexual activities. “But you are a professional, and you can guide me through the experience” he said.

I was touched by his willingness to be vulnerable, his sweetness, and his pain. I took the lead sexually, and we spent a good part of the session exploring. After his first orgasm, we lie together, cuddling. “You’re helping me come alive and enjoy sex again,” he said. He had a lot of questions for me, mostly concerning his last relationship. He told me how she would pressure him to come seconds after penetration, that she wanted him to ‘just get it over with,’ and how inadequate he felt after a year of this sort of experience. I assured him that what he described said more about his ex than it did about him. “It sounds like she has a very low libido, and most likely she has suffered trauma that makes sex aversive to her,” I told him. “It’s not you. You’re sexy, and you’re a considerate lover.”

“I’m really scared to use my fingers to pleasure a woman,” he told me. “When I tried that with her, she didn’t like it.”

“Well,” I said. “If you’d like to try with me, I can guide you through it.”

He approached me with great hesitation, but after some encouragement, he began to visibly relax and enjoy pleasuring me. I showed him how to bring me to orgasm with his fingers.

We spent another hour together, and by the end, he was glowing. “You brought back my enjoyment of sex!” He said over and over. His enthusiasm was contagious. I left feeling deep happiness and a rightness about my work. Sex does not always have to be about a personal relationship to be deeply connected and healing. In fact, sometimes that is exactly what a person needs. I hope for the day when this work is recognized as a legitimate healing art and I can work openly without stigma.

Learning and Transformation

I was away this weekend at a workshop on Tantric sexual practices. Being at the Buddhist centre and learning the meditation techniques triggered some spontaneous healing experiences. I don’t want to get into great detail now, but it was a very interesting weekend. I have a great Tantric teacher, and he has been a wonderful, caring friend, and a great support to me where my work is concerned.

He taught me meditation techniques for clearing my energy after seeing clients, which I have been practicing, and has encouraged me in my work as a sexual healer. Sometimes it is tough doing this sort of work in a society that does not value it, and his supportive words gave me a lot of comfort. We talked about the role of courtesans in the ancient world, and temple prostitutes and their sacred role of healing through the practice of conscious sexuality. That is something that the world needs today, something we have almost lost, but that many people are rediscovering.

As much as I enjoy my work, I am hoping to transition out of full escorting in the next few years. I am saving for a vocational course on massage and bodywork, which will hopefully open up alternate sources of income for me. I want to study somatic sex education practices, as well as to continue to study and practice Tantra. Perhaps I will continue with sacred whoring part-time, on a more selective basis.

 

We Need Better Sex Education

In my early twenties, I started volunteering at an AIDS service organization in the Northern city I lived in before coming to Vancouver. I was involved in a peer education program, and I co-facilitated workshops on sexual health, and harm reduction practices. I found this work extremely rewarding, although it was challenging at times. As I grew more comfortable talking openly about sex, I became frustrated with the limitations of what we were able to do in our role as educators.

When I started this work, I was told that we can teach teenagers how to have safer sex, but we could not teach them ‘how to have sex.’ Discussion around sexual pleasure was off-limits. We could discuss communication with a sexual partner, as long as it dealt with condom use.

This bothered me a lot. I remember being a teenager and trying to navigate the varying degrees of partnered sex with other inexperienced teenagers. I remember making out with clumsy boys who would shove their fingers into my vagina roughly, thinking that it would make me feel good, and me being too afraid of being seen as damaged in some way for not enjoying it, faking it and smiling through the pain. Although my sex education was far better than most, I think (my parents were quite forthcoming with sexual information) I still wasn’t sure how to own my own sexual needs and communicate them to another person. I learned how to offer feedback as I gained experience, but the memories of those early experiences still make me cringe.

Although all genders can experience pain during sex, it is most commonly reported by women. Women generally take a little longer to become fully physically aroused, and we tend to prefer a lighter touch on our genitals to start. There are exceptions, of course, but it is safe to say that the majority of women will not have their sexual needs met by the rough, hard and fast sex styles commonly seen in porn. And because porn is too often the main way that youth learn about sex, young women may internalize the belief that something is wrong with them when they don’t respond to that type of stimulation. I know I did. I felt damaged as a young woman for entering into sexual situations and feeling mostly pain.

The discussion of pleasure is a human rights issue. Sexuality is such an important part of who we are, and yet, in the name of ‘preservation of innocence’ we deny teenagers basic information about their bodies and their sexuality. I started masturbating at eleven, and I know that I would have benefitted greatly from having access to better information about how my body works. I also think that sex toys should be available to teenagers to help them learn about their own bodies. Sadly, because of adult hang-ups and a desire to see teenagers as non-sexual, our culture limits their basic freedom to have comprehensive information about their own bodies.

How different would it be for a young woman if she, at the onset of puberty, was told that she had absolute rights to her own body? If she were given information on her body, including her genitals (I’m talking the clitoris too, not just the reproductive parts), and had the freedom to explore masturbation, including sex toys, if she desired? If someone told her that sex was supposed to feel wonderful, and that she was deserving of pleasure and respect in her sexual relationships? Young women are told that ‘sex is supposed to hurt the first time.’ The first time I had intercourse, it was excruciatingly painful. At the time, I just assumed that that was how it was supposed to be. Later on, I realized that it was painful because I was not aroused. I was nervous, and my partner and I had not engaged in any foreplay. We used a condom, but no lube. Of course it hurt, and it had nothing to do with the fact that it was my first time.

When we are silent as a culture about sexual pleasure, we create physical and psychological suffering for everyone. We also contribute to an environment in which sexually transmitted infections can be contracted more easily. If sex is pleasurable, there is less tearing of sensitive genital tissues, reducing the risk of STIs being transmitted. All in all, it is time we stopped allowing sexual shame and centuries of repression silence us. It is no coincidence that the most free and just societies throughout history had a free and open attitude about consensual sexual exploration, and that totalitarian regimes across the board make laws to limit sexual freedom. Being well-adjusted and healthy about sex, wherever you land on the many spectrums in the complex rainbow of human sexuality, is one of the vital prerequisites to living a free life, and to creating a free and just society.

Meeting Chris

Six months ago, I was out the door and off to meet my friends Alec and Drew, for a fundraiser night for the transgender-friendly food bank. Drew helped to start this food bank earlier in the year after a close friend of his, a member of the trans community, took her own life. The food bank was named in her honour. Drew had told me about the times Saja had been turned away from community food banks and soup kitchens because of her ambiguous gender presentation. He had wanted to found a food bank that did not have a religious agenda, and that would help people of all genders and sexual orientations.

I enjoyed my time volunteering at the food bank. It gave me a chance to check out some of the other sexy volunteers. I had my eye on a gorgeous trans man named Nat for a while. He looked delectable in his leather chaps and fitted shirt. His tanned skin and hazel eyes and toned arms were a very welcome distraction from sorting through produce.

During this time, I met Chris. Chris was genderfluid (male bodied) and had lovely long hair. She would come in for food, and I would always give her as many veggies as I could. We didn’t talk much in the food bank line, but later on she sent me a friend request on Facebook. I accepted.

The food bank fundraiser was held in an Italian restaurant downtown. Drew, Alec and I found a table and opened our menus. Chris walked in soon after, and I could not help but notice her. She was decked out en femme in a long flowing skirt, and her long reddish brown hair flowed past her shoulders. Her eyes were beautiful blue. She sat at our table and we all ordered drinks.

Money was tight for me since I had walked out of my last waitressing job. It was Drew who suggested I go into escorting. “You already like sex,” he said. “And you’d make more money with less grief.” I had tried escorting briefly the year before, but had given it up for that elusive promise of a loving, committed relationship. Now, as I contemplated a return to the business, that I had actually, for the most part, enjoyed, I gave up on the idea of finding that loving partner.

That night, at the fundraiser, I was not feeling sorry for myself. I was excited about my new job and (hopefully) financial independence. I was in one of those predatory moods, the kind where all the attractive people around me become this delicious feast for the eyes, and I think about biting everyone.

At one point in the conversation, Chris mentioned that she was thinking of shaving her head. “I’m balding anyway, why not embrace it?”

“Well,” I said. “If you shave your head, be sure to ask someone to lick your scalp, because that feels really good.” I had a shaved head as a teenager. I know these things.

Her eyes widened. “Did I hear you right?”

“Yes, yes you did,” I said.

“Jade has some exciting new career aspirations,” Drew said to Chris. “But I don’t know how comfortable she will be discussing them tonight.”

The night went on, and our food and drinks arrived. I had a small veggie pizza and some red wine. It was ok to splurge, after all. Soon, I would be working, and making much better money than I made slaving away in the Greek restaurant.

I excused myself and went to the ladies room. When I came back, Chris complimented me on my dress. I was wearing a short, tight black knit with a small, silver chain belt and hoop earrings. I felt super sexy.

“So, Jade, what is it that you do?” Asked Chris.

I decided to start small. “Well, I have worked in harm reduction and sexual health education for quite a few years,” I said. “And I really would like to continue that work, only I would like to work with people around their sexuality, and teach about pleasure as well as how to prevent the spread of STIs. I would like to go to school eventually and study Sexology, and maybe Sexological Bodywork. There is this great school in San Francisco where my heroes Annie Sprinkle, Betty Dodson and Joseph Kramer all studied.”

“That’s really great. I’m interested in the same sort of things. I’m a counsellor, and a trained social worker, and I have a lot of experience in the LGBT community, helping people with their sexual issues. I’m going to school in Kamloops soon, getting my Master’s of Education.”

We talked a while longer about school and sex-positivity and sexual healing. After a while, I decided to tell her the whole truth.

“I am going to be funding my education by escorting. I have decided that I can do it in a way that is respectful to myself and my clients, and I think I have a knack for it.”

“Wow, good for you,” she said. “I had sex for money once, and it was a pretty good experience. You have a safety plan and everything?”

I nodded. “Yes, and I have a martial arts background.”

“You seem like a really strong person. I think you’ll do well.”

I smiled. “Thanks. I guess it’ll make it harder for me to date. I mean, I have a few casual fuck buddies right now, and I don’t know if I should tell them or not.”

“I’d be fine with it,” Chris said. “But I would prefer to know about it. But I’m into open relationships anyway, so it’s not a big stretch for me.”

I smiled. “Good to know.”

It was really nice to talk to someone as warm, open and on my wavelength as Chris. The conversation turned to sexual orientation.

“I used to call myself bisexual,” I said. “But I don’t think that really describes me, because bi implies only two genders, and I have dated trans people before, so I think pansexual is a better term for me.”

“Yes, I think that’s the best way to describe my orientation too. I mean, I am more often attracted to feminine characteristics, but I am attracted to men sometimes.”

“One combination I really like are people with male bodies who dress in women’s clothes. I don’t know why, but that combination is really sexy to me.”

Chris smiled.

“And I’m serious about getting someone to lick your head,” I continued. “I had a shaved head as a teenager, and when my boyfriend licked my head, it was such a wonderful experience.”

“Well, all I need is to find someone who is willing to lick my head.”

“I’ll do it,” I said.

Chris laughed a bit, a cute, nervous laugh. “You will, huh?”

“Sure, why not?”

A little later in the night, she asked me another question. “So, Jade, you said you are attracted to people with male bodies who wear women’s clothes? What do you think of me?”

“I think you’re cute.”

“Oh? Well, I think you’re really cute too.”

At that point, looking into those deep blue eyes, the only thing that made sense was to grab her and give her a kiss. It was a fantastic first kiss, the kind where the room melts away and all that exists in the whole world is you, the other person, and the warming embers in your body.

We separated awkwardly, glancing at Alec, who had been sitting across from us at the table the whole time. “Sorry,” we mumbled.

He shrugged. “No worries.”

Drew came back to the table. “I knew you two would get along,” he said. “Are you two going home together?”

“Well, we haven’t discussed it,” I said.

“It’s up to you,” said Chris. “But I’m game if you are.”

I ran through the checklist for spontaneously bringing someone home. My house was a mess. I have many skills, and housekeeping is one that does not come naturally. I had changed my sheets recently. This person was sexy, kind, and intriguing.

“I’d love it if you came over, but I warn you, I wasn’t expecting company and my place is a mess. If that’s ok with you, then great!”

“That’s ok,” she said.

The four of us left the restaurant and made our way to the bus. Drew, Alec and I are all East Vancouver queers. At the time, I was still living above the Greek restaurant I used to work at, before I entered into a disasterous romance with my much older widower boss, but that’s a story for another post. Drew and Alec lived across the alley from me, which was very convenient for socializing.

We found seats at the back of the bus. I held Chris’ hand. We got off the bus and said our goodnights. Then, I led Chris into my ghetto apartment.

My apartment above the Greek restaurant was big and cheap. And it was cheap for good reason. It was in a very old building. So old, in fact, that the owner was selling it to a land developer. But it was my own apartment and I was quite proud of it all the same. Even with the weird mold growing under the burners on the stove. Even with the creepy shower, which I affectionately dubbed my ‘Turkish Prison Shower.’ It was an exposed rusty pipe with no shower head (the shower head had fallen off, on me, while I was getting ready for work a few months before. It sprayed dirty, rusty water all over me in the process and gave me a bit of a bump on my head.) The base of the shower was on rotting wood. It was an icky place to get naked, although I know from experience that two people could fit in my Turkish Prison Shower, because resourceful gal that I am, I have had sex in it.

Chris was very kind about the state of the place, and didn’t judge me based on the fact that I hadn’t done dishes in a few days and that my clothes were strewn all over the place. I made a pot of tea and we sat in the kitchen and talked for a while. It turns out we had a lot more in common than the idea of sex being sacred and the fact that we were both members of the LGBT community. Chris had been involved in a Star Trek club and was a quintessential sci fi geek, like me.

Soon enough, the topic turned to sex. “I practice Tantric semen retention,” she told me. “So when we’re having sex, I will pull out for a little bit if I’m about to ejaculate, because this practice is a bit new to me.” I smiled, thinking that I really lucked out with this one. Genderfluid AND staying power. “Is there anything that you don’t want me to do?” She asked.

“No choking,” I said. “And I don’t like anything in my ass. Bad experiences.”

“Ok.”

That was the point where we started kissing again. We moved to the bedroom and I helped her out of her clothes. She was wearing a nice purple bra with black lace, which looked fabulous on her athletic, swimmer’s body. I shed my clothes in a hurry. We kissed naked, the embers under my skin warming at her touch. Her skin felt so new and yet familiar in a way that caused me to feel excited and relaxed at the same time.

She, unlike my first transsexual lover, truly enjoyed her body, which I found exciting and refreshing. She kissed down the line of my body all the way to my feet, where she spent time sucking my toes. I enjoyed, but felt a bit nervous because my feet had been encased in boots and tights all day, but I told myself that she wouldn’t be doing it if she wasn’t liking it, and that helped get me into it.

She was amazing at eating pussy, which is a valuable skill when it comes to going to bed with me. I sucked her cock, swirling my tongue around the head and down the shaft. She had a pleasant salty sweet taste, and my pussy throbbed as I watched her react to my lips around her cock.

We fucked for the next few hours in various positions, and fell asleep in each other’s arms.

The next day, I awoke with her in my arms. I kissed the top of her head. It felt really good to hold her. There was a sort of familiarity, as if I had known her longer than I had. We had breakfast together and exchanged phone numbers. I was struck by how easy it had been for me to find a like-minded lover mere moments after I had disqualified myself from finding love because of my impending life of professional sex. This was the beginning of a very special and significant relationship.

Monogamy

I, like most people in Western society, was raised with a pretty strict idea of how a proper relationship was supposed to look. My parents lived that ideal in a very intimidating way. They met when they were both nineteen, dated for three months, then got married. They are still together.

Growing up, a part of me envied them their close, loving relationship. Although they had their struggles, like any other couple, they do really love each other. On the other hand, the close connection they had at the exclusion of others filled me with dread when I imagined the same for myself. To live within a secluded circle, going to bed with one person and socializing occasionally with other couples seemed like a gilded cage. It was shiny and pretty, attractively packaged, but nonetheless a prison. I think I decided early on that I would prefer to be the mistress. Mistresses had their own separate lives and lovers, they traveled the world and had exciting stories to tell. Despite my wanderlust, the desire to love and be loved, and to have some sort of security in an uncertain world, is powerful. Looking back, I spent my late teens and early twenties chasing after that ideal, attempting to recreate that archetype of the sacred marriage, for myself. This resulted in a string of volatile monogamous relationships that, inevitably, ended. Although I learned a great deal from my period of serial monogamy, I found these relationships ultimately dysfunctional and stifling. This was not specifically a problem of monogamy, although monogamy has never felt right or natural to me. It seems so natural and easy to feel attraction to, and love for, more than one person at a time. The idea of being interested in someone else being a betrayal of a partner seemed strange, although I defended it during my time of serial monogamy. It seemed noble to sacrifice my sexual freedom for love. Of course, I would inevitably wind up resenting the sacrifice, and subsequently sabotaging the relationship so that I could go after the next fascinating person to cross my path.

When I was twenty two, I met my future ex-husband. We had a volatile relationship, one part passion, two parts teeth, which I convinced myself was the stuff of lasting, committed, white-picket-fence love. Except for the white picket fence part. I hate that shit. He was tall, strong and handsome. He resembled Antonio Banderas. He was also very kinky, which worked for me in the beginning. As our relationship progressed, it became clear that, although he was primarily a dom in the bedroom, I was hardly a sub. I enjoy playing with power exchange and being submissive on occasion, but I do not have the makings of a subbie princess slut. Still, I did my best to play the game. I wanted to make him happy and I wanted the relationship to work. Although we were monogamous, we flirted on the edges of non-monogamy. We, for example, were both free to pursue meaningful, non-sexual friendships with people we could be interested in. He was a fetish photographer, and I was a fetish, nude and boudoir model, so we routinely were naked around others or in the presence of naked people professionally. I also modeled for art classes. I also had a private client who would pay me to beat him and dominate him. It was not explicitly sexual – we both remained clothed during these sessions – but the sexual energy in these sessions was obvious.

Even though my relationship with my partner was clearly troubled, I started feeling the inexplicable pull towards being married. I started pushing the relationship in that direction. I wanted it to be official. I wanted proof that I was good enough, lovable enough, to be someone’s wife, someone’s chosen one. We had an unconventional wedding ceremony in a Zen garden with a Unitarian minister. I had a best man, he had a ‘second best woman’ as I affectionately called her. Because, hello! The bride is the best woman, doncha know? Even though the marriage did not last, I have very affectionate memories of my wedding day, and, of course, the wedding night. I wore a beautiful purple dress and I was the ultimate unti-bridezilla. I didn’t care about the details, as long as my friends and family were there, and there was food and wine, I was happy.

After the wedding, I fell into a deep depression. I knew I had made a mistake. We were fighting all the time, and I couldn’t imagine not fucking anyone else for the rest of my life. But I had made a commitment. I had dragged my friends and family to a ceremony. They had bought us gifts, shiny kitchenware and Egyptian cotton sheets with a high thread count. Those were the trappings of respectability. Underneath, there were some serious fault lines.

We packed up and moved to Vancouver. He found work almost instantly, while I went from job interview to job interview with little success. He suggested that I stay home, cook, clean, and write, and forget about finding a job. I know he intended this to be kindness, but it only intensified the feelings of isolation and inertia that exacerbated my depression. I was the worst housewife ever. And I was barely writing.

Eventually, I got a job waiting tables at a yacht club in Point Grey. At this time, we decided to open up our marriage. I wanted to explore tantra, and I was finding the strength within myself to say no to the BDSM activities that I did not enjoy. “Go, explore degradation play and bondage with someone else,” I told him. “I don’t want to do it anymore.”

We entered into non-monogamy as co-conspirators, but it soon became painfully clear that our attitudes and needs were not in alignment. I wanted to be polyamorous, and I wanted to be free to love other people. He was fine with me having sex with other people, but romantic love feelings were off the table. This resulted in him feeling insecure and me feeling stifled. Finally, after many explosive fights that pissed off our neighbors, I told him I wanted to end the marriage. “I can’t do this anymore. The fighting is so exhausting. Let’s stop tearing each other apart and split up while we still like each other.”

After that, I fled the suburbs and found a room in East Vancouver in a very old, decrepit house with three roommates. I took only the bare essentials, including my beautiful cat, who has been part of my life longer than any conventional romantic partner. When I left, I discarded the idea of monogamy. Although I would practice it for a few months at a time in the first year following my divorce, I no longer believed in it. And I worked towards being openly, shamelessly, honestly, and ethically, slutty.

Personal Sex vs Professional Sex

As I explained to the sexual health nurse at the clinic during my bimonthly STI screening, there is a difference between how I approach professional sex and personal sex. During a professional sex session, I act as a sort of facilitator of erotic exploration. I am focused on the client and on what he or she wants and needs in the moment. While I do not cross lines that put my safety or mental health at risk, I do not need to be thrilled by the experience. While there are times, fairly often, when my erotic tastes and those of my clients match up, they don’t need to for me to feel like a session was successful. There is room for affection, genuine warmth, personal conversation, and caring within a professional sex session. I feel a lot of affection for my clients. It is special to be able to work with someone’s sexuality. It is a very sacred, vulnerable and complicated part of what makes us human.

Personal sex is a bit different. For one, it takes a little longer for me to take a lover to bed than a client. There has to be a connection, a meeting of the minds usually, for me to be interested. During sex with a lover, I am an equal participant. I can help them explore their erotic selves, but I expect them to do the same for me. Since I entered sex work, I have become a lot more selective about who I share my bed with on my own time. No longer driven by a turbocharged libido screaming at me to JUST GET LAID ALREADY WITH THE FIRST WILLING PERSON, I feel more clearheaded.

The funny thing about it is, during my teens and early twenties, the time in my life when I imperfectly practiced serial monogamy, I used to fantasize about having sex with strangers for money, or just because I could. I would dress myself up in elaborate whore costumes and masturbate in front of a full-length mirror imagining myself fucking a client. During the first few months as a sex worker, I found it deeply erotic to walk up to a stranger’s hotel room, knock, and wonder who would answer. Now, I seem to find scenarios with people I know much more erotic than sex with strangers. Although it is still a sexy fantasy, it does not captivate me like it used to. Instead, lately, I fantasize about my regular lovers, and how wonderful it feels to share closeness, pleasure and eroticism with a familiar person.

Sex work vs other forms of employment

I have always been fiercely protective of sex workers. The way that so many people talk about sex workers as if they are subhuman has always sent me into a rage. In my teens, I knew many ex-and-current sex workers, most of them street hookers. When I was eighteen and living eight to a room in a seedy hotel in Victoria, I used to walk around the street late at night, usually after a big fight with my boyfriend. I got to know the ladies of the night, and I counted them among my friends.

There was one woman, Brandy, who usually worked the street next to the motel where I lived. One night, my boyfriend and I had a big fight and I stormed out to walk off my explosive anger. I passed Brandy, nodding a brief hello. “Excuse me,” she said. “Do you have a condom?”

“I don’t have any with me, but I live in there,” I said, pointing at the dilapidated motel. “I have lots of condoms in my room. If you wait here, I’ll get you some.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, no biggie. I’ll be right back.”

I remember feeling quite smug as I marched past my boyfriend without a word, grabbed a handful of condoms and walked out the door. Let him wonder what I was up to. Of course, nothing else would have happened back then. I had not yet challenged the concept of monogamy at that point.

I came back to Brandy’s corner and handed her the condoms. She thanked me and complained about her night. She told me that she did not like what she was doing, but that she needed the money. I told her that if she ever needed more condoms, or anything else, she knew where I lived.

After I talked to her, I felt very sad. Although I have had a hard time fully embracing my sexuality, I have always had a sense that sex was sacred. To see someone in a position like that really bothered me. After that, I made sure to go to the free clinic and get extra condoms for her and anyone else who needed them. Sometimes a church group would help my friends and I out with food, and I would hand bananas and condoms out on the street. Even with how broke I was at the time, I did not turn to sex work myself, although I must admit that I considered it.

I had internalized all these negative ideas about sex work. And, let’s face it, sex work is not always pretty. Many people in the industry are treated very badly. Of course, it is worth mentioning that people make a big deal out of sex workers being exploited, but the conversation about minimum wage workers being exploited and worked to the bone only to live in poverty, is rarely discussed. Having worked the minimum wage jobs prior to escorting, I can tell you without a doubt that working in fast food or an assembly line factory environment was, for me, much more demoralizing and soul-crushing.

I find that, overwhelmingly, the clients I have had as an escort have been very polite, considerate and decent people. This is why I get angry now when I hear people talking about people who pay for sex as if they are all degenerates and perverts who don’t respect women. Sadly, a lot of this rhetoric comes from feminists. I have always supported women’s rights, but now, I feel isolated from the feminist community at times. Instead of my work being considered a skilled trade, it is drawn up in political, divisive language. The fact that I take money for sex is imbued with politics. Am I an ’empowered’ woman (god, I hate that overused word), or am I an exploited, degraded victim practicing self-objectification? I do not want to identify myself with either polarity. Life does not work that way. We are all complex people living in an imperfect world. Although I am very strong and I feel a great sense of satisfaction from my work, I have had nights where I went home feeling drained, sad, more like a well-used chew toy than a third wave feminist empowered whore. Other nights, I have had to stop myself from laughing while seeing a client, because I can’t believe how lucky I am to get paid for THIS.

I think the most important part of creating dialogue about sex work is being honest. There are fantastic things about this work, and there are things that are not so great. Telling our stories is powerful.