Paternalistic Attitudes Towards Sex Workers and Why I Am Pissed Off About It

A few months ago, I saw a client from the USA during his trip to Vancouver. It was an awkward session, over all. He was uncomfortable with me, the booking girl had sent me when he had requested a girl who was unavailable, and he thought that I wasn’t as pretty as the girl he’d originally requested. Still, we managed to have some fun. After doing his little role-play scenario, he seemed to be more interested in talking than in fucking (there was no fucking during the role-play).

He asked me questions about my work, and about the legal status of my work in Canada. I told him that exchanging sex for money was legal in Canada, but most everything related to it is not, which makes it awkward for those in my profession to get by at times. Then he asked me if the agency ‘makes us get tested.’ I told him that, no, no one makes us do anything, but that I choose to get tested every two months. I did not tell him how offensive the idea of forced testing truly is.

The first recorded history of sex work began in temples. In the ancient world, prostitute and priestess (or, often, priest) meant the same thing. Ancient cultures that appreciated the amazing, life-affirming power of sexuality in a way that our culture does not held the sacred whores in high esteem. I often think about how wonderful it would be to be able to work out of a temple, to have my knowledge of sexuality and my sensitivity in exploring sexual territory truly respected and honoured.

Of course, the status of the whore fell as patriarchal religions became more widespread. In the 1800’s in Europe, the dominant culture took steps to distance prostitutes from the general community. Measures such as making it mandatory that prostitutes wear clothing that differentiated them from other community members, was but one of the tactics used.

By the 1900’s, a syphilis epidemic swept across Western Europe. To help curb the spread of the disease, so they claimed, the powers-that-be ordered mandatory testing for STIs for women involved in or suspected of prostitution. While this may sound like a good idea on the surface, it was simply another way to bully and abuse sex workers, or any other woman who did not conform and behave according to patriarchal culture. Many women protested these tests, as they were degrading and violated the bodily integrity of women. Also, any woman who was forced to undergo these tests was added to a list of ‘known prostitutes.’ This list could be used to harass women, whether they were in fact prostitutes or not.

Another question one must ask while looking at this aspect of the history of sex workers is: why force the women to submit to a test, while imposing no similar measures on the men who procure the services of sex workers? I believe that the powers that be at the time were much more concerned with maintaining the status quo, and making procuring sex for money safer and easier for men, without regard for the women providing the service. It was also, I believe, a way to punish ‘fallen women’ under the misguided lens of the misogynistic religion of Christianity. As thousands of women with knowledge of midwifery were burned during the witch hunts on the grounds that it was sinful to ease a woman’s pain during childbirth, because of Eve’s supposed sin, these forced tests were simply another way of keeping women fearful, ashamed and disempowered.

The bottom line about ‘forced testing’ is that no one should be forced to do anything. We are all responsible for our own health. Most sex workers are responsible and considerate and would not put their health or someone else’s health at risk through unsafe sex practices and infrequent testing.

Challenging Common Misconceptions About Sex Workers

Sometimes I scour the web in search of information for people in my profession, insider tips on how to manage work and a personal love life. I was on such a search last night, which brought me to a message board where people weigh in on whether or not they would seriously date/marry an escort/stripper/porn star, current or former. I was encouraged by the ones who said yes, they would consider it. But it’s hard not to get sad about the many who say no. Not because their rejection hurts me (it doesn’t) but because they are writing me off without knowing anything about me other than my profession.

So now, rather than absorb the shame messages, I have decided to confront them head-on in this ranty blog post. Here goes:

Sex workers hate sex. They only do it for money:

First, it’s impossible to categorically say that all sex workers have the same relationship to sex and money. Second, why do we rarely hear this about other professionals? Psychologists just hate listening to people. They hate it so much that they go to school and hone their therapeutic skills so that they can charge a respectable hourly rate. That would sound silly. Now, granted, there are people in the industry who do not enjoy their work, who have gotten into it because the high earning potential outweighs the psychological costs and physical risks. Because money is necessary for survival in a capitalist society. That said, it is very possible to approach sex work as a conscious choice and even a calling. I have spent a lot of time studying sexual techniques and fetishes, and those skills, in addition to my interpersonal skills, make my work highly rewarding. It feels great to do something you enjoy (most of the time, we all have bad days) and get paid a respectable wage for it.

You can never trust a sex worker. If she dates you, she’s only using you.

People of all professions have been known to use and abuse the people they become involved with romantically. A sex worker is probably pretty unlikely to want a personal relationship to resemble a professional client/escort relationship. An escort already makes good money at work. We are human beings with other needs and desires. I know for myself, despite the thrills and the money that come with work, I crave honest human connection. I’m dating someone who is not rich, but who is kind and giving, warm and funny and smart. While I do know some escorts who will not date outside of work, who claim that ‘smart girls never fuck for free’ I know more who enjoy loving personal relationships, or who would like to when the conditions of their lives allow for that to happen.

Sex workers are all emotional train-wrecks/were abused as children/have no self-esteem

This myth comes from a basic patriarchal myth about women: namely that we are so fragile that we can only enjoy sex within the context of committed love, which translates to lots of sandwich-making, service to our lover/husband. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be sexual. A man going out and having a lot of sex is seen as normal. We don’t feel the need to pity him and comment on how he must be acting out abuse from his past. Our culture is so threatened by a woman who owns her sexual desire, so threatened that we must disempower her by saying that she is to be pitied. Now, granted, some people in the sex industry are troubled people with drug habits and emotional problems. Then again, I’ve known plenty of people who serve food for a living who were also troubled people with drug habits and emotional problems. How well-adjusted to the work you are depends on your own personal relationship to yourself and to the work. And, in fact, most of the women I know in the industry are tough, confident, witty, driven and fun to be around. Certainly working as an escort gives you a different perspective on committed, long-term relationships (hard to idealize the concept of happily ever after when you’ve fucked enough married men in the ass), but to categorically say that only people with problems get into this industry is flawed thinking. It also bears mentioning that it takes considerable confidence and self-esteem to be able to get naked in front of a stranger or group of strangers, negotiate boundaries, pleasure yourself, dance, or fuck. People need to recognize that whores are gutsy and beautiful.

Also, I am so sick of this tired trope of ‘oh, she must have been abused as a child, that’s why she’s so fucked up’ being trotted out. Unfortunately, many people in our society have been abused. A history of abuse does not guarantee a lifetime of bad choices and emotional issues. We are all able to heal from whatever happened to us in the past and go on to live full, healthy, productive lives. Which may or may not include sex work.

Sex workers are disgusting and full of scary STIs:

I would love to see the shaming of sexually active people, women in particular, just die already. It is a myth that someone who has a lot of sex with a lot of people will automatically have a host of STIs. Although sex workers have various degrees of empowerment around safer sex negotiation, most sex workers have above-average knowledge of safer sex practices and above average consistency in using these methods. An escort is not likely to ‘forget’ to use a condom in the heat of the moment. She will carry her own bag of safer sex supplies and insist on using them correctly and consistently. At the agency where I work, it is considered trashy and disgusting to perform oral sex on a client without a condom, generally. Very few girls make the exception and forego rubber for oral sex. Also, every escort I know gets a full checkup for STIs every one to three months, which is more than can be said for the average person.

Also, this fear-mongering about STIs really needs to stop. Yes, STIs are a real danger and a lot of them are scary, and we need to talk about them and deal with them. But could we please have the dialogue without all the stigma and ‘only dirty disgusting people contract STIs’ rhetoric. Any sexually active person is potentially at risk of an STI. We all need to be getting tested regularly and taking care of our health. And if we consider it simply a health issue, rather than a moral issue, we’d get a lot further. Many common STIs are easily treated. HPV infection is present in 98 percent of sexually active people, and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, causes no symptoms whatsoever. Genital herpes is found in one in four people, and many people who have the virus do not know they have it because they either have never experienced an outbreak, or the symptoms of it were so mild that they attributed it to something else, like chafing or razor burn, or a yeast infection. HIV remains a scary virus, but, with new treatments, it is becoming a chronic manageable condition rather than an automatic death sentence. Also, a person who is HIV positive and on medication to lower viral loads to undetectable, is unlikely to pass the virus on to sexual partners. I would still recommend condoms, because I’m a safety freak, but I am against fear mongering. Learn the facts, practice safer sex to the best of your ability, get tested regularly, and please chill the fuck out. I have had a lot of sex in my life, and I have never contracted an STI (except probably for the HPV virus, which is likely present in my body just like it is in practically every sexually active person on the planet).

I could not be with a sex worker, because she would never truly be with me:

Can we ever say that anyone is ever truly ours? Our lovers, even if they are sexually exclusive with us, will always notice other people, fantasize about them, or reminisce about a past lover from time to time. That is normal and healthy and just ┬ápart of being human. We would all be way happier if we got over it. I would love to see love divorced from the idea of ownership. I’ve done a lot of work myself on letting go of this desire to possess and control the ones I love romantically. I am happier for it.

Back to the sex work thing. Do you ever hear someone say about a daycare worker ‘I hope they don’t have kids. They would never truly be able to parent a child after working with kids and caring for kids all day long.’ No, you never hear that. Because childcare is not stigmatized the way sex work is. Sex can mean different things depending on the context. When I am with a lover, I am completely with them. When I am at work, I am performing a role, either a theatrical or therapeutic role, depending on the circumstances. All it means is I have had a lot of opportunity to hone my skills, which makes my lovers veeery happy indeed.

A sex worker has no respect for herself:

I have noticed that the term ‘respecting yourself’ when used in relation to women, simply means ‘act like a good girl according to the patriarchy.’ In my mind, a woman who chooses to engage in sex for her own reasons, provided she is not harming others in the process, is very much respecting herself and owning her desires. I would not be respecting myself if I had no boundaries in the sex work that I do, if I allowed clients to forego protection, if I did not speak up when they did things that put me at physical or psychological risk. As I practice sex work now, I have deep self-respect.

A sex worker has no skills. That’s the only reason she would do this work.

This one really gets to me. Sex work is skilled work. It is an art form to be truly good at sex. It takes practice and time and effort to learn the skills. Plus the interpersonal skills, conversation, reading people, figuring out what they want and need from a session. The ability to communicate about difficult topics and deal with challenging situations such as a client processing a trauma, or wanting to explore a kink that you are not as knowledgeable about as you’d like to be. The skills in this work are considerable. They are just not acknowledged because sex is seen as dirty, disgusting and trivial.

Sex work is dangerous and therefore should not be allowed:

A lot of work is dangerous. Being a miner is dangerous. Being a police officer is dangerous. Being a social worker can be dangerous. The difference is that we don’t stigmatize miners for being in a dangerous profession. Condoms and lube and gloves and dams are the hard hats of the sex industry. Please think of us as another profession that requires work safety knowledge. Thanks.

Also, a lot of other interpersonal situations are statistically dangerous. Marriage is statistically dangerous with 30 percent of female murder victims being killed by their current or former husbands. Dating is dangerous. Romantic relationships are dangerous. Abusive types exist. However, we never tell women to stop dating or stop getting married, because marriage and dating are seen as socially acceptable activities for a woman. Sex work, however, is seen as subversive and threatening, so it is painted as often more dangerous than it actually is in an effort to scare women away from working in that industry, because a sexually and financially independent woman won’t make you a sandwich just because you want her to.

That has been my sex worker related rant for today. Thank you for listening.

Changes

I have become one of five organizers for a local movement/protest march against victim blaming and slut shaming. I am reluctant to write too many identifying details until I have passed the hurdle of becoming completely out about my work, so forgive my vagueness in this post.

I decided to take on a fundraiser event for the march and related events, because we have no money. I have never organized an event like this before, so the last few weeks have been stressful to say the least! It was a smashing success, though. Not as lucrative as I would have liked, but very inspiring how the community came together and made this magical night happen.

I met some amazing people, including the fabulous drag queen who hosted the event. This person is an inspiring performer and a powerful activist in the LGBT community. Over the week leading up to the event, we got to know each other very well, and have developed a connection of mutual respect. I owe the success of the event largely to them.

I also performed at the event. I did drag, and burlesque, for the first time in two years. Josh agreed to be my burlesque co-star. My number involves a reenactment of the Pygmalian myth with the genders reversed, and he agreed to be my statue. Yay!

I took him on a little shopping trip to a sex shop on Davie Street, one that specialized in mens fetish wear. He seemed to enjoy the day, and we found him a beautiful leather jockstrap that showcases his generous endowment, and I found a pair of leather gauntlets for my drag persona. Afterwards, we went out for beer and wings. With him, things feel so good and right. We flow together, we get each other’s jokes, and we can talk about deep topics. The sex has always been deeply passionate, but now, it seems to have gone to the next level, passion mixed with tenderness.

Pierre had, before that, offered to donate a course to the fundraiser, which was very generous. He had also told me I should consider coming clean about my relationship with him to Josh. As I sat at the bar with Josh, looking at him and being amazed that I could have found someone so beautiful inside and out, I realized that I didn’t have it in me to tell him. I don’t feel as close to Pierre. We don’t flow the same way. I realized that I felt too much pressure with two regular lovers, plus being a sex worker and an activist and an artist. I felt torn in too many directions, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue my relationship with Pierre. Despite the positives in our relationship, it felt like time to step back.

Later, I emailed Pierre and asked him to be incognito at the benefit. I told him I didn’t want our relationship to be public knowledge. He told me that he would respect my wishes, which he did. The event was an amazing experience for me. I loved performing, and seeing all those people come out in support of the cause. And to know that this event would not have happened except for my hard work and resources.

Still, there was stress in the evening as I watched Pierre drink tequila, sitting with Josh. I hoped they were doing ok, that everything would not come crashing down. Nothing happened, but by the end of the evening, I knew I couldn’t date both of them any longer. I had to choose. And my heart wanted Josh. Pierre got up at one point to talk about his class, and he said some things that were insensitive to the transgender population, which was a big part of the crowd, not to mention a big part of my community. I was embarrassed, but what could I do after he had donated so generously? So I smiled graciously and thanked him. I was quite relieved when he left.

That night, I slept over at Josh’s place. It was lovely and comforting and exciting to be with him. The next night, we decided to stay in and watch a movie and order pizza and drink beer. It was the perfect post-fundraiser activity. After that, he offered me a pot cookie. Usually pot cookies make me horny, but that night, it was different. Pot cookies apparently do not agree with me when mixed with beer and post-event exhaustion. We went to bed and started kissing and making out. I was sore and chafed from the six hour session earlier that day, and feeling vulnerable after the emotionally charged night before. We agreed to hold off on sex because clearly I needed time to recover. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by feelings of panic and intense fear. I realized again how much I am falling for Josh and how much I don’t want to lose him. I tried to stop the tears, but pretty soon, I was crying. Josh was amazing. He held me and comforted me. I realized that with him, I am getting the gentleness I have always wanted, but didn’t have a lot of in my relationships with men in the past. Particularly my ex-husband, who would often yell at me when I expressed uncomfortable emotions. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him it wasn’t something I was ready to talk about. I apologized for being a fucking mess and him having to see me like that, but he just kept holding me and telling me that it was ok, that there was nothing to be embarrassed about.

The next evening, I went to Pierre’s house and ended our romantic relationship. It was pretty low-key, although he did say a lot of other transphobic stuff, which upset me, but I was too tired to challenge. I hate that I didn’t challenge it, but I didn’t. I felt deflated, scared, tired, angry. I went home and spent the night in blissful solitude with my broody thoughts.

I have been questioning how capable I am at polyamory at this time in my life. I know I naturally flow that way, and it can take many forms, but having more than one partner that I see on a regular basis seemed exceptionally fragmenting and disorienting. Especially when my job involves sexual interactions with a variety of people. I think that I am naturally inclined to polyamory, but that I lack the time and the will to commit to a primary-type relationship with more than one person at a time. Satellite romances, on the other hand, are just fine in my book! And these things can change with time.

Yay for Cross-dressers!

This week, I got paid to fuck a beautiful boy. A very beautiful boy. A boy who likes to wear lacy lingerie and who likes to be called by a girl’s name while my cock is deeply buried in his tight, delectable ass.

This beautiful boy pre-booked his appointment, which is always appreciated. I originally thought he was a different client, a regular, who likes to be dressed as a girl and fucked. The driver dropped me off at the motel in Burnaby. I went up to the room and knocked. I was dressed in a skin-tight black dress, thigh-high stockings, sexy boots, over a gorgeous black lace strappy teddy. I love my job. Honestly, sex workers get to wear the best clothes to work.

I was pleasantly surprised when a gorgeous, twentysomething boy answered the door. He looked Italian, with beautiful olive skin, dark brown eyes you could lose yourself in, a nice body and a cute smile. His reaction to me was even better. “Wow, you look beautiful! Come in! I LOVE what you’re wearing!”

I smiled and thanked him, and we chatted a bit. I like to make a few minutes of small talk to put a client at ease. Soon, we were discussing what he had in mind for our session.

He told me that he likes to be dressed as a girl, and referred to as a girl. He told me that his name was Mark, but for our purposes, he would like to be called Marsha. He wasn’t into pain, just being fucked and treated like a girl. He wanted to start by trading lap dances. The lack of musical options on the TV was a small impediment, but I did my best to lap dance for him. I have learned a long time ago that men are truly not that hard to please. You don’t have to have acrobatic dance moves when you’re dressed the way I was dressed that day. When I had stripped out of my dress and gyrated in his lap, rubbing his cock through his jeans, he told me he would like to give me a lap dance.

I pulled out the lacy lingerie I had packed for him. He put the black lace teddy on and layered the purple slip over top. He danced for me, and I very vocally appreciated his efforts. Soon, we were in bed. I was on top of him, kissing him and rubbing him through his lingerie.

He liked dirty talk whispered in his ear. He had a fantasy of being gang banged by a bunch of guys, and for me to be there controlling him, telling him what to do. “I take huge cocks in my ass,” he said.

“I bet you do,” I said. “You’re a dirty little cumslut, aren’t you?”

I lubed his ass slowly, pushing the lube in before inserting a finger. He loved it. Soon, I was opening his hole with two, then three fingers. When he was begging to be fucked, I excused myself for a moment to wash the lube off my hands and rig myself up with the strap-on. I picked the big, pink dildo and walked back to the bed. “This big enough for you?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

He looked excited and nervous. “Um, it’s big,” he said.

“I’ll go easy,” I said, thinking that perhaps he had only taken big cocks in his fantasy life. “Suck it,” I said, putting it in his face. He took in only the first quarter, but I was still careful to praise his cock-pleasing skills. I of all people know that gag reflexes happen, although they can be largely unlearned with time.

I started out on top, fucking him slowly, following his lead. Soon, he was wrapping his legs around me and pulling me in deeper. I whispered in his ear how I was going to fuck him and I was going to let a bunch of my friends fuck him, pass him around and use him like a sex toy. We fucked doggy style for a while, and I trailed kisses down his back, whispering in his ear how good it felt to fuck him, how great he was at pleasing cock.

He enjoyed getting on top and bouncing on my cock. My pubic bone is still a little sore from the rubbing of the strap-on, but I don’t mind.

The session ended with him jerking off and me feeding him his cum and describing ten guys ejaculating in his mouth.

After the session, he told me that he had never done anything like that before, and that being with me had been a great experience. He was looking forward to exploring his kink further. I told him that I actually do have a fetish for male cross-dressers and that having him as a client was a treat for me too. He asked me if I could organize a gang-bang for him. I told him about my friends who are male escorts (and a married couple) and he found that idea incredibly sexy. I don’t know how much money this boy has, but somehow, I don’t think he’ll be able to afford the three of us. Still, I am really happy that I had the chance to help him explore his kink, and to teach him that there are women out there who are into what he’s into.

I hope this boy calls again. He said that he would. So here’s hoping.

An Update

I have taken a small break from blogging for various reasons. The first and most obvious one is that my life has become very busy over the last month or so. The second reason is that I’ve been feeling conflicted about how much to reveal about my life on this blog, lest I might include too many identifying details of my life and accidentally out myself.

I have recently become an avid listener of the new podcast The Whorecast (http://www.thewhorecast.com/#). It has been very encouraging to hear the voices of other sex workers presented in a positive light, by and for sex workers. I find myself laughing and crying while listening to the Whorecast, and feeling a camaraderie with the brave, beautiful and candid people on the podcast. Siouxie Q, the host of the Whorecast, encourages sex workers around the world to be out whenever possible and shares her stories of coming out to her family. Her partner Jesse is a regular on the Whorecast, and he talks about his family’s reaction when they learned of his girlfriend’s profession.

On listening to their stories, I am again reminded that, for the first time since I was fourteen, I am not completely out with everyone in my life. Being closeted takes its toll. I find myself calling my mom less frequently, especially after her reaction to the revelation that I am polyamorous. It’s like there’s a big chunk of my life that I can’t talk about, and worse, I have to lie about. My relationship with my mom has improved over the last few years; we’ve both worked really hard at it. But now, I feel it falling apart. I feel rejected and judged and the stress of lying and facing her judgments takes its toll. I have stopped phoning home, just returning her calls rather than initiating contact.

I often wonder if being completely, unapologetically out would help matters. Or would it create a rift in our relationship that is impossible to mend. I am not yet willing to find out.

I want to do so much with my life, and as I shed the expectations of respectability and embrace sex work as a calling, the world feels more open and rich with possibility. Perhaps I will be able to make the porn that I want to see when I shed what remains of my inhibitions.